REVIEW: Zombie Hunter IV

Ahem. [clears throat] Ah… ahem. Where to begin? Well, Zombie Hunter IV ($1.00) here is a zombie zombie zombie. It’s got zombie zombie and more zombies. It’s a first-person zombie with an assortment of zombified zombies to zombie from. You zombie zombie around the map, and zombie other zombies. Those zombies try to zombie you, and it’s up to zombie you to out-zombie them and zombie the day! You zombie what I’m saying, zombie?

Zombie Hunter IV - Screen

I’m aware that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’ve literally run out of interesting openers to lead into yet another zombie game on XBLIG. Zombie Hunter IV1 doesn’t do much to inspire a unique take on the genre anyway; it’s a bare-bones FPS with only the slightest of visuals and gameplay. As the game’s namesake— a zombie hunter extraordinaire— you’ve been traveling the lands, purging every town of the undead. You’ve finally reached the last city on your tour of death, which promises to be your greatest challenge yet(!).

Sort of. Zombie Hunter IV asks you to mow down hordes of regenerating zombies that come at you in snarling packs of one or even two, collecting dynamite that drops as a powerup in their wake in order to blow up five buildings that are the supposed ‘source’ of the infection. You also earn plenty of money with each kill, which you can then use to snag a few new weapons (think shotgun, assault rifle) and some health packs at the local store, but this is the extent of the game’s progression and forward-thinking.

Zombie Hunter IV - Screen2

The rest of the experience is a boring struggle with the near-comatose zombie A.I., which only really wants to react to you once you’re a few feet away. In fact, the only challenge here is manufactured, as you can occasionally get stuck in place when you’re attacked, leading to a quick death. The game’s generous with its continues, however, allowing you to jump right back into things after parting with a modest amount of cash.

Not that there’s any reason to bother with Zombie Hunter IV in the first place. It’s a lazy, oversimplified shooter that’ll last you twenty minutes at most. The whole thing is as dull as ditchwater2 from start to finish in that span, with nary a redemptive quality in sight. You should probably avoid it like an actual zombie plague.

  1. I’m not sure where the ‘IV’ factors in, as I can find both the original Zombie Hunter and a 2D sequel, but no third act. Maybe Part Four here cannibalized the third game, I don’t know. Hey, at least it’s not a slightly racist game like the developer’s last effort. 
  2. Or, if you prefer the Americanized variant, ‘dull as dishwater’. How’s that for Old English putdowns! Take that, all you people from the 1700s! 

REVIEW: Scarlet the Zombie Slayer

There’s simultaneously a feeling of odd comfort and outright dread whenever I get the news I’m covering another zombie game here. For every stellar title that switches up the formula, I get half a dozen vanilla (pun intended) games that do the bare minimum and expect to get by on popular culture alone. It’s maddening. But hey, at least this one’s not a goddamn wave shooter!1 Rather, Scarlet the Zombie Slayer ($1.00) is a (mostly) side-scrolling slasher of the undead… albeit hand-drawn outlines on a paper-esque background.

Scarlet the Zombie Slayer - Screen

Oh, and the two-headed dogs in this game can fuck right off. Bastards.

I’d imagine this game looks like the nightmares of an eight-year-old in motion2. That unsolicited thought and interesting art choice aside, the game plays much as you’d expect; our one-handed protagonist is a nifty wielder of the blade, slicing through lines of penciled corpses with relative ease. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s a hack & slash, through and through, with the option of chucking unlimited axes as your long-range weapon. To compliment that fighting style, you generally move from point A to B in this overrun city, picking up items and healing kits placed in the environments.

In addition to the zombies, you’ll also fight super-sized rats(!), bees(!), and two-headed canines(!). There’s no real accounting for creatures like this in a supposed ‘zombie outbreak’, but hey, variety. You also get some exposition in the form of NPCs you encounter along the way, tasking you with short quests / rescue missions. These too, don’t stray too far from the ‘go here, kill this’ line, but you do occasionally partake in some God of War-esque QTEs that have you, say, exploding out of the eye socket of a giant bug, for example.

Scarlet the Zombie Slayer - Screen2

These bits are charming, but come few and far between the extended battles. Though the combat is straightforward and serviceable, it becomes tedious whenever the enemies grapple you. Sure, some of the zombie kill animations look neat once you wrestle free, but the molasses-slow ‘jump’ and constant ‘stunned’ movements whenever you’re attacked can make certain scenes a chore, and a little unfair (i.e., all fights with the aforementioned two-headed dogs). With no real way to dodge these enemies, you can find yourself repeating some segments over and over, which isn’t very fun.

And that theme applies to the game overall. With its so-so gameplay and vanilla style (pun definitely intended), Scarlet the Zombie Slayer is really only worth a look if you’re super hard up for another zombie game to play. Props go out to developer Chris Antoni for working with the materials and talent he has at hand, but some cheap and quickly-developed games can’t escape their label, and still come out feeling, well… cheap and quickly-developed.

  1. And my sanity thanks you, Mr. Antoni. 
  2. I’m pretty sure I mean that as a compliment, too, just so no eight-year-olds or the developer have any hard feelings. 

REVIEW: Ascension – Climb The Tower

Minus my many colorful phrases and the formation of all-new curse words in response to its difficulty, I liked Towerfall Ascension. I missed out on it when it hit the OUYA1 originally, so the PS4 stood in as the perfect surrogate mother, allowing myself and others another opportunity to play a really great, really challenging game.

Not just an open avenue for boob games and quick, hastily-thrown-together zombie shooters, XBLIG also functions as a ‘surrogate’ of sorts, giving indie developers the chance to capitalize on the absence of a popular title on Xbox by ‘borrowing’ said title’s gameplay, style, etc. A Clone, A Homage, Inspired By, whatever you want to call it, these games can sometimes effectively mimic the original, giving players a look at a game they might otherwise miss, at a tidy, reduced price. Ascension – Climb The Tower ($1.00) is one such instance, providing a stripped-down version of Towerfall.

Ascension - Screen

The setup is immediately familiar in Ascension‘s ‘Horde’ setting, which tasks the player with surviving endless waves of enemies on a large, static screen. You’re given a limited amount of health to start2, a barely-adequate melee weapon, and set loose to scrounge for projectile weapons (think axes, bolts of lightning) and other items in randomly-appearing treasure chests. Everything feels right here, from the easy exits on the top, bottom, and sides of the level, to the almost-brutal way that enemies can gang up on you3, all the way to the ‘damage sponge’ bosses and the helpful ability to pluck your already-thrown weapons off walls and ceilings to reuse them.

Though the initial stage assortment isn’t exactly stellar or too varied, the game does offer you a level editor to design your own. Most might not be thrilled at the prospect, but you may have some incentive to tool around with it; much like Towerfall, the four-player local multiplayer is clearly this game’s strength and the most likely to suck up your free hours (assuming you have local friends, that is).

Ascension - Screen2

And Ascension plays its role well. The art is sharp and the controls are adequate, with one glaring exception; the avatars in Ascension slide to a stop on any surface, making it harder to line up jumps (or double-jumps off walls, natch) and accurately predict your movements— as well as your enemies’ path. It’s less noticeable in a frantic battle, but especially evident in the game’s aggravating ‘Ascension’ mode, where you continually climb a vertically-scrolling tower filled with blind jumps and other hazards, with only a single hitpoint between you and death. Needless to say, you may have to spend some time (and lives) adjusting to this imprecise motion.

While it’s throwaway, that added mode and the other (better) game variations are a nice disguise to mask the rather light overall content. Ascension – Climb The Tower does feel like Towerfall at certain moments, though, making you forget about its other shortcomings (a bargain price certainly helps). More importantly, it provides an ‘entry level’ introduction to a game that some players might have otherwise passed on. Absolutely play the original if you can, but if that’s not an option, this game makes for a worthy stand-in.

  1. The system is still rusting away on my shelf, having only been played one time. Probably the main reason why I’ve taken a break from backing Kickstarter projects. 
  2. You can tweak various game settings in the options screen in order to make your life easier / harder. 
  3. Just as in Towerfall, a single ‘Slime’ can fuck you over real good. 

REVIEW: Uncraft’Em All

A wise (and probably horny) man once said, ‘If it ain’t broke, why cover those girls up?’1 A sage observation and excellent advice, to be sure, and one that Uncraft’Em All ($1.00) is still keen on following (it works just fine for the internet). This game doesn’t bring much of anything new to the Uncraft Me series, but something tells me its target audience isn’t too particular regarding new content or extensive gameplay innovations, so long as the girls are included.

Uncraft'Em All - Screen

Ugh, don’t remind me of that game.

Not that the series needs any drastic changes to be successful. Its brand of punisher-platforming, which sees a small, square lad (and a jetpack with limited fuel) jumping and flying through dozens of lava-lined hallways and other hazards, functions well enough. Of course, it’s intentions are to kill you hundreds of times over and tease you with the promise of girls and above-average breast sizes, but the controls and the design are generally well-done.

Uncraft’Em All is no exception to the rule. It contains an impressive-sounding 24 stages, all of which will need to be carefully navigated by you in order to ‘rescue’ a fair maiden held captive at the end of the run. They’re split between four difficulty settings that range from easy to OMG F-UUUUU! hard, and you can tackle them in any order that you choose. However, all of these levels are shorter than the ones featured in previous games (no checkpoints needed), and the girls (the true focal point and your reason for being here, natch) are a ‘sloppy seconds’ of sorts, having all appeared in previous games from developer Team Shuriken’s skintastic oeuvre.

Uncraft'Em All - Screen2

You hear that? That’s the audible, disappointed sigh of a thousand young men who were hoping for an all-new set of women to ‘uncraft’. Life is full of disappointments. Still, while the ladies may have not changed, the levels themselves do provide the requisite amounts of challenge and frustration2 (the profanity-laden vocal track that accompanies each of your failures is still as applicable as ever) the punisher genre is known for.

That said, Uncraft’Em All is like any other Uncraft Me! game you’ve played before, just more of it. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you enjoyed the first two titles, but that also means it’s a retread. And with a new game, Uncraft World, coming to Steam in 2015, this one feels more like a masturbatory… ahem, celebratory— victory lap around XBLIG, thanking its feverish fans for their support, an appetizer to a main dish that will be served elsewhere.

  1. Damn, that’s a terrible joke. Sounds a lot like my previous Uncraft Me! motto, too: ‘If the breasts ain’t broke, don’t fix them!’ I really need to come up with new material. 
  2. To Hell with those timed laser traps, I say. To Hell! 

REVIEW: Cromo Dynamix

Time waits for no man, or for XBLIG, for that matter. When I previewed Cromo Dynamix ($1.00) almost a year ago, I thought it held definite promise as an online-focused, twin-stick shooter. Back then, there were still people gravitating towards multiplayer offerings on the service, and the game seemed like a natural fit. A busy schedule and unforeseen circumstances prevented developer ElvishJumpSuit from releasing it sooner, but, as they say, better late than never1.

To a certain degree. Since that initial preview, XBLIG has seen its community shrink with each passing month, and with it, most of those that would even semi-regularly use the online component of any given indie game have departed as well. And as Cromo Dynamix is primarily billed as an online shooter for up to ten players, you’d be hard-pressed to find even one person in the game’s online lobby2.

It’s a hurdle, to be sure, but as recent shooters have shown, if you build it, they will may come. Cromo Dynamix concerns an interstellar battle for the fate of the planet, happening right under our noses. You take control of miniature ships, fighting this invasion against enemy drones at a microscopic level3. In reality, it’s just twin-stick ship combat, with powerups thrown in. There’s not much in the way of a heavy tutorial, but you do get a very lengthy intro movie to help explain the story if you’d like (which is ironic, considering the ‘story’ never really shows its face throughout the single-player campaign).

You don’t need much of a primer to get into the fray, however, so that’s less of an problem and more of a dressing to be poured over the simple setup. Fighting takes place over six arenas and with ten different ships, all of which are unlocked as you progress in the single-player (30 missions) and reach certain milestones. The ships are more than a cosmetic choice, as each has their own rating, shields, etc. Powerups too, have an obvious effect on the game and your steed, as missiles and double lasers will swing things in your favor. Hitting the lettered bubbles opposite your team color will boost your weapon power, and function as hazards at higher speeds.

Cromo Dynamix - Screen

There’s a handful of tricks and strategy to it, but it’s relatively easy to grasp and pick up. Sadly, any depth is lost on the game’s AI. While online battles would certainly play out a little differently, the single-player’s enemies rely on brute strength and numbers to take you out. As later missions increase the odds (and reduce your spare lives in reserve), this becomes more of an issue. Respawns can place you in harm’s way, too, with foes crowding your ship and souring the mood before you have much time to act.

Moreover, there’s a sense of familiarity and nagging repetition to it. There’s nothing in Cromo Dynamix that hasn’t been seen and done elsewhere in twin-stick shooters, and that hurts its bottom line. The game works (mostly) as advertised, but without a community of players to liven things up, the pedestrian design, shooting, and bland powerups all fall flat pretty quickly.

  1. That doesn’t mean it’s bug-free, however. I ran into a few ‘Code 4s’ in the game’s trial period, waiting around too long in the menu after a stage had loaded. The trouble mysteriously disappeared once I had purchased the game, but it’s worth a mention / warning. The developer is already aware of a number of other bugs, too. 
  2. I literally did find one person to play a game, and he / she promptly left mid-battle. Or maybe they were booted. Not sure. Either way, my online career consisted of two kills, one death. 
  3. Sounds a bit like Innerspace, really, minus the wacky Martin Short hijinks. 

Reviews and News for Xbox Live Indie Games


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