REVIEW: Recall

Looking past all the various skin on display in the image above (and throughout the entirety of the game, for that matter), Golconda‘s latest, Recall1 ($1.00), is actually a comprehensive treatise on lost memories and the connections we form with other people… … … Yeah, I can’t take it serious either. The premise is wacky stuff— super smart (and, naturally, super fit) ‘alien beings’ wearing human costumes and pulling the strings of the universe behind the scenes. Oh, and there’s this whole ‘implied Lesbianism’ thing going on in some of those memories. Legitimate relationship that fits the plot? Absolutely not. Pandering to a teenage audience? You bet.

Recall - Screen

Yet with all those vacant eyes and awkward contortions, it’s hard to see anyone getting a thrill out of this. It still smacks of the ‘uncanny valley’ awkwardness from the developer’s previous effort, Vixenized. It keeps the running theme of under-dressed women from that game, but thankfully turns Recall into an actual first-person shooter with movement, rather than the ‘stationary shooting gallery’ the first game represented. Recall sets you loose in three different ‘time periods’, to do battle with other, meaner aliens, zombie vixens, and, of course, the regular, bloodthirsty vixens.

Granted, those environments constitute an unexciting space station and a pair of equally-boring caves, hallways that lead to other hallways, occasionally impeded by a door or… some kind of laser trap2? Points are awarded for kills, and for shooting ‘bombs’ that drop from the ceiling, which then explode, piñata-style, into more bonus points.  All this to go with terribly stiff movement and shallow gunplay, though none of it is the focus. It’s simply a means to an end; by reaching certain scoring milestones, you get access to these aforementioned ‘memories’; typically girls in bathing suits / other revealing outfits3, outlining past interstellar events, as if anyone playing the game is interested in those events.

Recall - Screen2

One of your many ‘lost’ memories. Bet you wish you could remember a little less clothing, eh? (nudge, nudge) Eh? ….. sinner.

The rest flows unenthusiastically from there, a glitchy (you can walk around outside the ‘space station’ level; not very realistic for the supposed ‘vacuum’ of space), unrefined mess of disparate pieces and vague objectives (‘orbs’ of some kind are required to unlock certain memories). The gameplay suffers for it, with enemies / bombs popping up randomly, even spawning directly on top of you in some cases, draining your health and any patience you might have had up to that point. The icing on this terrible cake? Your progress isn’t saved upon exit, so you’ll have to amass all the points in one sitting if you want to see how it ends.

Not that Recall is intended for serious first-person shooter enthusiasts, or even gamers in general. It’s candy for virgin eyes that have never glanced upon the treasure box of goodies that is The Internet. The developer knows what you came for, and puts enough skin on-screen to fulfill that promise …and nothing more. It should be no surprise to anybody that the ‘game’ underneath that flesh is woefully underdone, a distracted attempt at cheap extortion, a substandard product that should be totally recalled.

  1. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  2. It’s basically the slowest-firing laser trap in the universe. You could run past it, back up, and run through again before the laser shot would reach the other end of the wall. I’m not joking. 
  3. Hey, you’ve got to be comfortable. 
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It’s not the most glamorous job, and the stench has got to be unbelievable, but certainly garbagemen have to be considered among the unsung heroes of the world. They’re not curing diseases or inventing new forms of space travel, sure, but consider this ‘what-if’ for a second; a world without garbagemen. Huh? Huh? Yeah, we’d have a world that looks and smells a whole lot like Delhi. And no offense to India, but that would be bad. Really bad. So that’s why I always give a wave to to those guys when I see them. Partially out of respect, but mostly to clear the air1.

G-Men - Screen

While praise for their contributions is always in short supply, it’s even rarer to see garbagemen represented favorably in the media. Sure, we were blessed with the Charlie Sheen / Emilio Estevez gem Men At Work2, but video games have largely been overlooked. That is, until now.  G-Men ($1.00) makes it possible for everyone to experience the joy and the wonder (and the questionable ‘juices’ that reside in the bottom of the bin) of being a garbage collector.

Sort of. G-Men is more of an MS Paint-style arcade collectathon than a simulator or ‘thank you’ to garbage folk. The game starts you out on foot, walking down the street to pick up bags while avoiding some obstacles and passing motorists. You’re on a time limit, of course, and are tasked with collecting a set number of bags. Meet your quota, and you’re given a pickup truck to haul trash with. The process repeats, adding a few other hazards / enemies, with you eventually building yourself up to a full-fledged garbage truck— the crown jewel of waste management! How exciting!

G-Men - Screen2

Too bad the game is the digital equivalent of it’s chosen subject; pure trash. The idea behind G-Men is thin, the gameplay even more so, but neither is what condemns the game to be metaphorically dumped in a metaphorical landfill. Rather, it’s the completely ridiculous hit detection. Even when you’re clearly out of the path of an oncoming car or obstacle, you will take damage. On foot, it’s instant death and especially annoying, but even in a truck with semi-limited health, avoiding hits is a matter of luck instead of fair spacing.

As such, the game makes it essentially impossible for you to get anywhere consistently. That glaring fault, taken together with the child-simple visuals and rock bottom basic gameplay, and you’d have to wonder why developer Generation Why Studios3 even bothered to release such an untested, unwarranted mess on the marketplace. I can’t see the reason. G-Men is outright terrible, and should be taken out to the curb and disposed of.

  1. Sorry. There was really no way I could resist that old joke. 
  2. It’s a guilty pleasure, and Keith David is hilarious in the film as well. Look, a wild trailer appears! 
  3. And really, why create such a terrible game, Generation Why? 
Paintball Wars 2

REVIEW: Paintball Wars 2

The original Paintball War came out at (what I consider to be) a turning point for first-person shooters on XBLIG, a time of enlightenment when developers really started to hit the mark in terms of control and design. It’s no surprise that the FPS flood doors swung wide open soon after. Almost two years on, we now get a sequel to one of the first FPS1 games I covered. And… very little has changed. Paintball Wars 2 ($1.00) definitely follows the adage ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’, dropping you and up to fifteen others into a colorful (and familiar) online deathmatch, featuring everyone’s favorite non-lethal2 weapon— the paintball gun.

Paintball Wars 2 - Screen

And to be honest, part of me would agree with that adage. Paintball Wars 2 retains the same setup as its predecessor, letting you paint your foes on a single, medium or large-sized (according to player vote) map. The action is fast-paced3 and fun, with constant ‘duels’ springing up, avatars jumping over hedges and / or searching for a moment of respite underneath a bridge. Ammunition is once again strategically-scarce, though refills litter the battlefield. The arena here doesn’t have as much verticality as in the previous game, as the wide open spaces favor confrontation over positioning. If anything, this limits ‘sniping’, forcing players into close quarters.

Similar to the mainstream AAA shooters, the game offers up a ridiculously large slate of unlockables, gained via kills and leveling. You can choose from a number of typical perks and additional weapons, and attachments for said guns. This includes more accurate barrels and scopes, and some superficial customization stuff like gun camo. All in all, you’ll have plenty of rewards to earn in continually playing. Killstreak cards are awarded for successive kills (or can be found in the environment), doling out temporary bonuses like invulnerability or dual wield.

Paintball Wars 2 - Screen2

Online play has the usual small hiccups here and there, but the games I found were relatively lag-free… when I found them, that is. The bright side? You aren’t exactly held captive by the whims of the XBLIG community. One of the biggest pluses of this series has been the addition of AI bots4 offline. ‘Single-player’ features its own unlockable ranks and perks, helping to supplement the online half of the game when other players can’t be found. It’s a nice idea to increase its function and longevity.

It’s just all so familiar, with developer Strange Games taking zero risks, nor applying any lessons it might’ve picked up since the original’s release. Granted, it’s not bad if you’re looking for some madcap fun; just don’t expect to be wowed or confronted with anything new. Consider Paintball Wars 2 more of an ‘add-on map’ than a legitimate step forward for the series.

  1. Well, I suppose it should be considered a hybrid FPS / third-person view, but it’s much, much easier to play entirely in first-person. Be sure to change that option immediately. 
  2. Ha, say that to my left leg, which got butchered in a ‘real’ paintball match last year. ‘Only stings for a second‘, they said. My bruises would say otherwise. 
  3. Think of the game’s ‘flow’ as somewhere between Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament
  4. Albeit laughably easy to kill. 
Xenominer Swarm

REVIEW: Xenominer Swarm

Though some would classify the original Xenominer as a ‘sci-fi Minecraft‘ and nothing more on sight alone, it’s heavy emphasis on survival on a harsh planet made it much more than a simple clone. It’s one of the few games I’ve played on XBLIG where I was actively brainstorming ideas for a potential sequel, so sure of its fun and success. For its second game, developer Gristmill Studios took a step back, to put out a multiplayer FPS set in the same universe. DownGate Deathmatch tried, but it was not a very good game. Now, the team is back with another attempt, hoping to expand the universe yet again.

Enter Xenominer Swarm ($1.00), which keeps a lot of the same gameplay systems and options from DownGate Deathmatch intact, and seems no less ambitious. The big change to the format this time around is the game is now a four-player cooperative FPS, having you battle aliens in a semi-wave format across a variety of modes and maps. You essentially play as a mercenary for hire, completing contracts to earn enough money to buy new weapons / gear, and unlock access to additional planets and missions, with the difficulty and rewards scaling upwards accordingly.

Mission types include ‘Mining Contract’, which sees engineers digging for minerals / crafting supply crates to send back home, a self-explanatory ‘Base Defense’1 setting, and a kill-everything mode called ‘Bug Hunt’. Regardless of the blocky planet, the contracts typically have you guarding a ‘base’, which serves as your spawn point and shipping station. You can swap characters here, and place assembled crates to be beamed off-world.

The class-based solider system returns as well, with the standard ‘Marine’, the workhorse ‘Engineer’2, and the sniper-ready ‘Recon’ types. While the first and last units haven’t changed greatly, the always-vital engineer class has been given an armament upgrade, allowing you to craft defensive turrets and guns to guard your base / fellow marines. All of the classes come with numerous ways to customize your ‘ExoDrone’, changing armor / helmet types, weapons, ammo types, and even a handful of perks.

Xenominer Swarm - Screen

In theory, this range of options and the mission variety should equate to an evolving, entertaining game. It doesn’t quite get there, though, for the same reasons that DownGate Deathmatch failed to deliver on its grand promise; all the parts are here, but everything lacks punch and a sense of urgency. The so-so online play doesn’t help (there were a few framerate stutters I noticed, and I was dropped from some matches), and it still has the clunky, unsatisfying combat that can be found in the previous game. Ammo, too, is once again sparse, forcing you to rely on engineer teammates to re-up, or expend energy to slowly regenerate bullets. Neither option suits the quicker style of game the developer is going for.

The result is another uneven experience. In a lot of ways, Xenominer Swarm remains ahead of its time on XBLIG, granting you an awesome amount of content and adaptable gameplay, all for a single dollar. Despite the ideas and that freedom, it remains tied down by underwhelming combat, some initial confusion as to how it all works, and a snail’s pace in terms of progress and gameplay. It’s still worth a look, especially if you have three friends to play with, but I sincerely hope that Gristmill can work out the kinks in this side series. It really could be something great.


  1. A game type that goes on for twenty-plus minutes, the equivalent of one day / night cycle in-game. Take my advice: pack a lunch if you’re heading out on this mission. 
  2. The only class that can equip the P.I.C.K., the game’s version of the Minecraft pick axe that lets you dig up and place blocks in the environment, or create power sources and build up your base. 

REVIEW: DeadKings

The game of Checkers1 is an old one, possibly the oldest. It’s rules are relatively simple; two sides, two sets. Men can make diagonal moves on the board, only going forward, while King pieces—having reached the other side of the board unscathed— have the luxury of moving diagonally in either direction. The idea is to ‘trap’ and / or ‘capture’ all of your foe’s pieces. There are good moves and bad moves2, and a fair amount of strategy involved, but generally, anyone can jump right in and play.

Ditto for DeadKings3 ($1.00), although in many ways, Checkers isn’t the game’s primary focus. As the sequel to a fan-favorite game called, appropriately enough, BloodyCheckers4, you’d kinda expect it to be. I mean, you’ll play plenty of rounds of Checkers, against the AI and / or human players. All of the parts and rule sets are there, mind you, and some not-so-official powerups, but DeadKings is also all at once a dungeon crawler, an RPG, part roguelike, and even a co-op adventure game, if you prefer to play nice with others.

Dead.Kings - Screen

To that end, you are a reincarnated knight, brought back to the entrance of a vast, extremely hazardous, and unmapped castle. Your ‘goal’ as stated is to ascend the floors of said castle, finding ways around locked doors and gates, triggering a number of devious traps and enemies, and challenging dozens of opponents (including Death Himself) to a very impolite game of Checkers5. All of this, in order to eventually level up your knight and reach max level, to open every door, and to claim the Sword of Valor for your own.

Easier said than done, natch. Though really, it’s not the ‘games’ you should be worried about. The castle itself is the real challenge, practically a living, breathing character, providing multiple ways for you to die and get lost in its labyrinthian corridors. That said, you can also thrive, once you’ve built up a small treasury of gold and earned a few abilities / items. From there (and once you’ve gained the ability to warp around the map), it’s essentially an open world. Do as you wish. Uncover some secrets, burn some bats, or troll your co-op partner and teleport him to the pits of the castle6.

Whatever happens, it’s important to keep your light handy. As in the original game, your candle is basically life itself. Should your flame be snuffed out, you are in a world of trouble. Besides the obvious result of being left in the dark, you cannot open chests, doors, or enter paintings (how you start Checkers matches, buy certain powerups, etc.) without it. Later in the game, this is potentially less of an issue, but in the early going, you’ll have to be on guard.

Dead.Kings - Screen2

Given that mechanic, the maze-like floors, and the shifting nature of its hazards (DeadKings has its own version of Lost‘s Smoke Monster), the sheer scope of the castle can sometimes be intimidating. The game is built with co-op in mind, which should cut down on any frustrations you may have. Although, as is the case with other games this size, a few bugs still exist in the current form. Fixes are inbound, but none really detract from the overall experience.

Thankfully, the game keeps you too busy and too entertained to notice. Play some Checkers (or don’t), solve the castle’s various mysteries, adventure with— or against— a friend, and, perhaps most importantly, continue to explore. Even then, you’ll likely never run out of things to do. After five-plus hours, I’ve only scratched its surface7. And that’s a very good thing. However you choose to play, and whatever endeavor you wish to focus on, DeadKings— and its expansive castle— gives you plenty of excellent options.

  1. Checkers is my game, and really, my only game. Although I was taught the basics on a couple of occasions, I still to this day can not sit down and play a game of Chess. My simple mind just doesn’t know it. Mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  2. And if you should need some refreshment of the rules or wish to learn some new strategies, DeadKings offers plenty of lessons. Educates as much as it entertains, if you will. 
  3. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  4. An admission: the game was released before my time reviewing XBLIGs, and therefore, I have not played it to any great degree. Again, mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  5. If you so desire; a forthcoming update will add a few minigames to spice up the match-playing, and you can always bypass the Checkers games entirely (see ‘RageQuit’). 
  6. A sarcastic ‘Thanks!’ to GNAWMAN for that. 
  7. Only 25% completed, and I’m Level 18. Seems there’s a lot of castle still to discover. 

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