Appease the Spider

REVIEW: Appease the Spider

As the sort-of sequel to surprise hit One Night Two Crazies1, Appease the Spider ($1.00) is a speedy follow-up to the original’s brand of cheap (albeit creepy) jump scares. ‘Speedy’ as in just two weeks ago. I mean, my tears for fears— ahem, tears from fears— have barely dried on my shirt, and already I’m being asked to do it all over again.

Appease the Spider - Screen

The epitome of ‘low budget’ horror. 

Appease the Spider keeps the amateur look and feel, as well as the cheesy dialog and inexpensive props (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Your objective, too, is largely the same: survive the night while intruders roam the halls and rooms of your house. You still keep tabs on said costumed horrors via cameras placed around the home, but the big change to the formula this time around is the ability to manually explore the rooms on foot. Well, with preset movement prompts and button presses, that is.

That travel is necessary, as you’re also on a bit of a fetch quest. As the title implies, you’re not just surviving; you’re fulfilling orders for a very needy (and increasingly-demanding) spider2. With each new night comes a new mission, like retrieving a snack from the kitchen, or bringing back a Chess piece. Later on, you’ll be tasked with gathering multiple items. As you set off on your scavenger hunts, the intruders move about the house, forcing you to keep watch over their movements, …and hope they don’t overlap with yours.

Thankfully, there’s no time limit, and the layout of the house isn’t overly complex3 or massive, but knowing where to look for some of the required items can be. To complicate the search (and dial up the tension), Appease the Spider limits your defenses. You can only hide in pair of places, and there’s no last-ditch move to avoid being caught. Like One Night Two Crazies, you have to constantly be aware of the intruders. And perhaps hope for a little luck.

Appease the Spider - Screen2

You’ve always got the option to retry, although the inherent trial-and-error of that might turn off some. Even the ‘jump scares’ can get more annoying than unnerving as the retries pile on, and the series’ reliance on pseudo-FMV, still shots, and half-animations (that may cause motion sickness over long periods) means you’ll be staring at the same hallways and death scenes over and over.

There’s no denying that Appease the Spider is very much a one-trick pony, but it’s (once again) timely, and the added mobility and new gameplay elements elevate it a bit beyond what One Night Two Crazies offered. If you didn’t like that one, this game probably won’t convert you. Yet if you’re in the right mindset for cheap scares and even cheaper production values, you can turn off the lights and get a decent amount of enjoyment out of Appease the Spider.

  1. I say sort-of, because a true sequel is already on the way. Called Fright Light, it’s probably available as you read this. 
  2. Yeah, it’s best not to give the plot too much thought. 
  3. The upstairs’ trio of doors can be a little disorienting, admittedly. Expect to make some mistakes there. 
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Avatar of the Dead

REVIEW: Avatar of the Dead

Just by exiting the starting gate of marketplace publication, Avatar of the Dead ($1.00) has a huge advantage. I mean, sure, zombies, but if the continued popularity of ApocZ is anything to go by, then people can’t get enough of the PvE1 / PvP these types of open world games specialize in. That said, while the undead are more of an afterthought or bonus in games like ApocZ and the like, with players focused on robbing and killing each other2, Avatar of the Dead runs into the same fate as all online-based XBLIGs do these days…

… with that being that nobody’s home. So, despite the potential (or murderous free-for-all) of eight-player co-op, odds are you’ll only have the offline, single-player portion of Avatar of the Dead to play with. Just you versus a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. How does that work out, you might ask? Well, sometimes… not so good.

Awkward, occasionally-broken combat aside, the setup here is straightforward and well-traveled; survive against a world of zombies, scrounging weapons from the surrounding exteriors of homes and barns. Don’t mistake that self-supplied mission objective for an actual objective, though. There is no statement of purpose, no score-keeping in Avatar of the Dead, no progress markers, no HUD even, to clue you in on what you’re supposed to be doing. You simply exist, slay some zombies until you die, then respawn next to a lonely van in the middle of nowhere and repeat.

Weapons consist of the usual melee tools, like a shovel or hatchet, and a pistol with unlimited ammo3. The ‘open world’ itself is quite limited in design, mostly featureless prairie in all directions. The few buildings that do dot the landscape may harbor a weapon, but there’s otherwise nothing of interest to see here. While ApocZ at least had the ‘survival’ part of its plan down, gathering supplies and watching out for your health, Avatar of the Dead is really just an arena to test out some weapons in. Sadly, it’s not even very good at that.

The zombies lack any kind of killer instinct, sometimes not even bothering to come after you. When they do, it’s relatively easy to dispatch them with whatever is at hand (your fists do just fine). Unfortunately, your sense of accomplishment at doing so will be muted at best. It’s not your fault. Any kind of tension or fear is lost when the walking dead wear bright, neon clothing(!), which is just as ridiculous and undercooked as the rest of the game.

Try as it does to be relevant and timely, Avatar of the Dead is a mess of a game, a shadow of the much better games it’s based on. While the scarcity of online players on XBLIG is something to lament, in the case of this game, I’d like to think of it as a blessing in disguise.

  1. Er… PvZ, that is. And that’s ‘Player versus Zombie’, by the way. Not to be confused with Plants Vs. Zombies, or its FPS spinoff, Garden Warfare, which is a whole other deal. 
  2. Once again, I weep for the lack of decency / empathy in the human race, even in fictional circumstances. So it goes. 
  3. That’s really more like a compact sniper rifle. I was picking off one-pixel tall zombies from a massive distance. Where the hell do you get a gun like this, and can I transfer it over to my Warlock character in Destiny
Space Assault

REVIEW: Space Assault

Fighting off the previously-reviewed Assault Ops for ‘most generic title’, the also-combative Space Assault ($1.00) features a generic every-soldier, doing battle with a host of alien machinery. Also, there is no ‘space’ in Space Assault, as far as I can tell. Every stage takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth-like planet. Well, you hop from one level to the next in a spaceship. Er… fine; there’s some ‘space’, but it’s still heavily terrestrial, hopping from and to a series of Earth-like planets, equally post-apocalyptic.  …You get the idea.

Space Assault - Screen

Regardless of the ratio of ‘space’ to ‘not space’, Space Assault is a third-person shooter. And the game’s description couldn’t be more applicable to the minute to minute gameplay: ‘Destroy the enemies, find the key, and enter in the portal‘. It is exactly this, unwavering in that dedication, with some slightly-altering scenery.

Each stage begins by dropping you in a large arena, either being shot at or soon to be. Your enemies are the standard, run-of-the-mill types (a mech, a drone, some kind of ‘gorilla’ mech, maybe?) and sparsely-animated1. Also, they are indistinguishable from a distance… and bullet sponges. Thankfully, combat isn’t required. You only need to find the key in each level, then head for the exit. Should you need it, there is a minimap, one you have to (bizarrely) seek out via an item pickup2, along with ammo and health refills.

It’s simple, if inherently repetitive. What this info and the static screenshots can’t show you, however, is how slow and clunky it all plays3Space Assault treats third-person shooters like it’s a brand new, still-developing genre. It has awful controls, a tank-style scheme that really doesn’t want you to turn effortlessly, or walk and aim at the same time, or have any fun with the combat. Its weapon ‘zoom’ goes too far, and hip-firing makes it hard to line up shots. While the game’s difficulty is tuned in your favor, you’ll certainly be fighting the controls more than your enemies.

Space Assault - Screen2

Complicating this is the character’s incredibly-slow movement speed, turning every level’s ‘key hunt’ into a protracted slog. In fact, you’re better off jumping through the entire level, …provided you don’t get caught up on any of the scenery. When you do finally nab the key and advance to the next planet, the game tallies your score and the process repeats ad nauseam.

Needless to say, Space Assault makes it extremely difficult for you to like it. The repetition is one thing, but the obnoxious controls, the bugginess, and the otherwise generally-sloppy design do nothing to help the cause. This game is a literal chore to play, and you should avoid it at all costs.

  1. Sort of like stop-motion animation, I guess. 
  2. Once you’ve found the minimap, important items like the key and exit portal are (somewhat) highlighted. It makes sense to keep these hidden from view, but then again, why bother with the map at all, if your real intention is to make players hunt down the key / portal on their own? It’s an odd system. 
  3. You can check out Splazer’s trial gameplay for that. 
Assault Ops

REVIEW: Assault Ops

Playing at war online can be a lonely place on XBLIG. Pick any game and it’s an epidemic, even for new releases. The majority of the service’s already-infinitesimal audience is scattered between a handful of popular titles, with the rest of the online games left to fight for stragglers, or, sadly, abandoned altogether1. Rendercode Games‘ newest, Assault Ops ($1.00), is no exception.

Assault Ops - Screen

Not that you’re missing out on much excitement here. Assault Ops is a twin-stick online shooter, featuring your typically-generic combatants / weapons, but an atypical isometric view. You can choose from a handful of soldiers, with only slightly-varying stats. One might have more agility, while another boasts higher firepower. Really though, the differences are cosmetic, as they (and the guns) all play the same. Defeated foes drop health packs and ammunition, ensuring you’re always topped out after each confrontation.

The online component is a nice option to have, but it’s exceedingly-basic and as generic as its character choices. It supports up to eight players, in a Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch scenario. Tweak the score conditions for victory, or the amount of time on the clock for each round, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, you’ll likely never find a match or other players online2. The game does offer A.I. bots in place of human competition, ranging from Easy to Hard, and this will probably be your only means of trying out the game.

Assault Ops - Screen2

Four soldiers on-screen at once!? Never happens.

Assault Ops has just one arena, albeit a very large one, with plenty of buildings and and corners to peek around. Of course, that size works against it as well. Given the length of the map, and the pseudo-intelligence of the A.I., you’ll wander for a bit between the (almost entirely) 1 vs. 1 firefights, eventually stumbling onto an opponent, or they you. The isometric camera doesn’t give you the longest of sightlines, either,  making it hard to spot threats until they’re practically on top of you.

You may prefer those odds in a straight fight, but don’t expect any massive battle of wills or heavy firepower. Otherwise, Assault Ops plays fine, and controls well enough. It just doesn’t do anything new or interesting, at all, and the complete lack of a community means you’ll be fighting this war all by yourself.

  1. I used to fault indie games for ignoring online components. Now, I can completely forgive them for it. It no longer pays off. I’m no fan of local multiplayer either, but it’s certainly the safer bet these days. Sad state of affairs, my friends. 
  2. I tried on four occasions, different times, weekdays and the weekend. Not once did I find a single game, and no one ever joined my hosted match. A shame, but to be expected. 
One Night Two Crazies

REVIEW: One Night Two Crazies

Third time is the charm for developer Chris Antoni, so far as timing his new releases, that is. While Santa Slay missed the (calendar) mark by a considerable margin, One Night Two Crazies ($1.00) is rather right on target. With Halloween just over two weeks away, the developer’s latest is a pretty simple— and pretty scary— game that brilliantly preys upon some of our worst thoughts and fears.

One Night Two Crazies - Screen

Albeit in a very familiar way. The ‘FMV Horror’ genre is nothing new, and the ground it covers is well-tread. Put a bunch of creepy people and dimly-lit VHS scenes together, give your protagonist little to no means of fighting back against said creeps, and your recipe is nearly complete. One Night Two Crazies does just that, placing ‘you’ at a desk in a seemingly-empty house, testing out a newly-installed security system. This entails you watching the monitor and a series of camera feeds, as first one, then two, crazies, infiltrate your home and make their way to your bedroom. The objective is to survive each ‘night’, which lasts two minutes1 before security kicks in.

Your only means of tracking the intruders comes from spotting them on the cameras via still shots, either hiding in plain sight, or sometimes trying a little harder to avoid detection. Fail to keep an eye on them, or forget to periodically check the hallway, and you can guess how this ends for you. Luckily, you do have some defensive measures. And by some, I mean one. You can shut your door. That’s right. If ever you are faced with a life and death situation in your home, just close your door. The bad guys will just give up2.

Of course, it’s not that simple. While looking out into the hall and / or holding the door shut does grant you a temporary reprieve, peace of mind, and plenty of freaky ‘near-misses’, it comes with the unfortunate cost of losing a bit of your ‘sanity’ in trade. Visual cues on-screen will alert you of your deteriorating mental condition. Lose your mind entirely, and you’ll be ‘frozen’ in place, unable to move or protect yourself. This back and forth system of overwatch— and a bit of luck— is vital to your success and nightly survival.

One Night Two Crazies - Screen2

While it starts to feel like trial and error after awhile, the game does an effective job at creating unease, despite its ‘low budget’ acting and feel3. A man in a hockey mask, and another in a homemade spider costume are hardly scary on their own, more cheesy and campy than anything. That said, the way these two characters stalk you does create palpable tension, with you following their paths when you can, and trying to guess where they are in the house when you can’t.

Subsequent nights add to the challenge, taking out cameras, say, or adding a second assailant to the mix. And that’s the extent of it. One Night Two Crazies doesn’t do too much beyond what you’ve seen from the genre before, but its timely release, and the easy ability to create a sense of dread every playthrough, do more than enough to justify the cost of admission. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to check my locks.

  1. Two very long, impossibly-long, minutes. I mean, come on, hasn’t it been two minutes!? The guy could be right outside my— Gahhhh! Son of a— Don’t fucking do that to me!!! 
  2. Well, probably not in real life situations. In that event, you should probably run. Or hide. Or have Liam Neeson on speed dial. He seems to be good at dealing with undesirables. 
  3. One could argue that a ‘low budget’ is exactly the right kind of budget for games like these, and I would agree. Give me camp! 

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