REVIEW: Fright Light

When it comes to cheesy horror, we’ve all done it; yelled at a character onscreen (or in-game, as it were) to get the hell out of the obviously-haunted house, ditch the creepy dude and call the police, etc., etc.. Part of that is probably human instinct1. The other part is what makes those movies (and games, as it were) fun— we watch as other people continually fling themselves into terrifying situations, and subsequently pay for those mistakes.

Fright Light ($2.99) is one of those times you find yourself inexplicably talking to the screen, imploring a fictional person to get the hell out the obviously-terrible house. You don’t say this because you’re concerned for anyone’s well-being, though, but rather for the fact that you’ve seen this scene before, and you already know the ending. Like those cheesy horror films you love to hate, there comes a point when something that should be scary no longer really is.

Fright Light - Screen

Looks familiar, feels familiar.

To be fair, a lot of that has to do with familiarity and timing. Fright Light is the sequel to a sort-of sequel to an original game, which was almost certainly inspired by another game. These three games on XBLIG also come in on the heels of each other, their releases spaced out in just over a month’s time. And much like in those previous games, Fright Light is low-budget horror, relying on jump scares—and the constant threat of those jump scares— to prop up the rest of the experience and keep you continually on edge.

Fright Light returns the series to a stationary setting, with you sitting in front of a laptop and watching the feed from security cameras posted around the house. Intruders2 enter and leave the various rooms, making their way towards you. Your goal is to the survive the night, naturally,  spread out over several hours. The story that accompanies each ‘hour’ is cheesy and humorous, dealing with escaped patients from an insane asylum (and a four-foot tarantula).

The game ups the ante in terms of baddies, giving you up to four intruders to avoid at a time. In a convenient twist, all of them are sensitive to the beam of your flashlight you just so happen to carry, granting you a momentary breather should any of them reach the door outside your room. Just as convenient, said flashlight runs on batteries, batteries which happen to die off just as quickly as they are loaded into it. This in turn creates the game’s chief form of tension, forcing you to guess at when and how to use the flashlight.

Fright Light - Screen2

Sadly, some of that challenge and tension is diluted by the game’s camera system, which simply flashes whenever an intruder is in the room you’re watching. While that undoubtedly makes it easier to track multiple intruders at once, not having to frantically scan the rooms yourself takes away from the inevitable jump scares. The game does benefit from changes and increased polish elsewhere, though, including smoother stop-motion transitions and death scenes. They feel like small additions to a game that feels largely the same as the ones that came before it.

That leaves this release stuck somewhere in the middle. Improvements to the pacing and the room layouts are welcome, but the third time around is not necessarily the charm. The jump scares still do their job3, yet the idea has been stretched thin, and the market, now oversaturated. Fright Light is more of the same, just tweaked. It’s up to you to decide if those changes (and the increased cost) are worth another night in a well-tread house.


  1. The mostly-good kind, anyway. We do want to help people, so long as it doesn’t threaten and / or inconvenience us in the process. If it does… ‘Shit, buddy, you’re on your own. Sucks for you.’ 
  2. That low budget applies to your enemies as well, with returning favorites like ‘Man in Hockey Mask’, ‘Man in Wolf Mask’, and ‘Toy Spider’. Honestly, it’s worth a chuckle, and fits the game’s theme well. 
  3. As this compilation of clips can attest to
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REVIEW: Survival Games: Season 1

Given XBLIG’s recent plight, its various brushes with death, and the lack of new games worthy of a look, it’s been rare to come across a release that you can truly be excited about. Survival Games Season 1 ($1.00) is certainly unassuming at first glance, easy to pass off as another Minecraft clone. However, I can say— unequivocally— that this is one of the better games to hit the indie marketplace in 2014.

Survival Games comes across as Minecraft meets Hunger Games meets Stephen King’s Under The Dome1 meets a first-person shooter2. Yes, that’s a mouthful. It’s also a cocktail of awesome, a mashup of different styles and scenes that work rather well together. The scope of this game is impressive by any standard, but especially so for an indie. Developer 2.0 Studios has experience building crafters on the service, but they’ve truly created something great here that everyone should play. When it all runs smooth, that is.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen

To start with, Survival Games is not a ‘block world crafter’. Despite its appearance, despite any inferred comparisons, you are not building square worlds of your own design here. Survival Games is a first-person shooter first and foremost, specializing in online PvP battles for up to sixteen players3 across a large and random landscape. All that said, it’s not the FPS components themselves that thrill, but rather the ancillary parts that join together and compliment it. While your main objective is to eliminate other players and be the last player standing (YOLO is the theme here, almost roguelike), there is more to the matter of surviving than just, well… surviving.

As the title implies, your survival depends on a multi-pronged approach. Other players aren’t your only concern. You’ve also got to manage your hunger and sleep levels, as well as a stamina meter directly tied to your actions. Things like running, jumping, and attacking all use stamina, forcing you to strike a balance and constantly look for ways to improve your lot. Survival Games is nothing if not accommodating… to an extent. You’ll have to hunt animals for food, look for berries / mushrooms in the environments, even take a nap when your energy runs low (and the coast is clear, natch). Customizable perks can mitigate some of this, or give you an advantage in other instances. A playable tutorial acquaints you with the basics, and a few matches in, you’re already (mostly) a pro.

Foraging for food applies to your weaponry and equipment as well. The randomly-drawn world contains scattered loot chests, holding a number of swords, guns, grenades, and armor, among dozens of other useful (and sometimes not-so-useful) items. You can equip new clothing to your character, playing dress up and giving a boost to certain stats, or go the ‘hypochondriac’ route and carry around a stockpile of food and / or healing items in your backpack.

All of these items are coded according to quality, including rare and epic weapons / equipment. You can draw a Ghillie suit from one, say, or a pirate outfit and eye patch from another. Night-vision goggles will give you an edge at night, as do torches, and there’s even a Harry Potter-style map that fills in as you walk and tracks other players in real-time4. While exploration and improvisation are key, combat is inevitable. To that end, the game has a ‘sudden death’ option, speeding up the fight as the dome slowly closes in on you (pro tip: don’t mess with the dome) and the other combatants.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen2

The resulting gameplay is incredibly dynamic, allowing for a number of clever events’ and firefights. Just take this montage of moments I’ve had with the game so far— 1. Finding a hidden weapons cache behind a waterfall, Zelda-style. 2. Setting up a bear trap just inside the house I was sleeping in, killing my would-be intruder. 3. Lighting a campfire in an open field at night, then hiding in the woods and waiting for players to show up and ambush them. 4. Being killed by the very same wildcat I was hunting just a moment prior to my death. 5. C4 on a castle bridge = awesome escape from other players.

Of course, all of this requires a community to be effective, and Survival Games has the beginnings of one. As host, you can tweak a number of game factors, including starting loadouts, map size, player counts, and modifiers to the hunger / sleep component. On the flip side, this amount of choice, as well as its ambitious design, comes with some serious drawbacks. I was routinely dropped from matches (particularly those with more players), the game crashed on me a few times, and there’s noticeable lag that can pop up at any time. These issues will undoubtedly be settled in future updates, but it’s worth noting the game is far from perfect in its current form.

Online hiccups and other issues aside, Survival Games Season 1 is the best reason in a long time to come back to XBLIG. While its options and game modes may ultimately be finite, its more unique elements and random outcomes promise almost limitless possibilities. Fun is a constant. If you have a dollar, a few friends, and a bit of patience, you owe it to yourself to spend it here.


  1. The book, anyway. It’s 1,000 pages long, but an excellent read. I can’t vouch for the ongoing TV series. 
  2. I’m sure there’s plenty of mods / tweaks for Minecraft on PC that do this already, but it’s a console first, as far as I know. Yes, Avatar Survival Games did the Hunger Games first, but nowhere near the size and scale that’s on display here. 
  3. I regularly found games with five to six players, even a few that ran up to ten(!). By XBLIG standards, this is good. 
  4. Mischief managed. 

REVIEW: Zombie Purge

Doubtless we’ve all had our fill of zombies in one form of media or another1. Not enough to go ‘cold turkey’ and disavow them altogether, mind you, but enough to start turning away the newcomers that are (very) late to the party. From the developer of all those ‘creepy, plastic-looking women set on a mysterious island‘ games, Zombie Purge ($1.00) falls into that unfortunate category.

Zombie Purge - Screen

Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before; a twin-stick shooter where you take down a horde of bloodthirsty zombies in a wave-based format, the difficulty and enemy numbers increasing as you— oww, what was… okay, okaaaay, you’ve heard it before. And, as cut-and-paste as that gameplay already is, Zombie Purge commits the further deadly sin of doing absolutely nothing new with the idea, beyond dragging its set of plastic characters into the mix.

Each game starts off with two walls of sandbagged ‘defenses’, which amounts to your objective. Survive the wave, and prevent them from completely destroying your barricades. Failing to do either will result in a ‘game over’. You have limited ammo, but can pick up more in-wave, and as a bonus for scoring the highest in that round. Explosive barrels? Check! It does allow local co-op for up to four, too, but the odds of anyone wrangling enough controllers and gullible players to pull that feat off would be pretty rare.

Zombie Purge - Screen2

Gratuitous crotch and ass shots of the female characters? You bet.

You’d get the feeling I’m unnecessarily dumping on the game, but I assure you it is that underwhelming. Sure, the usual ‘indie’ problems surface; the animation is stiff (…um, eh, no pun intended), the solitary arena gets old fast— as does the gameplay— but there’s nothing mechanically ‘wrong’ the game. To its credit, it works as advertised.

There’s just no reason to waste your time here when so many other alternatives exist. Alternatives that are better built, and give you more things to do than mindlessly shoot or ogle at a few pics. Zombie Purge is just that; too little, too late to the table, too simple-minded and too dull to offer up even a modicum of fun.


  1. So much, in fact, that I know I’ve used that line before. Seriously, I’m running out of ways to say it! Developers, please, ‘Enough with the zombie games, dammit!’ 

REVIEW: Date The Boss

Just when I was in the midst of convincing myself that ‘skin’ games on XBLIG had turned a corner and were approaching something of an acceptable genre (not really, but it sounds better in that phrasing), Date The Boss ($1.00) comes along to reaffirm my disdain for cheap, poorly-executed ‘games’ that last fifteen minutes and prey on the teenage libido. Even calling it a game is being generous, as Date The Boss is a glorfied slut slot machine.

Date the Boss - Screen

The gist of it is, you’re a unemployed lad living with an overbearing mother. You’ve managed to snag an interview at a fancy place called Beaumont Industries, and you’re essentially forced out of your home until you’ve gotten the job. Hilariously (the game insists it is, not me) enough, job interviews in Date The Boss go nothing like they do in real life. Given that you’ll be visiting strip clubs in pursuit of this ‘position’, one could argue this path to employment beats any real life job-seeking grind, but I digress.

Date The Boss is a handful of ‘acquire / purchase said item’ missions. Much like in the real world, this requires money, which you earn by gambling at the local casino. Naturally, this is all much duller than it sounds, as it essentially boils down to you continuously pulling the lever of a slot machine to potentially earn bigger paydays. Given the randomness of ‘jackpots’, you’ll probably burn through your winnings just as quickly, turning the game’s ridiculous monetary demands ($500 for a ‘massage’, so I can zoom in on a girl’s ass to read a tattoo with a combination to a safe1, one that will let me rob the innocent gal at the gift shop next door?) into tedious time-wasters.

Date the Boss - Screen2

All of this is bookended by the ‘job interview’ itself, an equally-boring general knowledge / esoteric questionnaire to ‘impress’ your potential boss. With the exception of the last question in each sequence, which is timed, you can take as long as you’d like to answer the rest (know some basic math, and keep Google handy). You’re given three chances to pass these ‘tests’, with the punishment being you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

Other than that, there is little else to Date the Boss. You can find random coins in the environment, or play Rock-Paper-Scissors with a bikini-clad girl residing in the lake by your home (which is honestly the best part of this whole travesty). If mindlessly playing the digital slot machines sounds like fun to you, you’re welcome to it. For everyone else— 99% of us, I hope— avoid.


  1. And if you’re here searching for that combination… you won’t get it from me! Pay for that $500 massage yourself! Persistence, lads! 

REVIEW: Magnet Man

Not to be confused with the Mega Man 3 boss by the same name, Magnet Man ($1.00) is yet another game by developer Chris Antoni1, a simple platformer using the power of magnets to fuel its type of predictable (yet occasionally smart) puzzle-solving. The idea isn’t exactly novel on its own— magnetized platformers being rather common— but when done right (on XBLIG, the excellent Magnetic By Nature comes to mind), it can attract2 an audience.

Magnet Man - Screen

Like MbN before it, this one’s similarly a platformer, albeit one starring a shirtless gladiator(?). I think. And yes, he has a magnet surgically-implanted on his arm, which he (of course!) uses to attach to and repel from the changing polarity of magnets that he can control (via switches). Or maybe he’s just carrying a magnet. It’s hard to tell, and doesn’t really have any effect on the game at all. There is no story or text of any kind, no motivation or impetus, just the ‘Job well done, sir!’ of setting a high score.

Save for the later levels, where some tiny penguin-like enemies show up (one hit equals death, so you simply avoid them), it’s just you and the magnet cannon. And a bunch of same-y looking stage designs between you and each exit. Your cannon is versatile, allowing you to attach yourself to ceilings or pull yourself straight across the length of the level, provided you are ‘lined up’ with said magnets, and on level ground. While that’s not exactly a twist on the formula, Magnet Man‘s insistence on those conditions does create some clever traversal puzzles and the occasional ‘how do I get there?’ moments.

Magnet Man - Screen2

This generally requires you to swap polarities, time your moves to disappearing bricks, or push a ‘boulder’ (sort of looks like a Transformers‘ head) with your cannon in order to create stairs or safe havens from spike pits. Expect to make a few mistakes, but the level of difficulty’ rests more on your patience than actual challenge; you have a limited amount of lives, but given that you can save at each new level, you’re never in any danger of losing your place.

That said, starting from the title and all the way to the graphics, Magnet Man is not very interesting. The gameplay is decent, but it’s all visually and tonally bland, lacks any sort of personality (sorry, Magnet Gladiator), and feels rough around the edges. With a little more time in the developmental oven it might fare better, but with far better (and far more inviting) magnetic platformers out there, there’s no real reason to invest your time here.


  1. I should really just change the name of this site to ‘theANTONI’, seeing as how I’ve been strictly reviewing games by him. It seems that way, certainly. 
  2. Only bad ‘magnet’ pun I’ll do, I swear. And I stick to my promises…. okay, fine. Just those two. 

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