Tag Archives: 240 MSP

REVIEW: Blood & Bacon

First-person shooters are suffering a crisis. Where once XBLIG was happy to see a FPS, going so far as to forgive bad design or controls just for the sake of playing one, now the problem is over-saturation. Too many trying to copy too much, bouncing from military shooter to zombie wave shooter. Too many falling short of the accepted norm, skimping on content or releasing unpolished messes. Too many recycled ideas and endless pseudo-sequels. Then, like a blood-red bacon… ahem, beacon, of hope, enter Blood & Bacon (240 MSP).

This game is an antibiotic for what ails indie FPSes. No half-baked concoction, no stiff controls, no detrimentally-repetitive waves, and perhaps most importantly, no zombies. Well, no traditional zombies. Instead it’s undead livestock, refreshing enough to feel different, and dead enough not to upset animal rights groups. Yes, it’s a wave shooter (with a 100+ ‘Days’ to fight through), but only in name and format. Trust me, you haven’t played a wave shooter like this.

Nor have you seen this much blood. When the screen gets busy (and it will, with you versus hundreds of enemies possible), so does the exploding viscera. Blood & Bacon is on a liquid-only diet, the self-professed bloodiest game on Xbox Live. It’s hard to argue against that boast. It helps that the weaponry on tap is geared towards said carnage, running from the typical shotgun and rifles to an uzi, grenades, and one very ‘effective’ gun that you earn later on that is best saved for larger crowds.

Rounds and the roster of baddies start off simple, and gradually increase in number and challenge. Enemy types shuffle in and out, never quite the same combination, continually changing the approach and challenging you to mix tactics. Powerups to boost your speed and / or killing potential, as well as ammo and self-revives, prove to be invaluable. By the time you reach the first multi-phased boss, and the even sinister-er Princess Blubbergut (…the experience is memorable, and defies explanation), you’ll have left Easy Street behind and wandered into a rural quagmire, no one there to hold your hand.

Well, save for the online co-op, which is where Blood & Bacon reaches its fullest, Left 4 Dead-est potential. Teamwork here is not a suggestion but a necessity, working together to lead and dispatch tougher, armored foes, and tackle the higher levels. Careful management of the health pumps and keeping your partner standing takes precedence. Victory is not handed over lightly, but the sheer satisfaction that comes from beating a particularly tough wave or exhausting boss fight, alone or with a friend, far outweighs the struggle.

Blood & Bacon - Screen

Definitely not for the squeamish.

That hard-fought progress is what keeps you coming back, complimented by the smaller things that build the larger whole; story elements, the excellent voicework and soundtrack, controls / camerawork, and plenty of interesting (and well hidden) easter eggs to be found. Simply stated, there’s nothing here that upsets or feels unfinished, and any faults you may find will be temporary. With the promise of patches and free DLC support (a new map, enemies, have been mentioned) for many months down the road, you can rest easy knowing the game will be updated and expanded upon.

When it’s all said and done, Blood & Bacon stands as nothing less than the resurrection of the wave shooter, all pork and no gristle, full of the exacting attention and care you don’t typically see in indie development. It’s even more impressive to say that after several hours of playtime, I still haven’t had my fill of things to do or see. The game brings with it a new look to the first-person genre on the indie channel, making more than good on great expectations and raising the bar for other developers. An absolute must play.

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EDIT 9/1: A ‘lite’ version of the game, re-titled B&B Fatfree, has been released for $1. Comprising the first ’50 days’ (of the full 100) of the game, it still contains all of the greatness I stated above.

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REVIEW: Aqua Kitty

Few things elicit seventy million audible ‘Awww’s as much as kitten videos on the internet (you know you want it). Therefore, the premise of a group of cats so hard-up for milk that they resort to deep-sea milk drilling (yes, it’s a thing) in a desperate attempt to satisfy their thirst ranks somewhere between ‘Awww’ and ‘Where the hell did these cats gain the know-how and opposable thumbs to do so?’. Such is the idea behind Aqua Kitty (240 MSP), a previously Playstation Vita-only indie shooter that’s now scratched and pawed its way to the XBLIG channel.

#Xbone joke, check!

Piloting a submarine, and tasked with protecting the milk miners during their massive milk extraction, you’ll battle through waves of enemies in each level, stamping out multiple foot soldiers and would-be kidnappers (the red dots on your minimap). With separate hub continents amounting to new ‘worlds’, bringing with them tougher enemies and / or more waves, there’s no shortage of stages and variety.

It plays roughly the same regardless of ‘world’, each level just one big circle of hazards and foes, with a varying number of miners to watch over. Completion only requires one cat be left alive, though ultimately your score relies on you saving them all and keeping your combo meter high. In addition to your regular gun, a limited secondary shot fires a stronger and more concentrated blast, which clears out mobs quickly. Your overall power level is increased with each new ‘world’ hub unlocked, though judicious use of that secondary fire (it regenerates when not in use) is a surefire way to win.

Powerups prove essential in that victory as well, which include screen-decimating bombs and co-kitty pilots laying down suppressing fire for a limited time. Health is at a premium in Aqua Kitty, just nine lives three hearts per level, with occasional heart pickups dropped, provided you shoot them at the right moment; depending on the depth you open them, you can in essence ‘choose’ your powerup. Still, there’s little time or room for error, as each wave brings with it a renewed sense of urgency.

Aqua Kitty - Screen

Co-op makes all the difference in later rounds.

And you’ll have to be quick in your assessments, eyes darting from the minimap to the action and back several times, taking care not to be vaporized in the interim. It’s a challenge that legitimately feels rewarding when you have a perfect run, though casual players take note— the difficulty increases significantly in the second half of the game, more or less urging you to seek out a second set of eyes and hands. The local co-op, added for the Xbox port, could be the solution here, as playing solo on the later levels was a one-way ticket to frustration, in my experience.

That’s not much of a warning to those that appreciate a stiff fight, though, making Aqua Kitty a more than suitable shooter for those with a ‘cat / underwater / cats underwater’ fetish. There are no online leaderboards, sadly, and the price might tilt higher than the usual XBLIG release, but if you missed out previously on the Vita version or just love fine feline pixel art, the game transfers excellently.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Happy Pong

Much like I know that, pulling up next to a car full of otherwise normal teenage boys doing a pitch-perfect rendition of Katy Perry’s California Gurls, they have to be ‘on something’, so too do I venture to guess that the developers of Happy Pong (240 MSP) were ‘on something’ during the genesis of their game. My detective’s intuition tells me something is going on here, though what that something is, I haven’t a clue.

It’s certainly a videogame in the general sense, with a control scheme, pause button, menus and the like, gameplay that’s a vague mashup of Pong, pinball, and a vertical shooter. Similarities to any of those ideas end there. The description itself foams at the mouth, promising Mad Cow disease and life-giving Bacon, with four different modes and ten modifiers, though Happy Pong defies regular categorization, let alone its ‘Classics’ designation. It’s… busy. Yes. This game is busy.

From start to finish in a single play, you’ll witness the full spectrum of discernible color. It moves non-stop, bouncing and jerking around, running endless lines of enemies at you, splashing / swapping visual filters and sound messily over everything (epilepsy warnings abound with this one) in an attempt to convey… something. Immediacy? Bizarre? Fun? It’s all debatable. It can be summed up best by saying that something is always happening on-screen, and all you can hope to do is match it the best you can.

The primary setting sees you pulling double-duty, shooting at ‘unhappy campers’ Space Invaders-style while trying to keep several balls in play, knocking out enemies and adding to your combo. Powerups and special attacks factor in, as well. The other game modes available focus on one area of attack (balls only, guns only), but play roughly the same and with the same objective. Curiously, there’s no real penalty to letting the balls hit bottom and reset, as you’ll only lose health / lives from being hit by enemies or laser fire. The shooter aspect of the action, however, suffers from the hand-crippling inability to hold down the button to continuously fire, leaving you more tired than challenged.

The modifiers (it’s better to call them ‘distractions’), too, are mostly useless, from a gameplay perspective. Almost all of them distort the screen or its colors, stretching and warping the action to an uncomfortable degree (my brain hurts at the mere memory of it), multiplying your potential score by turning the options on, yes, but rendering it nearly unplayable in turn. Does anyone really want to squint at their TV screen and / or take educated guesses on where their paddle is, just to boost their ranking on a local leaderboard? The question is rhetorical because the answer is no.

Happy Pong - Screen

If you know what’s going on here, you’re a better man than I.

It’s a different take on a traditional concept, minting ‘Busy’ as a new sub-genre, but Happy Pong feels more like a novelty item than a serious attempt at breaking new ground. It’s all visual diarrhea and ridiculous gameplay modifiers that don’t make sense to use, and the shooting portion, if taken on its own, is basic (and flawed at that). A little weird is fine, but not ‘$3 worth of weird’ fine.

REVIEW: War Rapier 43210

Although it might seem that way at first glance, with mentions of a futuristic New France, space Musketeers, and the implication of bestiality (…yeah, read on), War Rapier 43210 (240 MSP) is a cohesive product, if your interpretation of ‘cohesive’ is more like two subpar minigames in one infinitely-overpriced package. It does come from the makers of Torque Quest, which should tell you all you need to know.

War Rapier 43210 - Screen

Hmm, two choices, neither of which will be intelligible.

The first part of the game, a graphic ‘adventure’-style point-and-click concept, stars Lieutenant Uceda, a man that hates everything and everyone to the point of mania, and is convinced of his own superiority. Very lovable and relatable chap. To stop an invasion force of Vetustians (the bad guys), he has fifteen minutes to solve the various personal problems of the men in his unit, in order to make them better soldiers and save the world. It’s all trial and error, however, hidden behind an obscure wall of flat humor and very unintuitive puzzle logic. I need to give a doll to one man, beg a first aid kit for drugs, etc., without much rhyme or reason to be found in the environment or its characters.

Strangely, everything in the game world is, in some manner or another, related to sex. It’s one of those great universal truths regarding humanity or some such thing, and War Rapier embraces that idea with a handful of tactful (this is sarcasm) conversations regarding condoms, sex with animals (dead or alive is not specified), promiscuous wives, homoerotic acts, enemas, and the inappropriate touching of a ball of yarn, meaning yes, sexually (what would that be called, yarn-iality?).

All of these profound statements are steeped in a warm vat of profanity that seems in place only to placate a younger crowd that enjoys flaunting and freewheeling their expletive-laced vocabulary. I’m not a prude with swears by any means, but I use them chiefly as adjectives (What car? That fucking car.) and adverbs (How did I run? I fucking ran.), never for the sake of littering sentences or to propagate a conversation beyond its natural conclusion. To do so is just fucking childish.

The second ‘minigame within a game’ is an action / RPG, though calling it such is only to streamline the description, not to say that either genre is represented in a meaningful form. In it, you can swing a sword or fire your gun based on how many skill points you have. You fight enemies in ‘horde’ form, their numbers and strength increasing as the waves go on. Alone, you won’t stand a chance. The goal is to ‘fix’ the men in your squad enough that they’ll shoulder more of the burden, using their increased power and skills learned in the first half of the game, via your help. Curiously, I seemed to do about the same (wave four) whether I played psychoanalyst with my squadmates or not.

War Rapier 43210 - Screen2

Getting there, though, isn’t worth the time or effort, thanks to the terrible everything that precedes it. The best that you can say about War Rapier is that it does get its crayon, and it does have seven different endings (shooting yourself in the face is one of them, fittingly), though most of you will never see one, let alone all, of what the game has to offer. This is a good thing.

Add up the juvenile ‘humor’, the asinine dialogue and design, and what you’re left with is the realization that War Rapier 43210 is an abhorrent, ridiculous excuse for a game. Really, the trial will establish this fact early on. I’m not sure what prompts me to throw away three dollars to fund somebody’s poor in-joke of a project (…some days, I hate myself), despite numerous warning signs and my own good taste, other than to warn you off of it completely. I’ll let my limited French do the talking here— Merde.

REVIEW: S.D.G.T.

Regardless of what its name actually is / will turn out to be, S.D.G.T. (240 MSP) should stand for ‘Supremely Difficult (but) Genuinely Thrilling’. Yes, that title would then lack a certain je ne sais quoi, but nothing else encapsulates my experience with it so completely.

The story is there really isn’t one, unless you’d like to infer (hostile aliens are involved). All the same, you’ll be fulfilling contracts (by gathering minerals) and wiping that alien menace from the galaxy like any good space shooter would, one day at a time. As a stationary tower in the deep reaches of space, tasked with defending your base and gathering materials simultaneously, you’re nothing without a good blaster at your side. You start with just two turrets, with purchasable slots (up to 7) to add on to your arsenal.

S.D.G.T. - Screen

As the days and waves progress, you’ll naturally need to kit out every available space if you hope to stand a chance. For each gun type you equip, you can spend credits to upgrade its output and drain on your reserve power, decreasing cooldown time, adding to capacity, etc. And, if you so desire, those turrets and upgrades can be resold (recently familiar, isn’t it?) to make way for its new and improved version, or a completely different weapon.

You’re allowed to carry one specialty perk, activated once per round, that can give you the edge in a tight contest (burst shield, damage multiplier, and the like). Completed contracts have their own choice in a permanent stat boost, ranging from health / shield modifiers or percentage upgrades to mineral / credit gathering, to giving your turrets increased damage. Finishing a contract on time also results in a credit bonus.

Enemies come in multiple forms and patterns and together, constantly exhausting your efforts, with shielded foes diverting your fire away from the swifter advance parties, cloaked threats, etc. Occasionally you’ll be ambushed. The tell-tale sign is obvious; once the music drops off, expect the aliens to hit you with a serious assault. When these moments happen, the mix of tension and focused determination needed on the player’s part makes for a winning formula.

Weapon variety truly is the spice of life in S.D.G.T., as too many of one type or an older model can and will make the difference between that continued life and utter defeat. Unfortunately, that dividing line isn’t always apparent, and it is this razor-thin line that you can cross, sometimes unwittingly, that knocks the game down a few pegs. Likely you’ll face frequent restarts (I know I did), trying to find that sweet spot in gun balance and upgrades that will push you into the next day. And keep in mind, this is all happening on the Beginner setting, the easiest of the three choices.

S.D.G.T. - Screen2

Issues with the difficulty aside, the game comes to a halt past Day 49, with a placeholder informing you of an additional 16 days to be published in a future update (as discussed in the preview article). As I left it, I had yet to finish off all of my contracts, or gain access to the final tier of guns. It’s impossible to critique content that isn’t here, and there’s certainly no reason to believe that K2 Games won’t make good on its promise, though you should consider this point prior to purchase.

S.D.G.T. is a decent TD-lite / stationary shooter, marred only by its willful insistence on old-school difficulty tricks and the current absence of an end game. If you thrive when the odds are stacked against you and won’t mind the frequent experimentation with loadouts, you might’ve found your nirvana. If you don’t fall into that category, exercise caution.