Tag Archives: Chris Antoni (Developer)

REVIEW: Medieval Zombies

Medieval Zombies ($1.00) brings forth yet another FPS game built on the time-tested practice of slaughtering legions of undead. Well, it’s more a first-person hack & slasher than shooter, but you get the idea. You better get the idea by now. This is the part where I blah blah blah, filler filler filler, and it’s like every wave-based zombie game you’ve ever heard of or played. No need to rehash or explain away the plot, because none of that matters once the zombies shuffle onscreen.

The game’s name implies a retro hook, and to some extent, it does feature some of that ‘ye olde design’. There are no traditional firearms in Medieval Zombies. (Semi-)true to the time period1, your roster of weapons includes things like swords, dual daggers, a lance, or a very-slow-firing crossbow. It’s also involves thousands… nay, millions, of the blockiest, schlockiest, barely-animated zombies you’ve ever laid eyes on. Looks aren’t everything, right? Right? Of course.

Thankfully, the zombie AI is well done in its place, with enemies reacting not just to your presence, but also to things like noise and player taunts, allowing you to wrangle together dozens of walkers for a massive kill-off and / or to lure them away from chests and other potential treasure-seeking moments. And looting items and weapons is the key component here, giving you extra food (to maintain energy) and bandages (to heal yourself or fallen allies2), or the potential to snag a better damage-dealing armament.

Better weapons means you clear out stages quicker… at the cost of durability. This game subscribes to Silent Hill‘s school of hard knocks, meaning its melee weapons dull and eventually break over time / repeated use. There’s plenty of chests to open on each map, but the limited space in your bag (6 slots) means you’ll have choose wisely between healing items and weapons, as well as stat-boosting passive upgrades to your armor, which allow for certain perks like decreased energy drain, or faster chest-searching.

Medieval Zombies - Screen

That careful trade-off in item management is interesting and requires thought (as well as the zombie-free space to think), but the action itself is cookie-cutter and monotonous. With swarms regularly reaching into the hundreds of zombies, you can see why. And if you should die, the game places you at the start of the ‘day’ you fell on, taking away all your progress and inventory… and any desire to rebuild your arsenal. The promise of a million zombies on a single map is a nice thought, but the banal gameplay leading up to that means you’ll have hacked and slashed your way through your fill of cloned zombies long before you reach that promised land.

For better or worse, the Undead are a genre all on their own, but at the end of the day, Medieval Zombies is just another entry in that category. There’s no real draw or hook, and it’s not really a viable substitute or alternative for something like the recently-reviewed Deadburg, which balances its zombies with exploration and crafting. By comparison, Medieval Zombies is ultra repetitive, visually unkempt, and unfortunately… not very fun.

  1. King Arthur never dealt with any zombies that I was aware of, and I actually paid attention in school. 
  2. Each round you get a handful of faithful knights that will randomly go around slaying zombies in your stead, cutting down on the high enemy counts over time. You’ll still be doing most of the heavy lifting— i.e. slaughtering— yourself. Natch. 

REVIEW: Really Scary

Really Scary ($1.00) is the fourth title (in as many months) from developer Chris Antoni to feature a low-budget horror set and Five Nights At Freddy’s– style jump scares, with the tension created by said scares meant to provide the enjoyment1 and impetus to keep playing. As with any long-running franchise, though, you risk alienating your audience with repeated releases that only fractionally change the core gameplay. Really Scary is thus really familiar, leaving this series (and its idea) running on fumes.

Really Scary - Screen

That depends… we talking about what I did last summer, or did I just leave the toilet seat up again?

This new outing attempts to once again mash together the two play styles of the previous games, asking you to navigate a supposedly haunted house via on-screen control prompts and tackle the usual gameplay of perusing in-house camera feeds in order to ward off your would-be murderers. Your chief antagonists here are bloodied and / or decapitated teddy bears speaking demonic gibberish (good nightmare fuel for your kids!), but the goal of survival and the perks of steady nerves remain the same.

There is some very light puzzle-work to be done as well, mainly in triggering the next ‘event’ or in choosing the correct door, but the real threat comes from watching your attackers inch closer to your safe room. Said intruders are scared off when you turn to face them, with the trade-off of having a limited amount of time to do so. Disappointingly, you should know the drill by now, and even these moments feature the same obligatory quick scares and sound effects found in the other games.

Really Scary - Screen2

Well… bonus points for the old school console love.

It should surprise no one then that Really Scary doesn’t differ much from previous installments (you have to give the people what they want, I guess), though it does offer up some of the smoothest camera transitions and pseudo-FMV so far2. That increased fidelity comes at a cost, however, as this game is also on the shorter end of playtime. It took me about 25 minutes to reach the conclusion, even allowing for a few mistakes in-between.

Brevity aside, there’s not much here that’s new or fresh enough to warrant another purchase, and the recycled bits have lost their edge. I hate to pull out this old gem of a saying, but if you’ve played one of the games from this collection, you’ve really played them all. Granted, there’s been some decent scares along the way, but let’s hope this series now takes a very long hiatus3.

  1. If you’re into that sort of thing, of course. 
  2. No choppy frames – motion sickness = yay! 
  3. At least until next Halloween, please. 

REVIEW: Block King

In simple terms, Block King ($1.00) is a first-person shooter for up to eight players online1 (there is no single-player option, minus the trial / tutorial), featuring various unlockable shapes and shaders as combatants. Although, technically, it’s also not a first-person shooter2. Bear with me. You move and fire shots from that perspective, granted, but you aren’t exactly ‘fragging’ your targets in the traditional sense. Rather, in the vein of stuff like Hidden In Plain Sight, you’re better off thinking of Block King as a ‘party game’, one suited to quick bouts and even quicker trash-talking.

Block King - Screen

Well, to put it succinctly.

You see, instead of killing your targets personally, in a flash of FPS gore and glory, Block King requires a more tactical and (damn near) precognitive approach. In a semi-less violent twist, here you’re shooting at the floor beneath your opponents’ feet, slowly destroying the hovering playing field until they fall through the cracks and only one of you is left standing at the top. Needless to say, having the ‘high ground’ is very much an advantage and understatement.

Fights take place on 28 multi-colored (and same-y) blocky battlegrounds, alternating maps between rounds, but the goal remains steadfastly the same. Matches themselves can last a few seconds or almost a minute, with tense duels and fancy footwork ultimately making up the difference between victory and defeat. You’re only given one life per round (you can move around and spectate after death), but with things moving this fast and fun, you’re rarely waiting for long before you can jump right into the next.

You can further improve your odds by collecting powerups at the start of the match, using stuff like Blast Off (extreme height), High Jump, Camouflage, Lasers, and more to turn the tide. Winning a match grants you ‘multiplayer points’, good towards unlocking new shapes and / or color choices for your character.

Block King - Screen2

Those unlockables are purely cosmetic, mind you, and the rest of the options are pretty bare-boned. While the game is otherwise pick-up-and-play, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved. The controls take some getting used to, as does the overly-sensitive movement. Combine the latter with precarious edges and rapidly-disintegrating floors, and you can easily become your own worst enemy.

That said, most— if not all— of these problems are erased when you’re playing the multiplayer. Much like HiPS and other party games3, Block King is at its addictive best when played with friends, locally or online. In a perfect world, XBLIGs would have a wider online community (sadly, it doesn’t), but if you have a group of pals and some loose change to spare, Block King is more than worthy of its dollar asking price and your time.

  1.  A big thanks to developer Chris Antoni, ‘ImTheMetalLord’, and everyone else that showed up to help playtest the multiplayer for this review. Much appreciated, guys! 
  2. For categorization purposes, though, this is listed under FPS. 
  3. You know, casual, social, murder simulators. Good times. 

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: 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 ($1.00) 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 certainly 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 are worth another night in a well-tread house.


(EDIT 12 / 1: An update to the game has lowered the cost to $1, and increased the difficulty / timing of the enemies.)

  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