Tag Archives: City Tuesday

What Worked and What Didn’t: The ‘Uprising III’ in Review

Without the benefit of time to look back on the Indie Games Uprising III in a foggier and perhaps more glamorous way (it’s only been a few weeks since its conclusion), the general review of the Uprising doesn’t have the luxury of hiding or settling much in my system before being held under the microscope and dissected. So a brief article, if you will, of me spouting off whatever pops into my sad little head concerning the before, during, and after of the event, which took place from September 10th to September 20th, 2012. I take a look at the hits and misses of the promotion on a case by case basis. This is an overview of the Uprising as a whole. For an in-depth review of each Uprising game, the titles are clickable links. Enjoy.

Pregame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A great deal of promotion and mentions from a variety of sites, mainstream and backwater establishments like myself, in the weeks leading up to the Uprising’s start. Indie journalists around the web, at Cathy’s (IndieGamerChick) insistence, worked together to spread the news, not just on their respective forums, but with links and cross-promotion with other sites, creating a network of easily searchable previews, interviews, and articles related to the launch and its lineup. Personally, I don’t think we as a group could have done any more to better set the stage for September 10th’s start date.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Microsoft. Again. Surprise. Not that the company ever puts much faith or weight behind XBLIG (changes to the service usually only happen once enough people complain about their lack of effort), but outside of a few token lines and minor stories, the big M was mostly silent on the promotion. No dashboard banners, no vocal support. To make matters worse, the prepaid code generator for Xbox Live Indie Games, the system that spits out free codes that developers hand off to reviewers and the general public, broke down in the middle of the Uprising, and to date, has not been fixed or given a timetable for repair. Considering the Indie service makes them money, you’d think they show a little more drive. Not so. Unacceptable and baffling.

qrth-phyl

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A classic ‘snake’ arcade game, now updated in three dimensions, with a unique look, nice soundtrack, and a great 3D camera. That camera-work, by the way, it’s not easy to get right. Extra kudos. qrth-phyl was a great choice for a leadoff title that got people excited to see where the Uprising was headed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: That depends on who you talk to. Some felt it needed leaderboards, which aren’t easily-implementable or ideal for XBLIG. Others, including myself, expected more besides the snaking, given the complexity of its presentation and the mention of ‘ghosts’. It was deliberately cryptic, both in previews for the game and in interviews with the developer. Regardless, the final product didn’t suffer for it.

qrth-phyl+fun=good

Sententia

WHAT WENT RIGHT: An existential premise; paving your own path in life, remembering not to lose your youth in growing up, a statement on bullying, and a cool twist to combat and puzzle-solving. A thinking man’s game, a Braid for XBLIG. Prior to its release, I had the game pegged to be one of my Top 3 to come out of the event. I fully expected it to shine.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Pretty much everything beyond the title screen. Bad platforming bits, clunky puzzle-solving, and utterly-aggravating enemy spawns leading to cheap death after cheap death. Given that developer Michael Hicks was also in co-charge of the Uprising itself, there were some that felt his game’s inclusion should have been somehow invalid or disqualified. Past Uprisings have contained games from co-sponsors, but having played the game, I can say it certainly needed a lot more work and testing. Would’ve better served the Uprising to have been left out of it.

Diehard Dungeon

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Roguelikes are popping up everywhere these days, and much like FPSes and Block Crafters, the gaming public can’t get enough. Diehard Dungeon hit the spot dead on, proving it was more than a Binding of Issac cash-in. With a fun twin-stick shooter (including a leaderboard!) as an extra mode and the promise of almost 50% more content to be added to the game in post-release, you got your dollar’s worth and (eventually) then some.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little, which frankly, after the fiasco that was Sententia, the Uprising sorely needed in order to get back on track.

Gateways

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Portal in 2D, plenty of gateway guns to experiment with, and some of the best puzzle designs seen anywhere, including the big boys in arcade and retail. Gateways deserves every accolade it receives. It ended up being my favorite from this Uprising.

WHAT WENT WRONG: I reached the last puzzle in the game, and having heard the horror stories of its solution (time-consuming, required a bit of luck, placing actual tape over the TV screen to mark locations), chose to back away slowly and then run in the opposite direction. There were accusations of me being a pussy, which I was completely fine with. I escaped with my sanity to tell the tale, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the game otherwise.

Gateways, or visual depiction of my fractured mind? Both?

Smooth Operators

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Manage the daily grind (and incessant ringing) of a call center, the comings and goings of your workforce, set the schedule and decor, survive the ups and downs of operating a business, and, most of all, feed your personal addiction that keeps games like Sim City, Tiny Tower, and, now, Smooth Operators, in business and thriving.

WHAT WENT WRONG: My productivity in real life, sleep sacrificed so that I could build and maintain a fictional call center. My parents are proud.

Entropy

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Being so damn pretty I almost proposed to the game (in truth, I did propose, but Entropy turned me down. I’m still not proud of the way I begged it to reconsider. Plenty of tears.). Mystery, intrigue, lovely fire effects and lighting.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Kids, the moral of this story is, looks aren’t everything. Despite flashes of fun, the puzzles were extended not due to their complexity or guile, but by physics and controls that were manageable, but in no way perfect, for the solutions the game requires. It also lacked any kind of personality, which should have been impossible, based on the environments and their details.

Be still, my beating heart.

City Tuesday

WHAT WENT RIGHT: More art than most art, City Tuesday had time-travel and puzzles / people that were linked and grounded in the real world. It tackled the idea of terrorism, in a limited way, yes, but still carried more ideas with it that most other XBLIGs never bother to even touch on.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just as you’ve adjusted to and learned the game’s tricks, it’s over. Twenty minutes in. The ending sequence feels tacked on and completely out of place.

XenoMiner

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Survival, a palpable sense of life and death, an incredible (and incredibly helpless) feeling of being on a foreign planet, discovering it for the first time. Crafting / Mining that rewards your patience with even greater rewards. Alien technology that can be put to work for you, provided you’re C-3PO and speak Bocce.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There’s no easy or quick way to get set up on Xenos, outside of hard work and (lots and lots of) time. Horrible skipping and pausing when venturing from one area to the next almost ruined the experience for me. Others have reported the same.

I can literally see my free time disappearing over the horizon.

Pixel

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A cool cel-shaded look. A puzzle / platforming hybrid that had variety.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Uprising ended on Pixel and it should not have. Glitches, oversensitive controls, guns that didn’t shoot where you aimed, and a bad FOV all contributed to its downfall. That it was a short game was a blessing. It stunk of an unpolished title either rushed to meet the deadline or someone forgiving way too much during the testing process. As the bookend, it needed to finish the promotion on a strong note. Instead it left a bad aftertaste.

Postgame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Three top-tier games that anyone should be able to enjoy (qrth-phyl, Smooth Operators, XenoMiner) and two immediate leaderboard games (Diehard Dungeon, Gateways). Not a bad showing from nine games, and all for $9. I will say this; overall, from both myself and other reviewers, as well as the gaming public, it is confirmed and accepted that the Uprising III games were much improved upon last year’s cast, and site traffic across the indie sites did see a boost. That doesn’t necessarily equate to sales, and it’s probably too early to measure it a success, but it does show that gamers were interested in the crop. Assuming there is a fourth outing for XBLIG, it will have to be quite good to match the combined quality of Uprising III.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A few ‘dud’ games in Sententia and Pixel, Microsoft dropping the ball, then kicking it out of the stadium so no one could play. One rejected marriage proposal. Some review-related stress, some sleepless nights.

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REVIEW: City Tuesday

Having been affectionately refering to it as ‘Groundhog Day with bombs‘ for the past year-plus, City Tuesday (80 MSP) marks one of my more anticipated Uprising releases. Its originality doesn’t peak at the black & white art and stickmen, opting for story and gameplay elements that venture past the indie comfort zone.

As the man in the red shirt, you’re out to stop a terrorist group that’s bent on bombing heavily-populated areas throughout the city, hidden behind or within simple to moderate puzzle situations. That group, called the Black Fang, is never given any backstory or reason for its ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’ attitude. Though for a lawless sort, they do have a lot of rules to abide by (over a hundred, at least).

That same lack of context applies to you, the supposed protagonist. Forget how you caught wind of the plot and insist on stopping it yourself, why are you reliving the same day and able to fast-forward it, the same few minutes, Bill Murray / Jake Gyllenhaal-style? And as an added gift (time-travel and immortality not enough?) you can read the minds of those around you, gleaning personality quirks and personal details that factor into the puzzles and give insight into the daily schedules (also of importance) of the populace. The bombs you’ve disarmed during a day stay so on subsequent runs, and failure (sometimes the only way to advance) or not, you’re as good as new each time, not a scratch on you, not a dent in the fender.

Using the frozen-in-time Vignelli Station as a sort of hub level, you can branch out to a further three areas. The world map is slickly-represented as a series of subway stops. Ridding each ‘line’ of its explosives extends a bridge at Vignelli Station by one length, getting you closer to reaching the ‘big bomb’ and clearing up the surrounding mystery. After the tutorial level in the museum, followed by a slightly longer level that also eases you into the flow of the game and the concepts of its puzzles, you’re given the promise of a huge city to explore (well, medium-sized), and set out to disarm the rest of the bombs.

You see, kids, before Blu-ray and streaming video…

This final section of the game is much larger and diverse than the previous two primers. It open its petals slowly to reveal a layered puzzle with interesting routes you’ll need to learn and follow to achieve your goals. It’s fun and necessary, watching for the patterns and observing the events from different angles, even seeing the intersecting paths of some of the bombs and knowing you’ll be following up that lead the next (same) day. Given the terrorists’ actions and your bizarre circumstances, you’re intrigued and getting settled in for a deeper adventure. Yet after a few more mind-reads and defusings, it just ends without explanation, in an odd and anti-climatic fashion to boot.

Truth be told, I was expecting a lot more from it after the long run-up to its release, but City Tuesday earns its dollar price tag despite the short playtime (certainly under a half-hour for most players) and pedestrian use of its unique premise and art, but just barely. A sequel is teased, or is seemed to, in the denouement. Here’s to hoping for an extended story that builds on the bedrock of this city and trusts its players with a little more responsibility and ingenuity.

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Review on The Indie Ocean

Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Review on Clearance Bin Review

Review on The Indie Mine

Prelude to the Uprising: City Tuesday

I have to go all the way back to June of last year, for Nate’s round-up of news at Gear-Fish, to recall my ‘love at first sight’ moment with the artsy, mostly black & white City Tuesday, the first game from developer Chris Zukowski. The game made eye contact with me, I looked away, shy, a bit awkward, but eventually found the courage to walk up and watch the trailer. I was hooked from that moment. The idea of a ‘Groundhog Day with bombs’ has stayed with me since.

In City Tuesday  you play a man who is stuck reliving the same five minutes before a terrorist attack. You must learn from the city’s residents and the environment where the bombs are stashed and diffuse them before time is up.

Learning the layout of the city and its inhabitants seems prohibitive, though the trick here, as the game implies, is that you will need to fail at stopping these attacks multiple times in order to eventually succeed, and that solution probably won’t be as black & white as its look. The five minute timer doesn’t afford much in the way of sightseeing either, even though I’m sure I’ll stop to take in the scenery; I’ve come too far with City Tuesday to want to finish it quickly. It’s good to see it finally entering the home stretch, after a year+ of (somewhat) patiently waiting.

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City Tuesday will be released on September 18th.

Interview at Clearance Bin Review

Preview at Clearance Bin Review