Tag Archives: DBP2012

For Better or Worse, Dream.Build.Play 2012 Finalists Announced

Coming from up high, far higher than my eyes are allowed to look, the 20 Xbox 360 finalists for the Dream.Build.Play Challenge 2012 have been handed down to us gaming mortals.

I offer my heartiest congratulations to everyone that made the list. I do not have a problem with any of them, although I do have to wonder about some of the judges’ choices, specifically titles that were left off the list. There were plenty of promising and upcoming games that were mysteriously absent (in fact, too many to post here). Known Gems like Chompy Chomp Chomp and Apple Jack 2 made the cutoff, while other, seemingly-automatic Gems like Super Amazing Wagon Adventure and Compromised, did not.

My personal pick for the competition, Bleed, is among those selected (high-five!), and it is nice to see longtime leaderboard topper Dead Pixels in the running, as well as a few Uprising III titles (Gateways, qrth-phyl, Diehard Dungeon). City Tuesday was somehow denied. And as for my grumblings, hey, it’s all opinions, right? Congratulations again to all those that participated, and to all that remain in the pool for a chance at winning cash and notoriety. Winners will be announced in September. No matter where you sit on the results, Indie wins.

Full listing of the Xbox 360 finalists:

  • A Pixel Escape
  • Gateways (Uprising III Title)
  • Apple Jack 2 (Review)
  • Graveyard Shift
  • Bleed
  • Imagine Earth
  • Brand
  • Moon Cheese
  • Chibis Bomba
  • Ninja Crash
  • Chompy Chomp Chomp (Review)
  • One Finger Death Punch
  • Dead Pixels
  • qrth-phyl (Uprising III Title)
  • Diehard Dungeon (Uprising III Title)
  • Snails
  • Divided
  • Windhaven
  • Face-Plant Adventures
  • Wyv and Keep

REVIEW: Murder For Dinner

I’m a big fan of the art house games, the arcane concept types that most glance over and dismiss as too esoteric, but I rarely get to cover them. Instead I’m fed a steady diet of twin-stick shooters and told to love it, so when something like Murder For Dinner (80 MSP) crosses paths with the indie channel, I’m naturally drawn to investigate.

Placed in the first-person shoes of the ‘Professor’, Murder For Dinner is a good old-fashioned (both in its telling and dialog) murder mystery with N64-era blocky environments that nevertheless look good for an XBLIG, even if the character models do scare the hell out of me. Why do they have to look and animate like that? (Shudders.)

Miss Havisham (‘cue the well-off but eccentric old lady in mansion’ card here) has called together a diverse set of people (a gossip, a hunter, banker, etc.) for a dinner party, where she will presumably spill a closely-guarded secret of one of her guests. With everyone in attendance and suitably intrigued or nervous, the Professor goes upstairs to find their host dead, murdered by someone at the party. Oh yeah, shit just got real. Think of it as interactive Agatha Christie.

Of course you, as the Professor, take on the case immediately. Combining narrative with the investigative (you never pick up a weapon in this game, unheard of for XBLIG!) is a fantastic change of pace, though it rests a little too easily on just ‘being dfferent’.

You’re a playboy? Dude, sorry, I thought you were the butler.

The idea of people with secrets (and oddly, the admitted capacity for killing) to hide and defend could have been used to greater effect. Instead of exploring the human side, it more or less devolves into you talking to the guests, searching the mansion for items of interest (which depend on timing rather than discovery), then returning to the person and A button-ing them into telling their secret, and so on and so on. There’s no branching or freestyle investigating; it’s all very linear and by the (murder mystery) book. You can wrap up the investigation in about an hour, which feels about right. Any longer and it might’ve swerved into tedium.

Yet I have to award huge originality points to developer Detroit Game Studio for bucking the indie trend and serving up a first-person version of Clue. It was a family-wide effort, which is nice to hear. It’s no easy task to stare conventional wisdom in the face and tell it to sod off, especially given the financial and time-based commitments of doing so. That doesn’t give me an excuse to ignore the lack of any real personality or puzzles in what’s billed as a mystery, though. I liked it, but that feeling may not be universal. Try it if you’re game for supporting something off the beaten path, just don’t expect much resonance after the murder is solved.

REVIEW: Chronodash

There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of solid 3D games on the indie channel; it’s a bitch to get it right. Not content just to occupy three dimensions, Chronodash (80 MSP) attempts competency at a very difficult sub-genre, the first-person platformer. What perplexes most AAA developers should, from a logistical point of view, be a nightmare for an indie team, which in this case, is one guy.

This isn’t going to be a overly positive review, so let me get the highest praise I can offer Chronodash out up front. The game does a good job (90% of the time) at the controls. In any other article I write, you could read this, nod, and move on. Even the most floaty-feeling controls won’t completely destroy playability, but in 3D? In first-person 3D? It could have been a death sentence. I mean, depending on how far you’re pushing the thumbstick at the point of a jump, you may still overshoot the platform, but all things considered, it’s surprisingly sure-footed. That the developer pulls this off deserves a special mention.

The game is intended as one big speed run; climbing darkened corridors, jumping lava-filled pits, and riding platforms. There are no breaks. You must drop checkpoints manually. There’s some misdirection and frustration involved, but mostly you’re following progress arrows and collecting coins to continually feed a wonky timer.

With the timer, the implication is that you’ll explode (‘exploding’ typically leading to death) once the clock ticks down to zero. Except you don’t. In fact, as far as I can tell, there isn’t a single penalty for getting goose eggs across the board. Chronodash doesn’t freeze or ‘game over’, and you’re still able to drop save points at will. A quickening heartbeat portending trouble, then nothing. A fizzle. Like a Mission Impossible or Inspector Gadget gag where the message doesn’t self-destruct, so do you not self-destruct. Odd… You got me, Chronodash (sweating, nervous laughter). I was worried there for a second.

If you love to wear the comforting blanket of familiarity (and don’t we all), you may, like me, recognize that some of the art and / or sound effects in this game are remarkably similar (read: exact) to last year’s Escape From Robot Doom, also from Total Commitment Games, which I recall playing and feeling mostly lackluster about.

Chronodash is a much better game mechanically, though it still falls far short of a buy. There’s a good base, but you get the impression the developer had ideas to further it, then either ran out of time or desire. There’s no extras. Add to this the short playtime (35-40 minutes to finish the course), the dull grey walls / sparse chambers, as well as generally unexciting platforming, and yeah, it’s a pass.

REVIEW: Overdriven

Shooters of any vein have typically been my bread & butter, so in watching the Dream.Build.Play trailer for Overdriven (80 MSP), I couldn’t help but take notice. It looked fantastic, for one, and all the not-too-picky elements I look for were present; one ship shooting a bunch of other ships in different and interesting ways. See, easy to please.

Overdriven takes on the vertical shmup across seven levels, using the shooter-standard ‘unknown alien invasion’ premise, ‘last human hope’ etc. etc for a setup. Sine Mora it is not. What Overdriven (the ship / pilot, not the title) does get is a pair of lovely ladies whispering sweet nothings into his / its ear, and by that I mean pertinent information about the current stage and twenty variations of ‘watch out!’.

The game’s big sell and namesake mechanic is a beam shot that slows your ship’s movement but makes for a stronger, concentrated fire. Health is also sacrificed while ‘overdriven’, dropping your ship to within an inch of its life. It creates a tense trade-off once the screen gets lively and comes in handy for the bigger baddies and end-level bosses.

In a twist, stages aren’t unlocked simply by beating the previous. Beyond the first three, you’ll have to find a set amount of ‘alien artifacts’ scattered around town or dropped by enemies (5 per stage) to earn the right to advance. I found (more like stumbled onto, all dumb luck-like) the majority the first time through, though there are some cleverly-hidden ones. For collectors, there’s plenty of said artifacts and oddities (hidden cows?) to find, set to excellent music throughout. Also seven level-specific challenges that play out like self-contained mingames, with Awardments to pin to your digital chest for bragging afterwards, do well to invite extra playtime after clearing the story.

Minor quirks abound. The game suffers from the same ‘bullet recognition’ problems as other shooters, with enemy fire hidden in your own leading to some cheap hits. The bosses don’t vary much (except in name) from stage to stage, and bits of the art recycle. In fact, Overdriven‘s only serious problem is its art, pretty as it is. Especially in darker stages and during a firefight, it becomes almost impossible to tell your foreground from background, leading to health-sucking grinds along barriers and / or deaths. Repeated runs through the level will commit these segments to memory, but it’s a mentionable annoyance that could be an issue for players on higher difficulties.

Otherwise, it’s reliable. The controls feel solid, shot patterns are tough but navigable, and it forgives almost as much as it forgets. Overdriven slips comfortably into its Bullet Hell suit, and posits a good challenge for both ends of the shooter skill set. It doesn’t do anything extraordinary with its shmup license, but it’s fast, fun, and assembled the right way. Competence is a compliment here.