Tag Archives: Diehard Dungeon

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: Diehard Dungeon

From that opening shot of an arrow ripping through your chest to the McClane-inspired title, the implication is that you’re going to perish in Diehard Dungeon (80 MSP). And you will. That it is a roguelike, and really up to the whims of chance as to how fair (or brutal) the game is to you, is all part of the package you immediately accept when you sign up.

Following in the bloody footsteps of other roguelikes such as The Binding of Isaac and fellow XBLIG Sushi Castle, the game takes dungeon crawling, a deep reverence for the old school Legend of Zeldas, a ‘one life to live’ policy, and mixes in loot and powerups,  all of it randomly-generated and set to a nice soundtrack.

You still find keys to unlock doors, hit switches, and occasionally get buffaloed by overwhelming odds or a bad draw, but the game strays a bit from the expected hack & slash (shoot & slash, here) and traps setup. There’s some choice in how you proceed at times, and that variety also extends to the gameplay.

There’s the Pac-Man minigame that has you putting out fires with the treasure chest (chests being known for their fire-extinguishing prowess, of course) in order to gain a fresh ability, or other, scattered chests in the levels that grant you a number of spins on a slot machine, which can improve your health, drop treasure, or add a new skill. Your ‘Companion Chest’ you rescue early on is more than just a storage-based sidekick, too, growing in power the more loot you collect, soon able to attack enemies on its own (you’re more or less its bodyguard at the start).

I never did find 10 golden keys in a playthrough (the game’s secondary objective), so I can’t speak for what the end treasure chest holds. Surviving and escaping the dungeon was good enough for me. Doing so unlocks ‘Champions’ mode, activated at the start of a game session if you so choose. It’s more of a neat trophy run than a tangible reward currently. You’ll see other players’ names and characters that made it out alive and opened the final chest (with either positive or negative effect) as you play an otherwise normal game.

Diehard Dungeon‘s other mode, Mayhem, is an ‘under construction’ twin-stick shooter with global leaderboards, starring the Companion Chest from the main game. You get three minutes to kill as many enemies as possible, building up a combo meter by avoiding attacks. It’s not front-loaded with content yet (hence the ‘under construction’), and probably wouldn’t rate as high without the leaderboard support, but it is a rather nice surprise in and of itself. It’s gives the indie press an excuse to fire highscores back and forth at each other, which is always fun.

You either dig roguelikes or you don’t. Diehard Dungeon won’t change your mind, despite being more action-y and ‘reserved’ in doling out its punishment. I enjoyed it. The only beef I have with the game is a temporary one; a periodic ‘pause’ in the action as the game shares data between players for the leaderboards. A patch should be up in a few weeks, addressing this and other issues or visual quirks. Also in the cards are updates, totaling about 50% more content; new areas, bosses, enemies, and abilities, as well as some extra ‘Mayhem’ stuff.

Joining Uprising alum qrth-phyl on the early winner’s podium, tricktale‘s Diehard Dungeon pays tribute to a classic within the confines of a more modern genre, and solidifies itself as one of the better examples in turn, with excellent gameplay and an aesthetic that is distinctly indie, distinctly XBLIG, which is what the Uprising is all about.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Review on Clearance Bin Review

Review on The Indie Mine

Prelude to the Uprising: Diehard Dungeon

Fresh from its inclusion in the Dream.Build.Play finals, and launching third for the Uprising III, Diehard Dungeon is a roguelike that looks like a winning mix of Zelda‘s dungeon crawling and The Binding of Issac. That latter mention may anger or excite a few, though the trailer hints at additional minigames and level choices, making Diehard Dungeon more ‘inspired by’ than copy.

“Welcome to the dungeon. Those (un)lucky few that are chosen, face great riches and great perils. Good luck!” A randomly generated dungeon is created every time you play. Discover the dungeon’s many secrets and multiple outcomes. Do you have what it takes to survive the dungeon?

The visuals here are sweet. Developer tricktale previously produced the Bullet Hell Vampire Rage, which at the very least proves they can work at multiple genres and styles comfortably. With DD, the promise and challenge of a new dungeon layout in every playthrough, along with that addictive, ‘one more time’ quality that roguelikes are good for, you won’t mind dying over it a few times in the name of fun.

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Diehard Dungeon will be released on September 12th.

Interview on Clearance Bin Review

Preview on Clearance Bin Review