Tag Archives: Dream.Build.Play

REVIEW: Demon House

One of my top picks from earlier this year, having participated in the last two(!) Dream.Build.Play competitions, and looking like a much more impressive and polished FPS with each entry, Demon House (80 MSP) has seen a welcome and pre-Halloween release on XBLIG.

Fitting, as Demon House takes a decidedly paranormal angle concerning reanimated souls, steampunk skeletons, anti-spectral weaponry, and a typically-shadowy cult bent on world domination. You’ll need to put a stop to all that, of course. Story takes a backseat for most of the ride between beginning and end, however, as other than few short expository cut-scenes, it’s a pure shooter.

And in playing similar to a Doom or Quake, albeit with ghosts and a focus on steam, it’s tough to find the trouble with that. Enemies are varied and introduced gradually. Your weaponry packs both a punch and personality (your grenades are bomb-laden mechanical spiders). The game also does a great job at crafting distinctive environments, avoiding bland corridors and repeated rooms, injecting impressive lighting and effects elsewhere. There’s a brief hunt for keys and the odd switch to throw at times, part of the few minor puzzle sections that most should have no trouble navigating. Like I said, shooter.

And the AI is refreshingly adept, from flying contraptions that can heal allies to shielded machines that will actively attack and effectively thwart your advance, only able to be defeated via an obvious (but nonetheless defended) weakpoint. Enemies drop health, ammo / grenade refills, and money, the latter of which you can use to buy stat and ammo add-ons, new weapons, and increase the damage output of your existing guns, with upgrade stations that are peppered throughout the levels. You’ll likely spend 2+ hours on the campaign, with its two sprawling levels and a tough, multi-part boss finale. A word to FPS veterans; for a more-suitable challenge from the start, bump the difficulty up to Hard.

The above content alone is worth the cost, but Demon House throws in part two of its package, a wave-survival mode, playable alone or with a friend locally. Two arena maps are re-purposed from the single-player art, both of which contain upgrade stations that function exactly as those in the main game, unlocking its goods as you progress. With mini-boss waves and the escalating number of foes, the pace is even more frenetic (and potentially more fun) here. There are additional difficulty settings and options, as you’d expect, and this mode, like the single-player, offers up various challenges and trophies to earn that encourage replays.

The Eradicator— when you absolutely positively have to kill every steampunk-er in the room, accept no substitutes. 

In total, the game is a solid experience, though there are some minor quibbles if you set out looking for them, mostly in the initially-stiff controls (you can adapt, or adjust the sensitivity) or archaic design choice (the linearity isn’t a problem, but it is a little regressive to turn a corner and find literal monster closets).

Even with the protracted development time Demon House is a little rough around the edges, though after playing through it, it is immediately (and by far) the best campaign-centric first-person shooter on the indie channel at present, with an equally best-in-class co-op wave shooter as support. All for a solitary dollar. It’s a fantastic addition to anyone’s library that follows the overall upward trend of higher quality FPSes.

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REVIEW: Ninja Crash

I knew Ninja Crash (240 MSP) was on the horizon, it having been mostly complete the last time I saw it, but the Dream.Build.Play winner (it took home the third place prize) was a nice surprise this week nonetheless. The game dons its own disguise and adds a few variations to the arcade format of popping the balloons of one’s peers, but it’s really an update of the NES classic Balloon Fight, with a graphical face-lift and the insertion of ninjas (and their lanterns) into the starting lineup.

This isn’t a bad thing. Admitting to my age (and a partial mullet, not sure why my parents thought that was a good idea, even for the 80s), I spent an unhealthy amount of hours on the original. Linking the video for the purposes of this review brought that youthful exuberance (but not the hair, thankfully) back full-force, which was a large part of my excitement to try Team Devil‘s version.

The idea is easy enough; you need height. Each single-screen (exiting the side whisks you to the other end, and vice versa) stage asks you to dispatch a number of floating ninja baddies that have taken your master’s cheese (and it must be some good-ass cheese; it has a halo, for crying out loud). Taking the high ground, both moral and literal, is key, as it’s a pop or be popped scenario. And these scheming stealthy suckers are not slouches but stalwarts, that provide a good balance and challenge on the default setting of normal, and approach something close to demigods on the higher settings.

Similar to Balloon Fight, both you and the enemies have an out if you find yourself without a lantern. If you happen to be near a roof or platform, and don’t fall from a ridiculous height, you can move around and attempt to inflate a single lantern in order to continue the fight. You’re completely vulnerable during this time, but it adds an extra dimension and chance to the game, especially when facing higher enemy counts and on a four-life budget (shared between two players in co-op).

It definitely helps that the levels are logically laid out to allow for offensive and defensive-minded players, with stage-specific hazards (usually of the spiked and pointy variety, though the bottom and top of an arena can claim just as many lives if you’re not careful) and powerups, like shielded lanterns, or blades that can be thrown to pop others’ lanterns or outright eliminate foes, across eight lusciously-illustrated arenas and an extended (some may say annoying) boss fight for the finale.

It’s a solid and fun game at $3, though it loses some points if you’re going to be playing it solo. No matter the difficulty, the campaign levels hold up in single-player even when the game feels like it was built with co-op in mind. Sans friends, you’ll also miss out the other half of Ninja Crash, the local multiplayer battles (up to four) in Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch flavoring, which is your best bet at extending that three dollars once you’ve conquered the campaign levels (about 45 minutes).

Consider it food for thought. Ninja Crash comes recommended either way, a pretty dose of nostalgia and the perfect arcade diversion to put some of your spare time into.

Didn’t See That Coming: Dream.Build.Play Winners

Without stopping to let the recent semifinalist shock of some odd choices and even odder omissions sit, the Dream.Build.Play people have gone and announced the winners of this year’s competition. If you haven’t yet heard, go ahead and take a seat for this one.

I’ve been saying it for years… well, the last year, that despite all the negative press (with some admittedly coming from me) and bad tastes left over, you should not sleep on Silver Dollar Games. That for every pile of Who’s the Daddy, poor man’s FMV quiz show crapware they put out, they were building up to something better. They did well with The Jump Heromade it interesting with stuff like Sins of the Flesh, and now, just watch the above trailer for grand prize winner One Finger Death Punch and try not to get excited for the game. I’ll wait. … … … You’re excited, aren’t you? Yeah, me too.

Congrats to the Silver Dollar team, of course, and best of luck in finishing up the game. Last I heard, it was still a few months off from completion. With their newly-gained $40K and a possible XBLA contract, though, I wonder if the release of the game will take a different form than its current, XBLIG-plotted destination.

The runners-up in the Xbox competition, and winning a cool $20K, $10K, and $5K, respectively, are Dead Pixels (still my top XBLIG), Ninja Crash, and upcoming Uprising III title, Gateways. Great job, guys.

On the Windows Phone side, it was nice to see current XBLIG (and Leaderboard member) Pixel Blocked! come away with the first runner up prize. Well done, sir.

It goes without saying, but a huge congratulations to all the winners in the 2012 competition, and again to all that participated. You’re now considered at the top of your class. For the already-released games, I can vouch for their fun and impressive content, and for the rest still to come, I look forward to that future enjoyment.

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