Tag Archives: dreamwagon (Developer)

REVIEW: Avatar of the Dead

Just by exiting the starting gate of marketplace publication, Avatar of the Dead ($1.00) has a huge advantage. I mean, sure, zombies, but if the continued popularity of ApocZ is anything to go by, then people can’t get enough of the PvE1 / PvP these types of open world games specialize in. That said, while the undead are more of an afterthought or bonus in games like ApocZ and the like, with players focused on robbing and killing each other2, Avatar of the Dead runs into the same fate as all online-based XBLIGs do these days…

… with that being that nobody’s home. So, despite the potential (or murderous free-for-all) of eight-player co-op, odds are you’ll only have the offline, single-player portion of Avatar of the Dead to play with. Just you versus a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. How does that work out, you might ask? Well, sometimes… not so good.

Awkward, occasionally-broken combat aside, the setup here is straightforward and well-traveled; survive against a world of zombies, scrounging weapons from the surrounding exteriors of homes and barns. Don’t mistake that self-supplied mission objective for an actual objective, though. There is no statement of purpose, no score-keeping in Avatar of the Dead, no progress markers, no HUD even, to clue you in on what you’re supposed to be doing. You simply exist, slay some zombies until you die, then respawn next to a lonely van in the middle of nowhere and repeat.

Weapons consist of the usual melee tools, like a shovel or hatchet, and a pistol with unlimited ammo3. The ‘open world’ itself is quite limited in design, mostly featureless prairie in all directions. The few buildings that do dot the landscape may harbor a weapon, but there’s otherwise nothing of interest to see here. While ApocZ at least had the ‘survival’ part of its plan down, gathering supplies and watching out for your health, Avatar of the Dead is really just an arena to test out some weapons in. Sadly, it’s not even very good at that.

The zombies lack any kind of killer instinct, sometimes not even bothering to come after you. When they do, it’s relatively easy to dispatch them with whatever is at hand (your fists do just fine). Unfortunately, your sense of accomplishment at doing so will be muted at best. It’s not your fault. Any kind of tension or fear is lost when the walking dead wear bright, neon clothing(!), which is just as ridiculous and undercooked as the rest of the game.

Try as it does to be relevant and timely, Avatar of the Dead is a mess of a game, a shadow of the much better games it’s based on. While the scarcity of online players on XBLIG is something to lament, in the case of this game, I’d like to think of it as a blessing in disguise.

  1. Er… PvZ, that is. And that’s ‘Player versus Zombie’, by the way. Not to be confused with Plants Vs. Zombies, or its FPS spinoff, Garden Warfare, which is a whole other deal. 
  2. Once again, I weep for the lack of decency / empathy in the human race, even in fictional circumstances. So it goes. 
  3. That’s really more like a compact sniper rifle. I was picking off one-pixel tall zombies from a massive distance. Where the hell do you get a gun like this, and can I transfer it over to my Warlock character in Destiny

REVIEW: Avatarzilla

No doubt released to coincide with any ‘Godzilla Fever’ generated by the latest Godzilla reboot1, Avatarzilla ($1.00) hopes you’ll be intrigued enough to plop your jumbo-sized digital self— complete with whatever ridiculous outfit you happen to be wearing— into a cramped metropolis in order to cause a little havoc.

Avatarzilla - Screen

Too bad this mash-up shares more in common with the bland-to-bad-to-terrible 1998 Godzilla reboot2 than the new film (which I hear is pretty good). To start with, you can choose from a whopping total of two(!) special attacks, shooting either fire or a laser from your mouth / eyes. I’m not sure which. The game’s lone map, a congested cityscape, provides plenty of buildings for you to demolish3 and / or walk awkwardly through, using said special powers, or a less-effective (and less fun) combo of punches and kicks.

There is no real single-player option in Avatarzilla. Minus filling the minimum requirement for an XBLIG demo, or the chance to lumber around unopposed (the tiny helicopters that hover around the city do not attack or otherwise harm you) and burn a hole in random buildings, there is no point in loading up the solo option. Plenty of multiplayer-only games have this problem, and while I personally favor shoddy AI bots over a vacant ‘practice’ map any day of the week, you shouldn’t immediately write off a game because of it.

Avatarzilla - Screen2

Or perhaps you should. Even in an empty arena, the framerate dips once you start destroying buildings, slowing things to a crawl when I spammed my laser attack. Of course, some of that could be forgiven if the online battles were intriguing. Sadly, I wouldn’t know. I never once found a game to join, and no players ever entered the matches I created. So in essence, I’m left with a game I cannot ‘play’, one marred by technical issues and boring combat even if I could.   

Coming from the same developer behind Stop the XOID!, a self-confessed beta where I was similarly unable to find online matches (but still enjoyed), I expected better. Nothing in Avatarzilla was given much thought or attention. It plays as such, a quick cash-in product that should just as quickly be forgotten.

  1. A trailer. Walt from Breaking Bad versus Godzilla? Automatically better than 1998 Godzilla
  2. Everything wrong with 1998 Godzilla, courtesy of the always-funny folks at Cinema Sins. 
  3. Sort of. The normal laws of gravity and structural damage do not apply to Avatarzilla. Punch a hole through a skyscraper, and that sucker will still miraculously stand tall. 

REVIEW: Stop the XOID!

You know, there may be something to this whole ‘Let my five-year-old kid build my game’ concept. Sure, there’s the immediate D’aww! factor of pint-sized game development, but worse things have come from perfectly-capable adult types with millions of dollars. So, kids and indies, why not? I have to admit, it worked out pretty well for X S.E.E.D (also from a five-year-old). Now we come to Stop the XOID! ($1.00), and once again, a kid takes the reins of Designer.

Billed as a sort of ‘proactive Tower Defense’, the game has you (or up to four friends locally or online) defending the planet from an invading army of robots known as XOIDs (pronounced ‘Zoids’, if you’re curious), one blocky arena at a time. Well, it’s only three levels, to be exact, but you get the idea. It’s curiously labeled a ‘beta’, so maybe it’s a miniature invasion to start. Like Delaware, or something.

While the scope of the war may not be epic, the impending battle remains the same. With an albatross-sized robot waiting patiently at the top (it serves as a boss battle, technically) infinite waves of enemy foot soldiers descend on your base below, threatening the ball of energy known as ‘lifeforce’. Destroying those advance parties will earn you dropped cash, which you can then spend at the local armory, conveniently-located just next to this raging conflict.

You’ll have a number of weapons on hand, ranging from guns and upgrades for those guns, to grenades and the very helpful sentry bots that you can place to guard your fort while you make the arduous climb to the top of the level. Taking down the big boss will complete the stage …and that’s about it. No bits of story to move things along or any progress saved. Pick another level (each successive arena ups the challenge) and repeat the difficult hike.

Stop the XOID! - Screen

I say ‘arduous’ and ‘difficult’ not because the journey is long or terribly fraught with danger, but because your character is so inept at the platforming. Even jumping gives him trouble, and he slides to a stop like the ground is made of ice, causing further frustration on tinier ledges. Battles often went on longer than they had to simply because I couldn’t will my generic space marine to the top. So while you can complete the levels solo, the busy work and anti-climatic nature of finishing it just isn’t worth the hassle.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be entertaining in a group co-op setting (assuming you can find online matches; I couldn’t). Having others to divert enemy fire and / or make the climb in your stead makes it a much more manageable war. Stop the XOID! doesn’t offer a long-lasting campaign or a great deal of variety, but it plays like an adequate time-waster… so long as you have friends to roll with.