Tag Archives: Game within a Game

REVIEW: Venus Explorer

Normally, now’s about the time in the program where I go on and on about boob games and the fall of Indie civilization,  but I suppose there’s no need to be so dire or rehash the past. Team Shuriken‘s oeurve is well-known already. It’s long and varied and full of tits. Venus Explorer ($1.00) continues that chesty trend without shame, this time out combining the animation work and the choose your own adventure-style graphic novella format with some interactive bits that you can actually control.

Venus Explorer - Screen

See that arcade cabinet? Press ‘A’ when you get there.

Venus Explorer‘s story is based in humorous sci-fi: one man with the fate of the Earth in his hands, aliens and spaceships and sidekicks and all that stuff. It’s the typical ‘Shuriken’ plot (read: an excuse to show some lovely ladies),  albeit slightly meta. The game starts with a kid in the 1980s, heading home to play a game on floppy disk called… you guessed it, Venus Explorer. So you’re playing a game about a game within a game. Whoa. Enjoy that moment while you can, since you’ll never see or hear about it again1.

Once you’re ‘in game’, it’s all familiar ground. As you advance, you’re usually presented with a series of choices— forks in the road, where to hide, how to attack, etc.. These lead you to short snippets of animation, success or failure, as you carry out the move. While it’s still trial-and-error on which option you should choose in any given situation, there are a trio of checkpoints that should keep your frustration and replays to a minimum.

Venus Explorer - Screen2

The game introduces a new gameplay wrinkle in the form of some simple platforming, allowing you to control the character in very short flight segments, like piloting a jetpack past very large floating heads(!), or in a ship making your escape. But don’t worry, Team Shuriken knows what you came for, and gives you a handful of ladies to ogle between your various ‘flights’ and navigational choices.

Not that you’ll need to set aside a huge amount of time to see it all. A half-hour of clicking through / guesswork, and you’ll arrive at the all-but-guaranteed setup for the sequel (er… an invitation to propagate the human race). I’ve said that Shuriken’s text adventure games have been approaching decent for some time, but Venus Explorer‘s brevity and hit-or-miss adventuring take that goodwill back a step. Even so, some of us can still appreciate the animation work and the effort. The rest will appreciate the boobs.


Review on Indie Gamer Chick

  1. Save for the first instance you encounter one of the ladies, when you’ll flashback to the kid at his desk going full-horndog. Team Shuriken knows its audience well. 

REVIEW: Vacation Vexation

Except for small forays into zombies or a Metroidvania, developer Nostatic Software is chiefly known to me for its old school adventures. The studio’s newest essentially completes and cordons itself off as the ‘quietest’ trilogy on XBLIG, now that Vacation Vexation ($1.00) has joined Quiet, Please! and Quiet Christmas in continuing its puzzler / adventurer’s quest to find a moment’s peace.

Vacation Vexation - Screen

Exactly like the previous games in the series, it has you playing as a young girl seeking silence. This time, she’s on vacation with her family at some nameless seaside resort, and all she wants to do is read a book without any distractions. To achieve that goal, she goes about it the way that any other American youth would do these days; commit a series of crimes stretching from vandalism and destruction of property, then on to retail theft and all the way up to aggravated assault. No, I’m not kidding. The protagonist is a regular Problem Child.

Puzzles and their (sometimes esoteric) solutions will routinely see you preying on others to get your way, though it’s all in lighthearted fun (getting a cat to chase a wind-up mouse, tricking the hotel’s front desk staff into running errands, etc.). Most will involve you carrying a certain object from one spot to the next, with some items / locations closed or walled off until you’ve progressed deeper into the story.

It’s the little things here that ultimately make the game, like your obnoxious little brother following your every move, scooping up quest items and quickly becoming bored with them, or getting shit on by one of the resort’s many birds, seagulls, etc. Some humorous dialogue and comedic sequences help out as well. It’s all part of the game’s charm, and does more to sell the world than you think.

Vacation Vexation - Screen2

Games within a game? Cue the Inception theme.

How much you enjoy that world is dependent upon how much you enjoy some trial-and-error puzzle solving, though. While a lot of the solutions are apparent or soon discovered, there are others that will have you scratching your head and trying every item combination (who would think to add suntan lotion to chemicals, for instance, or use a bathtowel as a rope to board a truck?). With no real hints given or implied, it can start to feel like busy work, and it can be argued that the in-game arcade, full of familiar remake / demakes like Space Invaders and Frogger, is sometimes more fun than the main game.

Still, Vacation Vexation is a unique experience with a solid, cutesy core, once you get past some of the more obscure puzzle designs. All my squabbles will mean little to fans of the series anyway. It offers more of the bizarre adventures of a very sensitive girl, and that seems to strike a chord with certain gamers.


Review on Fate of the Game