Tag Archives: Gentlemen Squid Studio

REVIEW: Orbit Crash

There are some among us, even close to us, our friends and neighbors, that would look at something like Orbit Crash (80 MSP) and call it ugly, a glorified flash game that doesn’t deserve to breathe the same digital air as other, crowd-pleasing favorites. Those numbers are gratefully few. I say thank goodness we live in an intelligent, progressive society that doesn’t praise and reward the exceptionally good-looking while degrading and ostracizing the commoners. Ha. Of course I’m kidding. People are going to say that Orbit Crash is ugly.

Orbit Crash - Screen

It’s also not much of stretch to call it a glorified flash game. Movement feels weighty, no doubt to mimic the sensation of hurtling through space with abandon, but with simple controls (up or down) to compliment the simpler black & white art, there’s not much between it and what you’d fill your time with while waiting for something more impressive to download. Following in the well-traveled rut of ‘start from the celestial bottom and build yourself up’ simulators, except with a more arcade, auto-runner style, the game lives and dies by pushing that thrilling (so the developer hopes) concept endlessly.

Though whether the emphasis is on more speed, chill exploration, or avoiding obstacles, you’re still just growing in size and swallowing up the smaller bodies around you— Darwinism in Space, if you will. There’s no real score being kept here, no progress markers (save for your slow growth, which just looks like a zoomed in view), no objective beyond ‘space binging’, though developer Gentlemen Squid Studio insists there is an endgame. I didn’t find one.

Orbit Crash - Screen2

Maybe I’m missing something, and Orbit Crash is less a game you ‘play’ and more like a space opera you watch. After the first growing spurt, I positioned my rock at the bottom of the screen, where it could continue to suck up the surrounding debris and avoid any Goliath-like entanglements, put down the controller, and then this literally happened for the next twenty minutes. Needless to say (my aloof, quizzical expressions speak volumes), whether you’re interacting with it or just watching, it’s not very fun.

A graphical and creative downgrade, Orbit Crash is a waste of your time and 80 MSP. However you choose to read that, there’s no venom or malice intended within the line, just hard fact. Chalk it up to an adventurous misstep, an abnormality from a developer that I respect, one that knows better and can do much better.

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REVIEW: Rise of the Ravager

Rise of the Ravager (80 MSP) represents an interesting approach to shooters. It’s not the mythology and ‘End of Days’ theme, though a plot is always welcome in an otherwise storyless genre. Stationary Turrets are nothing new either, ditto the bullet-matching gameplay (the face buttons correspond to enemy weaknesses). Rather it’s the addition of upgrades to your turrets, the scarcity of points to use, those gifts that you giveth and taketh away, that elevates it beyond a typical shooter.

Despite each monster / alien / bug falling into one of four color categories, there are multiple enemy types (dive bombers to bullet sponges) and flight patterns, patterns that get harder to follow as the number of targets onscreen increases with each level. Initially, you’ll have one turret at your disposal. You’re able to withstand three direct hits on the ground your turrets cover, and given a rechargeable shield. More than enough, you say, though the stages accelerate the pace and drop speed quickly. Mercy isn’t in its vocabulary.

Thankfully, Rise of the Ravager has seen fit to allow you some turret customization. Upgrade points are awarded after the level, with further points to be had for flawless runs (shield damage is okay, but no direct hits) and / or hitting color-coded spy ships. Given how many points you’ll have to sink into the higher upgrade tiers, nailing these optional objectives early will prove vital later. Upgrades run from your standard gains to fire rate and shield repair, to more tangible goods like screen-clearing bombs or extra turrets (all but required for single players).

Much like March to the Moon did before it, the idea of buying and resetting upgrades between each level becomes more than a matter of preference. Instead, it’s a necessary talent you’ll need to hone in order to survive. A setup that works in one stage might not hold up in the next, as the levels themselves can be unpredictable, throwing hundreds of bug fodder your way of varying order and speed. There’s also the multi-form bosses that will have you swapping bullet palettes every other second. They’re chaotic and nerve-wracking, like any good boss battle should be.

Though the biggest surprise to the game is also my lone critique; it’s really fucking hard. The game is clearly balanced with local multiplayer (up to four) in mind. That’s always an odd decision when it comes to indies, considering most of its prospective audience will be playing alone. Some households will have two controllers, but the four the game is hoping you have, with the warm bodies to back them up? Probably a rarer occurrence. This is where the ability to swap turret powers in and out at will becomes essential, as you’ll most likely need to make boosting the number of guns and / or purchasing an auto-sentry your top priority after the first few levels. Even then, you’ll have to mentally adapt to faster and more complicated enemy waves just to stand a chance.

Rise of the Ravager - Screen

In the end, though, the various skill combinations (and option to refund), multiple levels, and New Game+ (ha, more like Difficulty+) make it easy to recommend as a shooter. Just be forewarned that Rise of the Ravager’s slick presentation masks a hardcore attention to detail that may turn off some looking to tackle it solo. But, if you find you’re up to that challenge and love a good ‘end of the world’ prophecy, this game will reward skilled hands and quick-thinkers.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Bugs of a Different Color; ‘Rise of the Ravager’ Announced

The fine fellows over at Gentleman Squid Studio have been hard at work, threatening to release a new game soon that would be smaller and more arcade-ish than their previous, zombie-swapping platformer Three Dead Zed (review). Today, that long-brewing concoction has been revealed. Described as the secret love child of Guitar Hero and Missile CommandRise of the Ravager is a shooter combining Mesoamerican Culture and Art with the less pretty and more biblical End Times.

The Bug / Alien creatures look to be color-sensitive, which could add variety and immediacy to the typical ‘shoot stuff’ trope. The game promises to be more than that, with massive boss battles and player abilities that can be bought and reset between levels to adapt to the given situation. Up to four people can play, too, thanks to the local co-op. That should translate to some color-coded teamwork.

Rise of the Ravager is scheduled for release on March 27th. If you fancy more images and / or wallpapers, you can visit the official site here.

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Rise of the Ravager - Screen

Rise of the Ravager - Screen2

REVIEW: Three Dead Zed

It’s a challenge these days to craft a zombie game that isn’t a tired ‘me-too’ clone of an existing property, so it’s a bit of a relief to find a platformer that combines humor and strategy in Three Dead Zed (400 MSP). Gentlemen Squid Studio’s previously-PC title makes the transition to XBLIG in fine hand-drawn form with the story of a zombie that has been experimented on to create the ultimate weapon, instead resulting in a fractured existence, the chance to exploit three forms of zombie being. With a shadowy ally to guide you through the levels, you take your revenge on the project overlords and agree to rescue cats wearing tinfoil hats. Yes, that is really your objective to complete each stage.

3DZ‘s signature mechanic is similar to Frozenbyte’s Trine, the seamless ability to switch between three different characters in order to solve a series of navigational puzzles within each level. The default ‘average’ form is the most balanced zombie, able to attack and operate switches. The second, more agile version (think spider / crab zombie) loses the right to attack, but gains increased jumping height, the vital skill of hugging walls to climb, and was voted most likely to get you out of a prickly situation. The final form is a brutish female zombie, the literal muscle of the group, with the (obvious, really) power to pulverize certain walls and floors that would otherwise block your path. This pairs with critically-slow movement speed and a nonexistent jump ability.

Largely, these perks and shortcomings trade off well, as every puzzle comes with just one solution, leaving it up to you to figure out which undead companion to call upon. That part’s not terribly hard. There are alternate ‘hazardous paths’ to take, but mostly the levels are linear; hit a switch, remove a laser, explore the opened path, etc. This would be fine, though there are some flaws in its handling. The agile zombie’s speed can throw you off initially, causing you to over-jump smaller platforms or leap directly into fire and / or lasers. It’s made worse by the fact that you’ll be calling upon this zombie form the most.

Generally-okay checkpoints and unlimited lives soften the repetitive blows, though there’s a significant adjustment period as you learn to compensate. While the early levels do a good job at easing you in and presenting the flow, the later rounds are less sympathetic. A few hit detection issues (being smashed by walls that aren’t there) and oddly-placed enemies can also dampen the fun, shooting you mercilessly as you struggle to switch forms or avoid a one-hit-death fire or laser trap.

The developers are certainly conscious of its ‘punishing’ nature, even prophetic by including a ‘rage quit’ option that will take you straight back to the dashboard. While this is most likely a self-deprecating gesture rather than a serious feature they wanted you to make use of, the irony is not lost on me. It doesn’t get better. As the game wears on, the difficulty stemming from pinpoint jumps / accurate timing, coupled with uncooperative controls, sinks the game. I quit near the supposed end, zero desire left to see how the adventure played out.

There’s no doubt that Three Dead Zed features some fantastic animation and visuals to accompany a delightfully-absurd storyline, though the puzzles require some busy work, and tax your patience during some of the more annoying, hazardous sections you’ll be forced to replay. The controls never manage to feel quite right either, rigid in one form while oversensitive in another. It’s a deeper platformer than most, and fun is here in spots, but it definitely doesn’t last throughout. As such, you’ll have to forgive quite a bit and temper your expectations in order to enjoy it, which may be asking too much for $5.