Tag Archives: Indie Games

REVIEW: Vector Madness ZOMBIES

You know, I’m a pretty laid back dude most of the time. Being such, the dude abides a great many things when it comes to the indie channel. Lengthy release droughts, middling mostly-clones of far superior originals, developers using XBLIG purely as a fundraiser or a glorified Kickstarter, and oh, lest we forget, dozens and dozens of zombie games.  So imagine my dramatic ‘facepalm’ at seeing Vector Madness ZOMBIES ($1.00), and forgive me for my Bill Murray / Groundhog Day moment, thinking I’ve already done this review.

Vector Madness Zombies - Screen

Wait. Let’s roll that back a bit. Tell you what, I’ll gladly relinquish my Lebowski self-comparison and all the quotables, as I’m almost positive that no one is more laid back than Warlock Development Group. They’ve (basically) released the same game three times in less than six months now, and this newest monochromatic version of the non-monochromatic KILLBOX is essentially a cheap knock off of a feature that was already present in the original original game: Zombies1.

What is essentially a virtual test-firing range for 190 gunsVector Madness ZOMBIES drops you (or you and a friend, locally) onto a nondescript grey background. In two settings, Campaign or Experiment, you can choose from a very large arsenal of unlockable weapons, and put them to use— ‘bullet time’ included— mowing down waves of faceless zombies, in the hopes that you’ll be entertained for longer than thirty seconds (Spoiler: You won’t.).

Vector Madness Zombies - Screen2

See, certainly no shortage of firearms here.

You can buy new guns with cash earned during battle, with selections from the usual (and some obscure) suspects of shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, etc., as well as eclectic stuff like paintball and stun guns. The game’s sole ‘new’ feature, upgradeable weaponry, makes the process  a little deeper, allowing you to swap out attachments and options in order to boost (or lessen, depending on your choices) things like damage or bullet penetration.

There’s something to be said for shooting off a zombie’s face with a flare gun at close range, but that something isn’t enough to carry an entire game. Let alone one that’s been through three iterations already, and getting progressively more derivative with each passing version. So once again, I’ll end with the line from the previous review; if you’d love to play with hundreds of guns, go with KILLBOX. It’s a more complete product, and already features the undead as an enemy type, leaving no reason for Vector Madness ZOMBIES to even exist. And yeah, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

  1. So the tagline would be: ‘Less guns! Less variety! Less colour! And look, zombies! Which we already had two versions ago!’ I thought sequels were supposed to get bigger and better? 

REVIEW: Servo Series I: Overclockers

Although the Roman numeral in Servo Series I: Overclockers ($2.99) would seem to indicate this is the first game in a series of open world, bot-on-bot first person shooters, it’s not. Well, not really. It’s markings match that of a game that blasted its way out of late 2012, calling itself Project Crossover. That one had potential, potential that was squandered by boring fetch quests and massive amounts of walking. Or  hovering. Whatever. A lot of something that wasn’t fun.

Some quick research showed that Stamper Games was behind that former attempt, and really, once everything’s been tallied up and been given a once-through, this new game is a slightly better-looking version of the first. Oh, and that bit about ‘potential being squandered’, and ‘boring fetch quests’? There’s a lot of that present in Servo Series I too.

Swapping out rebellion and evil corporations for a secretive sect of robots addicted to high clock speeds (it’s as tech-focused and uninteresting as it sounds), the game once again has you— a robot with unorthodox programming and exceptional traits— traveling a foggy landscape, completing quests for various friends and factions (the slow, thickly-robotic voice work returns) in towns scattered across the wasteland. Taking on these missions typically advances the narrative and grants you experience, which can then be applied to different health and weapon upgrades upon leveling up.

Getting from one place to the next is now much easier (and less busywork), thanks to Fast Travel hubs found in towns and the No Man’s Land between them. Transportation conveniences aside, you’d still do well to make the journey yourself, in order to earn additional experience and loot fallen enemies (you can carry as much ill-gotten hardware as you want, then sell off duplicates). Cash can then be spent at vending machines, which house new weapons and improved versions of existing types, as well as armor and shields.

Ammo is slightly scarce this time around, perhaps to add challenge, or to focus on the importance of the new melee system and your bot’s ability to block incoming projectiles / attacks. It’s a nice thought, but most fights can be won simply by waiting for your enemies to exhaust all of their ammo before pouncing. And although tracking enemies in open ground can be hard, you can always just wait for a bot’s zippy one-liner to carry through the fog, often proclaiming their superiority to you… right as you kill them. Good stuff.

Servo Series I Overclockers - Screen

Unfortunately, for every old problem that’s sorta-fixed, Servo Series I adds a new one to the roster, such as a user-unfriendly inventory system and the inability to hurry conversations along without skipping the entire message. There’s some balance issues as well, as enemies can be unfair the deeper you travel in the game (I got one-shotted a few times, even at higher player levels), leading to restarts (argh! those long loading times!) and inevitable frustration.

Most of all, Servo Series I: Overclockers is just not very fun to play, the same verdict that I leveled at the original game. It’s improved in certain areas, but the most vital aspects in designing an entertaining game have been ignored. The plodding, ‘Point A to Point B’ mission structure and bland combat do nothing to accentuate an already-dull storyline, and the sudden spikes in difficulty will likely finish off what’s left of your patience. As such, there’s absolutely nothing here that requires your interest or involvement.

REVIEW: Croc’s World

While it seems that every week and / or month of the year is the official sponsor of some cause or issue we need to be more aware of and contribute our money to, I’m assuming the stretch of time between late April to our current spot in May has to be called ‘Release a generic platformer that borrows its entire existence from Super Mario Bros.’ Yeah, that’s a little long, probably won’t fit on a calendar or Hallmark card, but how else do you explain the trickle of similarly-designed XBLIGs leaking onto the marketplace?

Croc's World - Screen

Sprakelsoft‘s Croc’s World ($1.00) is the newest homage to the plumber, a console port of a decent-looking mobile title by the same name. But outside of the obvious upgrade of using a physical controller over a sketchy virtual pad, it’s Mario and pedestrian platforming all the way through— including the same-y sound effects— to the extent that they should’ve just added a ‘Super’ at the front of the title and dropped the charade.

Graphically, the game alternates between an outdoors level with plenty of greenery, and the standard cavern setting. Over the course of thirty stages, the Croc will run & jump, collect a hundred gems to earn an extra life, stomp the heads of his foes, and bash bricks— albeit with the help of a football helmet, because safety first, kids.

For an additional powerup, you get a bag or rocks to throw at your enemies… …I’m not sure why. You’d think he would use his jaws, or whack them with his tail, but I digress. Both the ‘helmet’ and ‘stones’ upgrades also act as health, allowing you to absorb up to two extra hits before dying. Though with generous checkpoints and unlimited continues, there’s not much of a penalty for failure.

Croc's World - Screen2

Admittedly, the croc does look adorable with that helmet on.

In fact, the only mystery these types of platformers contain is trying to determine which of your enemies can be stomped on, and which ones have to be avoided. In Croc’s World, bees and crabs pose no threat to our reptilian hero (maybe it’s his tougher, scaly skin?), while slow-moving porcupines and even-slower swinging spike balls are your archrivals. Waiting for these enemies / hazards to complete their patrol cycle generates more yawns than challenge anyway.

You can reach the end of Croc’s World in about an hour with minimal effort. As a distraction for younger kids, it may run longer and hold some interest. But if you know better, have a decent background in videogames (you know what ‘NES’ stands for) and harbor even a below average talent for platformers, there’s simply no reason to play this. You’ve seen it all before. Move along.

REVIEW: Parkza

I’ve always been a bit of a night person. Part of that is my work schedule, but another side is more personal; I think the Sun is kind of a dick to People, and I refuse to support its policies any more than I already have to. Yeah, it’s responsible for all life as we know it, and it does a good job of keeping us warm, but let’s look at the flipside.

For one, too much of it isn’t a good thing. Ever heard of skin cancer? Dry farmland? The bastard doesn’t care. It’s indiscriminate with its rays. Also, let’s not forget that its supposedly ‘all-powerful’ abilities are finite. One day (granted, that’s going to be billions of years from now), it’s going to start dying and get really fat, scorching our surface and eventually swallowing us up. Does that sound like a friend to you? And if you need more evidence, the Sun will also steal your girlfriend. Yeah. Such is the story behind Parkza ($1.00).

Parkza - Screen

Based on retro hits like Buster Bros. (or Pang, to non-U.S. readers) and Oops Up!, Parkza drops the whole ‘world under siege by giant balls’ routine and tries to make it a more human. So yeah, the Sun— or Suns, as it were— take your girl right in the middle of a lovely picnic, and you’re tasked with getting her back.  How are you going to do that? By shooting a bunch of bouncing Suns and breaking them down into tinier pieces, all while avoiding getting hit by them, of course.

You know that’s going to be easier said than done, and using a harpoon gun (…I’m …I’m assuming that’s what it is) that only fires straight up seems like it would be ineffective. Still, it gets the job done, albeit in a roundabout way, as the game’s core theme is that of subtraction. Larger suns will split into smaller suns, making harder (and more numerous) targets. Naturally, your harpoon gun(?) works on a delay, with you unable to fire again until you’ve hit a target or it strikes the stage’s ceiling. Lucky for you, suns break apart with direct or indirect hits, allowing some breathing room for bad aim.

A lot like Space Invaders, levels typically have obstructions that you must fire past or otherwise work around. Some of these barriers wear away as you fire at them, but you’ll also be required to climb / jump over other platforms, both in an effort to chase down enemies and avoid a traffic jam of miniature suns. To aid you in your quest, there’s a host of powerups (none of them explained; you’ll learn on the job) that will occasionally drop from split enemies. And you will need them. With ‘one-hit death’ rules firmly in place, you’ll have to hope for a spare shield and do a fair amount of retro parkour.

Parkza - Screen2

Though that brand of light platforming and heavier difficulty makes Parkza show its age, and it won’t be pretty. Save for the local co-op (or up to four in a ‘Deathmatch’ mode), which might help lessen the burden, you’ll be relying purely on your skill and expert timing to match the game’s tougher (I would say unforgiving) later rounds and still beat the clock. Worse, you’ll have to play a perfect run— without dying— in each hub world in order to continue from that point on after death, upping the potential frustration.

In the case of Parkza, that frustration might be more trouble than its worth. As a homage to the previously-mentioned titles above, it’s the ideal substitute for those raised on old school difficulty and studied perfection, without the hassle of emulators. But for those hoping for a retro idea with a more modern feel, you should look elsewhere.

REVIEW: Tapper

I’m not a indie game developer (of course), or even a partial expert on the craft. I try not to pretend to be, either. Though I imagine if I were, my first prototype for a twin-stick shooter would look and play a lot like Tapper ($1.00). Notice I said ‘prototype’ in that previous sentence, and not ‘the final product’ I planned on releasing.

Tapper - Screen

The reasons against releasing it would be partially cosmetic. My game is nothing but a series of squares. I know I’m not making Thomas Was Alone: Shooter Edition, and that my square art isn’t intended to be ‘art’. That is to say that it’s not a stylistic choice, or meant to evoke an emotional response. They’d simply look and feel like placeholders for actual art that didn’t happen, and that wouldn’t be right.

Gameplay too, would be a sticking point. Sure, I’ve got an able, functioning twin-stick shooter framework. It’s a simple game of survival, one life to live. I’ve got my hero ‘green square’, facing off against an unending army of ‘red squares’, Green Party versus the Communist Party, maybe, or just a bunch of squares going at it, to simplify. Some blue squares too, acting as mobile bombs, which I can then detonate at key moments (typically, surrounded by red squares in a no-win situation). It’s okay, but hardly something I’d be impressed by for more than a few minutes.

I could try to disguise that fatal lack of depth a bit, say, with a online leaderboard, or some additional modes or mechanics. But I don’t. I do, however, include the option to zoom out or in, making the squares and the battlefield bigger or smaller, depending on player taste. It doesn’t really add anything to an already bare-bones roster of gameplay components, though, so I’d feel guilty asking money for it.

Tapper - Screen2

Thankfully, I don’t have to feel that guilt or question my product’s worth on the marketplace, because I’m not an indie game developer. Zyborg Mobile Ltd. is, and Tapper is entirely his game. I want both you and him to know that the above sarcasm isn’t my attempt at a lame joke or a putdown, either, I’m just wondering who the prospective audience for something this basic would be.

It’s the studio’s first title on Xbox (he’s primarily a mobile developer), but he’s hardly a stranger to more complex game design. I was pleasantly-surprised to find out that Those Who Survive, an intense-playing Minecraft / Slender mash-up, was done by the same guy. That’s absolutely a game worth downloading, while Tapper should have been left on the cutting room floor.