Tag Archives: kid-unfriendly

REVIEW: Avatar Maze Game

Avatar Maze Game (80 MSP)  is the sequel to Maze Game, and the bullet point on Willow Games‘ update is the inclusion of avatars. Much of everything else looks to be left untouched, which is to its detriment. As is the case in any endeavor that involves a maze, it all amounts to a bunch of trial-and-error pathfinding. Just ask mice.

Avatar Maze Game - Screen2

Hey, don’t tread on me, man.

It’s very straightforward; as your particular brand of avatar, find the correct route. Hey, sometimes the simplest concepts provide the most entertainment. In most levels, you’ll need to find keys that will unlock the way forward and /or lead to the exit heart. In between, it’s all dead-ends, backtracking, and key-swapping, with a soundtrack ranging from decent to innocuous.

This is countered a bit by the ‘shop’ in the world level hub (that contains twenty individual mazes that call upon four or five different styles). Gathering coins within each stage will enable you to buy certain upgrades and skills, like increasing the available ‘zoom out’ view, the walking speed of your avatar, or the ability to clear colored barriers that lead to stars, the game’s chief collectible (finding all of them and completing the game unlocks a few new visual styles). While not revolutionary, the upgrades and perks are a nice touch to encourage collection and give the exploration some purpose.

Avatar Maze Game - Screen

If you’re under the age of seven, this probably looks like fun to you.

Then it happened. Near the end, when I was ready to give the game a modest recommendation for the kindergarten set, Avatar Maze Game turned jerk-ish. It happened first on puzzle 11, then again (and more frustratingly) on stage 19, where it decided to marry the ‘starry’ theme of the level together with the floor you’re walking on, morphing the already trial-and-error wandering into trial-and-error-and-can’t-see-a-damn-thing-while wandering. Going slow and ‘feeling your way’ is the key, but who’s idea of fun was this? Note to developers: It is neither nice nor fair to booby-trap your game to the chagrin of others.

As a preoccupier (yes, I’m recreating it as a noun) for small children or the easily amused, you can squeeze an hour’s worth out of Avatar Maze Game, right up until the last few stages when the floor and background colors merge into a disingenuous pain. For grown-ass men and women, though, with much bigger responsibilities, better motor skills, and… you know… discerning taste, the prospect of wandering around simplistic or lost-in-the-dark mazes holds considerably less interest.

REVIEW: 2D House of Terror

Falling somewhere between an unreleased Sega CD or CD-i game, 2D House of Terror (80 MSP) makes for a nostalgic combination of animation / voice-acting and minigame-styled gameplay, if you’re a fan of those archaic consoles. I know some people will defend and ramble off a top ten at will with this next bit, but the mention of either machine to my mind doesn’t exactly reek of quality. I’d give the edge to Sega CD, as it’s the whole Zelda / Mario CD-i debacle rearing its head every time.

The ‘game’ part of this package, which feels more like animation with lazy controls drizzled over it than anything else, consists of five minigames. That’s right. Five Whole Minigames. This is lightly dressed up in a story about four friends looking for a treasure left behind by their great uncle Willsworth, avoiding traps and enemies set up by a Death-like figure who is never really explained. You could also play in Random mode, which recycles the same five games in different order, minus the plot.

The story is an excuse to pit players against each other to fight for higher scores. The four cutesy characters are playable, either solo, with A.I. handling the rest, or with up to three other friends locally. Each game splits the action into four squares, and it doesn’t help that you’re competing for screen space, having to work off 1/4 of the viewing area throughout. The friendly (everyone wins in the end) sense of competition demands this type of layout, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. If you’re playing on a small TV, well, good luck.

Ranging from shovel-slapping zombies to spinning a record to knock off rats with musical notes, there’s some charm to it, but nothing here sticks out as hugely playable. The controls are sluggish to begin with, and get overly-complicated in some of the minigames, stretching the tolerance of an adult, let alone a child (the expected demographic?) who isn’t as versed in video games.

Turns out the Sega CD mention in the opening is more than opinion, it’s almost prophetic; a free Dreamcast version (!?!) of 2D House of Terror will be released eventually. You can likely keep up with that bit of news at the developer’s site.

And if you have the opportunity, that may be the route to go, if at all. I can’t recommend it here. The dollar for the XBLIG copy is completely ill-spent in my opinion, as unless you have local friends to fill out the roster or you’re a sucker for minimalist animation and barely-there interactivity, you’ll be bored to tears with this.