Tag Archives: NeuronVexx

REVIEW: Dizeaze

As developer NeuronVexx’s last game on XBLIG, Dizeaze ($1.00) fits comfortably in the ‘FPS zombie survival1‘ mold that’s come before it, similar in style to the DayZ crowd and its XBLIG brethren, such as Deadburg and ApocZ. It’s a definite change of pace from the developer’s previous projects, and there’s no doubting it’s BIG.

Dizeaze - Screen

‘Big’ if we’re stating things in total, explorable land area. Dizeaze isn’t content to set things on a small or medium-sized map; it basically asks you to survive— and travel on foot— across an entire continent filled with individual towns, cities, buildings and homes. The first time you view the map, then zoom out, you’ll be a little intimidated. It’s a pretty tall task, with miles and miles of digital real estate (read: miles and miles of boring, mostly empty forests) between you and that objective, delivering ‘the cure’ for the zombie infection you find yourself surrounded by.

‘The Cure’ is Dizeaze‘s default PvE mode, letting you roam the apocalypse solo (or with up to 8 players2), while ‘Survival’ drops the pretense of story and has you surviving as long as you can against the zombies— and other players. The world of Dizeaze is predictably vacant and ransacked. You’ll find some supplies scattered around, guns with limited ammunition, but you’ll be relying mostly on melee3 weapons and tools in a fight, or better still, running away to regroup and live another day. Of course, you do find better equipment eventually, color-coded according to their strength and rarity. You can even craft and upgrade those weapons and tools, provided you have the materials (and a workbench… oh… and available backpack space) at hand.

Dizeaze also tries for survival realism. You’re not without concerns, having to monitor your food, water, and sleep levels carefully, finding homes4 and beds to rest in, budgeting supplies and traveling during the day to avoid the larger zombie hordes at night. While scavenging, you can only carry so much stuff before it weighs you down, and with each day that passes, the world changes ever so slightly, giving increased stats to all the zombies. The message is clear; you can’t be complacent or stay in one place too long.

Dizeaze - Screen2

In practice, however, it’s more annoying than suspenseful. Survival games have always walked the line between requiring little urgency and too much of it, with the gameplay and exploration aspects designed to keep you engaged while ‘putting up’ with the constant need to find new supplies and keep moving. Dizeaze as that kind of game isn’t original, ditto for the zombies, but its scope is ambitious… perhaps too ambitious. You can only jog so many miles, rummage through so many nondescript houses, and chug so many milk cartons before the whole thing starts to feel like a chore, even if you are making slow but steady progress towards a spot on the map.

Having friends to help you loot and keep you company along the way will help, but even that can only do so much to make things interesting between the slower moments. For all it does, Dizeaze reminds me a lot of Deadburg, and I can’t help but think that’s a better game to play. To be fair, there’s more than enough options and content here to justify a $1.00 purchase, yet with a little more polish and a lot more variety, Dizeaze has the potential to be something really great. As is, sometimes it just plays like busywork.

  1. There’s a third-person view as well, allowing you to switch between the two as desired. My advice? Third-person outdoors, first-person indoors. You’re welcome. 
  2. I assume, as I never found more than two or three people in a game. Dizeaze‘s game page says eight total, and I’ll say that unless proven otherwise. 
  3. Melee combat is a weak spot for the game. It’s hard to accurately predict how your attacks will hit, and if a zombie ‘stuns’ you with its attack, you’re left defenseless for a few seconds. Against a pack of enemies, and cornered, you’re pretty much screwed. 
  4. And let me say it now; zombies spawning out of the ground inside houses and buildings is bullshit! I can appreciate the added challenge and the ‘nowhere is safe’ vibe, but it’s a little much. At least with Deadburg‘s Minecraft-ian look, it made some sense. 

REVIEW: Game of Horror

Love it or hate it, plenty of indie titles have gone after the ‘jump scare’ market on console and / or PC, to varying degrees of success. XBLIG has been no stranger to the craze, but, when done right, it provides plenty of legitimate terrors… at a legitimately cheap price point. You can go ahead and add NeuronVexx‘s Game of Horror ($1.00) to that ‘done right’ list, if only for its gleeful willingness to quicken your pulse with each passing second spent in its pitch-black mansion.

Game of Horror - Screen Confirmed: not a nice guy.

While the game is less a machine for easy jump scares1 than it is a slow-burning sense of dread at what waits for you on the other side of the door, Game of Horror does a great (albeit familiar) job of ratcheting up the tension without making things too complicated. Your objective is straightforward; some serial killer nicknamed ‘The Eviscerator’2 is tossing people into a maze-like mansion and throwing away the proverbial keys, then hunting them down for sport. Should you find said keys (think Slender-like collectathon) to unlock a series of doors and survive, you’ll be granted your freedom.

Oh, but did I mention your search and the path you take is randomized on every attempt? Starting in a very Resident Evil-ish main hall, the game closes off each portion of the mansion behind a themed door (Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, etc.). Each area contains a handful of rooms, offices, and storage closets, with you searching all the drawers and cabinets3 along the way. Exploring one section for a key grants you access to the next, etc. etc., all while ‘The Eviscerator’ silently— and continuously— stalks you.

There’s very little music in the game, which makes the idea of that relentless pursuit and its scares that much more terrifying, hearing the approaching killer’s breath through its mask, say, or the jiggle of a door’s handle being turned. You don’t have any real means of fighting back, either. Your only options are to duck behind furniture, shut off your flashlight and pray it doesn’t see you, or try to ‘block’ the door from being opened4. You can be ‘caught’ twice, with the third time being fatal and resetting your progress.

And so it goes, until you either escape or chicken out and curl up into the fetal position in the corner (…I chose the latter). Granted it’s nothing original, but it’s unnerving and not for the faint of heart, as the description states. And that’s really the only endorsement this game’s prospective audience needs. I still can’t understand why anybody would readily commit to scaring themselves for entertainment, but Game of Horror is absolutely up to the challenge.

  1. Don’t worry; you’ll still get plenty of those. 
  2. It’s… cute, right? Yeah, you don’t earn that title by being the affable sort. 
  3. The game helpfully ‘fills in’ objects you’ve searched already, ensuring you won’t easily backtrack or waste precious time second-guessing your work. 
  4. Word to the wise, this option isn’t very reliable. Mash on the button prompt all you want, the killer getting in seems like a 50 / 50 chance either way. 

REVIEW: Ascension – Climb The Tower

Minus my many colorful phrases and the formation of all-new curse words in response to its difficulty, I liked Towerfall Ascension. I missed out on it when it hit the OUYA1 originally, so the PS4 stood in as the perfect surrogate mother, allowing myself and others another opportunity to play a really great, really challenging game.

Not just an open avenue for boob games and quick, hastily-thrown-together zombie shooters, XBLIG also functions as a ‘surrogate’ of sorts, giving indie developers the chance to capitalize on the absence of a popular title on Xbox by ‘borrowing’ said title’s gameplay, style, etc. A Clone, A Homage, Inspired By, whatever you want to call it, these games can sometimes effectively mimic the original, giving players a look at a game they might otherwise miss, at a tidy, reduced price. Ascension – Climb The Tower ($1.00) is one such instance, providing a stripped-down version of Towerfall.

Ascension - Screen

The setup is immediately familiar in Ascension‘s ‘Horde’ setting, which tasks the player with surviving endless waves of enemies on a large, static screen. You’re given a limited amount of health to start2, a barely-adequate melee weapon, and set loose to scrounge for projectile weapons (think axes, bolts of lightning) and other items in randomly-appearing treasure chests. Everything feels right here, from the easy exits on the top, bottom, and sides of the level, to the almost-brutal way that enemies can gang up on you3, all the way to the ‘damage sponge’ bosses and the helpful ability to pluck your already-thrown weapons off walls and ceilings to reuse them.

Though the initial stage assortment isn’t exactly stellar or too varied, the game does offer you a level editor to design your own. Most might not be thrilled at the prospect, but you may have some incentive to tool around with it; much like Towerfall, the four-player local multiplayer is clearly this game’s strength and the most likely to suck up your free hours (assuming you have local friends, that is).

Ascension - Screen2

And Ascension plays its role well. The art is sharp and the controls are adequate, with one glaring exception; the avatars in Ascension slide to a stop on any surface, making it harder to line up jumps (or double-jumps off walls, natch) and accurately predict your movements— as well as your enemies’ path. It’s less noticeable in a frantic battle, but especially evident in the game’s aggravating ‘Ascension’ mode, where you continually climb a vertically-scrolling tower filled with blind jumps and other hazards, with only a single hitpoint between you and death. Needless to say, you may have to spend some time (and lives) adjusting to this imprecise motion.

While it’s throwaway, that added mode and the other (better) game variations are a nice disguise to mask the rather light overall content. Ascension – Climb The Tower does feel like Towerfall at certain moments, though, making you forget about its other shortcomings (a bargain price certainly helps). More importantly, it provides an ‘entry level’ introduction to a game that some players might have otherwise passed on. Absolutely play the original if you can, but if that’s not an option, this game makes for a worthy stand-in.

  1. The system is still rusting away on my shelf, having only been played one time. Probably the main reason why I’ve taken a break from backing Kickstarter projects. 
  2. You can tweak various game settings in the options screen in order to make your life easier / harder. 
  3. Just as in Towerfall, a single ‘Slime’ can fuck you over real good. 

REVIEW: 2D World Creator

When Dinora released on XBLIG last year, it found a comfortable niche between two groups of people; those that wanted a cheaper, indie-er Terraria, and those that liked the idea of Terraria combined with more NPC interaction, including creating your own family in-game. Now developer NeuronVexx is returning to its roots, of sorts, with plainly-titled 2D World Creator ($1.00).

To be clear, 2D World Creator is not Dinora. If Dinora was meant to evoke the ‘hardcore-ness’ of survival mixed with creativity, of hard work paired with incremental progress, then 2D World Creator is the Casual Friday of crafters; zero pressure, zero responsibilities, and zero crafting. Hey, if you want to drop a toilet in a cave and call your ‘house’ completed, so be it. No judgement.

The game allows you— and up to three others, locally— to choose from a handful of avatar types, then drops you into a pristine world ripe for construction. The avatars correspond to the block sets you can build with, like a Farmer, a medieval Knight, or a futuristic Robot. I chose to play my robot ill-tempered, to make scenes like this:

And those block sets are unlocked fully from the start, no hassle required, cutting out a lot of the lead-in and busywork that traditional crafting games entail. The typical components apply, including fencing, walls, chairs, beds, dressers, and a ton of accessories. Mix and match from across the four tilesets.

Visually, 2D World Creator is an upgrade from Dinora. Structures and components look better in this game, though the idea remains the same. Stack blocks as you will, using the foreground and background to add flair and variety, set up wiring to attach switches and lamps, or interact with a radio1, TV, portal, etc. Your ‘home’ is what you make it. Build a massive brick castle or mansion with futuristic furnishings, or keep it dirt simple, and underground:

Short of having local friends to build with you, though, this world will feel cold and empty compared to other games of its type. No animals (aww man, no pets!) or NPCs of any kind exist here. There are no enemies to fight, no pockets of rare minerals / items to discover. Just you and your pickaxe.

The rest, as they say, is up to you. 2D World Creator cuts out all the boring stuff like, you know… Challenge, Progression, and a sense of Purpose, and hands you the controls to the entire thing from the start. Creativity takes the place of all that ‘rest’, and if you’ve got an idea in your head, the game gives you some means to realize it.

  1. You can sample from the game’s limited soundtrack, turn it off completely, or use your own from the hard drive. I totally forgot I had an old My Chemical Romance album on mine, which made for ‘interesting’ construction music. 

REVIEW: Little Flappers

Honestly XBLIG, what took You so long? I expected this a week ago. You’re getting sloppy on me. Rhetorical questions aimed at inanimate Indie Services notwithstanding, there’s not another game in very recent history that has struck a chord (good and bad) quite like Flappy Bird. From massive success ($50,000 a day just in ad revenue is nothing to sneeze at) to constant Twitter harassment and its eventual yanking from the app store, or from a MMO to $1500 iPhones that have the game installed, it’s been a tumultuous and ridiculously-overpriced ride.

But, as they might say, The early (flappy) bird gets the worm, and developer NeuronVexx is the first XBLIGer to jump on the Flap-alike bandwagon with Little Flappers ($1.00). In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid the entire dust-up about Flappy Bird by doing something far more constructive and worthwhile for the human race (something I wish I could say about myself), the idea is simple enough— Guide a bird, by tapping to flap its wings, through a never-ending obstacle course.

Gone are Mario‘s iconic green tubes and their wholesale theft; the little bastard now gets hung up on spinning blades of death (call it Flappy Bird meets Cute Things Dying Violently) should you fail to maintain a rhythmic balance. In are three separate modes. ‘Classic’, with stationary blades, or ‘Advanced’ and ‘Insane’, which feature moving variations of the same hazard, and some coin collection to increase your score. Also in is multiplayer runs for up to four players (or AI birds) locally.

Little Flappers - Screen

Duhn duhn duhn… another one bites the dust.

Though something like Little Flappers begs the question— With so many derivatives and freebies already available, why would anyone want to pay to play what arguably is a rage-inducing. also-derivative, complete waste of time? Because you love to rage, perhaps? Or maybe you prefer better odds (this bird is infinitely-easier to control), or the chance to show off your feathered prowess on global leaderboards (all three modes have their own scoreboard). Save for some lag when those leaderboards update (a fix is forthcoming), the game copies the polarizing format well.

So, if you can look past all the controversy and appreciate (without forgiving or absolving) the social phenomenon that Flappy Bird was / still is, then Little Flappers is a (almost) direct descendant of that idea. Quick cash-in? Yes. As stupidly-addicting? Yes again. If you’re only in it for the mild curiosity, though, you could just play Flappy Doge, and kill two birds… er… a bird and a dog… er… a bird and a meme… er… a dog bird… er… a doge bird, with one stone.