Tag Archives: Nostatic Software

REVIEW: Fat Dragons

There’s generally two things you can expect whenever you play a game by developer Nostatic Software1; some very charming pixel work, and that nagging feeling that you may not be having all that much fun playing that game. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, Fat Dragons ($1.00) is exactly this. To be clear, this time it’s a Joust-like arcade title rather than a puzzler where you make educated guesses on what you should be doing next, but let’s just get this out of the way now: Fat Dragons is the Nintendo classic Balloon Fight, nothing more, and probably a little less.

Like those games, Fat Dragons has you not-so-lithely (the price of being an overweight dragon, I guess) coasting through the air, stripping the wings of your fellow peers and knocking them off the board once they’ve been grounded. Having the high ground is key, as that is the only way to effectively attack and avoid being de-winged yourself. Enemies spawn in wave format, and you’re given three hits / lives to hold out as long as you can. Points are naturally awarded for knockouts, and for completing the wave quickly.

There’s four stages to choose from in total, some of which include some slight interactivity, like an active volcano (the lava balls that shoot out of it can hurt you), or a storm where you’re under constant threat from lightning strikes. Every three waves you survive, the platforms within the stage shift around, creating a semi-fresh battlefield. To its credit, the game controls eerily-similar2 to how I remember Balloon Fight, so much so that I felt that particular wave of nostalgia washing over me as I played. Unfortunately, the simple arcade gameplay hasn’t aged as well in comparison.

Fat Dragons - Screen

For one, Fat Dragons is single-player only, cutting out a huge chunk of the reason that games like Balloon Fight and Joust continue to entertain even decades after their original release— the ‘friendly’ competition that comes from screwing over your friends or working together. The AI in the game is somewhat capable, but you won’t really meet any challenge unless you’re being pursued by three or more dragons at once. Even then, it all feels very same-y. Without some additional ‘hook’ or mode of play, repetition sets in.

That’s not to say there isn’t some fun involved, it’s just… dated. There’s no real payoff, either. The next level in line is unlocked after surviving a set number of waves in the previous stage, but with no further incentive to continue play after that, you can witness everything Fat Dragons has to offer within a half-hour at most. Worth a look if you’ve somehow missed out on the old classics to this point, but otherwise, there’s nothing new here.3

  1. Known primarily for the ‘Quiet’ series, cute but busywork puzzle games. More info on the catalog here
  2.  Right down to the ‘weighty’ feel of lift-off and acceleration, and the bulky sense of not being able to stop or turn as easily. Kudos to the developer for nailing that. 
  3. This review is also featured at Indiepitome. 

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

REVIEW: Ascent of Kings

Adventures rely on the popular predicaments— evil someones and somethings, princes and princesses (often in another castle), swords and rings with unifying powers. Ascent of Kings (80 MSP) gives you a chance at replacing royalty via your basic fitness test. Coming from Nostatic Software, the makers of last year’s ‘different kind of adventure game’ Quiet, Please!, I knew I could count on a colorful tale. I just had to hope that the gameplay wouldn’t be so esoteric this time around.

My curiosity was rewarded with fairly standard platforming instead, tied together with the light story (both in content and emotional gravitas) of a search for a new king. You play as the youngest brother of four (and apparently least favorite, in the eyes of your condescending father), initially rebuffed to undertake the kingly trial but soon found to be the most capable. Hmm, imagine that. Score one for the underdogs.

Along the way, you’ll stop at Lesser shrines, which are merely blessings, and Greater shrines that grant essential quest abilities, such as being able to breathe longer underwater or the option to glide after a double jump. You’ll also stumble onto your hapless siblings, and they too will part with their entrusted abilities. Each subsequent upgrade is immediately put to use, pointing the way forward without error, save for a few alternative paths you’ll notice but will have to return to later.

It is a Metroidvania in that sense, that you’ll gradually collect new powerups from said shrines and your fallen brothers (I’m not one to question anybody’s tolerance for pain, but is a sprained wrist really going to stop you from becoming a goddamn King?) en route to your guaranteed ascension. That said, it’s still almost entirely linear from start to finish. You’ll face some slight resistance from enemies (a slingshot comes into play) or timed obstacles (spikes or jumps), though it’s all by-the-book, Platforming / Adventuring 101, safe for all ages.

Ascent of Kings - Screen

This is as dangerous as it gets, folks.

The whole business of becoming king lasts about an hour, those final twenty minutes or so spent hunting down the remaining ‘lesser shrines’, which only add a more definitive closing screen and a few lines of text for all your (still minimal) trouble. Ascent of Kings is a quaint journey, fun while you’re at it, that doesn’t try to extend things with any unnecessary puzzles or trick platforming. Frustrations are a no-show. What you see is exactly what you get, and that’s fine.