Tag Archives: Pixel

What Worked and What Didn’t: The ‘Uprising III’ in Review

Without the benefit of time to look back on the Indie Games Uprising III in a foggier and perhaps more glamorous way (it’s only been a few weeks since its conclusion), the general review of the Uprising doesn’t have the luxury of hiding or settling much in my system before being held under the microscope and dissected. So a brief article, if you will, of me spouting off whatever pops into my sad little head concerning the before, during, and after of the event, which took place from September 10th to September 20th, 2012. I take a look at the hits and misses of the promotion on a case by case basis. This is an overview of the Uprising as a whole. For an in-depth review of each Uprising game, the titles are clickable links. Enjoy.

Pregame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A great deal of promotion and mentions from a variety of sites, mainstream and backwater establishments like myself, in the weeks leading up to the Uprising’s start. Indie journalists around the web, at Cathy’s (IndieGamerChick) insistence, worked together to spread the news, not just on their respective forums, but with links and cross-promotion with other sites, creating a network of easily searchable previews, interviews, and articles related to the launch and its lineup. Personally, I don’t think we as a group could have done any more to better set the stage for September 10th’s start date.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Microsoft. Again. Surprise. Not that the company ever puts much faith or weight behind XBLIG (changes to the service usually only happen once enough people complain about their lack of effort), but outside of a few token lines and minor stories, the big M was mostly silent on the promotion. No dashboard banners, no vocal support. To make matters worse, the prepaid code generator for Xbox Live Indie Games, the system that spits out free codes that developers hand off to reviewers and the general public, broke down in the middle of the Uprising, and to date, has not been fixed or given a timetable for repair. Considering the Indie service makes them money, you’d think they show a little more drive. Not so. Unacceptable and baffling.

qrth-phyl

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A classic ‘snake’ arcade game, now updated in three dimensions, with a unique look, nice soundtrack, and a great 3D camera. That camera-work, by the way, it’s not easy to get right. Extra kudos. qrth-phyl was a great choice for a leadoff title that got people excited to see where the Uprising was headed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: That depends on who you talk to. Some felt it needed leaderboards, which aren’t easily-implementable or ideal for XBLIG. Others, including myself, expected more besides the snaking, given the complexity of its presentation and the mention of ‘ghosts’. It was deliberately cryptic, both in previews for the game and in interviews with the developer. Regardless, the final product didn’t suffer for it.

qrth-phyl+fun=good

Sententia

WHAT WENT RIGHT: An existential premise; paving your own path in life, remembering not to lose your youth in growing up, a statement on bullying, and a cool twist to combat and puzzle-solving. A thinking man’s game, a Braid for XBLIG. Prior to its release, I had the game pegged to be one of my Top 3 to come out of the event. I fully expected it to shine.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Pretty much everything beyond the title screen. Bad platforming bits, clunky puzzle-solving, and utterly-aggravating enemy spawns leading to cheap death after cheap death. Given that developer Michael Hicks was also in co-charge of the Uprising itself, there were some that felt his game’s inclusion should have been somehow invalid or disqualified. Past Uprisings have contained games from co-sponsors, but having played the game, I can say it certainly needed a lot more work and testing. Would’ve better served the Uprising to have been left out of it.

Diehard Dungeon

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Roguelikes are popping up everywhere these days, and much like FPSes and Block Crafters, the gaming public can’t get enough. Diehard Dungeon hit the spot dead on, proving it was more than a Binding of Issac cash-in. With a fun twin-stick shooter (including a leaderboard!) as an extra mode and the promise of almost 50% more content to be added to the game in post-release, you got your dollar’s worth and (eventually) then some.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little, which frankly, after the fiasco that was Sententia, the Uprising sorely needed in order to get back on track.

Gateways

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Portal in 2D, plenty of gateway guns to experiment with, and some of the best puzzle designs seen anywhere, including the big boys in arcade and retail. Gateways deserves every accolade it receives. It ended up being my favorite from this Uprising.

WHAT WENT WRONG: I reached the last puzzle in the game, and having heard the horror stories of its solution (time-consuming, required a bit of luck, placing actual tape over the TV screen to mark locations), chose to back away slowly and then run in the opposite direction. There were accusations of me being a pussy, which I was completely fine with. I escaped with my sanity to tell the tale, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the game otherwise.

Gateways, or visual depiction of my fractured mind? Both?

Smooth Operators

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Manage the daily grind (and incessant ringing) of a call center, the comings and goings of your workforce, set the schedule and decor, survive the ups and downs of operating a business, and, most of all, feed your personal addiction that keeps games like Sim City, Tiny Tower, and, now, Smooth Operators, in business and thriving.

WHAT WENT WRONG: My productivity in real life, sleep sacrificed so that I could build and maintain a fictional call center. My parents are proud.

Entropy

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Being so damn pretty I almost proposed to the game (in truth, I did propose, but Entropy turned me down. I’m still not proud of the way I begged it to reconsider. Plenty of tears.). Mystery, intrigue, lovely fire effects and lighting.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Kids, the moral of this story is, looks aren’t everything. Despite flashes of fun, the puzzles were extended not due to their complexity or guile, but by physics and controls that were manageable, but in no way perfect, for the solutions the game requires. It also lacked any kind of personality, which should have been impossible, based on the environments and their details.

Be still, my beating heart.

City Tuesday

WHAT WENT RIGHT: More art than most art, City Tuesday had time-travel and puzzles / people that were linked and grounded in the real world. It tackled the idea of terrorism, in a limited way, yes, but still carried more ideas with it that most other XBLIGs never bother to even touch on.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just as you’ve adjusted to and learned the game’s tricks, it’s over. Twenty minutes in. The ending sequence feels tacked on and completely out of place.

XenoMiner

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Survival, a palpable sense of life and death, an incredible (and incredibly helpless) feeling of being on a foreign planet, discovering it for the first time. Crafting / Mining that rewards your patience with even greater rewards. Alien technology that can be put to work for you, provided you’re C-3PO and speak Bocce.

WHAT WENT WRONG: There’s no easy or quick way to get set up on Xenos, outside of hard work and (lots and lots of) time. Horrible skipping and pausing when venturing from one area to the next almost ruined the experience for me. Others have reported the same.

I can literally see my free time disappearing over the horizon.

Pixel

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A cool cel-shaded look. A puzzle / platforming hybrid that had variety.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Uprising ended on Pixel and it should not have. Glitches, oversensitive controls, guns that didn’t shoot where you aimed, and a bad FOV all contributed to its downfall. That it was a short game was a blessing. It stunk of an unpolished title either rushed to meet the deadline or someone forgiving way too much during the testing process. As the bookend, it needed to finish the promotion on a strong note. Instead it left a bad aftertaste.

Postgame: Uprising III

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Three top-tier games that anyone should be able to enjoy (qrth-phyl, Smooth Operators, XenoMiner) and two immediate leaderboard games (Diehard Dungeon, Gateways). Not a bad showing from nine games, and all for $9. I will say this; overall, from both myself and other reviewers, as well as the gaming public, it is confirmed and accepted that the Uprising III games were much improved upon last year’s cast, and site traffic across the indie sites did see a boost. That doesn’t necessarily equate to sales, and it’s probably too early to measure it a success, but it does show that gamers were interested in the crop. Assuming there is a fourth outing for XBLIG, it will have to be quite good to match the combined quality of Uprising III.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A few ‘dud’ games in Sententia and Pixel, Microsoft dropping the ball, then kicking it out of the stadium so no one could play. One rejected marriage proposal. Some review-related stress, some sleepless nights.

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REVIEW: Pixel

With me breathing a partial sigh of relief, the third Indie Games Uprising comes to a close with Ratchet Game Studio‘s Pixel (80 MSP), a first-person platformer that goes light on the puzzles and is all about agility, traversal, and getting the fastest time.

Sporting a clean (some would say bland) style that fits the clinical approach, Pixel tries to add some pop to the time-trial genre by introducing different attachments to your gun, such as slowing down the retraction rate of platforms (stasis), or extending an entire row in one whack (singularity). Coupled with the colored blocks that have different effects on you or the environment (orange extends or raises bridges, green works as a launching pad, etc.), it makes for a little more excitement than a dull, ‘point A to point B’ journey.

The game is careful to avoid contradicting its ‘speed-first’ policy too, keeping the gun-switching within the levels to a minimum. You can make it through most of the stages with the default ammo. Though even if you had the dexterity to swap guns in flight, you’d be fighting much worse than tricky platforming; Pixel is a textbook example of a platformer done in by its own controls. They are as loose and finicky as I’ve felt, and without a doubt, the game needed more time to work out the kinks.

Also distressing is Pixel‘s FOV (field of view). The gun takes up too much of the screen, which is mentionable but not terrible. You could get away with that in a strictly puzzle game. A first-person shooter or platformer? Not so much. Still, I could work around it. What I found jarring, and I’m sure many others will say the same thing, was the alternating depth / zoom of any given stage. Looking straight ahead at an open part of the level was fine. Get too close to a wall, or point down / up at a section of blocks, and it’s like you’ve instantly ‘zoomed in’, throwing off your positioning and giving yourself a headache.

Combine this with the touchy controls (too fast when moving, too slow when turning), and you’ll find yourself slipping off platforms and edges where normally you wouldn’t. The bad news continues. Glitches that force you to restart a level (stage 7, well-documented in other sites’ reviews), inexplicably falling from or passing right through certain pillars, as well as constantly overshooting or undershooting most of the jumps. Eight times out of 10, finishing a level was luck in my experience. Those aren’t the odds you want or expect from a reflex-tester.

The best thing you can say about Pixel is that it’s over quickly. I was able to breeze through it, loose controls and all, in about an hour, limping to the finish line with zero desire to ever visit it again. The effort is admirable and the visuals are to its credit, but they only mask a disappointing puzzle / platformer.

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Review on Clearance Bin Review

Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Review on The Indie Mine

Prelude to the Uprising: Pixel

Pixel is to be the first published game from Canadian developers Ratchet Game Studios. Pretty good to get yourself noticed and included in the Uprising with your debut, and given the game’s unique look and blend, it’s no surprise. I suppose my immediate reaction to it is Portal (the gun) crossed with the time trials from Mirror’s Edge (level traversal). The Dev doesn’t shy away from that first comparison either.

In this first-person puzzle/shooter you need to manipulate the environment to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’. Through 25 different levels, use different particles, taking different paths and be quick with a controller to perfect your skills to move on to the next level! Speed and ingenuity are key to mastering this game!

In saying that it combines its ideas with an established and beloved brand in order to make something its own, Pixel is holding itself up to a higher standard than flattery and me-tooism. While the similar look and mention of puzzles might have some saying ‘clone’ without hard evidence, the emphasis on speed and action versus a methodical approach, and the cel-shaded levels and multiple paths shown off in the trailer, put a lot of those qualms to rest. The final proof will be in playing it.

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Pixel will be released on September 20th.

Interview at The Indie Mine

Preview on Clearance Bin Review