Tag Archives: punishformer

REVIEW: Uncraft’Em All

A wise (and probably horny) man once said, ‘If it ain’t broke, why cover those girls up?’1 A sage observation and excellent advice, to be sure, and one that Uncraft’Em All ($1.00) is still keen on following (it works just fine for the internet). This game doesn’t bring much of anything new to the Uncraft Me series, but something tells me its target audience isn’t too particular regarding new content or extensive gameplay innovations, so long as the girls are included.

Uncraft'Em All - Screen

Ugh, don’t remind me of that game.

Not that the series needs any drastic changes to be successful. Its brand of punisher-platforming, which sees a small, square lad (and a jetpack with limited fuel) jumping and flying through dozens of lava-lined hallways and other hazards, functions well enough. Of course, it’s intentions are to kill you hundreds of times over and tease you with the promise of girls and above-average breast sizes, but the controls and the design are generally well-done.

Uncraft’Em All is no exception to the rule. It contains an impressive-sounding 24 stages, all of which will need to be carefully navigated by you in order to ‘rescue’ a fair maiden held captive at the end of the run. They’re split between four difficulty settings that range from easy to OMG F-UUUUU! hard, and you can tackle them in any order that you choose. However, all of these levels are shorter than the ones featured in previous games (no checkpoints needed), and the girls (the true focal point and your reason for being here, natch) are a ‘sloppy seconds’ of sorts, having all appeared in previous games from developer Team Shuriken’s skintastic oeuvre.

Uncraft'Em All - Screen2

You hear that? That’s the audible, disappointed sigh of a thousand young men who were hoping for an all-new set of women to ‘uncraft’. Life is full of disappointments. Still, while the ladies may have not changed, the levels themselves do provide the requisite amounts of challenge and frustration2 (the profanity-laden vocal track that accompanies each of your failures is still as applicable as ever) the punisher genre is known for.

That said, Uncraft’Em All is like any other Uncraft Me! game you’ve played before, just more of it. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you enjoyed the first two titles, but that also means it’s a retread. And with a new game, Uncraft World, coming to Steam in 2015, this one feels more like a masturbatory… ahem, celebratory— victory lap around XBLIG, thanking its feverish fans for their support, an appetizer to a main dish that will be served elsewhere.

  1. Damn, that’s a terrible joke. Sounds a lot like my previous Uncraft Me! motto, too: ‘If the breasts ain’t broke, don’t fix them!’ I really need to come up with new material. 
  2. To Hell with those timed laser traps, I say. To Hell! 

REVIEW: Uncraft Me!

The world is full of surprises. Take Team Shuriken, for example. Normally the purveyors of the multiple choice, Guess-Your-Own-Adventure genre, mixed with nearly-naked, impossibly-endowed women, they’ve now turned over a new leaf! Not that new a leaf, mind you, as the business of boobs is still roaring right along, but this time, with Uncraft Me! (80 MSP), the developer has wedged an actual game between all the generous cleavage.

Uncraft Me! - Screen

See, subtle.

Of course, that disguise comes booby-trapped (oh the puns!) in one of the most maddening punishformers I’ve come across, but hey, any progress is progress. At first sight, past the skippable tale of imprisoned princesses and an evil cube that wants to make everything square, it seems to be an average platformer, albeit one done in the style of Minecraft. You’ll jump and jetpack around the level (it recharges once you land), following a predetermined route through your standard set of obstacles and hazards. It’s low impact, the controls are simple, and it’s entirely adequate.

That humdrum changes with the first checkpoint, when a rocket blasts away part of the background, revealing a ‘portion’ of the aforementioned princess, locked away in her cubed prison. Surprise, surprise, she’s not overdressed for the occasion. This is how you know you’re playing Team Shuriken. The concept here reminds me of the clubhouse victory scenes in the movie ‘Major League’, where a piece of clothing was taken off for each win the team put up. Carrot on a stick, except the carrot is replaced by… you know, all the ladies.

Reaching subsequent checkpoints will continue to undress break out that level’s princess, until eventually you’ve scaled the stage and get to fully admire your handiwork. And so it goes, until you reach the fourth or fifth ‘lady-stage’, where it becomes more of a punishformer, sticking its chest out braggadocios-ly, totally keen on making you sweat the gaps between each skin-tastic checkpoint. The lava becomes more prevalent, the lasers a little faster, death more constant, and the leeway, less.

Uncraft Me! - Screen2

Uncraft Me! forgets what it is, and insists on being taken serious, stressing the perfect timing and nimble maneuvering you’d find in a Super Meat Boy and the like. In a more serious game, I’d be happy to comply, or at least make a spirited attempt. Here, not so much.

Despite the new style and move towards actual gameplay, Team Shuriken’s latest is more miss than hit, a distraction for a distraction that’ll frustrate the most patient of playboys. I can absolutely say that I haven’t had to work this hard to uncover a pair of boobs since… well, ever. Uncraft Me! is a commendable attempt at a developer trying something new, just one that’s not worth the aggravation.


Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Voxel Runner

Combining auto-running with a voxel style, Voxel Runner (80 MSP) is the newest in the vaunted series of games with very literal names (and that’s only a partial joke; I personally would have had my heart set on Run Voxel Run, but I digress). It’s also not a bad debut (from developer Dizzy Pixels) and addition to the sub-genre despite the numerous competitors (The Impossible Game and its ilk) that came before it.

The game trots you out on a perpetual jog / jump / slide / crash course over 30 consecutive stages (with checkpoints every two or three levels) of escalating difficulty and complexity. You should know what you’re getting into. Still, games like this beg the question; what does anyone see in dying over and over again merely to learn patterns for one stretch, just to die over and over again in the next section? That I don’t know the answer to. Much like quasi-cheeses injected into hot dogs, there’s a market for it. Must be a lot of death (and cheese) fetishists out there.

To its credit, Voxel Runner seems to go easier on you than most of its predecessors. The controls are tight and responsive (so long as you don’t hold down the jump button by mistake), and each series of obstacles runs a manageable length before triggering a respawn point. You’re still destined to die, naturally, though the game attempts to disguise some of that banality in repeated deaths with its abilities (see trailer above), introduced one at a time and eventually used in tandem.

Occasionally there are multiple solutions to a given sequence. Using the speed boost and high jump abilities, for instance, can bypass some jumps and spikes, cutting down on time and irritability on your multiple retries. And while pattern-learning is still a necessity, the patterns themselves are varied and somewhat satisfying to plow through on a perfect run, cheating death for a few, always-fleeting seconds.

Voxel Runner - Screen

So, ‘laying down’ is considered an ability now?

The awards / achievements for fulfilling certain requirements (of course I earned the trophy for reaching my death quota first) are nice; leaderboards would have been a stronger impetus. As it is, there’s not too much in the way of replayability. Auto-runners by definition are a streamlined experience, one and done, and part of the curse in being a critiquer is always seeing how something could have been improved upon or expanded, but Voxel Runner is more solid than most.

Even with that competence and its graphical aesthetic, the game will likely have a tough go at making any converts or significant inroads. There’s too many other options already, and with a certain BIT.TRIP title just released, that task is heavier. Voxel Runner is a cheaper alternative, however, and its forgiving nature means more people that aren’t necessarily dialed into death-avoidance will find some enjoyment here.


Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Three Dead Zed

It’s a challenge these days to craft a zombie game that isn’t a tired ‘me-too’ clone of an existing property, so it’s a bit of a relief to find a platformer that combines humor and strategy in Three Dead Zed (400 MSP). Gentlemen Squid Studio’s previously-PC title makes the transition to XBLIG in fine hand-drawn form with the story of a zombie that has been experimented on to create the ultimate weapon, instead resulting in a fractured existence, the chance to exploit three forms of zombie being. With a shadowy ally to guide you through the levels, you take your revenge on the project overlords and agree to rescue cats wearing tinfoil hats. Yes, that is really your objective to complete each stage.

3DZ‘s signature mechanic is similar to Frozenbyte’s Trine, the seamless ability to switch between three different characters in order to solve a series of navigational puzzles within each level. The default ‘average’ form is the most balanced zombie, able to attack and operate switches. The second, more agile version (think spider / crab zombie) loses the right to attack, but gains increased jumping height, the vital skill of hugging walls to climb, and was voted most likely to get you out of a prickly situation. The final form is a brutish female zombie, the literal muscle of the group, with the (obvious, really) power to pulverize certain walls and floors that would otherwise block your path. This pairs with critically-slow movement speed and a nonexistent jump ability.

Largely, these perks and shortcomings trade off well, as every puzzle comes with just one solution, leaving it up to you to figure out which undead companion to call upon. That part’s not terribly hard. There are alternate ‘hazardous paths’ to take, but mostly the levels are linear; hit a switch, remove a laser, explore the opened path, etc. This would be fine, though there are some flaws in its handling. The agile zombie’s speed can throw you off initially, causing you to over-jump smaller platforms or leap directly into fire and / or lasers. It’s made worse by the fact that you’ll be calling upon this zombie form the most.

Generally-okay checkpoints and unlimited lives soften the repetitive blows, though there’s a significant adjustment period as you learn to compensate. While the early levels do a good job at easing you in and presenting the flow, the later rounds are less sympathetic. A few hit detection issues (being smashed by walls that aren’t there) and oddly-placed enemies can also dampen the fun, shooting you mercilessly as you struggle to switch forms or avoid a one-hit-death fire or laser trap.

The developers are certainly conscious of its ‘punishing’ nature, even prophetic by including a ‘rage quit’ option that will take you straight back to the dashboard. While this is most likely a self-deprecating gesture rather than a serious feature they wanted you to make use of, the irony is not lost on me. It doesn’t get better. As the game wears on, the difficulty stemming from pinpoint jumps / accurate timing, coupled with uncooperative controls, sinks the game. I quit near the supposed end, zero desire left to see how the adventure played out.

There’s no doubt that Three Dead Zed features some fantastic animation and visuals to accompany a delightfully-absurd storyline, though the puzzles require some busy work, and tax your patience during some of the more annoying, hazardous sections you’ll be forced to replay. The controls never manage to feel quite right either, rigid in one form while oversensitive in another. It’s a deeper platformer than most, and fun is here in spots, but it definitely doesn’t last throughout. As such, you’ll have to forgive quite a bit and temper your expectations in order to enjoy it, which may be asking too much for $5.

REVIEW: Death Closet

To be honest, I’m quite surprised something like this hasn’t shown up on XBLIG previously. I’ve played trainers for Shooter / Bullet Hell-types (and enjoyed them), so it makes perfect sense you’d see a trainer for a punisher / platformer. Call it necessary, even, considering the amount of death you dedicate to a game over the course of any take-your-pick punishformer. Stepping into the role of would-be sensei is Death Closet (80 MSP), operating under the assumption that ‘practice makes perfect’, or ‘practice makes you insane’, as it were.

And Death Closet is, for all its devilish intents and purposes, insane, cutting out the supposed fat and gristle (personality, slower moments, health bars, bright colors, mascots), and replacing it with death and / or near-death experiences, back to back to back to back to… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

The game drops you into a room, okay, a closet, if you want to be literal, and, over four modes that unsurprisingly play very similar to each other, you jump and double-jump to avoid a slew of projectiles. One hit and you’re done, off to the great ‘restart’ cloud in the sky. Granted, some of those hazards go beyond a simple jump or maneuver to avoid, exploding, blooming, or actively seeking you out once launched, but (non-spoiler alert!) this is all you ever do, in increments of ten or so seconds, as you’re likely to die then or very soon after.

‘Checkpoint’ mode is the friendliest, asking you to avoid fire for a set amount of time before reaching a… checkpoint, which places you there upon each restart. Learn the patterns, pray you get lucky, and repeat. Hardcore and Infinite modes drop the checkpoint system, and seem to be more or less the same, with the only difference I see being that the projectile sequence plays in a preset format in one, while going the full-random in the latter.

The last option, ‘Infinite Coin’ mode, throws collection into the jumping fray, tallying the money you pick up in lieu of time survived. It’s a diversion from the standard practices, though there’s not much incentive to it as it’s just survival in a different flavor. Leaderboards, as much a pain as they are to implement for indies, would have saved this game for me. Sharing scores with a friend isn’t cutting it.

Now, or five seconds from now, an end comes to us all.

The chief complaint something like Death Closet will accrue is that it’s extremely limited and specialized. That it all happens in a single room makes that repetition even harder to shake. If you’re not a fan of punishformers, or maybe you are, but really don’t see the dollar in what’s little more than a primer or trainer for a much better (and expanded) title like Apple Jack 2, then this game won’t hold all that much appeal to you. On the reverse side, if you’ve always felt that the platforming in other games just got in the way, if you love to die over and over without much rhyme or reason, Death Closet has your funeral(s) covered.