Tag Archives: qrth-phyl

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: qrth-phyl

For the longest of times (up until its release, actually), qrth-phyl (80 MSP) defied a full explanation. Also pronunciation, which continues to elude us all. From the cryptic trailer and description, you glean almost nothing except the now-confirmed suspicion that you’d be collecting dots. For what purpose or greater good, it was not said.

That purpose is now clear(er). qrth-phyl contains that classic arcade goal of getting the highest score, though calling it a glorified ‘snake game’ is not only incorrect, it’s slightly offensive. qrth-phyl is familiar yet distant, with a certain care that extends beyond the typical indie developer. hermitgames is not the typical indie developer. It immediately recalls the studio’s previous XBLIG, Leave Home, and qrth-phyl continues in carrying out that style with aplomb.

Dot collection is the chief gameplay component. Doing so extends your snake. You continue to grow. Do not run into yourself while circling the levels.  Yes, you’ve done this before. It isn’t exactly a thrilling concept on its own, but with a new perspective and art on its side, that idea feels fresh once again in qrth-phyl.

It’s challenging (and fun) navigating the different layouts, shifting from a 2D plane to full 3D and back (the 3D camera here is just about the best I’ve encountered). There are some tricks to the old dog too, such as point combos for scooping dots in quick succession, or a powerup that shrinks your size and changes the excess tail into collectible dots. It works in reverse as well. The larger green dots give you more points, but also spawn laser traps. In tight quarters, these can be game-enders. Worse still are the corruptions.

These ‘corruption’ moments, when they occur, alter the level in real time, throwing up roadblocks and extending barricades in an attempt to rain on your parade, usually succeeding. Damn adaptive difficulty. qrth-phyl marks the rare occasion where you should shoot for average. Do too well, and the game thinks you’re the bee’s knees, taking it upon itself to ‘toughen’ things up for you.

Play through the game, and you’ll unlock the ‘Elements’ item in the notes section. These Out and In rooms are the ten single stages from the main game, ‘sequence’, but in a separate menu. The ‘elements’ work as quick little one-offs, one life to collect as many dots possible, It tracks your completion of each room and high score, which stacks and builds up your corruption percentage just as playing the main game does. What happens when that level reaches 100%?

Ah, well, nothing. At least that I saw. I’m not sure what I expected or wanted, a thumbs-up made entirely of cubes (would have been nice), but alas, nothing. I can’t hide my disappointment in finding the end of the rainbow was just the end, though it’s hardly a huge setback. I also wished for a peer-to-peer leaderboard during some of my high score runs, as that would have been a perfect fit, but again, the main game is easily able to make up for these absences (and I’ll always have Twitter to brag to).

It might be a little misunderstood, or maybe you were expecting a bit more (like me), but as the opening shot to the Uprising III, qrth-phyl is a more than capable lead-off hitter. As an arcade type, it does exactly what it should— short, thrilling (yes, really) gameplay and the eternal chase for a high score. It starts off as a homage to games gone by, and becomes the quintessential ‘snake’ game in the process.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

Review on The Indie Ocean

Review on Clearance Bin Review

Review on The Indie Mine

Review on Indie Theory

Review on GamerWife

Prelude to the Uprising: qrth-phyl

Among my many talents, I recently added the ability to correctly spell hermitgames’ upcoming qrth-phyl on command. Just don’t ask me to pronounce it. The title is just as odd as all the known information surrounding it. The leadoff game to the Indie Games Uprising III and in the Top 20 for the Dream.Build.Play competition, its listed genre is arcade / part-documentary. Documentary, you say?

From the official description:

Arcade documentary of maze / dot / snake mechanic within changing dimensions, axis locks and the corruption of the system. Collect, grow, avoid your past, find new space, wake up…

The trailer doesn’t show off as much, but from the screenshots, it looks as if collection will play the main gameplay role. That’s just an educated guess. With things like ‘avoiding your past’ and ‘waking up’, it’s anyone’s ballgame. This should be anything but a traditional ‘snaker’. I love the unclassifiable, and the developer recently described the game in an interview as ‘awkward’. Leave Home, from the same guy, which sports a similar cube look but represents an entirely different style of play, was one of the first XBLIGs I bought. That too was anything but a traditional shooter. Still a favorite of mine. Needless to say, I can’t wait to play this.

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qrth-phyl will be released on September 10th.

Preview on Clearance Bin Review

Interview on Clearance Bin Review

Interview on The Indie Mine