Tag Archives: There Will Be Bacon

REVIEW: Blood & Bacon

First-person shooters are suffering a crisis. Where once XBLIG was happy to see a FPS, going so far as to forgive bad design or controls just for the sake of playing one, now the problem is over-saturation. Too many trying to copy too much, bouncing from military shooter to zombie wave shooter. Too many falling short of the accepted norm, skimping on content or releasing unpolished messes. Too many recycled ideas and endless pseudo-sequels. Then, like a blood-red bacon… ahem, beacon, of hope, enter Blood & Bacon (240 MSP).

This game is an antibiotic for what ails indie FPSes. No half-baked concoction, no stiff controls, no detrimentally-repetitive waves, and perhaps most importantly, no zombies. Well, no traditional zombies. Instead it’s undead livestock, refreshing enough to feel different, and dead enough not to upset animal rights groups. Yes, it’s a wave shooter (with a 100+ ‘Days’ to fight through), but only in name and format. Trust me, you haven’t played a wave shooter like this.

Nor have you seen this much blood. When the screen gets busy (and it will, with you versus hundreds of enemies possible), so does the exploding viscera. Blood & Bacon is on a liquid-only diet, the self-professed bloodiest game on Xbox Live. It’s hard to argue against that boast. It helps that the weaponry on tap is geared towards said carnage, running from the typical shotgun and rifles to an uzi, grenades, and one very ‘effective’ gun that you earn later on that is best saved for larger crowds.

Rounds and the roster of baddies start off simple, and gradually increase in number and challenge. Enemy types shuffle in and out, never quite the same combination, continually changing the approach and challenging you to mix tactics. Powerups to boost your speed and / or killing potential, as well as ammo and self-revives, prove to be invaluable. By the time you reach the first multi-phased boss, and the even sinister-er Princess Blubbergut (…the experience is memorable, and defies explanation), you’ll have left Easy Street behind and wandered into a rural quagmire, no one there to hold your hand.

Well, save for the online co-op, which is where Blood & Bacon reaches its fullest, Left 4 Dead-est potential. Teamwork here is not a suggestion but a necessity, working together to lead and dispatch tougher, armored foes, and tackle the higher levels. Careful management of the health pumps and keeping your partner standing takes precedence. Victory is not handed over lightly, but the sheer satisfaction that comes from beating a particularly tough wave or exhausting boss fight, alone or with a friend, far outweighs the struggle.

Blood & Bacon - Screen

Definitely not for the squeamish.

That hard-fought progress is what keeps you coming back, complimented by the smaller things that build the larger whole; story elements, the excellent voicework and soundtrack, controls / camerawork, and plenty of interesting (and well hidden) easter eggs to be found. Simply stated, there’s nothing here that upsets or feels unfinished, and any faults you may find will be temporary. With the promise of patches and free DLC support (a new map, enemies, have been mentioned) for many months down the road, you can rest easy knowing the game will be updated and expanded upon.

When it’s all said and done, Blood & Bacon stands as nothing less than the resurrection of the wave shooter, all pork and no gristle, full of the exacting attention and care you don’t typically see in indie development. It’s even more impressive to say that after several hours of playtime, I still haven’t had my fill of things to do or see. The game brings with it a new look to the first-person genre on the indie channel, making more than good on great expectations and raising the bar for other developers. An absolute must play.

.

EDIT 9/1: A ‘lite’ version of the game, re-titled B&B Fatfree, has been released for $1. Comprising the first ’50 days’ (of the full 100) of the game, it still contains all of the greatness I stated above.

Advertisements

REVIEW: March to the Moon

March to the Moon (80 MSP) is an instant leaderboard game that you’d be crazy not to try if you’re a shooter enthusiast. Not that I’d ever demand you buy a game without a reason, so, alright, (cracks knuckles) here we go. March to the Moon is a vertical shooter where you’ll choose your brand of shooting from twelve (!) character classes like the guns blazing types (Hunting, Engineer), the support / cerebral roles  (Runes, Necromancer) or others that tread the line in-between.

You’ll take on waves of eclectic enemies, small at first, but soon filling the entire screen. And you’re doing this because you’re the hero that’s offered to clean out a basement full of rats, setting up a chain of events that will send you on a march to the moon (oh it’s possible), past alligators and goblins, to fight against farm animals (cows, pigs, and chickens) that have raised an army and displaced the resident moon aliens. So, yeah.

But once you get past the premise and basic art design, and level up some, you’ll gradually uncover the game’s brilliant, more RPG than RPG-like character crafting and customization. Each class has multiple abilities (easily over a hundred between them all) you can put upgrade points into, from standard fire to magic attacks to summoning minions, and passive traits that amplify other powers and yourself, or give bonuses against certain enemies.

Despite reusing art and the same four stage types, March to the Moon dodges repetition with the reward of incremental progress and incentives. It cleverly extends the length of the game (to 4-5 hours) by having the player hit a ‘reset’ at the end of each difficulty setting on the Moon, which adds new story elements and one-liners to the same levels, now with tougher and remixed enemies. With eight levels per ‘world’, of which there are four, or 32 stages per playthrough, for a total of 96, you won’t run out of things to shoot.

Which is good, as this ‘reset’ also expands your already-deep skill trees’ point limits, allowing you to grow in proportion to the new challenges. And really the whole progression aspect in MttM, from stages to skill growth to enemy balance, is handled perfectly, letting you evolve while slowly evolving itself into a serious bullet hell.

Even if the game becomes too difficult, you’re capable of solving the problem. You’re always only a ‘skill respec’ or XP Grind away from regaining the upper hand, save for your initial class selections, which are permanent. Don’t pick up two support classes with limited offensive powers, and you should be fine. Though given the different classes, creating multiple game saves to test out various combinations might not be a bad idea. With the sheer amount of options, I can’t see anyone having a bad experience with the game except by their own doing.

March to the Moon is quite literally everything I’ve ever wanted in a vertical-scrolling shooter, and even more I didn’t know I wanted. Combine the bizarre plot and enemies that continue as the difficulty levels scale comfortably, with the immediate ability to build (and rebuild at will) a character with whatever weapons, skills, and abilities you prefer, and you have a deeply-customizable, immensely-replayable RPG-shooter. Bottom line, buy it. It comes with the highest recommendation I can offer.

REVIEW: Pig & Bullet

It’s not often that I’m filled with such disdain for myself that I question the decisions I make as if I’m a second party outside of my body that’s trusted to be objective. Spending a dollar on a game and losing isn’t grounds for reevaluating self-worth. With most dire muck, there’s still a crumb of entertainment to be nibbled. But every once in a while, a title comes along that utterly underwhelms and comes back to haunt my digital wallet almost instantaneously. Pig & Bullet (80 MSP) is that ghost today.

Placed in the hooves of a slaloming pig, the game has you avoiding a literal bullet hell and snatching turnip multipliers to run up the score in each wave. IKA mode requires the opposite, with you collecting bullets on a blue / red rotation, while the third, ‘Masow’ mode, is a sped-up version of collection with random bullet trains (ha! get it!?) roaring past. Yes, it’s the stuff that flash games are made of, translated to XBLIG as a spruced up but simple arcade thrill.

Just make bacon out of this and do us all a favor.

The problem is there’s just not enough content here, and it wears out fast. If your game is going the arcade / score-running route, it helps with longevity to push competition in the form of online scores. Unfortunately that’s easier said than done within the XBLIG framework (understandable), but local leaderboards should be the minimal entry fee. Pig & Bullet only keeps track of your current session. No unlockables, no extras, and very little replayability.

As an iOS game, it may (and I’m stressing ‘may’ in case you couldn’t tell) work as an on-the-go cheap fix. On XBLIG (and as on iOS) though, your dollar can get you so much more. I also question the critical praise used for P & B. Kotaku’s take was favorable, fine, but the Edge Magazine snippet is taken out of context. In terms of fun, I ask simply, where, and at what point? Every one of the game’s four ‘modes’ is only a slight (and mostly visual) variation from the last. The only thing worth a damn here is the soundtrack by Rama Amoeba (Japanese glam rock!) and Yasushi Kaminishi, formerly of Capcom.

For a title that started its life as a free browser game, you’d think the ‘improvements’ added to this release would go far enough to dispel the sense you’re still playing a browser game. They don’t, and your dollar can’t be returned. If you’re the type that must see for yourself (curiosity and all), click the marketplace link above and give Pig & Bullet its eight minutes. That’s all it deserves.