Tag Archives: Today’s Ghost

REVIEW: StarWings

If the very best thing your game has going for it is some of the cheesiest voice acting around, it’s safe to assume you’re in for a shelling. That I strongly considered giving this a recommendation purely for the chance that you, reader, would be so inclined as to try it yourself (see Link below to inquire), can’t be a vote of quality. I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to do it, knowing that asking you to spend a dollar on StarWings (80 MSP) is a direct violation of your human rights.

Star, Lain, and Trey are mercenaries, as evidenced by their crazy hair and ineffectual avatars. Together, they comprise StarWings (as in arwings), and form a poor man’s Star Fox (Star = Fox, Lain = Slippy, Trey = Falco). They’re hired by the Cornerian— ahem, Galaxy Defense, to put a stop to a Bandit army that’s threatening galactic peace, or something along those lines. It’s not required reading. What’s important is it’s a side-scrolling shooter with some minor weapon upgrades between stages.

There’s a problem immediately. You only ever control ‘Star’, the group’s egotistical (had to name the squad after himself, of course) leader. The game hinges on his health bar alone, making your squadmates, for lack of a better term, expendable. Problem is, they go wherever you go. And they never break formation, so avoiding incoming fire is a pain in the ass, multiplied by three. The bullet patterns aren’t too severe as to make it unplayable, but when you’re flying the equivalent of an eighteen-wheeler in three ships, it makes for a pretty big target. You’ll find it’s common to face the boss at the end of each stage down a wingman, or at the very least, weakened, through no fault of your own.

The experience is hampered further by highscores that aren’t recorded and a quick save system that doesn’t work, at least on some consoles. I tried it three times, on three different stages; not once could I load the save file. Switching over to a memory card, however, DID work (the developer is currently looking into the problem). Not that you’ll really need to save your progress. The game is four levels long, and takes about twenty minutes to complete. Extras? No.

It doesn’t bring me any particular joy to bash a game, but StarWings is akin to handing over game development and a case of beer to eighth graders who’ve only seen a screenshot of Star Fox to build off of. I don’t advocate either, and it’s clear to see why. I’m positive that the material and voice acting are meant to be laughably bad. That’s fine, and contributes to the ‘campy’ feel, but if the short gameplay and busted (for some) options were to fall into that same category, I’m not laughing.

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REVIEW: Pi

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, as you’ve likely been celebrating through the night, but what the hell… Happy Pi Approximation Day! If you’re not in a drunk tank somewhere, a toast then, to numbers without end. And how better to mark the occasion than to watch Aronofsky’s artistic take on numbers and paranoia, and review the recent XBLIG, Pi (80 MSP). This is more personal anecdote than review, I’m afraid, as the game is shit for anyone other than diehard mathematicians or boring introverts like me.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. That measurement is impossible to approximate, giving you the endless but non-repeating string of decimals we all don’t know and don’t love. Yes, most of us know the first few numbers, 3.14 (marks Pi Day, yet another drinking date on your calendar, no doubt). I was extreme at some point in my life, as I’ve forever etched 3.14159 into my mind, for no important mission in particular. I used to know more. It’s not 10 trillion, sure, but it’s a start.

The only reason it’s relevant to me at all is the extra credit (and candy that’s contributed to my current shape) I earned in fourth grade. My teacher was a bit of a Pi fanatic. In what I now realize was an attempt to indoctrinate us and introduce us to cults, she used to hold Pi races, where two students would first memorize a sheet of Pi decimals, then face off at the chalkboard to see who was, theoretically, smarter. My win / loss record was impressive. Clearly I wanted that candy. And yes, I went to school when there were still chalkboards. It was messy; you whiteboard kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.

Exhilarating, isn’t it?

So, what does Pi the XBLIG have in store for you? A rather paltry lineup, consisting of the first 1,000 digits, a mode to type out as many numbers as you can remember, and a ‘repeat after me’ function. That’s the extent of what Pi offers. I’d say it’s hardly for the hardcore. 1,000 for a buck? Pfft. How ’bout a cool million, for free? Wait, you want to make a game out of it? We can do that too. Come at me, bro.

Just in case it wasn’t readily apparent otherwise, you shouldn’t waste your time or MSP on Pi. It’s a numbingly-basic memory game at best, with instant regret on tap, even on its big days of 7/22 and 3/14. Then again, it could be I’m a simpleton, and the answer to everything in the universe is right in front of me… hey, look! Pi in dominoes!

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.

REVIEW: Lolita of Labyrinth

Besides the unfortunate abbreviation (LOL) and its no-relation-whatsoever to the Miley Cyrus bomb, platformer Lolita of Labyrinth (240 MSP) carries with it the uncomfortable burden of promising underage girls and mazes (I mean, I wouldn’t mind trying this, but I’m not even sure I’m should be talking about these things outside of Japan). This being the internet, of course, there has to be an audience for it.

The story taps a bored baroness named Audra, with talking pigs for servants, that wakes up one day wanting a little excitement in her life, and rather than take up a safer hobby like a book club, decides she wants to venture into a living painting and fight monsters in order to (I believe) retrieve a vintage wine. To each his or her own, I guess.

Everything from the character and level designs to exotic creature types (Flying octopi? Butler-pigs pushing chicken carts?) screams ‘I coulda been in Castlevania!’, mixed with Deathsmiles’ fixation on gothic lolitas, though the controls are some of the most user-unfriendly I’ve felt in a platformer. I’m not entirely sure what even prompted me to continue (eh, probably the butler-pig strangeness of it), but I did just long enough to realize it wasn’t getting any better.

Combat is a chore, as your basic attacks (punch, kick) are usually ineffective against the game’s cornucopia of airborne and projectile-tossing enemies. Magic cards that give you limited offensive and movement-based abilities mitigate this a bit, but the cramped levels and shorter platforms often mean you’ll jump awkwardly out of one problem and right into the next. Stunning an enemy (only some can you kill outright) allows you to ‘stamp’ them in order to weaken and eventually kill a baddie, but stun times seem arbitrary and turn what should be a simple jump into a horribly-orchestrated cheap hit fest.

Even the candles in LOL are out to get you (shouldn’t I be able to kick/punch these open for hearts?) Add to this a soundtrack that belongs in a Western and barrels that can roll up a flight of stairs… I mean, how does a barrel roll up stairs? It’s all so unforgiving. You get five continues and then you’re done, either stuck to reload your saved game and inch through avoiding contact, or forced to start over. No thanks.

Lolita of Labyrinth is a feckless mess that delivers wince-worthy text dialogue, clunky controls, and a sampling of the absolute worst level layouts I’ve encountered, none of it meant for a sane player’s consumption. Its art and style resembles a Castlevania, sure, but checking off that box isn’t a guarantee of quality. LOL won’t make you laugh out loud so much as it will eternally reduce your Microsoft points by 240, resulting in  ; _ ;