Tag Archives: video games

REVIEW: Mysterious Blue Valley

The aura around Mysterious Blue Valley ($1.00) seemed promising at first. A trip to an unknown destination, the allure of a potential job, being taken under the wing of the equally-mysterious ‘Mr. Money’, a rotund fellow who doesn’t believe in wearing shirts to cover his sizable man breasts? Sure, I’ll bite. You should never turn down someone who wishes to be your wealthy benefactor. Sounds vaguely Great Expectations-ish, minus a teasing Gwyneth Paltrow but with a Japanese twist.

Mysterious Blue Valley - Screen

Clearly a metaphor for something.

Of course once we actually get there, it’s an entirely different story. Turns out it’s not really a mysterious valley I find myself in; more an ‘Amphitheater of the Weird’. This isn’t some vacation or job offer, either, it’s just slave labor. ‘Mr. Money’ isn’t paying me squat, can’t afford personal clothing, and orders me around in broken English from his private tent. It’s apparently so terrible, I’m being totally sarcastic with my replies and whispering mean comments behind his back.

I can’t say I blame my in-game self; his instructions sound like the sort of ‘busy work’ no one wants to hear. I’m to walk extremely slow around the stage / amphitheater, turning like a tank, picking up these blue blocks— in specific order— and return to the stage to place them. Without ever letting go, I might add. If I do, or choose the wrong piece, the blocks go flying off into space. Because reasons.

I’m not a quitter, though. Well, not quick to quit. More than a half-hour later, I’ve stacked the fifteen(!) blocks that Mr. Money requested of me. He then tells me someone is watching us, and I set off to follow a shadowy man around the stage until he eventually stops behind the blocks I’ve already placed. It’s then that my not-benefactor assigns me a new mission; climb to the second floor of the stage and collect more blocks. Again, in a specific order. This involves a rope, and for me to be standing in a certain fashion in front of the wall to utilize it. Ditto for jumping back down, after I’ve wrangled the blocks. Four minutes later, I’ve succeeded in placing one of them, with at least a dozen more to go. … … (sigh)

Mysterious Blue Valley - Screen2

Nope. I know to hang myself with it.

This is the point in the program where those of us in the business like to say, ‘Fuck that’. There’s other interesting bits I gleaned from the screenshots, like a spider and a green garden hose, but I’ll never see it to its no doubt bizarre conclusion. I’m all for abstract gameplay, but nothing is worth the actual, mind-numbing labor this game puts you through. Not even Mr. Money’s ample breasts.

Mysterious Blue Valley is the kind of project that begs for oversight and playtesting. Anything to prevent it from what it currently is. A far-flung idea is one thing; it’s quite another to make the task so boring and exacting that you alienate whoever picks it up. You could do literally anything else, and it would be a more appropriate use of your time. As such, this is one valley that should remain unexplored.

‘Dead Kings’ is Sequel to ‘BloodyCheckers’; Coming Soon

BloodyCheckers and Blood & Bacon (Review) developer BigCorporation is putting the finishing touches on their next project, Dead Kings. The game is a sequel to the beloved castle-crawling, checkers-playing original, featuring a larger castle to explore (six floors), and full co-op support, allowing you to uncover and pillage the castle’s treasures with a friend.

The above trailer doesn’t show off any gameplay whatsoever, but it’s still worth a watch if you’re curious about the work (and some Easter Eggs) going into the game. Only a select few developers could make watching three minutes of menus interesting.

If you want to keep tabs on the game’s development, you can ‘like’ Dead Kingsbrand new Facebook page here.

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Dead Kings - Screen

Dead Kings - Screen2

Big Thanks to astute reader ‘Soosh’ for pointing out the info to me. I am a terrible journalist. 

REVIEW: Battle For Demon City

Starring a PS1-era Lara Croft lookalike named Alice, Battle For Demon City ($1.00) is about as campy as you can get. Like ‘B Movie’ campy. It dresses up and sounds the part, and it probably doesn’t hurt that everyone in the game is very… chesty, shall we say. Well, except for the dudes, but it can be hard to determine which is which. Nor is its visage very ‘demonic’, as the enemies look more like humans cosplaying as cats than the hellspawn they’re supposed to be.

The tale it spins is equally cheesy, with a student demon named Thalia (playing like a petulant schoolgirl, of course) sending her minions to take over the city and turn it into a giant maze of same-y streets and buildings. Alice is left to fend for herself against the horny hordes that come in several waves per level, while simultaneously being forced to navigate the randomly-generated maze without a mapping function or a change of scenery, like, ever (…a true Hell on Earth indeed).

To make matters more compelling (i.e. worse), your progress is intermittently-blocked by gates that require keys, leading to some backtracking and fetching. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward shooter, with you moving from police station to police station, albeit one that functions as a marketplace instead of a bastion of law and order, selling you the occasional weapon upgrade and / or ammunition. Because Capitalism!

Stages end with a rush of enemies or a boss fight that introduces a new foot solider, and sometimes you’re treated with short cutscenes that do their exposition thing and / or briefly break the fourth wall. Oddly, these moments are the best part of Battle For Demon City, making it all the more painful once you return to the actual gameplay.

Battle For Demon City - Screen

Catfight!

Combat loses its zeal quickly, and mowing down the same enemies a hundred times over (there’s a joke for this) doesn’t help. Occasionally they will grapple Alice, leading to a button-mashing QTE that ends with her popping a round into her attacker’s dome (which is kinda neat), but fights can only really be lost when they gang up on you in numbers. Even then, it’s hard to take these threats seriously when they’re coming from demons named ‘Gregg’ and ‘Carl’, and their damage output is slightly above a slap. The game is generous with both health drops and continues, so there’s little chance of danger sidelining you.

Battle For Demon City walks the line between tedium and strangely-fascinating most of the way. In the end, tedium wins out. You could almost categorize it as one of those ‘So Bad it’s Good’ guilty pleasures, were it not for the repetitive cityscapes and mostly-soundless gunplay (I get music for the last thirty seconds of a level and that’s it?). It’s not without some merit. The game rests on an obligatory cliffhanger, and so help me, I’d actually play Round Two of wherever the hell this ‘Lara Croft vs. The Cat Demons’ thing is going. Is that bad?

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This review is also featured on Indiepitome

REVIEW: CastleMiner Warfare

One of XBLIG’s great, and unfortunately, rare, success stories, developer DigitalDNA Games is bidding farewell to the service with one final game, CastleMiner Warfare ($1.00). The first part of that title should sound familiar. I’m surprised it took this long for the Dev to make the no-brainer move of pairing its best-selling crafter (it made him a millionaire) with the developer’s penchant for building enjoyable first-person shooters (CastleMiner Z doesn’t quite count because it’s not inherently competitive). The resulting title sounds like a kind of mythical superhero, destined to bring peace to the galaxy, or something akin to it.

CastleMiner Warfare - Screen

It doesn’t, though. I want you to know it brings me no pleasure to say this, but, for a last hurrah, the game is a buggy mess. CastleMiner Warfare brings with it the typical Call of Duty trappings that DigitalDNA has sampled twice before; you kill guys and / or complete certain gameplay challenges, for which you earn experience to level up / unlock new items, and cash to purchase a host of building block goodies. Perks and killstreaks are back as well, featuring mostly returning favorites, like sleight of hand, temporary armor, and a rocket launcher for your secondary.

Four maps are available from the start, with varying environments (Forest, City, etc.) designed to showcase what the game can do with its blocks, while the CastleMiner hook naturally allows players to take and edit those pre-existing maps, or build their own to then share in online battle. You are automatically equipped with a mining pick to alter the landscape, but in a twist, you’ll have to first unlock, then buy, the various block styles on tap. Once you do, you’re free to place them in-match, presumably to build fortifications (not advisable, since people are jerks and will shoot you) or play the troll and drop water blocks everywhere, like me.

CastleMiner Warfare - Screen2

Of course, this ability to flex your artistic muscle while simultaneously gunning down fools is all dependent on the online aspect being solid, which it isn’t. Granted, most online games have their share of connectivity issues, but more often than I liked, I was unceremoniously dropped from matches, while other games returned in search didn’t even permit me to join. I was even met with a pair of game-ending error screens, forcing me to return to the dashboard and reboot the game. Respawning caused some issues as well, placing me in the dark(!), underground(!), with no easy way to determine a route back to the surface. There’s probably a good ‘Six Feet Under’ joke in there somewhere.

When all its parts are in working order (that’s currently about 60% of the time), CastleMiner Warfare is a fun (but definitely familiar) shooter that plays it a little loose for a farewell. The new creative licence is a welcome addition, though you’re fine to pass on this and stick to something more stable in the ‘crafter / shooter’ genre. The game may leave a somewhat sour taste behind, but it doesn’t diminish what DigitalDNA was able to do on XBLIG. Here’s to hoping the developer does great things for Indies on Xbox One and beyond.

 

REVIEW: ApocZ

Though I haven’t played it, DayZ has been an enlightening watch on the various YouTubes and Twitches dedicated to it’s unique brand of zombie slaying. Or should I say human slaying? The zombies have pretty much been forgotten, and instead, it’s the human versus human fight that’s been the primary antagonism. Often hilarious (and always sad), it’s been interesting to watch players team up and kill weaker players, loot their corpses, and have a terrific laugh about it (no wonder I’ve lost faith in Humanity). That social experiment now comes to XBLIG as ApocZ ($1.00).

Visually, the game is a stunner. Developer Sick Kreations has always been able to craft superb-looking XBLIGs with their custom engine, and ApocZ is no exception. Excellent shadowing that changes with the day / night cycle, rippling water, and a large, impressive world of various buildings and houses (purely for a pretty show; you can’t enter most). Oh, also a couple thousand zombies, set in four square miles of the Black Sea area in Ukraine. And in light of the recent events there, a zombie apocalypse is probably the last thing they need.

The theme is survival. Much like DayZ… No, exactly like DayZ, the game drops you into the world equipped with the bare minimum (in ApocZ, it’s the clothes on your back, an axe, and a flashlight). From there, it’s on you to combat the dead while foraging for survival gear and weapons. It’s more than just finding a gun, too; it’s the necessities. You’ll have to monitor your food and water, and, if you find yourself in a scrape, you’ll have to patch yourself up to avoid bleeding out.

And with both supplies and zombies clustered around the buildings and houses, you won’t have much of a choice but to get in there and fight. You’ll start small and underpowered, but you can eventually build up to bigger and better, finding guns at abandoned military barracks, backpacks to carry more gear in, even a car / truck to drive between the towns, provided you can find the tires and the fuel to get them up and running.

ApocZ - Screen

Zombies have violated the Ukraine’s territorial integrity. 

Like any end-of-world scenario, there is a finite amount of ammunition, guns, and supplies available on the map. Offline, you won’t face any competition, but if you’re online, and on a full server (up to 16 players), some ‘sacrifices’ will have to be made. And by ‘sacrifices’, I mean many people will die in the rat race towards the rifles. If you’ve jumped into a world, and see dozens of axes and flashlights just laying in the streets, it’s safe to say you’ve joined the wrong party. ApocZ is a game best enjoyed with friends, not randoms, if for no other reason than to have somebody watching your back.

Be forewarned: even with friends and optimal conditions, the online portion isn’t perfect. Though the majority of the initial launch issues have been sorted out, connections and syncing with other players can still be sketchy. Plenty of games I joined saw players popping in and out, zombies just standing around without attacking, floating / disappearing supplies, etc. The developers are keen to work out those issues, though, and along with the budget price tag, it’s hard to find enough viable reasons this wouldn’t be an immediate buy for most.

That puts this game almost on the same level with DayZ— a form of acceptable murder, more about the ‘survival of the fittest’ than a zombie game with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Something you can join in, have fun with, and repeat as desired. ApocZ might not be as involved or offer as large a world as its inspiration, but it’s a very solid alternative for console gamers looking to get in on the action.

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome