Tag Archives: WTF

REVIEW: The Undead Syndrome 2

And then, like a hopeful ray of light shining down from a bizarre Japanese sun, The Undead Syndrome 2 ($1.00) was released onto the indie channel. Only momentarily blinded by its arrival, my heart stirred at the sight, and I was bathed in memories of foggy environs, KI powers, crystal implants, and giant, vein-covered babies. As the sequel to one of the oddest experiences around (and a personal favorite), this new game had quite a bit to live up to.

Once again channeling parts of all the great, classic survival horror games (notably Silent Hill and Parasite Eve), you’re dropped into the continuing saga of our unknown— and possibly murdered— female lead. After the events of the first game, she wakes up in an alien structure, impaled on a spike. Nearby, others are similarly hung up, including her attacker. She learns the Matrix-like truth that she is being ‘plugged into’ the unending nightmare she’s experiencing, and that whoever or whatever is behind it all is studying them for research purposes. Hmm, guess we’ll be taking the red pill today.

The game’s alien rabbit-hole leads back into the interconnected nightmare, and it’s as strange (and familiar) as ever, morphing from claustrophobic Japanese-style rooms to large, open dreamscapes filled with all sorts of ugly creations bent on stopping you. Using the gifted-to-you ability to shoot energy from your hand (known as KI), you’ll have to cleanse the dream bit by bit, exploring, finding keys and other useful items through some simple platforming, and then revisiting old areas once you’ve gained a new way forward.

That route is mostly trial and error, mind you, as one of my biggest issues with the previous game— the lack of a map or objective markers— leads to some guesswork once again. Helpful floating text in the environment occasionally points you in the right direction or offers a clue to solving some basic puzzles (plus it looks really cool), but it’s largely on you to make a mental diagram of your surroundings and remember which doors were locked the last time you came through. If you’re like me, you’ll get lost a few times before eventually stumbling onto the path the game wants you to take.

Combat feels more amped-up this time around, introducing new enemy types and larger battles, for better and for worse. Given that foes respawn the minute you leave, and backtracking plays a huge role in the game, you’ll be fighting a lot. A lot. Thankfully, the RPG-style leveling and versatile body implants return, rewarding you for fighting those waves of enemies and experimenting with your crystal loadout, trading off KI power or health for greater protection from poison or paralyzing blows. The higher the percentage, the less susceptible you will be to enemy attacks, and really, this perk is worth its weight in the diamonds you’ll equip. Trust me.

The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen

That’s right, random status ailments rear their ugly head again, and are more annoying than ever. Having to pause mid-fight to bring up the menu and scroll down to the required item is a momentum breaker, and that’s assuming you’re carrying the herbs you need. While enemies drop money (the mysterious spectral salesman and his store are back!) and said healing items, it’s never a guarantee you’ll have what you need in any situation. With the hulking crab-baby bosses (a total of three) guarding the keys you’ll need to progress deeper into your nightmare, you’d be wise to stock up.

Each fight plays the same, with you first attempting to hit their weak points on their arms to expose their head, which takes more damage. This is easier said than done, with the game’s loose combat controls not-suited to precision hits. All this while the bosses give chase, stomping you and inflicting those goddamn status ailments you’ll learn to loathe. Your best bet is to carry plenty of curative items and use the game’s speed run feature to keep a distance buffer between you and them. Otherwise, you may be forced to restart or backtrack to a shop to purchase more. Which is… very not fun.

It’s a shame, as the rest of the game flows well-enough. It ends on a cliffhanger, of course, without any definitive showdown or further exposition. Although abrupt ends tend to infuriate (especially after another 3+ hours of work), that means we can probably expect an additional chapter or two in the series at some point. Which I’m all for. Minus those truly terrible boss fights and the absence of a map, The Undead Syndrome 2 is an intriguing follow-up to an already plenty-intriguing original that fans should enjoy.

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

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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.

REVIEW: Unicorn Makeout Mania

As the great philosopher and orator Marshall Mathers once said, ‘Opportunity comes once in a lifetime’. The applications for that quote may vary, though generally speaking, if you find yourself at the precipice of some unknown cause or mysterious route you want to take, dangerous or not, you should leap. That way, whatever happens (long jail sentence, irreparable harm to your body), you know the reasons for it were too good to pass up. Case in point, Unicorn Makeout Mania (80 MSP).

Click to be permanently scarred.

How does one, being of sound mind, who finds themselves in the field of amateur videogame journalism, not take a chance on something like this? The title absolutely breeds curiosity and / or a few worrisome thoughts. Unicorn-on-unicorn action? Some innocent fun for the Brony and Pegasister crowd to get behind?

Eh, not so much. There’s the adorably-drawn cartoon unicorns, sure enough, starring in a mock fighting game… kissing and slapping each other with their tongues. ‘Kissing each other… to death!’, as the description notes. Ah, well that’s an unexpected turn of events. In other words, softcore pony pornography. Okay. So maybe it’s not the My Little Pony demographic being targeted here (names like ‘Lusty’ and ‘Horny’ are probably dead giveaways, too).

Fighting is handled in the standard setup, with quick / powerful move tradeoffs, best of three rounds wins. It has a Mortal Kombat-style fatality where multi-colored butterflies spew forth out of the severed combatant (That is too cute!). I even admit the game has slightly (very slightly) more depth to it than I expected, with block and stun moves and some semblance of strategy. Don’t take that as any kind of endorsement, though. There’s no clever hook or ingenuity to follow. The repetitiveness of the ‘fights’ dulls before your eight minutes are up, and you’re not missing anything after that trial period ends beyond a steady repeat of the same four fighters.

Unicorn Makeout Mania - Screen

Viewing this screenshot in some countries will get you arrested.

Humor and sheer ridiculousness aside, there’s no good reason to play Unicorn Makeout Mania. As if you could have expected anything else. It’s a novelty, a (forgive me…) one-trick pony, a joke without a punchline. Another quote, if you will, this one paraphrasing Frost: Two roads diverged in an XBLIG wood, and I— I took the one paved in lustful unicorns, and it didn’t make any difference.

REVIEW: War Rapier 43210

Although it might seem that way at first glance, with mentions of a futuristic New France, space Musketeers, and the implication of bestiality (…yeah, read on), War Rapier 43210 (240 MSP) is a cohesive product, if your interpretation of ‘cohesive’ is more like two subpar minigames in one infinitely-overpriced package. It does come from the makers of Torque Quest, which should tell you all you need to know.

War Rapier 43210 - Screen

Hmm, two choices, neither of which will be intelligible.

The first part of the game, a graphic ‘adventure’-style point-and-click concept, stars Lieutenant Uceda, a man that hates everything and everyone to the point of mania, and is convinced of his own superiority. Very lovable and relatable chap. To stop an invasion force of Vetustians (the bad guys), he has fifteen minutes to solve the various personal problems of the men in his unit, in order to make them better soldiers and save the world. It’s all trial and error, however, hidden behind an obscure wall of flat humor and very unintuitive puzzle logic. I need to give a doll to one man, beg a first aid kit for drugs, etc., without much rhyme or reason to be found in the environment or its characters.

Strangely, everything in the game world is, in some manner or another, related to sex. It’s one of those great universal truths regarding humanity or some such thing, and War Rapier embraces that idea with a handful of tactful (this is sarcasm) conversations regarding condoms, sex with animals (dead or alive is not specified), promiscuous wives, homoerotic acts, enemas, and the inappropriate touching of a ball of yarn, meaning yes, sexually (what would that be called, yarn-iality?).

All of these profound statements are steeped in a warm vat of profanity that seems in place only to placate a younger crowd that enjoys flaunting and freewheeling their expletive-laced vocabulary. I’m not a prude with swears by any means, but I use them chiefly as adjectives (What car? That fucking car.) and adverbs (How did I run? I fucking ran.), never for the sake of littering sentences or to propagate a conversation beyond its natural conclusion. To do so is just fucking childish.

The second ‘minigame within a game’ is an action / RPG, though calling it such is only to streamline the description, not to say that either genre is represented in a meaningful form. In it, you can swing a sword or fire your gun based on how many skill points you have. You fight enemies in ‘horde’ form, their numbers and strength increasing as the waves go on. Alone, you won’t stand a chance. The goal is to ‘fix’ the men in your squad enough that they’ll shoulder more of the burden, using their increased power and skills learned in the first half of the game, via your help. Curiously, I seemed to do about the same (wave four) whether I played psychoanalyst with my squadmates or not.

War Rapier 43210 - Screen2

Getting there, though, isn’t worth the time or effort, thanks to the terrible everything that precedes it. The best that you can say about War Rapier is that it does get its crayon, and it does have seven different endings (shooting yourself in the face is one of them, fittingly), though most of you will never see one, let alone all, of what the game has to offer. This is a good thing.

Add up the juvenile ‘humor’, the asinine dialogue and design, and what you’re left with is the realization that War Rapier 43210 is an abhorrent, ridiculous excuse for a game. Really, the trial will establish this fact early on. I’m not sure what prompts me to throw away three dollars to fund somebody’s poor in-joke of a project (…some days, I hate myself), despite numerous warning signs and my own good taste, other than to warn you off of it completely. I’ll let my limited French do the talking here— Merde.

REVIEW: Bungee Ferret Tossing

Gleefully Absurd is one thing. Strapping explosives on defenseless ferrets and tossing them at terrorists from the helicopter you’re currently dangling from, is quite another. There isn’t a strong enough word in the human vocabulary to properly label it. Such is the premise of Bungee Ferret Tossing (80 MSP), and with all the ways this could have gone, it’s surprisingly solid.

Essentially a side-scroller, you use the left and right triggers (pressure determines velocity) to launch bomb-laden critters in either direction while handling the helicopter (co-op hands the controls to your partner) and your cord length. You face waves of enemies with the goal of defeating all to move forward. The challenge scales with selectable difficulties; health normally regenerates after a set time of avoiding damage, while ‘Hardcore’ features limited life for both you and your chopper.

With your obvious air superiority, the ground targets make up for the discrepancy by clogging that airspace with bullets, missiles, the odd bird or two, and ninjas (?). Thankfully, the U.S. Government is up to the task, giving you a new form of ferret destruction with each new stage (timed, proximity, and cluster varieties). Occasional dropped powerups give you perks like invincibility or extra damage for short periods. It doesn’t have mind-blowing depth, but it gets the surrounding details right, with a pitch-perfect arcade ‘attract mode’ and a humorous send-up of current events and a certain media outlet at the story’s end. Those things aside, the game is all about scoring.

As a nice bonus, all of the game’s modes have their own individual leaderboard, but it requires a bit of participation on your part if you want to see your name in lights. Rather than hoping for someone else to be in-game the same time as you to swap information, you’ll get a code at the end of a playthrough, which you input here. The standings are a little sparse at the moment, and it’s not the easiest of routes to take, though it is a novel workaround to the peer-to-peer conundrum if you need instant feedback on your ferret-tossing skills.

Complimenting the short arcade mode (5 stages in total) are Survival and Time Attack settings. Survival plays exactly as you think it would, but Time Attack is the worthier acquaintance. You’re on a timed run, with the game dropping numbered cards to build your combo and score with each kill. It introduces a penalty system for failing to extend that streak or in getting hit, gradually resetting your combo back to zero. That added urgency and risk / reward factor propelled it past the main game, in terms of what I spent the most time with.

Some indies are comfortable with being the Dumb Summer Movie, filling your screen with a lot of flash and a ludicrous explanation for it. Bungee Ferret Tossing fills that role for the start of Autumn. It doesn’t clamor for your respect or stand for anything remotely serious, but as a time-waster for the high score seekers, it’s cheap fun.