Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Carnage

Christmas is so depressing, even
Santa drinks to cope.
Christmas is fast approaching, which means its time for a slew of Christmas games to burst forth from the great Xbox Live Indie Game hole in the sky. Christmas Carnage, created by Bandana Games, is officially the first game to break the 2012 "Christmas Game" seal, but how does it compare to the many other non-Christmas themed shooters?

What a lot of people don't know is that this is how penises
work too. If one ball goes out, the whole thing ceases to function.
The two main themes found in Christmas Carnage are Christmas and simplicity. Up to four players can participate at a time, and all you really do is fly around the screen as a fairy and shoot projectiles at the myriad of Christmas themed objects that fly at you from every direction. From presents to Christmas lights to gingerbread men and candy canes, every major element found on a table full of Christmas crap is presented here for you and your friends to destroy beyond recognition. For those of you who harbor an unfettered rage towards the holiday season, you'll find yourself at peace here. For everyone else, you might want to grab a child-based relative to play with you, because as an adult you won't really have much incentive to continue playing after you beat the game.

These screen shots are starting to disconcert me... why are
the fairies always in a perfect square? Was this play tested by a
Borg family!?
That's not to imply that Christmas Carnage is bad, because it is completely playable. The game has a few power ups for you to find that sporadically appear, and the enemies that will assault you come in copious bunches. But other than that, Christmas Carnage has no learning curve what so ever, which is why I suggest playing it with a younger brother or sister. They'll have an easy time enjoying themselves and probably be delighted by the Christmas paraphernalia dancing across the screen. The game does have a small degree of difficulty, but it shouldn't be much of a problem for an older player to help defend a younger gamer if need be.

The game also counts down how many days are left until Christmas as well as provide snarky comments at the outset of each level. The game also promises to reveal the true meaning of Christmas at it's conclusion, so you'll need to massacre 21 levels of enemies before you can find out what that is.

I remember when my dad took me out to chop down a Christmas tree.
They were all pre-decorated with ornaments which they hurled at us as we
tried to hack away at their legs and take one home. Wait. I think I'm getting
confused with the time we tried to kidnap an old man and use him as a Christmas
tree. Nevermind!
I do think Christmas Carnage is fun, but it doesn't have a whole lot of depth to it. If you have little gamers who you'd like to get pumped up for Christmas so that they explode with excitement on the big day after you've presented them with the genetically modified Monkey Pony you got them so you can record their reaction and forever immortalize on the Youtubes, Christmas Carnage will be fun for the entire gaming family. You can even wrap grandma's gnarled arthritis ridden paws around a controller and have her join in on the fray, because even she will be able to recognize the value of an 80 MSP game.

Nobody won the code I have for Space Crüesader because only Luchalma commented! Since I still have that code and now one for Christmas Carnage, if you leave a comment on this entry I'll pick a winner on Dec. 21st who will receive the codes for both games! Good luck!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekly Indie Game Release List for Dec. 2nd - 9th

Hey everyone. Sorry for the huge lack of updates recently. If you want to know more about whats going on with my health, check out my update on my "About Me" page. Long story short, I'm okay. I can't guarantee I'll adhere to my update schedule until I get my surgery and recover from that, but I'll do my best until then. I'll be posting the release list for last week today, and then a review for Christmas Carnage later this evening.

Without further ado, here's the Xbox Indie Games that came out from Dec. 2nd to the 8th!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Avatar Farm Update

Sorry for the lack of updates everyone. I'd like to keep this updated with reviews every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but I've been suffering from health issues lately that sometimes prevent me from being able to concentrate on writing due to headaches. I should be getting this taken care of shortly though, and I'll continue to review indie games as much as I can. I'll be posting a review for Christmas Carnage tomorrow!

But enough about me, in other news if your a fan of Avatar Farm Online an update was just released for it today! Click here for the details.

Another game with a big update that should be coming soon is Total Miner: Forge. I've been keeping an eye on their forum, and the next update sounds like it's going to implement a ton of changes. It's really awesome that they're going to update the existing game instead of releasing another version of it. If you don't already have it, it's currently selling for 240 MSP. That's a bit pricer than most indie games, but Total Miner: Forge is a quality voxel type game that stands above the rest that's about to get even better. Check it out!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Release List for Nov 25 - Dec 1st

A ton of indie games came out this week.... holy crap! To help my blog not be such a chore to load, I'm going to start putting my posts behind breaks. Honestly, I should be doing that anyway. So, without further ado, here are the Xbox Live Indie Games that came out for the week of Nov. 25th through Dec. 1st!

(Note: If you're a developer of one of these games and you have a website, please tell me! In my opinion it's really important to have a website for you company, and if you have a forum it gives your fans a way to interact with you. People want to tell you how much they love your game... so make sure they have a way to do it!)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Space Crüesader

I found this in my attic!
I've been a long time fan of single screen bullet hell games such as Super Stardust and Geometry Wars. Super Stardust in particular I played extensively, as I had in on my PSP and could take it with me where ever I went. So when the recently released Space Crüesader came out, I had to try it out and see if it would cause me to get sucked into the genre once again. For only 80 MSP are you getting you're money's worth?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Avatar Monster Truck

Let's go jump over a line of school buses!
A lot of times when I think of Monster Trucks I think of the huge, trailer trashy version of normal cars with their engorged tires leaping over other vehicles and crushing everything that passes under their wheels. An announcer screams the day of the week over and over again while the behemoths shred the earth beneath them, and if the audience is lucky they might even get to see someone get hurt, or better yet, die. Recently the indie game Avatar Monster Truck was released, and I was curios to see if it lives up to the epic sized tires found in the real life arenas.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Indie Game Release List for Nov. 18th - 24th.

Nov. 18th

  • Alpha Ship
    • Xbox Live Description - A new exciting and fun way to learn the letters of the English language! Hear their sounds and enjoy the fun experience of learning!
    • Price -  80 MSP
    • Co-Op - NONE
    • Website - Dingy (The developer doesn't have a website, so I assume this game was designed by a dingy bobbing up and down in a lake.)
    • Game Type - Educational space... thing?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage


This week saw the arrival of the new Borderlands 2 DLC, Mr.Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, and it leaves us with only one question: ARE YOU READY FOR EXPLOSIONS?! If you’re a fan of Borderlands 2, and explosions, I would assume your answer would be in form of a fireball. But for those of you who are on the pile of nukes, wondering if you should hit the big red button and spend your hard earned Microsoft Points, is this new DLC worth the 800 MSP price tag?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rainbow Rapture

Nothing about this box art implies the
 mass murdering you're about to commit.

I've had Rainbow Rapture sitting on my Xbox 360 since it originally came out on December of 2011 and I've been playing it off and on ever since. In the game you play as a Rainbow Cloud who has awoken from his slumber and is entirely dissatisfied with what’s going on down on Earth. So what does he decide to do? EAT. EVERYONE.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Avatar Farm Online

The horse is watching.
He's always watching.

Avatar Farm Online was recently released on November 16th 2012 and made by Milkstone Studios. They originally created Avatar Farm, which has been their most successful game to date. Avatar Farm is much like the social Facebook game Farmville and its ilk, but the original version had no online components. The newly released Avatar Farm Online fixes this problem, and now you can visit other people’s farm and help them out with it, if they allow visitors to do so. How are the online components, and how does Avatar Farm Online compare to other farm sims?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Indie Game Release List Nov 11th - 17th

Nov 15th

  • Hostile Hustle
    • Xbox Live Description - Overhauled Version of 2011's "I Accidentally In Space! EP1" with 30 updated levels, graphics and gameplay! Platformer meets vertical shoot-em-up in this retro genre mashup. An explosion at the Mining facility on Deimos has scattered valuable space gems all over space, & the aliens determined to protect them are doing everything in their power to keep you from getting them back!
    • Price - 80 MSP
    • Co-Op - NONE
    • Website - Lethal Martini Games
    • Type - Platformer/Shooter

Friday, November 16, 2012

Johnny Carnage

Yeah! What am I implying by pointing my finger at my head?
Am I so crazy I might just shoot myself?
Or do I just have my gun in the wrong hand?
Johnny Carnage is a game developed by Milkstone Studios and released on October 6th 2012. The description from the game states you’ll be rescuing girls from evil skeletons from Mars, and call the game a platformer/shooter. Milkstone Studios has a pretty good track record, with several of their previous games also being very good. Does Johnny Carnage live up to their high quality precedent Milkstone has set for itself in the XBLIG?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


So... many... colors...

From Pulse is a rhythm game made by Pixel Molotov and released on October 23rd 2012. The description for the game state that it is heavily narrative driven retro inspired rhythmic plat former. I haven’t seen a whole lot of rhythm games lately that doesn’t try to follow Rock Band/Guitar Heroe’s track formula since Fret Nice, and had been interested in trying this out ever since it was released. Is From Pulse the melodic experience that it promises to be?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shark Attack Deathmatch

Yeah! Sharks! SHARK WEEK! BEER!

Shark Attack Deathmatch is an Xbox Indie game made by Lighthouse Stuido Games and released on November 9th 2012. The game description states it’s an online multiplayer death match game featuring sharks. So for those of us who wish Shark Week was a yearlong event, does this satisfy that niche that needs filling?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Xbox Indie Game Release List Nov. 4th - 10th

Nov. 4th
  • Easy, Medium, Egghead
    • Xbox Live Description -  Compete to be top of the high scores and complete exciting challenges to earn awardments for your trophy shelf. Gain experience to improve your Brain Name, move up the matheletic ladder and become Einstein! 'Easy Medium Egghead' is a new quiz style XBOX Live Indie Game for up to 4 players. Who's the best out of your friends at mental reasoning? Now there is a fun game to put it to the test.
    • Price: 80 MSP
    • Co-op: 4 player LOCAL
    • Website - Fire Plum Studios
    • Type: Party Game/Puzzle & Trivia

Friday, November 9, 2012


Xenominer is a voxel game created by Gristmill Studios and released on September 19th 2012. It advertises itself as being a space voxel sandbox game, where you crash land on a foreign satellite and must fight to survive the harsh space environment. With the glut of voxel games on the Xbox, does Xenominer stand out?

Behold! Space HQ! The purple is giving me Saints Row 3
The graphics of Xenominer are pretty standard. You’re stuck on an asteroid that has strange tree looking structures dotting its surface. The “leaves” of the trees are actually blocks of ice, something essential to your survival in the game. You’ll also find hills and mountains, some floating disembodied islands, and a few large alien structures. But most of your time is probably going to be spent underground gathering resources. The graphics are darker and more defined then something like Minecraft and Total Miner, but not over the top glossy like you’d find in Fortresscraft. I really like the effect of going above ground and being able to look out into the galaxy above you. It adds to a very cool atmosphere the game has going for it.

The game has sound and music, which serve their purpose and nothing more. I was not overly impressed with either, but nor was I aggravated or turned off by them.

I'm going to colonize those space islands. Just kidding, I don't actually know what I'm looking at. I don't even know
how to play video games. I really an 80 year old man who likes to look at video game screen shots and write stories
about them.
The gameplay for Xenominer is pretty typical for a block survival game, but with a whole lot more focus and polish than the standard voxel survival game. You’re dropped into a situation with just your wits, a mining tool, and a friendly computer AI who is all too happy to run you through a tutorial. This is the first great thing about Xenominer, is that it contains a tutorial. If you follow it, instead of panicking and not knowing what to do once you run out of air, you’ll figure out what you need to do to ensure your continued survival. This seems like it shouldn’t be an issue, but I’ve come across multiple people who didn’t pay much attention to the tutorial and couldn’t understand what they needed to do to keep their oxygen full.

As you collect resources you’ll be able to create items that will facilitate better equipment and supplies. You’ll first be tasked with creating a device that can use your resources at to fabricate items. Once you’ve built this you’ll need to create processing cores to increase the item fabricator’s power. More cores give you access to better items. When you start out, each core will provide one unit of processing power. Cores can be built later on that will provide additional processing power. You’ll also have options for building lights, storage units, more powerful equipment, grav pads, and solar arrays. You can also find a “Bot” hidden in your game that is a programmable robot. You can use it to mine and build structures while you do other things.

You see this other voxel game developers? This is how you
make a unique terrain that screams "EXPLORE ME BABY!"
One thing Xenominer doesn’t have is multiplayer, a common trope found in the voxel genre. I don’t feel that this really detracts from the game. Multiplayer feels like something a lot of developers are throwing into their voxel games just to have it. I really do appreciate games like Minecraft and Fortresscraft, but Minecraft was in development on the PC for a long time, and Fortresscraft has suffered some strong growing pains while it’s gone through its development cycle. I have no ideas if Gristmill Studios plans to add multiplayer or not, but I much happier having a fully functional game first and getting multiplayer at a later date.

Personally, I think Xenominer is doing a lot of things right that a lot of the other voxel games are neglecting to do. I know that companies can be successful by release a semi- finished game (Ala Fortresscraft, Mine4Ever, Block World) and then patch it as they go along, but I’m getting kind of sick of this. I liked Xenominer for its refreshing premise, and I feel like Gristmill Studios did a good job of releasing something new and original in the voxel genre. If you look at their forums you’ll only see people excited about the game and what they can do in it, as opposed to Fortresscraft which is constantly plagued by people decrying them to be a Minecraft rip off. Since Minecraft is now on the Xbox, developers really need to step up their game to compete with it, and Xenominer has done a really good job of this. You can buy the game right now for only 80 MSP, which they claim is a limited time offer, so get it at that price if you’re at all interested in it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Kind of dissapointed by the lack of
door locking and hand washing mini-games.
O.C.D. is an indie game created by Pouncing Kitten Games for Xbox Live released on February 2nd 2012. It is a match three game that is RPG centric, stating that it guts frivolous role playing tropes in favor of a game that just focuses on character development. Is it a good Role Playing match three game, similar in vain to the Puzzle Quest series?

I like to match weapons and pretend
my character is cutting... monsters!
The graphics are very simple. There’s not even a background to speak of, just the color blue. The circles that you’ll be matching are colorful and contain a lot of variety, but I feel like this almost hurts some areas of the game. Sometimes I have trouble distinguishing what color a circle is because the overlapping symbol takes up most of the space. This isn’t really an issue when you’re doing the collapse-esque puzzles. The music is forgettable and the sounds include popping. Lots and lots of popping.

This is where you pick up resources for item crafting. Collect
all those... squid... tentacles? You'll use them to make
awesome Whale's Squid Plate of Tentacle Rape + 5.
As I previously mentioned, the main game play aspect is match three, like Puzzle Quest or Bejeweled. There’s also item crafting, which has you rolling dice to get certain numbers, almost reminding me of Yhatzee. But to do the crafting you first need items which require resources, something you accumulate in the Collapse-esque mini games. You can also level up and gain skill and magic points, and this is where the match three aspects comes in. When you choose Level you match circles to gain experience. When you gain a level you get LP which you use to boost your main stats, Health, Magic, Stamina, Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity.  Each of these stats will affect various things, such as how many turns you have when doing the different Collapse and Match games, or how many re-rolls you get when forging an item.

Not exactly sure how a mace can suffer from a mental illness,
but I'll take it!
When you play the skill match three game you gain SP that you can use to boost the several different skills that you have access to. Examples of these include Courage, which reduces the number of experiences points you need to reach the next level, or Survivalist which increases the amount of food you get when playing the food gathering Farming game. This is where you’ll encounter a bug in the game, as some of the skills are mislabeled. The skill Observation says it reduces spell costs, but when you put points into it your skill costs go down.

A warrior named Addicted. I named mine Criesinbeer, after
my favorite activity. Well actually it's my second favorite, I just
couldn't get Masturbatesinawell to fit.
Though this game is simple and kind of repetitive, I still found myself enjoying it. It does present you with the simple pleasures of building up a character, but I can’t help but feel the game is lacking for this very reason without any clear objectives or a story. I know that this is one of the selling points of the game, that it doesn’t include those extra frilly features, but it also makes the game feel like it’s just a generic time waster. Since the mini games start out only giving you a move or two, you often want to play “just one more game” which frequently turns into ten more games. Increasing your stats and crafting and farming is fun. But the game is only 80MSP, and for that price it’s hard to complain. If you like match three games and RPG’s, this will definitely be a dollar well spent for you. I think there is room for another game like this, so I’m hopeful that the developer is working on a sequel or that someone else may have another match three RPG in the works, because I think it’s already been established that these games can work well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kingdom of Loathing November IotM

This month in the Kingdom of Loathing we saw the release of the Nanorhino, a new familiar you can buy with a Mr. Accessory.

Cute little bugger.
I named mine Rhymenocerous.
I've always wanted to do some reviews for the Items of the Month for Kingdom of Loathing, because I love that game and I've always wanted to contribute back to it in some way. I'd also like to tip the scales back in a better direction after some other blogs just trash everything Asymmetric releases. So, how does the Nanorhino compare to other IOTM of past?

Let's talk about it's abilities first. The Nanorhino acts as a full weight Barrrnacle and will sometimes delevel your opponents at the beginning of a fight alleviating some of the difficulty of fights. He will also sometimes attack in combat with elemental damage, but from what I've seen the damage is mostly negligible. The Nanorhino also gains a charge after each combat of 2% (3% if you have his familiar equipment) and when it reaches 100% it endows you with a buff dependent on what type of skill you use when it's at it's full charge. It also starts each new day after rollover with a full charge.

What do these buffs do? When you use a muscle based skill, such as Lunging-Thrust Smack as a Seal Clubber or Headbutt as a Turtle Tamer, you'll be imbued with Nanobrawny. When using a mysticality based skill, such as Cannelloni Cannon as a Pastamancer or Saucestorm as a Sauceror, you're enchanted with Nanobrainy. And finally when using moxie based attacks, such Sing as a Accordion Thief or Disco Dance of Doom as a Disco Bandit, you'll be blessed with Nanoballsy.

Each of these buffs offer moderate bonuses, but the real benefits of these buffs are triggered when you use the ability "Unleash Nanites". This familiar is actually comparable to the He-Boulder from August of 2009, but instead of having to read the He-Bo's combat message to determine which ability you could trigger, the Nanorhino allows you to choose which ability you'd like to use if you have the skills to trigger the one you want. Just like the He-Bo, there is a major effect tied to using "Unleash Nanites" and a minor effect, the major effect only working if you have 40 or more charges of the buff active, and the minor effect triggering if you have 39 or fewer turns of the buff remaining. Nanoballsy is the outlier, as it's major effect will not actually work if you have any turns of the buff "Everything Looks Yellow".

For Nanobrawny, when you use "Unleash Nanites", it permanently banishes an enemy from an area. You can only have one enemy banished in this way at a time, so when you banish a new enemy the old one will return. The minor effect is that it will drain some HP from the enemy and heal you.

For Nanobrainy, the major effect is that it turns the enemy into a Grey Goo monster, whom gives fairly good stats upon defeat, similar in function to the Mini-Hipster and Artistic Goth Kid, but this combat is not a free one. The minor effect is that it deals damage to the enemy and restores some of your MP.

For Nanoballsy, it's major effect is that it acts as a Yellow Ray, instantly destroying the monster and forcing it to drop all it's non-conditional drops, meaning that it will drop anything that it will normally drop in a fight that doesn't require something to be done to get that item to drop. It's minor effect is another delevel and it restores some HP and MP.

So, what's my opinion on the familiar? It's good for people who don't have access to the Yellow Ray ability, but at this point there is a wealth of options for that (He-Bo, Pumpkins, Tome of Clip Art). The banisher is also good, but once again, there are a lot of things that already allow you to do something like that. I guess it should be noted that this is the first familiar that allows you to banish monsters. It's other ability, turning monsters into the Grey Goo creatures, is interesting but I think it might be difficult for low skilled players to defeat these monsters. Moderate skilled players should have no trouble, and for high skilled players, these fights are absolutely trivial.

Another thing I would like to mention is that in order to gain the Nano buff one must use an ability in combat that is based on the type of buff you want as I previously mentioned. This is no problem for someone with combat skills from each class permanently on their character, but for new and low skilled players they'll only have access to one of the buff types per run until they get some more skills under their belt.

So, if you don't access to Yellow Rays or Banishers, or your just a new player looking for ways to make your runs easier, I highly recommend this Item of the Month. If you already have access to these skills, there are easier ways of using them with past IOTM's, so this one isn't quite as critical. Turning monsters into Grey Goo is definitely interesting, but so far it looks like you only get some stats from the fight.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Defender's Quest

Defender’s Quest is a game created by Level Up Labs and released on January 20th 2012 and recently re-released on October 30th 2012 on Steam. Defender’s Quest is advertised as a cross between an RPG and a Tower Defense game, which happen to be two of my favorite video game genres. I bought the game when it first came out, and then they recently sent me a Steam Key to unlock the game via Steam, and I’ve been playing ever since. So, is Defender’s Quest good? How does it compare to other games in the genre?

Cut all those slug... monster... uh...
things to bits!
The graphics for the game are decent. I like the cartoony look of the game, and the character design is nice and simple. The graphics will not blow you away and are not cutting edge, but this is a cheap indie game, so they don’t really need to be. This allows the game to be played on a large variety of systems. Also, there is sometimes going to be an insane amount of enemies, attacks, and numbers flying around the screen, and if the game was too system intensive, a lot of us with crappy computers wouldn’t be able to properly enjoy the game. The game ran well on an HP Pavilion g7z-2100, with minor slow down occurring on busier levels, but that may have been because I was running Chrome with Youtube up playing other music while I played the game.

Not to say that the music is Defender’s Quest is by any means bad, because it’s actually quite good. The sound effects are nice too, and I never found myself being annoyed by either. It was more of a circumstance thing, since I was writing before I started playing Defender’s Quest, so I wanted to continue listening to my music playlist.

One of the many colorful characters
you'll meet on your journey. Slak is
particularly insane.
Defender’s Quest actually had a great plot. The characters each have their own personalities, and there’s actually a reason you’re progressing through the game. Though some of the lines are a bit on the groany side, it’s very refreshing to play a game like this with an engaging plot. If anyone remembers the tower defense game Immortal Defense, they were in a similar position. I feel like this is setting a standard for tower defense games to have great plots, but this is really something that should be a part of all games in general.

The game play of Defender’s Quest is really, really good. You have a party of characters who each serve as a certain type of tower. You have a main character in each class, and then you can hire additional characters so that you have access to more towers of each class. The classes include: Librarian, Berserker, Ranger, Healer, Ice Mage, Knight, and Dragon. The classes are pretty self explanatory, with the exception of Librarian. She serves as the thing you must defend on each map. If too many monsters reach your librarian, it’s game over.

You get to name all of your units. This
is why my party is full of ASSCHECKs,
As you play through the game each of your characters level up and gain skill points as they advance. Each character has a skill tree with two different paths (The exception being the Librarian, who only has spells you can put points into), and you can split your points up however you’d like between the two. As an example, you can have a Ranger who has several different attacks, or you can have a Ranger who fires arrows with multiple effects such as poison, bleed, and pierce. Eventually as you gain levels you’ll figure out which characters set ups work and which don’t, and since you can have six of each type of characters, there’s room to experiment. You can also find weapons and armor that you can outfit your characters with as you progress through the game.

If you're a tower defense nerd, you
probably have a video game boner
right now.
Defender’s Quest also has a high amount of replay value. Each map has four different difficulties (Casual, Normal, Hard, and Extreme) and once you complete the game there’s a New Game + mode. In additional there’s a small number of challenges and endless modes that you can play through as you collect gold stars, which you receive by beating a map and by not taking any damage on each respective difficulty mode. There are also rewards for beating the higher difficulties, such as bonus money, experience, or unique items. Once you're in the New Game + mode you'll be able to upgrade the unique items, but I'm unaware at this time what the options for doing so are, because I haven't quite had time to play through the New Game + mode.

Defender’s Quest is an awesome game. I would argue that it’s actually one of the best traditional tower defense games you can find out there right now. Being able to level up your characters adds a lot of depth, and because all the maps progress quickly, playing each map multiple times isn’t a chore. If you like tower defense games, you will love this game. If you pick up the game right now you can get it on Steam for 9.99 while it’s still on sale. If you’ve got the game post your questions about it here, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you'd like to try before you buy, check out the demo on Kongregate.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sushi Castle

Oh man, it's Final Fantasy VII all over again.
Sushi Castle is another rogue-like game created by MilkstoneStudios and released on July 7th 2012. Milkstone Studios currently list twenty different games on their website that they have released for the Xbox Indie Game Arcade, many of which are really good. On their website they claim that Sushi Castle is heavily inspired by the PC game Binding of Isaac. How does Sushi Castle compare to it, and other games in the rogue-like genre?

Oh, gooey brain monsters that leave behind a trail of filth that
causes damage. How original.
The graphics of the game are colorful and crisp. One of the things that I really appreciate is being able to play this without having to worry about turning the graphics down so the game doesn’t run slow, something that is a common problem with Binding of Isaac. Another thing I really like is the interface on the right side of the screen that shows your stats. This keeps you from having to pause the game or bring up a menu to find out what your stats are at. I feel like the character design is a little uninspired though. I found myself sometimes fighting multiple version of the same looking enemy with simple color palette swaps. I understand that the game is supposed to be about Ninjas, but there’s lots of Japanese mythology that could’ve been drawn upon to create a bigger variety of enemies. I guess sometimes you can have too many ninjas.

Ninja zombies! Or mystic zombies! Or homeless people!
The game play is exactly like Binding of Isaac. You run around in a randomly generated Zelda-esque dungeon collecting items that boost your stats or change your weapons. One of the differences in this is that while in Binding of Isaac you can only shoot up, down, left, and right, in Sushi Castle you can shoot in the diagonal directions as well. This actually makes the game somewhat easier, especially when faced with enemies who can only fire in the original four directions. The game also controls exceptionally well, and really makes me wish that Binding of Isaac offered this option too.

Oh look! A fat ninja! Those ninja stars should bounce right off him.
That's how fat works, right?
The game has a lot of items that you can find, but not near the massive amount to be discovered in the Binding of Isaac. Another problem I find with the game is a lot of items, enemies, and bosses seem to be ripped straight for Binding of Isaac. I understand Sushi Castle is inspired by Binding of Isaac, but it almost seems like they recreated the things they found in Binding of Isaac and didn’t put much work into making these things their own. As you progress through the game this becomes less of a problem, as the enemies in the later levels of the dungeon actually are quite different than what you find in Binding of Isaac. However, this is a game you replay over and over and over again, so you spend far more time in the first few levels than you do in the last. Once again, it makes the first chunk of the game feel uninspired, and I just wish more effort would’ve been put into trying to differentiate themselves from Binding of Isaac instead of just trying to be clear where they drew their inspiration from. When you get to a boss for the first time and it has the same exact attack pattern as a boss in Binding of Isaac, as a player I was left with a feeling of “Been there, done that.”

THE PROBLEM: The bosses period. THE SOLUTION: Your giant tampon.
Binding of Isaac is one of my favorite games, and the due to past experiences with publishing a game on the console market, Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl have been hesitant to release it on that platform. They have only recently begun to discus that avenue, and my only worry is that Sushi Castle with seem like an inferior game once that is released. If Milkstone Studios makes another one, I really hope they put more effort into making the game as different as possible from Binding of Isaac. They game could also use a slew of more items, enemies, and bosses, along with lots of secrets for players to find and explore. The large amount of things to do and find in the game is one of the things that make it so fun, as each play through should be vastly different from the last.

Otherwise, if you don’t have a computer I HIGHLY recommend this game. If you can play it without being able to look through the lenses of Binding of Isaac, you will have a LOT of fun with this game, because it is very good. And it’s only 80 MSP. You’re going to get a lot of entertainment out of that dollar, and Milkstone Studios has a great track record for their games, so we need to support them so they can continue to put out great games.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Comedy Night

I guess I don't have a choice, I have to try this game.
Comedy Night is a “game” created by Lighthouse Games Studio and released on August 13th 2012. Lighthouse Games Studio is actually quite prolific on the Indie Game Marketplace, with at least eleven games listed on their website. When I saw Comedy Night I was immediately curious as it claims to be a venue for people seeking out new comedians and a place for aspiring comedians to practice their craft from the safety and comfort of their own home. How does this translate to an Xbox Live Indie game?

Are those avatars having fun? I... I can't tell...
Let’s start with the sound and music. The music is horrible and goofy, and I was glad to see that I could turn it off. You can also supplement your own music via an in-game menu, which is nice, but I fail to even see the purpose of music since it’s going to drown out the “comedians” you’ll be listening to. There are very few sounds in the game, such as a buzzer noise when people attempt to vote someone off stage or cricket noises that can be generated by the audience.

Next up is the graphics. They are simple and feature player’s Xbox Avatars, which I really like. There’s also not much to look at because you’ll spend most the time sitting in the same club watching people perform on a stage. I feel like a variety of venues would’ve been a nice addition.

Just wait, a squeaker* is going to come in here and ruin everything.
And now on to the actual meat of the “game”. You can either be an audience member or a performer. When you perform you can pick from three different show types: clean amateur shows, mature amateur shows, and professional shows. In the amateur shows up to two people can perform simultaneously. The audience is allowed to vote them off if they choose to do so. There are also a slew of options for expressing your avatar’s level of interest in the show, from cheering to booing to yawning. You can also talk through your mic, but audience chat can be disabled if you choose so. You’re freely allowed to switch between audience member and performer if a spot is available on stage. In a professional show only one person is allowed on stage and they cannot be voted off.

What this often boils down to is an eclectic group of people sitting together and taking part in a themed voice chat room. At its worst the room is chaotic and can often be dominated by one annoying person who refuses to stop talking. Often times this same annoying person will spout racists, misogynistic, homophobic non-sense ad-nauseum, making it feel like you’re playing popular online shooters without the shooting. Other times there will be players on stage who will say nothing, and then when you start heckling them to tell some jokes, usually they’ll throw up their hands in exasperation and say “Why don’t you tell some jokes then?!” I have no aspirations to be a comedian, but at one point I took the stage and told dead baby jokes until I got sick of doing so. This was entertaining to the people in the audience, but it was honestly the first time I had heard actual jokes being told. Every other time people just said random offensive things in an attempt to be funny, such as the time one player entered the room and made fun of everyone because he thought this was funny. A female player entered the room and he harassed her to great extent until he was removed from the room.

It was at this point that "WeedzKillaz42069" informed everyone that they were a collective bunch of "faggots".
Comedy Night is an interesting experiment, but that’s about it. It does a good job of what it sets out to do, which is to provide a virtual venue for aspiring comedians to perform and an audience they can perform in front of. It’s unfortunate that the majority of the participating audience is often comprised of children without self control and young adults full of social ineptitude. I think Comedy Night is interesting for what it is, and for only 80MS points you’re not taking a huge risk. If you’re interested in something like this I would suggest at least supporting the developers, because I would like to see them make another game like this with some expanded options so that we can at least vote to kick fellow audience members, and maybe allow us to make our own profiles that other players could vote up or down, so that we can at least have vested interest in performing.

* - Squeaker - a very young person found on voice chat programs with a high pitched, squeaky voice

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New update for Minecraft on the way?

I was a bit confused when I check out Major Nelson's blog post today, because this is what I saw:

What is that? A Minecraft update? But one just came out! They're being really productive lately! Hooray! I wonder if they're add in enchanting or experience or cauldrons! Or books! I.... wait... wait a second. Why is this under the category of "Avatar"?

Oh. I get it. They're not releasing a new update for Minecraft, they're releasing some more Avatar items that correspond to the most recent update. So, uh, I guess we're getting some... villagers? And maybe a... creative mode? For our Avatars? And some melons?

Great. Thanks guys.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dungeons of Desolation

Yeah! Swords and Maces! And Luck! And...  intense feelings of despair?

Are you ready for another rogue-like? I sure was when I picked up Dungeons of Desolation on the XBL Indie Market when it was released on October 25th 2012. It was made by OnlyLuck Interactive, the team behind another XBL Indie game, Corrupted. How does it fare compared to the other rogue-likes that can be found on the Xbox?

In general, if it moves, it must die.

Let’s start with the graphics and sound. The game has a simplistic cartoony style of graphics. Your character actually changes in appearance as you put on different types of weapons and armor, something I really appreciate because you can actually see your character getting stronger as he wears different types of equipment. The enemies are colorful and distinguishable, save for a few that I couldn't discern what I was looking at until I saw their names. The music is non-intrusive, and the sound effects in the game serve their purpose.

So many skills... I'm going to turn into a skill dragon and LEARN THEM ALL!

Unlike many rogue-likes, who 
simply offer equipment as a means to level up, Dungeons of Desolation gives you two skill points when you level up that you can spend however you want between four different skill trees. There’s Combat, for all things melee related, Black Magic, for the pyromaniac in you, White Magic, so you can heal yourself, and Grey Magic, and utility school of magic focused around buffing yourself and getting around the dungeon. There’s a lot to pick from, and for anyone who likes to micromanage a characters skills, this is a lot of fun. There’s also a robust amount of equipment options.

Linen Shoes of Haste. They're like dungeon Chuck Taylors!

The game comes with two modes of difficulty. I started with a melee character on “Normal” and died multiple times. Whenever I died Death spun a wheel to determine what my death penalty was, be it loosing experience, gold, both, or receiving a temporary de-buff.  Later I started another character on “Hardcore” where if your character dies, they stay dead in true rogue-like. This didn’t really seem to have any effect on the actual difficulty of the game. I created a black magic centric character, and managed to get him to level fourteen. On this second play through the game was actually pretty easy. Thankfully you can save the game and pick it up later, which I will continue to do so.

In summation, this is a very good rogue-like, albeit a bit on the easy side. If you’re a new fan of the genre, or you’re just interested in trying out a game like this, I would highly recommend Dungeons of Desolation due to its less punishing difficulty. Even if you’re a veteran of the genre, the expansive skill system is fun and interesting. At only 80MS points, you’re only spending a dollar on the game, and if I can’t convince you I at least urge you to try out the demo. Dungeons of Desolation is a great rogue-like for the Xbox, and should not be passed up.

Friday, October 26, 2012


How ominous.

FTL (Short for Faster Than Light) is a game created by Subset Games and released on September 14th 2012. FTL is a game where you command a ship called “The Kestrel” by default, flying through the galaxy and trying to avoid a group of Rebels who’re hell bent on taking you out due to some crucial information you’re carrying. It is a space travel rogue-like, and has been compared to the old game Star Command. Is FTL a fun and engaging rouge-like?

Hey guys, how're you coming with that fire? Wait, you're just spreading it? I... I don't think that's what I asked you to do...

The graphics of FTL serve their purpose well. The ships are normally brightly colored, and the back rounds accurately reflect the dark recess of space. Ship to ship combat is displayed simply, with your ship on the left side of the screen and the enemy’s on the right. Sometimes you’ll warp into an area with a special condition, which you’ll easily be able to identify by the location’s background. Examples include warping into a purple space storm area, which temporarily knocks out your sensory equipment, or warping too close to a star and being subjected to solar flares, which will lower your shields or damage your ship if the shields aren’t up.

The music in the game serves its purpose. It is not obnoxious, but it’s also not particularly memorable. The sound effects in the game also serve their purpose well, but I would like it if the ship made more annoying emergency noises to indicate that you’re in danger. I think it would add a little cheesy sci-fi trope that many fans of the genre would appreciate.

Can't we just nuke them from space, just to be sure?
The game play is centered around choosing from locations to travel to that are in your immediate vicinity. When you arrive in the new area, various events occur. You could find a fleeing ship who needs assistance, an abandoned space freighter full of supplies, or a passing pirate who wants you to hand over one of your crew members. When you get in combat, which is frequent, you’ll need to prioritize which sections of the enemy’s ship you want to take out. Attack their weapons system so they can’t fight back, or take out their shield so they go down faster? Destroy their life support so all the people inside the ship run out of oxygen, or take out their drone control system so that annoying drone stops shooting at you?

Take that, space pirates! OH GOD WE'RE ON FIRE AGAIN!
But the same rules apply to yourself, and enemies will frequently use the same tactics against you. This is where your crew members come in handy. You can assign each individual person to a certain room, which will slowly raise their experience levels with that system type, providing certain bonuses as they become more experienced at that station. Enemies will sometimes board your ship and start attacking your crew members, which you will eventually have the ability to do yourself. The rooms can also be repaired as they take damage and their systems go down. The hull of the ship cannot be repaired by crew members, but you can find shops and stations throughout the game that will offer this service.

Yay, upgrades! It's like candy for nerds.
You can also upgrade different aspects of your ship, like increasing the ships power reserve, or increasing its available shields or weapons systems, using the materials you pick up from downed ships and special events. You can also buy new ship systems at the shops located around the galaxy, like a drone command station or stealth capabilities. You can also find new crew members, which can be from one of the seven different races contained within the game. Some weapons will require the use of missiles, of which you only have a limited amount of. Missiles will usually be able to pass through enemy shields, making them useful when you need to quickly take out a certain part of a ship. Run out of missiles and you’ll find yourself relying entirely on your energy weapons, which must take down a shield before being able to score direct hits.

Overall FTL is a really fun space rogue-like. It has the same frustrating tropes normally found in this genre, but the game has an easy mode if you want to take the edge of the intense frustration that is often found when finding your hands at the mercy of an unfortunate random event. As you play the game you can unlock different ship designs, and Subset games advertise that you can download user created ship schematics, allowing you to fly through the galaxy as a ship from Star Trek or other popular science fiction shows. The game currently retails for 9.99 and be purchased through Steam or their website. I recommend this game to anyone who enjoys rogue-likes and is comfortable with games that have a steep initial learning curve.