Monday, November 23, 2015

Satisfying or Shovelware: Dollar Madness!

Grabbing a cheap game reminds me those times I'd actually plunk money into a crane game.  You feel a few coins in the pocket as you pass one in a mall or other setting, plunk in a little bit of money into the slot, hope for a great result, and either end up doing a minor fist pump in victory...

...or you end up slamming the controls in frustration as the claw grabs air, flails about, and gives you nothing in return.

Yes, it's time once more for Satisfying or Shovelware; where I review three games hoping to pluck out hidden greatness--but some times find nothing but empty flailing as the result.  This week I'll be taking a quick look at a few games which are available for roughly $2 or less on the Wii U.  So let's see what was grabbed this week, shall we?

If you've ever played the arcade game Head On by Sega, or Crash by Exidy, you've pretty much played Don't Crash by RCMADIAX.  You take laps around an two lane oval shaped track while trying to avoid getting smacked "head on" by another driver driving in the opposing direction.  You tap the A button to change lanes, you get points for every successful lap completed, and an additional point for having narrow misses.  The sound effects are nice, and the cracking animation as you and the other car collide are cute in their own little way.  I paid roughly a $1.50 and it wasn't that bad.  I just with there was more to it.  Even Head On and Crash had multiple tracks for you to switch between and pellets to grab to complete the level.  The concept and execution are overly simple, but overall it was still a pleasant experience.  It's likely something I would put on when I have only a few minutes before having to head out somewhere and don't want to get too involved, and truthfully it feels like something I would download to my phone.  Ultimately, it would have been that much better to me if it completely cloned Head On and added the twist of points for narrow misses and successful lap completion.

Final Verdict:  Vaguely Satisfying

Every time somebody calls a Shoot'em Up a "Shmup," a butterfly dies.  That's not fantasy, that's scientific fact.  So naturally when a game developer calls a game a shoot'em up but in reality has produced a clunky mess; some adorable animal must also die.  Scientists have yet to determine what animal that is, but likely some animal that was full of life, joy, and cleverness ---because those things are the exact opposite game known as Hold Your Fire: A Game About Responsibility.  Okay, let me take a step back for a second; I didn't drop that much money on this and there were some things that I want to highlight about the game which were good.  The background music helped to set the space shooter atmosphere quite well and the sound effects were straight out of an old school Atari space shooter.  You fly through space effects which feel as vibrant and as rich as some of the best shooters.  Even the little death-splosion is well animated.  They go so far as to single out the animator of that particular effect in the credit scroll.  

And that's about where the praise ends.  

I guess I should get to the basics of the game, and they are basic.  You fly along, three ships appear, and one of them may or may not be a bad guy.  Hint:  If they are firing at all, you need to blast them to space dust.  Later levels feature asteroids which you must also blast away.  Remember that death-splosion I mentioned before?  Hope you really liked it, because you'll be seeing it a lot.  If you get hit by enemy fire, naturally you die.  But kill a non-firing ship by accident?  Hello again explosion.  Miss an asteroid?  Yup, death for you too.  Miss an enemy and let it pass off screen?  Yes, you guessed it, you die!  Seems that star command has the itchy trigger finger they didn't want you to have.  If bad guys and obstacles don't kill you, those in charge will destroy you instanteneously for your miserable failure.  This wouldn't be so bad if the game moved along at a clip or  had some flow.  Unfortunately, you just plod along.  I should also mention your hit box feels huge.  There were times I swear I dodged enemy fire or missed an object only to explode.  I give the development team points for the funny text scroll that follows the various ways you die, but even that wasn't enough to save this game from making me feel like I wasted my time and money.  And I did give it time, almost a solid hour in fact, hoping that there was some sort of mechanic or skill I would pick up which would help me enjoy the game.  No such luck.  Shame too because they clearly have a good art and music team at Alkterios Games.  Too bad the execution of this outing was so lacking.

Final Verdict:  Shovelware

I feel odd discussing a sequel to a game I've never played, but in this case I believe it's okay in the case of the fantastic action puzzle game 99 Moves.  

In this puzzle game by EnjoyUp Games you have 99 moves to reach the end of the level.  Your character moves like you're drawing with an Etch-A-Sketch, and it may sound odd, but that type of control scheme feels great here as you need to make many quick, sharp turns in order to progress in the game.  You needn't worry that your sprite is a huge block man as you only need to worry about the glowing red energy dot at the center of your block guy.  As he flies along the various corridors, avoiding assorted obstacles, you can collect icons for extra points.  These icons will also reset the status of your block guy should you bump into a wall.  What happens if you hit a wall?  Well, not only do you lose a chunk of your available moves, but the little red blip inside your block guy grows, making the narrow turns and alleyways that much more difficult to go through.  Take too many hits or run out of moves and it's game over.

I liked the graphical style choice as it had an old school feel that many try to replicate, but few do so well.  The music worked well and was satisfying to hear, but a little on the dull side so it likely won't make it to my iPod anytime soon.  Each level had an interesting layout and clever challenges that never felt cheap and always forced me to think through whether I had made the most efficient move possible.  If it turned out that I ran out of moves before reaching the end, I felt it was my fault and not the game's for some how having stupid-hard difficult.  Every puzzle has a solution after all.  

I don't want to gush further other than to say it was well worth the $1.50 sale price, and would have been worth the full price as well.  I'd definitely recommend picking this one up if you haven't already.

Final Verdict:  Highly Satisfying 

That does it for this round of Satisfying or Shovelware.  Next time you seem a load of cheap games in the downloadable game pile, don't be afraid to reach in and see if you can pluck out something awesome.  You never might have found something great to "take home."  See you next time.

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