DW Does Indie, part two
By Damien Wilkens
14 January 2011 — Number of games added to the Indie Games Marketplace since my last article: 89.
Number of those games with "zombie" in the title: 87.
So here we are again, five bucks burning a hole in our wallets, and a buffet of value-priced games just waiting to be bought.
Maids with Balloons
Marketplace Description: Help these maids gather balloons and use them to fend off seagulls in a set of fun minigames.
The Game: Anyone with any sort of scientific background is already fully aware of the "Combined Awesomeness Theorem," namely, the well-established notion that forcing two awesome things together can only result in something doubly awesome. Now, if someone were to come up to me in the street and ask me what my two favorite things in the world were, I'd first have to wonder the stranger's sudden fascination with my interests, but then my inevitable answers would be "maids," followed closely by "balloons."
Think about it. Maids have the ninja-like ability to turn even the most innocuous sheet into an impenetrable fortress, all the while taunting you with chocolates placed on pillows. And don't even get me started on balloons. As you may already be aware, I'm known for my above average lung capacity. Not bragging or anything, but I can blow the shit out of some balloons. You need balloons blown up? I'm your man. You need helium? Maybe planning a parade of sorts? I know a guy. Just saying, I'm well versed in the wondrous ways of rubber carbon dioxide containers.
Oh yeah, the game. It's the story of three models in maid outfits who are determined to stop birds from shitting on them, so they choose to fight back with balloons. Why the fuck not?
I played it for six minutes. I'm convinced this makes me the top Maids with Balloons player in the world. Please, no autographs.
Dollar Equivalent: Buying a Happy Meal toy, but not wanting the Happy Meal. If you're over the age of 12, you're either a loser, a creep, or both.
Marketplace Description: Don't let the name fool you! Bad Golf is a fun, physics-based 2D golf game. Play a relaxing round by yourself, or a frantic golf race with up to four players!
The Game: There's a philosophy in gaming development. It's something that carried us through the more archaic generations of the medium, and seems to be almost entirely forgotten these days. It's the idea of "easy to learn, hard to master;" the thing that keeps us playing long after the effects of HD cutscenes and big budget production have worn off.
This isn't just because I have a soft spot for the old school. Some games simply have to focus more on gameplay because they don't have the money to compete otherwise. So if, for example, you're making a dollar-game, it may be in your best interests to keep it simple and fun.
Bad Golf is easily the best indie game I've played up to this point. Yes, it's even more fun than the infamous Baby Maker Extreme. Half of the reason is because it embraces the fact that it's a cheap game, and does everything to hide those weaknesses. The other half has to do with the fact that it's taken me about 10 minutes to type this paragraph because I keep turning back to the TV to play it.
If you want a fun, barebones game with a steady difficulty curve, this is one to get.
Dollar Equivalent: A pack of ramen noodles. Tasty and easy to keep in your cabinet until needed.
Marketplace Description: Perform an exorcism and free the innocent from demonic possession in this action packed reaction based game.
The Game: "Reaction based" is code for "button mashing."
If you've ever found yourself playing one of the hot new games of the era, only to stumble upon a Quick Time Event and say aloud to yourself, "I wish I didn't have to play through the rest of this boring game just to get to these awesome QTEs," you probably need to be locked in a room somewhere. Not just because you like QTEs, but because you were yelling to yourself, and that's just weird.
Honestly, there is no one that was demanding more Quick Time button-hunt wankery. But here's an entire game of it anyway. All for one not-so-easy payment of 80 Microsoft Points.
And don't get me started on the theological flaws at work here. If I were to be part of a "true exorcism," as the title implies, why would the spawn of Hell particularly care if I were to run to my controller and hit the Y button before he did? Did a Y button kill his family? Am I denying it peace in the afterlife by striking at the Y button with my Thumb of Doom before he can get his taste of spirited vengeance?
Dollar Equivalent: A spiral notebook, so you can write down all the things you insist on screaming at yourself. Weirdo.
Toy Stunt Bike
Marketplace Description: A fun packed micro sized motorbike trials game.
The Game: This is essentially Trials HD for poor people. Same physics, same difficulty, same controls. The only major difference here is the obvious lack of options. You get one bike for your avatar to ride upon the 10 Micro Machines-inspired levels. Really, it's not bad, and as I've proven, you can do much worse for a dollar. Just tell yourself you're buying some cheap Trials DLC and it'll make the whole experience easier to swallow.
Though I will admit that seeing my avatar crash and burn reminds me far too much of the days in my youth where I would proudly peddle my five-speed towards a hastily made ramp in an attempt to prove my "mad skillz," only to return home with an ego nearly as bruised as my face.
Really, I feel sort of wrong for praising a game with such blatant plagiarism, but at least it's fun. That's more than I can say about most of these games.
Dollar Equivalent: A bottle of Mr. Pib. Satisfying enough, but what you really wanted was a Dr. Pepper.
A Madman's Guide to Happiness
Marketplace Description: A horror / mystery game where you examine the PC of a suicide victim. It is filled with mad rantings and cryptic files. It also claims that whoever unlocks the files will be rewarded with the secret of happiness.... why did he kill himself? What is the secret of happiness? Who is "Princess?" Explore the twisted computer of a madman to find out.
The Game: Having just beaten this game, I should be in a fairly good position to answer these queries.
Why did he kill himself? He didn't. OMG SPOILERS.
What is the secret to happiness? Well, it starts with Kate Beckinsale in the maid outfit. Then I bring in the balloons and... oh... you mean in the game. Too pretentious, didn't read.
Who is Princess? Yeah, not a clue.
Alright, let me just save you the time. Whenever you see an indie game described as "horror," all that means is that things are going to be loud and jumpy.
While it's bad enough that the entire thing can be beaten in five minutes, offering third grade math in place of puzzles, what really bothered me about this game was the lack of effort. This is coming from the guy that just played Maids with Balloons. Even the developers of that game had to go and hire models for some brief FMV. This game can be made in PowerPoint. Seriously. It's a rare moment when I've completed a game and immediately proclaimed my ability to do it better. In fact, the only other time was when I beat Bad Dudes. (Sadly, my version, Less Tolerable Chaps, while a critical hit, lacked the sales success to fund a sequel.)
Dollar Equivalent: Dropping a dollar in the toilet and accidentally flushing it.
Well, that does it for another round of indie fun. Okay, maybe two examples of actual fun, but that's better than last time. At this rate, it won't take me much longer to find a solid selection of games via the Indie Marketplace. After all, there are only 1562 indie games left for me to try.
Yeah, I didn't really think that part through.
'Til next time.