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DW Does Indie, part three

By Damien Wilkens
09 July 2011 Okay, I'm going to admit that this whole Indie Games experiment of mine hasn't exactly gone swimmingly. On average, only about one of every five games I've bought has resembled something playable. But like the weird baby cow thing in Eraserhead, I refuse to be silenced.

So tell me, Indie Games Marketplace, what secrets do you hold?

Editor's note: The Marketplace descriptions have been copied verbatim poor grammar and all.

Qoccer
Marketplace Description: Qoccer can be described as "the turn-based cube soccer simulator." In Qoccer, players are cubic and movement is realistic but set during each player turn. Games can be played against the CPU or another human. Over grass or ice. Weird, different, fun, perfectly art directed for the gameplay.

The Game: Despite sounding like some sort of Slavic curse word, I really wanted to like Qoccer. I mean, come on, it's wacky square men with no arms or legs trying to score a goal to the delight of a stadium full of people made from construction paper. You don't get any more indie than that. Sadly, it's not very fun. I'm not entirely sure why the developers thought a low-budget soccer game needed to be turn-based. On paper, I suppose, it's a sound idea, but in execution it feels like a prettier version of those old electric football games. You know the ones, where you spend 20 minutes arranging a troop of players on a table, only to activate the thing and watch them tumble into one another awkwardly.

In direct contrast to my stellar record in Maids with Balloons, I am most certainly the worst Qoccer player in the world. Despite a solid half hour of trying, I was never able to score the prodigious two goals required for victory. At first I was confident in my ability to channel the Tottenham Hotspur and crush the competition with my unrivaled footy aptitude.

Instead I just jumped around the field looking like a Qoc.

Dollar Equivalent: A pack of chop sticks, only you have to use them with your hands behind your back whilst riding a Jet Ski.

Pan-Global Racing Syndicate
Marketplace Description: Whenever anyone has invented anything, people have gathered to see who's the fastest at it. Up to 4 player split-screen allows sweet old racing for modern gamers. Perfectly complimented by peppy piano music making this a fun pastime from past times.

The Game: If you've been reading my work for any length of time, you've probably grown tired of my constant requests for more unicycle- and top hat-based gaming. Finally a game has come along that encompasses my passion for haberdashery and ragtime, well, sorta. PGRS, as I'm going to call it, seems well-intentioned enough, with a grainy look and an olde timey silent film soundtrack playing in the background. It also features a character named Lord Tumbletown, which was the stage name I took during my failed attempt to bring turn-of-the-century sensibilities to modern hip hop.

Unfortunately, where the wacky sepia-toned romp should be, there's a very bland racing game instead. The controls exists in the loosest definition of the term, and the game is sadly rather featureless. Okay, granted, it's a dollar, but the only available modes are time trial and multiplayer, meaning that you will almost always be riding unopposed, since AI opponents were apparently never programmed. My enthusiasm for the period aside, PGRS misses its mark and gets tired quickly.

Dollar Equivalent: A fake mustache kit. It's outrageous for about five seconds.

Madam Zhen's Tent of MYSTERY!
Marketplace Description: Never pay for another XBLIG app again! Download the free trial now to get FREE UNRESTRICTED ACCESS to: *The Mystic Portal. *The Love Tester. *The Personality Profiler. Buy the game for a mere 80MSP for access to the full featured tarot reader with over 150 unique card descriptions and 5 distinct reading types fro all occasion. Check the credits screen to find the SUPER SECRET HIDDEN GAME!!!

The Game: Okay, where to start? There are three "modes" to this thing: Tarot, Mystic Portal (just a fancy way to say crystal ball), and Numerology. The first two are pretty self-explanatory and rather boring, so we'll not waste our time on them. Numerology, however, contains both the Love and Personality Testers. Intrigued, I was.

First was the Personality Tester, in which you input your birthday to gain insight into your "underlying personality." The game described me as "charismatic" and "trustworthy," tempered by a battle-hardened exterior and rugged good looks.

You know, this game isn't half bad.

Next was the Love Tester, in which you input the names of two people in a relationship (real or imagined) and the game will apparently calculate their romance. In the name of science, I, of course, put my name in, along with another female name picked completely at random: Kathryn.

Naturally, due to my charisma and charm, our compatibility was described as "old fish."

Fuck you, game.

Dollar Equivalent: A Magic 8-Ball. Failing that, walk into a bar and simply ask for a guy named 8-Ball. Both make for a more accurate prognostication.

Change of Color
Marketplace Description: Change of Color is a 2D physics puzzle game for one player. Apply colors to objects to change their physical properties and use these new properties to solve the puzzles your works of art present to you.

The Game: This one's pretty clever. You control a painter with the ability to jump into his works to add shape and color to the canvas, often using the environment to help you. Each color adds a different property to whatever item it hits; blue makes them heavier, red makes them lighter, green repels them, and yellow pulls them closer. Often you need to use the items to reach various spots in the level that require painting.

Though the whole thing is rather basic, there is the underlying feeling that something deeper could be made of this, and I mean that in a good way. I think this idea has legs, and with some more refined controls and a bigger budget, I don't see why a full XBLA game couldn't be made of this someday. Definitely worth checking out if you have the cash.

Yes, I did, in fact, just make it though a discussion of a painting game without a single Bob Ross joke. You have no idea how difficult that was.

Dollar Equivalent: A coloring book. Sure, it feels juvenile, but it's fun and simple.

Games Master: Xbox Game Guides
Marketplace Description: Games Master features over 500 Game Guides and Walkthroughs for popular XBOX 360 games. All guides are fully Searchable.

The Game: Well, it does what it says on the tin. It's a database of guides pulled off of GameFAQs that some guy figured he could make a profit on. Despite the obvious follow up questions based around the sheer legality of such a practice, I present a bigger question. What purpose could this possibly serve?

If you have access to the Indie Games Marketplace, it can be safely assumed that you have an Internet connection. Said connection enables you the ability to access websites, many of which are devoted exclusively to the idea of letting you cheat at video games. For free. Every game that's ever existed and will ever exist will at some point trigger someone with a lot of time on their hands to write a detailed FAQ about it. There are several online right now that detail the preferred bikini trading strategies one should employ in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. I know, I've had to consult several.

Okay, let's just assume that whole tricky Internet plot hole doesn't exist, and this "game" is your only source of information. Let's say you're really stuck in Cabela's African Safari. Try as you might, you simply can't conquer those steenbucks in Namibia. So, you have to turn your game off, sign into Live, open Games Master, and scroll down about 78 pages. Oh, and by scroll, I mean hit the RB button. From there, you find the sweet tips and tricks to lead to your victory! Then you have to load up the game again, and unless you're Rainman and have a photographic memory, you'll no doubt have to repeat this process several hundred times.

Dollar Equivalent: A hammer, so you have something to hit yourself in the dick with the second you even consider purchasing this thing.

And our score for this edition is one game worth buying out of five. Hmm.

Okay, maybe I'm more like the Lady in the Radiator, just trying my damnedest to stomp all the evil that surrounds me. Either way, I'm sure there will be more pain in my future. After all, there are nearly 2000 games on the Indie Marketplace, and my community college level math skills tell me that at least 400 of them are worth a damn.

Time will tell.


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