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July 2005 Printer Friendly Page



July 2005 Indie Game Monthly Round-Up

(by The Illustrious Panel - TIP)

Scoring Scale:

10 - Perfection 5 - Below Average
9 - Nearly Flawless 4 - Way Below Average
8 - Way Above Average 3 - Quite Poor
7 - Above Average 2 - Terrible
6 - Average 1 - Just Unbelievably Bad
Game of the Month:
Fate
Award Winners This Month:

Average score of 9 or above

Average score of 8 or above

Average score of 7 or above
Fate Geneforge 3 Façade
Professor Fizzwizzle
Keith Goes Painting

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TunnelStorm
(July 25)



by Swooshy Soft


Every month it happens. we get one game that feels like a college project! Unique, funkulent visuals, lots of odd shapes, very bad menus/interface, experimental in every way, and not much gameplay. All of this describe this month's College Corner entry. I like the idea of a game that plays off the music it's given, but this one isn't fun to play, and since it only uses the music to put a 'visualization' on the walls of the tunnel, it doesn't really feel like you're truly engaged into the music, like you would be in a game where you have to perform actions to the rhythm. - MH
This game has you flying in rainbow colored tunnels shooting and dodging things. Unfortunately the on-screen action is hard to understand and being hit or killing enemies all sort of blends together in three minute long seizure inducing acid trips. It’s colorful but the rules and gameplay need some work to also be fun. - SR
I suspect there's some community out there, of people that make psychedelic games. Something to do with Mutant Camels and Yak's. Hmm? Conspiracy theories aside, this would make a fine screen saver or WinAmp visualization plugin. It's a dry game though. I personally hate when a game makes you pick it's soundtrack from your music collection. So I threw on some suitable Trance/Psy/GOA'ish stuff (Hallucinogen and Shakta; Don't you hate music acronyms?), and grooved my way through the game. Main problem, not that there's much that can be done, but tunnel shooting games suck. We had one as a mini game in a GBA game I worked on recently, and despite what we did, we couldn't think of any way to make it fun. Even Iridion, the king of tunnel shooters, sucks. So again, moral of the story, stay away from tunnel shooters. - MK

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Geneforge 3
(May 30)



by Spiderweb Software

You know, all Spiderweb games are basically exactly the same. But so are all Paw songs, and all Spiderweb games AND all Paw songs are really good! If you've played any of these games, you know what to expect - it's a very complex RPG with a lot of reading involved and turn based combat. The interface is way too clunky and awkward, lots of the buttons you click on just look like plain text and are hard to find, but the gameplay is deep, engrossing, and very very addictive. My main complaint: it has the First Sin Of RPGs: enemies don't respawn, so you can't sit around leveling up if you encounter something that's too tough for you. You're just out of luck. - MH
This isometric styled party-based RPG may look a bit dated but the underlying game mechanics are solid. Hack through dungeons, pick locks, steal from peasants and solve quests, what more could you ask for? Well, better performance under Windows I suppose, at times, my machine would inexplicably drop to 4 FPS in the tavern when many NPC’s spoke, hardware incompatibility I guess? - SR
Most demo's I play last me 5-60 minutes, when I either beat the game, get tired of it, or the trial clock runs out. This, I lost track. Maybe 4 hours, maybe more. All I know the sun wasn't up anymore when I quit, and I only quit because of that. This game is great. Best thing I can compare it to, Ultima 7, and I still don't think that's a fair comparison. It's epic and nostalgic. Craving a non Japanese non Diablo RPG fix? This is the goods right here. - MK

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Invadazoid
(June 27)

Download Now!


by Bantam City
This works pretty well, and is pretty fun, but suffers a lot of the same flaws as other breakout games (mainly that power-ups are very overpowering - I found very little "Last Brick Syndrome" here). One big problem is that any time the ball hits an alien, it bounces in a totally random direction. This means there's absolutely no way to plan anything, and you never get that thrill of popping it into the right passage so that it'll bounce around and break 50 bricks (that can happen here, but it's random!). The classic Space Invaders mode was a clever inclusion and the Survival mode is even more fun than the regular game. - MH
There’s no mistaking the inspiration here - it’s Space Invaders meets Breakout. It works; it’s a decent game but with some issues. Balance problems: A level can be ultra easy or impossible depending on what the Rand() function felt like giving you in the way of power-ups. I didn’t like losing the game even though I had four lives left. Music is a bit repetitive - but thanks for the disable option. - SR

Given all the Arkanoid and Space Invader clones we've played here, this is the one game to unite them all. Genre bending going on here, watch your step! This one does pretty much everything you'd expect. Flawless in that sense, but nothing that makes it stand out. Of note, the space invaders part does a nice job of eliminating the "lone brick you can't hit" problem since the "bricks" are always moving. Having played as many of these games as I have, and even made my own clones of them in my youth, I feel compelled to say something. Indies of the world! Please, no more Arkanoids! If you must, keep it a secret, and whatever you do, don't try to sell it. It's Arkanoid that makes me doubt humanity. Bring on the plague! - MK

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Façade
(July 2)



by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern


The principles behind Facade look great on paper, but if you aren't that familiar with them and don't know what to pay attention to while playing (something that is worth doing, whether out of sheer curiosity or professional interest), you could end up being very frustrated. If fully developed, this type of a game, even if it featured the same uncomfortable setting, might be really appealing to the fabled non-gamer market (Roger Ebert loved Cosmology of Kyoto, didn't he?). But as it is, Facade is neither a good game nor a particularly outstanding play - it doesn't respond to player input well enough to be the former while still relying on it way too much to be the latter. - DF
This free download simulates visiting a married couple with relationship issues. The natural language parser just doesn’t seem up to the task - saying “Please explain” might result with “Why do you say I’m angry?!” Because all dialog is pre-recorded it’s a bit more like watching a sitcom with branching storylines than being part of one. Despite some glitches I found it a unique and intriguing experience. - SR
Wow. An insane achievement, landmark, blah blah blah. Enough media out there has praised it for that, and it deserves it. Seriously, this game is too deep for the monthly round up. Probably too deep for any gaming review media. Gaming enthusiasts, developers, or anyone that appreciates the finer details of technology should dig this. It's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be. I'm really impressed at how dynamic it is. Seriously, given all the variations I've played, these two people have problems, and I not sure they really should stay together. I'm trying to give it a lower score, but I don't think I'm allowed. - MK

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Shadow Stars: The Ventrui Belt
(July 15)



by Spellcaster Studios


As this game floated before me on my visual display, I felt as though my soul was torn asunder, with the last vestiges of my comrades' death screams in the freezing abyss of infinite space. I also felt like I was an overwrought goth poet/space pilot. Once you click through that though, you find competent space shootery. The ability to mouse-aim is a lot nicer than having to keep your nose on your enemy, though I still felt like I was constantly doing a dosie-do with all my enemies, like I do in every 3D space shooter. I guess that's what space combat is really like. - MH
In today’s day and age it takes more than gaudy lens flare effects, glows, and dramatic voice overs to make a decent space combat simulator. There really isn’t a point to using crosshairs if the bullets won’t line up with it. Despite lack of polish issues such as hitting escape instantly quitting your game and apparent gimble lock problems the action isn’t bad and works - but there is so little variety I had trouble staying interested. - SR
Full and Demo, 2 PC's, she didn't want to run for me. Something about some silly D3D dll file that no other game has ever asked for. A DX9 SDK only related one perhaps? - MK

NA

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Crime Puzzle
(July 11)

Download Now!


by Paprikari
You can't fool me with talk of crimes and mysteries. I know Bejeweled when I see it. And voila, here it is. I did find something new with this game, though. I actually became frustrated when the game would make matches on its own! Every time I made a match, new pieces would fall, and this would trigger an avalanche of anywhere from 3 to 30 more matches that had nothing to do with my skill, and that I could do nothing but watch. It was annoying. Never thought free points would bother me so much. - MH
This feels like an attempt to merge a 1930’s detective theme with Bewjewelish gameplay to create a ‘portal friendly’ color matcher. While polished and graphically gorgeous, the game adds nothing new to the genre, fails to make sufficient use of the theme and actually falls short in a few areas - such as not allowing quick sequential moves (especially during bonus rounds) and offering very little gameplay variety. - SR
Another one to add to the adventurous tile clearing matching "genre", with Jewel Quest and Big Kahuna. I love the character art in this game. So clean and beautifully rendered. Then we get in the game, and have to look at a boring set of stamps. I'm almost sad to see, Mr. Awesome artist didn't stand up and declare "How dare you waste my awesomeness on a stamp game! I'm awesome!". Obviously business doesn't work that way. What I didn't really like about the game was the knife stamp. Clearing these gives you knife points, instead of clearing the tiles beneath them. Knife points let you clear away these grassy things that obstruct your view during gameplay. I was ready to declare this as a serious bug, 'cause I had no idea and screwed myself up because of it. I'm sure it was there in the intro text, but just to avoid stupid people like me, I'd consider making the knife matches do both. I'm not the only person that noticed this, am I? - MK

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Knight Time
(July 17)



by Smudged Cat Games
I can see a grand action-adventure hiding inside this game. Oh, it's hidden deeply, way back in there behind the MSPaint trees. But I'll never find it, because to get to it, I'd have to steer myself by pushing Z and X to move left and right, and TILDE and SLASH to move up and down. Toss in space for jump, enter for 'action', and the slipperiest tree limbs in all of christendom, and you won't find me successfully finding much of anything at all. It makes me long to play Alien Flux. - MH
Side-view 2d action gaming merged with a bunch of neat puzzles including time travel related things where you can see yourself walking around! This game deserves a higher score but some problems really affect the fun factor. For instance, on my keyboard, the controls are just awful (tilde for up?!) and the save game system doesn’t seem to save sub-quests I’ve completed. - SR
Egads! She defiled my Quick Launch Bar! Erm... That aside, I hate to say it, but here's an example of a unique or perhaps innovative game that does everything wrong. I don't know what part of WASD or Arrow Keys for basic controls people don't get, but the logic behind "Z X /" and some 4th key which I never found totally escapes me. Now, I know it was cool for Sonic the Hedgehog run and get faster and faster, but the speed and how fast this little knight dude can get to on flat ground are unheard of. The game's a sort of platformer RPG, for those that missed it, and it vaguely reminds me of Zelda 2, but after playing I'm probably hallucinating. Unlocking chests has something to do with drawing pixel art, which I like, but "pixeling" as an interface has a bad history. Such gems as Seventh Cross did it, but Seventh Cross is one of the best worst game out there. Am I asking too much when I say 'normal' control scheme? - MK

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SkyTracks
(July 22)



by hot box games


I'm rating this fairly high even though it wasn't really playable for me - I had a lot of hitches and slowdown, which I think were just because of my old video card. If you have modern hardware, I would hope it would be much smoother. It's a fun and unique game! The sense of driving is good, and the challenges are interesting and somewhat original. It could use a lot of polish, as it's on the verge of going into College Corner, but it has good gameplay and lots of options to save it. - MH
This is really two games in one – A multiplayer racing competition with jumps and weapons and a “puzzle mode” which has your car activating lifts and pushing balls. Despite some nice touches like zooming in/out with the mouse wheel something about the camera and car control just seemed a little off. I enjoyed the racing but the puzzle levels taught me that simple things like “turning around” take a lot of work with a car. - SR
It's not a pretty game, but it's cool. Take the Monkey or Hamster out of the Ball, and drop in a '69 Dodge Charger, and that's pretty much what we have here. You drive your sweet ride around, knocking off monkeyless balls. Yep. The game also has a Mario Kart like race mode, where you pick up items and battle other cars on the race track. Not a bad little package. - MK

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Professor Fizzwizzle
(July 2)



by Grubby Games


I don't really like these logic puzzle games (even though I've made one - but mine had fast action too, mind you), but this one does its job VERY well. The graphics and sound are perfect, and the puzzles are interesting, on the easy side (so far), and provide that feeling of cleverness when you complete them. It's just an excellent game! - MH
This is a beautifully constructed side view logic game with a nice map of progress, many levels to solve, unlockables, and easily accessible in-game solutions. My only complaint is a strange one; it’s hard remembering all the arcane gadget and movement rules! I needed to view the solutions more than not so I just felt dumb. Where Sokoban is many strategies with few rules, this feels the opposite. - SR
Hey, a platformer push puzzle. Long time to play one of these. I'm very impressed with the balance of difficulty, and that it gives you a solution if you ask. I did use that on the Advanced levels a couple times to get me started, as they did invent some new tactics they neglected to mention. The art, I want mention, is great. Some fine 3D toon shaded animations. Nice. - MK

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Last Galaxy Hero
(June 6)



by Realore Studios


My first thought is that it's very hard to aim in Space Invaders with a first-person view. That got better when I tried the keyboard instead of the mouse, but not a lot. These are some squirrelly invaders, they whip left and right at a moment's notice rather than pacing sedately. I never did figure out what the Mega Gun did. All in all, it's one of those games that just feels tedious, and offers only one straightforward mode of plowing through levels in order. - MH
Would a 1st person Space Invaders in 3D work? This game proves that it does. Using the same tank that your ancestors died using (wouldn’t you prefer a newer model?) you repel enemy invasion by shuffling left and taking out rows of similar looking (and moving) ships. The action is pretty good but gameplay is fairly monochromatic - not even a smart bomb type secondary weapon is available. - SR
Check it out. Space Invaders with a perspective change. The enemies come at you from the distance instead of the top. This scares me. The game looks great. It plays... well, it play as good as it can. It's tough to shoot the enemies in this perspective. You need to judge distances as you shoot, which you do in Space Invaders anyways, but it's a little tougher with another axis to worry about. Despite, it's a welcome variation. - MK

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Space Guards
(June 29)



by mobileart.org

 
You know what's great? A turret that shoots green blocks. That's great. What more does a game need? According to the developers of this game, pretty much nothing. - MH
I have a lot of respect for someone who does art, music and programming. Unless that person created this game. I’m seriously wondering how much money someone would have to pay me to finish the first level. Space Guards takes a simple concept and ruins it with glaring technical and design problems, extreme difficulty, and finally, making each round last ten times longer than it should. - SR
Remember those classic games that were ridiculously hard, you couldn't win, but you played them anyways? Beach Head? Impossible Mission? Despite what you tell yourself, you didn't actually like those games. In fact, there's no good reason why you played those games, short of unconscious desire for abuse. Here's one to bring back that warm feeling. It's simple in concept, spin around in a circle in 3D to defend your space station. So, you do that for a while, then the enemy ships come in, you apparently forget or never understood how radar works, and you get smoked. I forgot what this was like, and I think I like it. You'd be best to seek cover.  - MK

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Keith Goes Painting
(June 26)



by Wolfys Games




On the one hand, I want to rate this highly, as good clean fun, but on the other hand. it's clunky, and it's VERY short. This is a major throwback - it's a lot like games for the Spectrum were! It really takes me back, this is how games used to be. Cryptic. A little bit of puzzling and a lot of platforming (and I never did figure out that phone). A much longer game with a far more polished interface outside of gameplay, but with this same gameplay, would really be something. - MH
This quirky freebie does to platformers what BreakQuest does to brick breakers – makes it run super smooth and adds funky physics. In this game you have to paint things in a really odd house including peeing statues and refrigerators. There are neat little easter eggs to keep you busy which is good because I think there is only the one level. (not sure, couldn’t find the last thing to paint!) - SR
Probably the most spring happy 2D platformer there is... yet ;). Balloons with strings, a telephone with a cord, and cloths out front. Heck even dude's hair is some sort of spring system. Nice. The game has a vibe like one of those oldskool platformers where you actually did stuff other than jumping. In this one, you paint. Got that from the title? Good. It sports many nifty secrets too, even a safe you can crack. If TV's taught you anything, it's how to crack that safe. I'll leave the rest up to you. - MK

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The Mosquito Project
(June 30)



by Tiny Mantis Entertainment


A well done game, that's unique. I'm not sure exactly what to complain about, but I really just didn't enjoy it. The view is too constrained, making enemies too easy to run into, and the space-bar-pounding to suck blood is tiresome. It seems like it should be really fun and interesting, but it just didn't do it for me. - MH
This free flash gamelet has you buzzing around collecting blood as a mosquito. It’s kind of Joust with red welts. Or Lunar Lander but you can land on women. It’s ok but two main concerns: I’d like to play this full screen with a nice frame rate (I think this game has it limited lowish, like 15) and I wish I could continue from where I was after being slapped to death. - SR
One game I wish I'd have played was Mister Mosquito. From what I gather, this appears to be something along the same lines. Short of the totally bizarre opening story, which I'm lost for exactly how it relates to the game, you play a mosquito that collects blood. To make things more interesting, you're actually a robot mosquito from the future, piloted by some mosquitonaut... or something. Yes, you were sent back in time, and shrunk, so you could acquire blood for... some reason; I guess I missed that part. Either way, it's a neat game with a slick art style to it. If you like buzzing around people and sucking blood, here's a game for you. - MK

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Alien Defense
(July 7)



by Nitrous Butterfly


Please don't take away my firepower when I finish a level! Every level. I work up a couple notches of firepower, then the level's over and bam, nothing again. That was very frustrating, and made the game feel pointless. There is also only one way to play through the game, straightforward numbered levels, and no real strategy or surprises. The enemy behavior is also very whacked, with a lot of jiggling spaceships. Half the enemies actually feared my might, and simply ran off the screen! What the game does fairly well is a sense of fast and frantic action. Unfortunately, it's the same fast and frantic action over and over. - MH
You know, just because you can get away with using a single animation frame for each ship in an asteroids style shooter doesn’t mean you should. I like dodging the massive bullet sprays but this game feels a little shoddy overall. Explosion graphic sizes don’t match the ships, bullets kind of disappear illustrating the imprecise collision detection, and the enemy AI doesn’t understand that 0 and 360 degrees are the same resulting in humorous space dancing. - SR
For all those that complained about PuppyTron/UltraTron's controls without a mouse, play this. Me, I like the PuppyTron/UltraTron scheme. Enough other games have the keyboard/mouse one, such as this. The game is either really short, or really easy. I was disappointed to have the music cut out all the time when I beat the level. I kept thinking I was just missing the really cool part of the song. Finally, on the last level, I hear past the part I always manage to win at, to find the song stops and loops. Awww. PT/UT or AD? I'll take the PT/UT.- MK

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Fate
(May 25)



by Wild Studios Productin


This is an absolutely shameless clone of Diablo II. First, let me take issue with the marketing: cute graphics do not equal casual gaming. The gameplay is exactly as complex as the very hardcore Diablo II, mainly because the gameplay's exactly the SAME as Diablo II. Which is actually a very very good thing. One problem, though: the one thing it doesn't rip off is the wonderful skill system from Diablo II, instead including a very dull and minimal skill system. That, and the Commodore-64-with-a-tape-drive load times, are my only complaints with this awesome game (if you're gonna clone, clone the best!). - MH

Fate is a fighting focused RPG that takes place in a single town with all battles happening in a single dungeon with randomly generated levels. Its addictive hack ‘n slash gameplay is beautifully rendered in 3D and plays great. While many features you’ve seen before, it also adds a few new ideas to the roguish genre. I love the game, but .. a huge thumbs down for forcing Wild Tangent Web Driver to be added to my system startup, as if booting isn’t slow enough. - SR
OK, someone felt like bragging when they sent us our freebies, not that I'm complaining. The Diablo games are great casual games. Heck, my mom's played them for years. But Diablo is just a tad too evil themed for the casual space. So, pull out all the references to satanism, and drop in cute and cuddly pet cat or dog, and you have Fate. The pet is a fighter and a 2nd inventory, adding such fun options as sending the pet back to town to sell off everything they carry, saving you a town portal scroll. The pet is a strong fighter too, almost, if not, as strong as you. Seriously, Fate is a casual Diablo 2. I love Diablo 2. It's probably to blame for whatever carpeling tunneling condition I have. This, and Dungeon Siege 2 coming up, I'm so set. - MK

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The Illustrious Panel for this month:

MH- Mike Hommel - Hamumu
Mike Hommel is known for his hilarious and bizarre games. Though his site claims that all his games are just 'dumb fun' you'll find that they are some of the more interesting games around, and will eat hours away from your life without you realizing where they all went.
SR - Seth Robinson - Robinson Technologies
Seth has spent the last fourteen years making odd games, including designing and programming many independent titles such as the BBS hit Legend Of The Red Dragon, the multiplayer Flash based web game Funeral Quest, IGF finalists Teenage Lawnmower and Dungeon Scroll and the cult classic RPG Dink Smallwood.
MK - Mike Kasprzak - Sykhronics
Coming from a game console background, Mike's responsible for bringing to the market such oddities as Secret Agent Barbie for Gameboy Advance, The Emperor's New Groove for Gameboy Color, and several other top girl branded games (not that he's bragging). In indie land, he seeks redemption. Mike's best known for his "cute but not girly" hamster blasting game, PuffBOMB.
DF - Damjan Flegar

See a game that was missed? Though we do our best, we are unable to cover all games. In addition, some games slip through the cracks because we just don't know they exist. If you are a developer, ensure this doesn't happen by submitting your game or a news item.

  

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