Some quick XBLA/Indie Game reviews (LIMBO, Costume Quest, etc.)

December 31st, 2010 by Tommy Gun

I haven’t written any reviews in a while, so here are some quick ones:

LIMBO:

Really fantastic game, the art style is great. It’s funny how disturbing some parts of it are even though you can’t really see what’s happening. Ripping off a spider’s leg makes you squeamish, though it’s largely in your imagination. I haven’t gotten the “Complete the game in one sitting with five or less deaths” achievement, and don’t know that I’ll try. I wish they had made it “complete all chapters without dying” — that way you could do it in chunks, and replay any chapter you messed up.

Costume Quest: Psychonauts is one of my favorite games, and I was really looking forward to this. I loved it. Yes, it was easy, and yes, the battles were a bit repetitive, but I didn’t really mind. The game was adorable, and that rainbow unicorn? Amazing. And I’ll never get tired of seeing the Statue of Liberty’s special attack animation. I think they should have required the use of certain costumes in some boss battles, and also required certain battle stamps to win. I don’t mean they’d tell you which to use, I mean you’d have to figure out that a certain special attack was the key to winning. That would have changed up the battles enough I think, and added more strategy to it.

Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice DLC I also got the DLC pack. I had hoped that they would have improved some things and changed up the combat a bit, but they didn’t. It came out so quickly that they probably had it almost ready to go right when CQ first launched. I don’t mind supporting Double Fine, but it was really just more of the same, so I’m not sure it was worth $5 (I completed it in one sitting).

Trials HD: Really fun but holy shit hard later on. I was able to get most of the achievements, which I’m pretty proud of, especially “Unyielding” where you must complete it using only gas/brake, no “leaning.”

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom: Love it. Got all the achievements, wish there were more levels. Really great concept, and it would be perfect for user-created levels. (Also, I just bought it again on Steam for 49 cents! BUY IT if it’s still on sale! Crazy!)

Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition: Weird game, love the style, had fun playing it, but no achievements in the main game? Really? Come onnnnn.

‘Splosion Man: Great game, love the co-op.

Just bought Hydro Thunder Hurricane (fun so far!), and am looking forward to Ilomilo and Stacking.

Green Day: Rock Band achievement progress

November 22nd, 2010 by Tommy Gun

Today I tried for the “get 400,000 points in a single song” achievement in GD:RB. I tried to do it on drums previously, but even on the longest songs (“Jesus of Suburbia”), I couldn’t get more than around 340k. I read online that guitar was maybe the easiest to get it with, so I tried that, even though I’m WAY better at drums than guitar. First try:


177 points away! If I had hit literally ONE more note I would have gotten it! I even FC’d the solo, although I used OD too late, and ended the song with 1/4 full. That would have done it too. So after that I just had to try again, and figured it should be easy since I was ready for a few parts that I messed up during the sightread:

Yay.

The Beatles: Rock Band achievement progress!

November 21st, 2010 by Tommy Gun

Aside from playing lots of Rock Band 3 (love the new keyboard, still waiting for the drum MIDI adapter and the Squier guitar), I’ve been trying to get more of the achievements in Green Day RB and Beatles RB. After playing through one of the album challenges in GD:RB, I played Beatles to see if I could get any of the achievements I was missing. When the game came out I gold-starred all but two of the songs, each needed for separate achievements. And then there was the good old “I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!” (100% Helter Skelter) achievement. I really haven’t played it since then (except with friends when they wanted to sing), and figured I may have gotten better since then and could beat those last few songs.

I started with “I Feel Fine” and missed an Overdrive phrase. I played it again and missed one note, while OD was active I think, no gold star. Tried a different OD path, but broke combo three times. Gave up and tried the other song, “I Wanna Be Your Man.” It’s super fast and tiring on your right hand, but I did really well and GS’d it on my first try! Yes! Feeling good, I went back to I Feel Fine. I knew I could do it, and after a couple tries:

Sweeeeet! I was about to turn off the game, but figured I should play Helter Skelter just for the hell of it. I remembered that there are two weirdly timed drumrolls at the end, and that’s where most people mess up. Since I hadn’t played that song in a year, there was no way I would hit those, but it was good practice anyway. I started the song and was doing fine…got to the end, first weird drumroll…broke combo. Second drumroll…nailed it! Wait, did I miss a note or overhit on that first one?

Yes! 100% on my first try! Uh oh, was the achievement for FC’ing it, or just 100%? *achievement popping noise*

So happy. I still have a few achievements to get: two are for guitar, which I probably won’t get. Two are for vocal harmonies, which is really a crime I haven’t gotten those, since that’s what this game is all about! It’s entirely my fault for not playing it more…and not having the ability to sing. It would be awesome to 1k this game. We’ll see.

Kodu Game Lab: Full Game Video Tutorial with Narration! – Generic Wars

August 19th, 2009 by Tommy Gun
You can download this tutorial as a single divx file from the Downloads page. See my previous Kodu Review if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Learn how to create an entire game from scratch with Kodu! This 4-part video will teach you how to make a Geometry Wars style twin-stick shooter. Kodu is only $5 on the indie games channel on Xbox live.

Part 1

In this part we’ll learn about land tools, and setting up basic character controls.



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Kodu Game Lab video tutorials: 3 Keys, Popcorn Popper

August 19th, 2009 by Tommy Gun
You can download both of these videos from the Downloads page. See my previous Kodu Review if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Note: I also put up a much longer tutorial showing how to create a whole game from scratch!

3 Keys Tutorial

Here’s how to use three separate keys to open color-coded doors, all using a single variable (score). This isn’t really needed now that they’ve released Patch 1 (more variables), but it still may be interesting and give you some ideas. It will at least teach you how to use keys in general.

The Popcorn Popper

A game I made just for fun.

Kodu Game Lab is out! Remember Kodu? Anyone?

July 23rd, 2009 by Tommy Gun

Buy-Kodu

Kodu, you may remember, is the game programming tool shown at CES by “actual 12-year-old girl,” Sparrow. It was cartoony and cute and bright, and many people wrote it off instantly: “LBP rip-off!”, “Stupid rock-carrying game?!”, and so on. I really wanted to try it out, and now, apparently, it’s out. I say apparently because it’s gotten almost no press, and the only way I found out was by randomly browsing the Community Games channel and seeing it there. (Okay, Joystiq and other sites did post about it, but I had relatives over for the past two weeks so maybe I just missed it.) Still, after the CES demo I thought its release would be a much bigger event, and it would show up somewhere on the Xbox dashboard (Spotlight). It’s too bad it wasn’t released on XBLA rather than the CG channel, the place where no one dares tread.

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with it for the past few days, and it’s great! You really can create all sorts of games, from FPSs, to side-scrollers, to racing games. The interface is very well designed, for the most part, using nested pie menus for all of the actions/objects. There are lots of different lighting options and ground materials to help change the look of your games, so don’t think everything created has to be blue-skies-and-rainbows. The programming is easy, but surprisingly deep if you learn how everything works. Because it was initially designed for kids, it’s also very fast. You can go from editing your level to playing it in under a second.

I was programming a dual-stick shooter for a video I hope to put up, and my roommate started watching. “What happens when you run into the UFOs?” he asked.
“They blow up and damage your ship.”
“Is that what always happens?”
“Well no, that’s what I made them do. I can program it to do whatever. I can make them…turn into apples, if I wanted to.”
“Do it!” Literally twenty seconds later I had it working that way, just for fun. The Kode (yes, I just called it that):
WHEN bump puck DO vanish me
WHEN bump puck DO create apple

Crazy how simple it can be, isn’t it?

There are definitely limitations though. One of my biggest complaints is that not every object has every option available to it — you can create a tree that shoots missiles, but a soccer ball can’t follow a path the way lights and bots can. I was hoping each object would simply look different, and have sliders set differently (bounciness, speed, etc.), but could be programmed however you want. If you like how one vehicle controls, but wished you could use a different 3D model, you’re out of luck. But this is where extreme creativity shines. With these limitations, how far can you take it? Some game types seem impossible, but someone will figure out how to make it work. Kodu comes with a bunch of samples and prebuilt games, so you can learn how the more advanced games are programmed (they’re all editable). Be sure to check out “gawlf” to see how they brilliantly used the health bar to act as your swing power meter.

Did I mention it’s only five dollars, which is a steal? I easily would have paid $20, and with a more robust system it could have been a retail game. I should mention that Kodu does a pretty poor job at introducing you to the game. They desperately need a “play tutorials” button on the main menu, with a list of tutorials that get checked off as you go along, each one with a hint system (where’s Clippy when you need him?*). There are just three tutorials that come with Kodu, mixed in with the other games, and they don’t actually explain anything. I guess they thought it was so well designed it didn’t need any explanation. So I recommend watching some video tutorials (online — none are included) first to get an idea of it before you jump in (I hope to have some tutorials up in the near future).

You won’t be able to make the next Gears of War, and you won’t even be able to make exactly the arcade game you had in mind, but new ideas will appear, and you’ll have fun doing it. If you have kids, buy Kodu. Even if they can’t use it on their own, you can create things with them. If you’ve ever had a game idea of your own, buy Kodu. It’s designed to get you thinking like a programmer, and it succeeds.

Other Notes:
Right now game sharing sucks — you have to be friends with the person, and both be running Kodu at the same time. They are working on a patch though, which will add three dedicated servers! There’s also a bug where levels seem to get deleted — if it happens, restart Kodu and it might fix it (more info here). The patch will also fix this and other issues.
The patch is out! Delete Kodu and re-download if you don’t have it (there’s no “update” function).

Links:
Kodu fan forum
Audio interview with Matt MacLaurin — back when it was called Boku.
The Kodu Blog

* Please don’t include Clippy. In anything. Ever.

Totally addicted to Ninjatown (DS)

March 3rd, 2009 by Tommy Gun

ninjatown-dsNinjatown is a tower defense game for the Nintendo DS, starring a whole bunch of Shawnimals characters. The whole game is absolutely adorable, with great animations, and lots of strategy. I was expecting to be able to play this while listening to music or podcasts, but it’s surprisingly involved. If even one enemy gets through, you won’t get an A. In stages where you’re protecting an object, just one strike from an enemy will take you down to a B rank. The enemies are fast, so you need to constantly be scrolling around the map watching for anyone who breaks through your defense, and be ready with your special powers (you can use wind to blow enemies back, or fry them, etc.). Here’s a quick summary of the game by the developer:

You step into the shoes of Ol’ Master Ninja, tasked with defending Ninjatown from waves of enemies trying to make their way through the town. To stop them, you construct Ninja Huts along their path, from which Ninjas will emerge to engage the enemy. Building each hut costs you Ninja Star Cookies, the currency of Ninjatown, and as you defeat enemies, you earn more cookies. You then re-invest these cookies into building and upgrading huts to deal with the ever increasing waves of enemies. You can also build something we call Modifier Buildings, that will endow any adjacent huts with a special ability. These include buildings like the Training Dojo, which can increase your attack power, or the Tea Shop, which makes your units move faster.

That’s only the basics though, among the new gameplay elements we introduce are Ol’ Master Ninja (OMN) Powers, which are unlocked throughout the game and help to supplement your defensive abilities. These give you powers like Get Off My Lawn, where the player blows into the microphone to push enemies around on the map, or Magnifryer, which lets you direct a beam of scorching hot light on your enemies.

The ninja huts you build are what you’d expect — slow powerful ninjas, fast weak ones, snipers, ice/fire ninjas, and so on. There are also building modifiers, which raise the attack power of the surrounding ninjas, increase their range, or get you more cookies (money). You can upgrade the huts, but that takes time, so you need to do it between waves, or hope you have enough ninjas out there while upgrading.

I just beat the game, getting A ranks on every stage (with the help of strategies on a couple stages). It’s an incredibly fun game, and its biggest fault is its length! It’s not that it’s so short, but it’s so much fun it leaves you wanting more, and there were so many obvious, easy ways to extend it!
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Review: Guitar Hero World Tour

January 6th, 2009 by Tommy Gun

guitar-hero-world-tour-8Why has it taken me this long to post a review for GHWT? Is it because:

  1. I didn’t buy it until just now, because I’ve been broke
  2. the blistering speed of the new songs melded my hands to the guitar, leaving me unable to use a computer keyboard
  3. I’ve been so addicted to GHtunes that I’ve spent every moment creating and playing new songs
  4. although we bought it on day one, it’s not very good so we haven’t beaten it yet, and instead simply unlocked all the songs with a cheatcode and played the ones we liked in quickplay, then went back to RB2

Yes, it’s the last one (though I’ve played it more than that). How can a game that seems almost identical to RB be so much worse? It’s the little things…
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Site upgrades!

December 24th, 2008 by Tommy Gun

You may have noticed some changes around the site. I’ve added a “recent comments” section to the sidebar, so you can see what people have been discussing lately, and now there are “related posts” at the bottom of each post, directing you to other points of interest. Categories are now a drop-down menu, to help reduce the clutter. More changes will be coming soon, as well as some new writers. Are there any other features you’d like on the site?

Rock Band Expert Drum videos now for download

November 12th, 2008 by Tommy Gun

Rock BandI put up high quality divx versions of all the drum videos. You can find them all here:

http://crackedrabbitgaming.com/download/Rock-Band-Drum/