Elemental Focus

February 14, 2012

IndieCity Recommendations: Part 3
Filed under: Article,IndieCity — Chris @ 6:52 pm

After being inundated with a single request, here’s another round of my IndieCity demo reviews, letting you cut through the growing crowd of games on the platform and know what’s worth giving a go.

Punish the Birds
Price: £0.60/ $0.90

“All the fun of Duck Hunt, without the annoying dog.” – is a quote used the description of Punish the Birds and pretty much says it all about the game. Duck hunt was fun for one reason: the NES zapper, bringing light gun gaming to homes everyone. Even with the zapper, it probably would’ve been entirely forgotten about if it wasn’t for that dog. That dog added character to the game. If you mention duck hunt, most people will remember the dog before they remember the ducks.

But back to this game. You shoot birds with your mouse, like a bazillion other little flash games. Most of the bazillion other flash games also do it much better. It’s not painful to play, its just not great and by no means the best of its kind.

The artwork is obviously from mspaint and the whole thing has a very much ‘my first game’ stink to it. There are only 6 levels although as far as I can tell, you can get most of the content from just the demo, which eases the concept of charging for it. I’d also like to think that the aiming is a little off, but I’m probably wrong about that.

Rating: 2 Stars


Your Doodles are Bugged
Price: £3.49/ $4.99

In doodles, your aim is to guide little hoppy bugs through levels to a little honey pot at the end. The game starts with drawing along dotted lines to give the bugs a path to their goal, later leaving you to work it out yourself and then limiting the amount of ink you can use. The graphics are nice and bouncy, but that’s a given where this ‘drawing’ style of gameplay is involved.

The problem with doodles is that you have to rely on the bug things and thus you have the problem that occurs with almost every single escort mission ever created has. Unlike the efficient predictability of lemmings, the bugs move slowly along the ground and jump at random intervals. This means the game swings wildly between being unchallenging and boring and difficult and frustrating. Also, I could never tell whether they pile on top of one another or not. They don’t appear to, but once I put a large amount in a hole, a greater proportion would get away.

While you can have some silly fun with the early unlimited ink levels, elaborating on your pathways by drawing snake and the like, once it stops being easy, the game quickly dissolves into a repetitive action of a short amount of progress followed by trapping the bugs in a hole.

Rating: 3 Stars


Price: £6.00/ $9.00

In influence, you start of with an orb that follows the mouse. The concept is simple, you need to influence neutral and competing orbs, which you can only do so in groups smaller than your current group. Competing orbs can also convert you if they have a large group so you need to be careful to avoid these.

The gameplay is actually quite rich as both sides will often be going for the same neutral orbs leading to potentially risky manoeuvres and you need to balance going after small groups or trying to split orbs off of big groups. There is a music creation element where each colour orb has its own ‘voice’ and as each team grows they become a greater part of the game’s symphony, but this didn’t resonate with me as anything more than a neat effect.
The whole game is just iterations of this competition with various user chosen settings though, so the gameplay quickly becomes ho-hum. While there is an on-line mode, the game doesn’t hold much of a user-base and I was unable to find any games.

My experience with Influence was also somewhat adversely affected by its incompatibility with my computer, despite the specs indicating I should be ok. Even with the graphics settings turned down, the game often became slow and jittery. Given what’s going on on screen, this is a bit of a surprise as while the graphics are somewhat fancy, they shouldn’t be destroying my graphics card.

I’ve also got to take issue with the price on this one, while the demo is somewhat entertaining and a pleasant experience, the full game is definitely not worth the cost.

Rating: 3 Stars


Price: £3.00/ $4.40

The first thing you notice with flutterbyes is that it’s stunningly pretty, the game is just rich with colour, although perhaps this is to be expected for a game themed around butterflies. Aside from the graphics, it’s really rather simple, you add different coloured butterflies to the board to match lines of 4 or more and the above butterflies will fall down to fill their place. There’s all the normal combo stuff of matching larger lines, multiple lines at once, creating combos and quickly matching multiple lines with subsequent butterflies, so you need to have some tactical play to reach the higher scores.

You’ll gradually learn how to set up the best combos the more than you play, so the game takes a little persistance. As far as I could tell the whole thing remains fairly basic, ladybirds appear in the demo which don’t appear to match with anything, so I don’t know whether other things like this are thrown in once you’re playing for a little while. As the butterflies can be placed anywhere, there’s also not the same sense of progression you get with games like bejeweled where it starts to get difficult to clear blocks from the bottom. The game consists of a regular mode, which you lose if you go too long without making more than basic matches and an endless mode, which removes this restriction. There’s really not much more to the game other than just playing the basic mode over and over again. Luckily, the game makes use of the IndieCity leaderboards, so it’s not all for nought and its a game that encourages healthy competition. I spent a little while on the leaderboard in the demo and I now hold the top spot 😀

Rating: 4 Stars


Swift*Stitch (Full game)
Price: £4.20/ $6.00

Swift-Stitch can be controlled with only a single button. There are a couple of small caveats to this if you want to make things easier, but you can do everything with only one button. It’s a very simple idea where and hitting certain coloured gates will reverse you direction. There are a couple of additions in the form of teleporters and arcs, but the jist is that you will travel in a different direction when you’re holding down the button and when you’re not.
It’s a concept that works really well and you’ll find yourself crashing yourself into walls and knowing precisely why every-time, even if you brain told you something else the split-second before it happened.

From a developer perspective, swift-stitch is very frustrating to review. The game is basically to the book of good game design, with neat effects, fast resets, a host of options for the user to customize and lots of guides to where your arrow will go next. The amount of content and opportunity for re-playability even justifies the higher price-point than a lot of other games on the service. However, it’s just lacking a bit in the fun department and certain levels just don’t give me that compulsion to keep trying to finish them. From a personal perspective, I despised any of the levels which use arcs as they movement is harder to judge than the straight lines and it still seems difficult to know where you’re going to end up even with the guides. Heck, I had more fun replaying the earlier levels on impossible speeds than retrying arc-based levels. I can understand the need for variation, but it feels like the wonderful simplicity of the game is removed by it.

Rating: 4 Stars

Over the coming days, I will be adding a leaderboard to the site of all of the IndieCity games that I have demoed. Once that’s up, I’ll actually remember to add links to go directly to the games. So be on the lookout for that!

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