Super Mario Bros. X

Super-Mario-Bros.-X-Version-1.3-www.SuperMarioBrothers.org_

Mariogasm is a Super Mario fan game by Andrew Spinks, a.k.a. Redigit, a.k.a. demilogic, a.k.a. the guy who made Terraria. Imagine you took Super Mario All-Stars, World, Zelda II, and Super Metroid graphics, and threw them into a blender, after which you’d pour out the resulting blob of epic into a game and could not only build stuff in it, but play as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, or Link (because fuck Samus, right?). That’s what this is, and calling it the best 2-D Mario game ever made would be an understatement.

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The 90s called, they’re writhing in jealous agony.

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Better Than New Super Mario Bros In Every Way is… well… that, really. It may only allow for one or two players, but it has more characters with different powers, more level variety, a battle mode, a level editor, and actual co-op with splitting motherfucking screens, as opposed to inevitably crushing your slower partners against a wall. The game comes with a pre-packaged “episode,” which is what you would call a series of levels, a world, story, or campaign. You can then download many more of these episodes from the website, or make your own.

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PEW PEW PEW

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The controls are as tight as the original SNES games, and the graphics as faithful. Of course, changing the appearance of the default tiles and characters is also doable, but even without going as far as that, the level editor’s capabilities allow for incredible variety, along with some downright weird possibilities, such as Mario and Link in a Super Metroid environment. It sounds like something out of a 13-year old’s SNES hack, but for some reason Best Fan Game Ever allows anyone with good level-design skills to make it work. The inclusion of slightly different power-up effects depending on who you’re playing with, and stars a la Super Mario 64 are just some of the added details that make Forever Shooting Bullet Bills all the richer.

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Nothing to say. Just look at it.

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The music is ripped from several Nintendo titles, from the SNES to the Wii, and some of the tracks’ fidelity was lowered on purpose, presumably to match the SNES soundchip, of which I’m not the greatest fan. If that was not the case, I cast a curse on the poor fool who is unaware of the concept of audio fidelity.

Regardless,  the tracks fade out and start over instead of looping, for some reason. It is technically a loop, but fading out serves no purpose besides annoyance. It baffles me that such an elementary thing could have been overlooked.

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Yes ma’am.

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9/10

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VVVVVV

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Did you notice that June only had two weeks this year? Weird.

V for Vendetta 8-bit is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer by Terry Cavanagh, with music by Magnus Pålsson (SoulEye) in which a ship and its crew of six get stranded in a strange dimension. As Captain Viridian, you have to find the remaining crew and figure out how to leave. The catch is that, unlike most platformers, you can’t jump. Instead, you flip gravity’s pull. It may sound simple at first, but Mr. Cavanagh made sure that no hair on your head will be left intact.

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You better be

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The challenges in The Vagina Vovologues are akin to a vicious trip within the mind of an insane genius on a budget, and I’ll be impaled repeatedly on spikes if it isn’t rewarding. There are no lives, only checkpoints from which you will spawn after your billionth attempt at crossing any particular screen of this gravitic mindfuck. The only collectibles in the game are concentric circles called Shiny Trinkets, of which the collection I haven’t been able to complete because of THAT ONE. You know exactly what I’m talking about, Terry, and I hate you. I hate you so much I could kiss you. I don’t even know you, but rest assured, I hate you with the force of a thousand Volvos.

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AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!

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Little is said about whoever was in charge of this strange dimension, and I’d rather you find about the details yourself. There is a surprising amount of atmosphere for a game made with such scarce resources, which is quite a feat. The map is divided into many different areas, each of them a fixed screen. Teleporters exist to take you to areas that would be otherwise inaccessible, as well as to shorten the trips between places you might want to explore again. There is also a level editor for those who might feel like they can make things even more maddening than they already are.

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… but I’m on the pill, and the restrooms are vacant.

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I can’t find a single thing wrong with Vampire Vultures Vicariously Vivisecting Voltaire’s Vulva. The controls are great, it’s challenging at all times, it’s full of little secrets and details despite its simple appearance, and Mr. Pålsson’s music is not only fitting, but fiendishly addictive. The whole game is just right in every aspect, and I heartily recommend it.

10/10

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The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom

Waddaya know, it’s 2010! It’s the *reads from Wikipedia* international year of biodiversity (wat), Bin Laden’s still alive, kinda, possibly, some say, maybe not, but hey, poor Haiti and all that… Yup, 2010 indeed. Yes sir, the big twenty-ten, last time I’ll ever see those impossibly ugly double-0 glasses on puking beauties for ten years! I’ll drink to th- oh fine.

Yes, I’m late by more than two years, but you know what, it’s your fault for not telling me this existed. Whoever you are, you should have taken the earliest flight to my windowsill and yell “Hey! Winterbottom’s coming!”

Well, phrased like that, I’d probably mistake you for a drunken hobo, but the point I’m trying to make is that, once again, little jewels like this pass right by me, undetected by my sensitive behemoth of a nose.

Pie Bugger Winterbottom is a puzzle platformer by The Odd Gentlemen about a pie thief who cares for nothing but to sink his teeth and dip his nose into every such pastry he can find. He leads a carefree life until this freaky pie-hoe hybrid sends him back in time to correct his wrongdoings… by grabbing more pies. Yeah, I didn’t get it either, but the damn thing’s fun as hell. The little rhymes that make up the story between the puzzles are brilliantly simple, and even if some levels were too much for my tired noggin that I had to succumb to the walkthrough demons, it was all worth it to have the hints teach me the word “turdmuffin.”

I’m sorry, untouchable what?

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The first thing I was reminded of was Braid, but this managed to tread its own path quite well. Shorty McTopHat over there somehow acquires the ability to clone himself into looped actions, and you’re supposed to use this game mechanic in your favour. You can use them as platforms, pie fetchers, and even smack them across the place. At first I thought it would repeat the same formula over and over, but then I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that every set of areas relies on a different addition to/variation of the mechanic, which feels refreshing every time without having to learn something absolutely new. I value this, because it keeps the pace while stimulating the mind. I have nothing against complexity, but sometimes sticking to a formula while strategically enhancing its use is the best way to keep a game interesting.

There was a strangeness at first, because Piestuffer O’Shuttlenose III’s graphic style doesn’t seem to match the rest of the art, which, incidentally, reminds me of what would have happened if Charlie Chaplin and Tim Burton had coexisted and worked on something together. This feeling of oddity, oddly enough, disappeared once I started getting my head around the puzzles, of which the learning curve is shaped like a rollercoaster.

Tower of Pie-za. Har Har.

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Hats off every clone to David Stanton, for making a beautiful soundtrack and a main theme that got me seriously addicted. That’s it, really, I can’t say anything but “let’s listen again. And again. And again. And again. And again.”

In short, if you haven’t played Poor Bastard Winterbottom yet, do give it a try, if not, here’s your formal excuse:

If only I had known,

If I had been told,

This post would be news

Instead of just old.

8/10

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SSTTP: Celestial Mechanica

A.K.A. Robots in the Sky

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Why Are Water Temples Always So Confusing is a simple 2D platformer focused on exploration and puzzles by Roger Hicks and Paul Veer. The game’s pixelated style and focus on robots make it a sort of younger hyperactive brother of Cave Story who, upon noticing the achievements of the latter thought it would be easy to follow in the same steps while having Knytt in mind.

You wish.

The game starts with a story being told of how humanity almost perished when Earth decided to flip them the bird and break into pieces because of their insistence on raping the environment. Right before it crumbled completely, an extraterrestrial race of robots called Mechanians suddenly appeared in the sky, miraculously restoring the planet and making it clear that mankind would owe them forever. They established themselves in a flying fortress and have never been seen anywhere else on Earth for a hundred years, despite the fact that you, a curvy yellow robot thrown off the flying city, meet one right as you land, along with several others intent on killing you.

Sense: None.

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Apparently, the king of the Mechanians is angry and you’re supposed to climb back up there to understand why. That’s pretty much it.

There isn’t much to say about I Can Masturbate For Longer Than This, except that its simple visuals are pleasing to the eye, the controls are tight and fast, and the soundtrack, also by Hicks, at times reminded me of Muse‘s older days. It could be a longer game, as it has the potential to explore its visual effects capabilities and mechanics. One of the acquired abilities involves catching the enemy’s projectiles, and I can think of several ways in which such a skill could be improved beyond wait, grab, and throw back. Even Kirby and Megaman thought further than that.

Neo may dodge bullets, but I GRAB them.

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The power-ups feel too easy to acquire since there are so many compressed in such a short amount of time, and the fact that you have infinite lives, along with your respawning in the immediate vicinity a la Zelda only makes the trip faster and less challenging. I’ll keep running, jumping, getting shot and dying until I get through. One thing I would definitely consider an annoying flaw (and yes, I got the 1.20 patch) is the hypersensitivity of spike pits. A microscopic nudge towards the general vicinity of their upper corner and I am suddenly bereft of life.

The reason I am again reviewing a game from last year is that I didn’t even know this existed until very recently. Although short, Knytt Meets Asimov remains a pleasant game, and I wonder how many little gems of the kind could be hidden in the series of tubes that we inhabit.

5/10

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Spelunky

The free PC version, because I’m cheap.

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Super Indiana Bros. is an addictive 2D platformer roguelike by Derek Yu that gives new meaning to the word frustration. Health replenishment is as easy to find as a clean whore on 42nd street, and when you do find one she just blows you (a kiss) for at least 15 fucking thousand dollars!

Ok, let’s do this again.

To recover ONE heart you must either find a fancy brothel and pay at least $15,000 for a kiss, or find some skank lying around and bring her alive to the end of the level, where she does the same for free. I recommend you go get tested after that last one. The good thing is that she’s impervious to everything but spikes, bombs and man-eating plants, so you can fling her at the many dangerous denizens of the caves. That’s right. Dwarf-tossing is now passé. Now it’s wench-flinging (goooo Sarkeesimon!)

How the HELL did you get stuck there?

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You start with four hearts and everything that moves will drain you of one, except traps, mummy breath-flies and rocks you can brilliantly throw at the wall just so they can bounce back straight at your face, which take TWO precious hearts from your anemic meter, and the alien beams that take three. THREE. Out of FOUR. Saying that this makes you feel vulnerable is like saying that having nails in your eyes makes you feel slightly indisposed.

Speaking of nails, did I mention spikes kill you in one hit, regardless of how many hearts you have?

The deluxe sideways impalement version is also available.

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The kind of frustration that Skank Hunt provokes is the kind that instead of making you go “fuck this shit” and rage-quit, makes you go “fuck you” and rage-restart. The game’s ever-changing level layouts and various power-ups allows for constantly new strategies, such as flinging the wench at the bat, flinging the wench at the toad, flinging the wench at the spider, flinging the wench at the neanderthal, flinging the neanderthal at the wench, or sacrificing them both to a god of blood for a pair of magic mittens.

Totally worth it.

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Also, you can relive your Western fantasies and rob any shop you find, provided you can run from the shopkeeper (who, incidentally, draws faster than Lucky bloody Luke), which you can, because once you press the run button Indiana Rudolph engages blue hedgehog mode and goes from to zero to holy shit in point one seconds.

So what stops you from just running through all the levels? The Scrooge McDuck that lives in all of us. Money is your score, basically, and it also buys you shortcuts to levels ahead. These are the only things the game saves, so you better like dying. A lot.

Black dude. In a cave. Wants money. Nothing to worry about.

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After about 9 hours of gameplay (not consecutive, mind you, I’m not that sick yet) I got to Area 4 before a giant mummy forced-fed me its mouth-flies to death. Since every area has four levels, this means I got to level 13. After some more time I did manage to reach the final boss, only to be reminded of my mortality again in about nine seconds. Now that’s a challenge I hadn’t seen since the old arcade games of this style.

There’s tons of things to entertain you in your futile attempts at surviving through the deceivingly short levels of Super Duck Jones, like watching monkeys jump from vines in your general direction, miss, and fall eyes-first on a fresh batch of spiky death. If you’re bored, you can always feed neanderthals to man-eating plants. Oh wait, you’re not allowed to be bored, because if you don’t complete a level before 2 minutes have gone by, the soundtrack melts and 30 seconds later you’ll wish you’d called the Ghostbusters.

Mother pus bucket!

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Speaking of the soundtrack (by George Buzinkai and Jonathan Perry), if the same 4 bars of music repeated ad-infinitum don’t make you reach for a knife to stab the speakers with, congratulations, you’re probably deaf. It’s not that it’s bad, on the contrary, but it’s the same very short thing, over and over and over and over again, during all 4 levels of each area. Knowing you’ll have to restart areas quite frequently, this can wear you out quite fast.

Unless you’re mad.

Like me.

Seriously, though, Area 2 has the worst possible music to repeat.

Still, the appeal of a roguelike filled with secrets works very well. The controls are good and tight, and it’s best played with a control pad, if you ask me. They could, however, have made the ropes you climb wider than a pixel. Half of my deaths involve jumping for a rope, failing and faceplanting right in front of the exit.

Prometheus, is that you?

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8/10

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