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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Cortex Command

I'm guessing that planet is pretty small, if I can see the elevation of a single peak and the outlines of individual trees...

Cortés 2099, by Data Realms, is a 2D shooter mixed with some strategic turn-based elements in which space mining companies fight for the control of precious resources, much like a 22nd century gold rush, if you will. We are greeted at the title screen by the only planet we will ever see and by a sci-fi score, nothing out of this world (haha, j0k3), but it suits the experience. The best way to describe Terminator Attacks! is by reading the reports of one of those mining companies, RAM OVERLOAD, which in 2072 decided it had had enough of this blogging bullshit and publicly stated “screw you, guys, I’m gonna go dig for gold on other planets.”

We're in a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

We’re on a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

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The moment we decided to land on one of the mining sites (those shiny dots on the planet’s surface, presumably because there’s so much gold there it can be seen from space), a rival company decided to do the exact same thing, on the exact same site. “Dem bastards!” we said, and lo, they now had a name.

They came, they saw, they opened a can of whoop-ass on us, they probably came multiple times later from all the gold they inhaled off the desert’s surface, and so RAM OVERLOAD had to admit defeat. This was, however, in the sands of the Burraki Desert, the shiny dot to the west. There was another place to the east, the Dvorak Caves, and that’s where we crossed paths again with Dem Bastards.

Flying dicks, fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

Flying dicks? Fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

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So, in Gold Huffing, humanity no longer inhabits their own bodies. Instead, it transplants its brain into a robotic body which can also control other robots telepathically. Only one robot can be controlled at a time, but they also have an AI able to follow simple commands… from your cerebral cortex. Get it? Get it?

Ahem, in a nutshell, if, during an expedition to a mining site, that little pink brain-in-a-vat-on-a-body gets blown to pieces, you’re done. You have a total of 10 available brains in a campaign, which for the purposes of this game we will ignore as belonging to human beings with a past, a life, probably a family, ambitions, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. They should have read the fine print.

As I was saying, we crossed paths with Dem Bastards in the Dvorak Caves, and this time our marksbots managed to shoot the enemy’s brains out (literally) before they did, which is in essence the whole point of the game.

The planet’s two mining sites were now evenly distributed between RAM OVERLOAD and Dem Bastards. Sounds nice, fair and square, right? Fuck them, I want EVERYTHING!

Well, shit.

Well, shit.

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We failed spectacularly at trying to take over their base, which had been fortified by now, since they distributed their funds between this and trying to take over the Dvorak Caves in the previous turn. Every turn you get a chance to distribute funds between expeditions, building (thank heavens for auto-build), and planetary surface scanning. I recommend you never overlook the latter, lest you fancy landing at the bottom of a cliff, or on a sharp peak. The AI doesn’t fuck around in Tripping At Every Pixel, so get ready for some serious resistance.

When it comes to invasions, however, I’m either pretty good at defending myself or the AI decides to enter retard mode. Dem Bastards decided to do the exact same thing and take the Dvorak Caves from RAM OVERLOAD, the result was humiliating (for them).

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can't unsee it.

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can’t unsee it.

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So, nothing chang- Oh but what’s that? A third mining site? Psyche! RAM OVERLOAD victoriously crushes the brain of its rival and claims the Metankora Highlands for itself. With double the income, we’re bound to take over their base easily.

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

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-ohhh... snap.

-ohhh… snap.

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Yes, it’s the same dune. Our adventurous brain-in-a-vat-in-a-body probably rolled down the dune more than it had time to walk. The obvious retaliation is easy to foresee, and the next five turns can be summed up with the following picture:

Except instead of cats it’s soulless corporations, instead of paddles it’s money, instead of ping pong balls it’s brains, instead of a table it’s a planet, instead of…

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They came to us, we blew them to pieces, we went to them, they blew us to pieces, repeat ad infinitum. Eventually, however, private 3V3RYM0M3N71L1V315460NY entered the stupidest backdoor ever built, took out all the guards in his/her/its way (except for Laurel and Hardy up there) and reached the enemy’s brain.

Headshot! Is there any other?

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The moral of this story is never nail your brain to the ceiling. Nothing good can come of that.

Now, you might be thinking “this looks like an awesome game!” You would be correct, in theory. There are little things that make this more frustrating than fun.

The most glaring issue was that every single fucking pixel of terrain can make you trip, block your path, or prevent your jetpacking up a shaft (which, by the way, only works at top speed if you have no guns… and no legs). And it’s not just the pixels, it’s the movement itself. The puppetry, the controls, the weight, etc. The kind of quick thinking that Hasta La Vista Brainy requires is definitely not compatible with very buggy movement and puppetry systems. “Oh but it’s not a bug! It’s a feature! Because the physics syst-” Screw the physics system. A game has to FLOW first and foremost. If your movement is being hampered to a bothersome degree of frustration, your physics/movement relation is weak. This isn’t QWOP. We’re supposed to be focusing on shooting, digging and defending bunkers, not on whether our robot is able to put one foot in front of the other.

Granted, the website clearly states that this is an alpha. It has been out as such for a long time. Movement, however, is a basic function that in my opinion should be tweaked before anything else. If the flow of the game does not improve, I’m afraid that despite all the neat features and ideas to be added, the final version will still feel like I’m trying to wrestle out of a quicksand pit every time I take a step forward.

4/10

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SSTTP: Red Rogue

Illegally-Inclined Far-Leftist, for the politically correct.

Illegally-Inclined Far-Leftist, for the politically correct.

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Isn’t it funny how I keep reviewing stuff that isn’t shown on the right sidebar as being played or to be reviewed?

Yeah…

Everything Bleeds is a Sidescrolling Roguelike Dungeon Crawler by Aaron Steed in which a rogue explores a dungeon with her anorexic boyfriend, naively hoping not to die at some point.

There isn’t much to say, except that it’s fun, flows very well and is moderately addictive. The controls are just right, and the effective menu takes just a bit to get used to. I cannot understand for the life of me, however, why is down for entering doors and up for picking objects that are on the ground. I mean, I can… You usually go DOWN the dungeon, and pick UP objects, but someone must have slept through the whole history of sidescrollers to not remember that “up goes in doors.” I’m sure it has already become a reflex to most of us, and by us I mean me, my brain, and my fingers.

Not sure if Sinatra, Krueger, Jackson or Jones.

Not sure if Sinatra, Krueger, Jackson or Jones.

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I noticed, however, that if you go up the first flight of stairs you come down from, you appear at the overworld, where apparently you can hit some magical wheel of XP and level up silly-nilly. What’s the deal with that? It strikes me as a rather heavy flaw, if you ask me, unless the dungeon’s first level then adapts to your level 99 rogue and blocks the way with some bloated draconic fatass you’ll have to defeat with your magical bare fists of rogueness.

Something I like a lot about Fedora is what I like to call bump-death. Just keep walking against your enemies and the rogue will attack them on contact, just like… she’s on her…

The blood everywhere now makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

It seems simple at first, but then some random writing on the walls will provide you with strategic tips, like how falling on top of enemies stuns them for a while. I also noticed that a situation where moving towards the stationary monster is better for you than a mutual convergence, amidst other things.

How I fixed the up and down issue.

How I fixed the up and down issue.

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Screeching Sewers doesn’t exactly have music per se, rather some sinister environmental texture by Nathan Gallardo akin to a mix of microphones being raped in several creative ways. It works wonders for the immersion.

I guess my strongest complaint is that the limited colour palette makes me tire of the game faster than, say, something like Spelunky. Other than that, it’s brilliantly executed, and a real steal for exactly $0.

7/10

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Lone Survivor

Silent SNES is a psychological horror adventure sidescroller by Jasper Byrne, in which a young man seems to have mistaken an outbreak of spasmodic flesh mannequins for the bird flu.

You start as You (not you, You), a young man who seems to recollect very little of his recent life, including his near surroundings. You also seems to believe a dust mask to be an effective shield against shambling monstrosities with a propensity for biting and an inability to grasp the concept of depth, should You decide to cleverly dodge into the background shadows. Long story short, there’s monsters everywhere, and You wants out of this place, because you know, getting bitten to death sucks.

Oh, but that’s not it, no sir. Drugs Are Bad For You pulls you (not You, you) into the mind of You, and boy, is it fucked up. You eventually meets Her, who seems to be someone You held in high esteem, and she is the main source of mystery and motivation for You (aside from not being eaten alive by Them). I won’t delve deeper, simply because I can’t. Most questions you might have about You’s past life, current state of mind or encounters are never answered objectively, materializing instead as inside-out renditions of Thriller, a shady cat-comics lover in an overcoat, the lovechild of Pee-Wee Herman and Billy, and a man in a suit with a cardboard box on his head.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

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I like it. I like it a lot. Daddy’s Gonna Rape You is tough. Some small things aren’t easy to notice, but I like how something as simple as ammo or flashlight battery replenishment are embedded into the surrealism of the game. There are some details going on you might miss the opportunity to act on at first. Along with the multiple endings, this provides good replay value. The save mechanics make sense, the shortcuts back to the only place you can save in are well positioned and scarce enough to make You’s journey a challenge, and you always have the choice between being sneaky or shooting everything that moves. This last point is many times ruined in games when the choices are too unbalanced, especially in the case of stealth being an easy choice over melee as deadly as storming a bunker alone with a pocketknife. Can’t See Shit, Captain features no controller support, though. It’s fine on keyboard, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that little extra for controller-nuts like me. Joy2Key it is.

Another thing I love in Mommy’s Gonna Cut You is the absence of a GUI besides the inventory. No bars, no meters, no points, nothing. You is You, you become You, no interferences, no idiotic sanity accounting, no control, no idea of when You’ll start feeling hungry, tired, nothing at all. You are stripped bare of anything that could possibly distract you from You’s point of view, therefore guaranteeing total immersion, which is what a horror game is supposed to deliver. I won’t be scared if I’m simply told that my character just crapped his pants. That’s what sanity meters do. They’re pantscrapping measurement tools, and that’s pure, extra virgin and unprocessed bollocks. If you want me to crap my pants, then make the game do so. Even if you don’t want that, even if you just want me to jump from time to time, to leak one or two drops of pee, to shiver a bit, to lay an egg, whatever, just make the game itself, its environment, events, characters and story have that effect on me. A sanity meter is the equivalent of an “applause” sign at live shows: shallow, insincere emotion, and a waste of everyone’s time, vocal chords, and skin cells.

The Matrix doesn’t seem so bad anymore, now does it?

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The Magic School Bus works so well, in fact, that it doesn’t even need fancy graphics to keep you on edge. It’s not something that will rape your mind with horrifying nightmares for a month, far from that, but while that was never a requirement, it still does a better job than many games with modern graphics. The music, also by Jasper Byrne, accomplishes this masterfully. Hell, all of the audio is spot on. I didn’t know a vacuum cleaner could sound like that.

I’ll end this by addressing the bloated, pulsating elephant carcass in the room: The influence of Silent Hill is more than obvious, no one can deny it. By Silent Hill, I mean Silent Hill 2, the only Silent Hill game there has ever been. I do not know of any other Silent Hill, and if you do, I’m so sorry. I believe, however, that a great formula can be used more than once with very good results, and this is one of those cases. Why? Sensibility.

Speaking of which, hey, Konami, Jasper called, he found your taste.

9/10

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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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King Arthur’s Gold

Imagine someone grabbed Terraria and Worms Armageddon and smashed them together along with terrain physics. That’s KAG in a nutshell. Only better. Oh, so much better.

King Arthur’s Gold (which mentions no such thing) is a sidescroller focused on building and destroying. I don’t think it really fits a specific genre, so let’s borrow the term used by Transhuman Design to baptize their wonder child: a build ‘n’ kill.

In a feat of seduction, they offer you a free version with less features than the paid one only to leave you drooling at the possibilities of the finished product, like half a Kitkat dangling freely outside a locked chest half-filled with Lindt chocolate, except they tell you the chest will be completely filled, and will eventually include praline and nuts. It’s only an early beta, after all, but I was nevertheless immediately hooked, so I promptly bought it and it has been a pain to stop playing.

The singleplayer better improve dramatically when they’re done with the game, because Deathmatch is just a combat tutorial against clones of some poor bloke named Henry, and Sandbox is the definition of boredom: completely alone in an small, empty map in order to build whatever I feel like with infinite resources and the ability to conjure the map editor. Why am I going to build anything if I don’t have to defend myself? Just call it Map Editor and open its interface directly. Then there’s Zombie Fortress just for the fat cats like me, able to cough up 13 dollars like it’s 10 bucks. This mode is almost exactly like Terraria, except there’s less to do. You just have to survive the nights and recruit retarded migrants to help you repel waves of undead.

Can’t touch this. Dun dun-dun-dun…

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Night comes so fast I found myself dying repeatedly until the random map generated the ruins of a tower tall enough to grant me some time to build a decent fortress. I may just be a sucky builder, though. The absence of a save function in this mode renders it pointless. Sure, you can save the MAP, but as far as I could tell you can’t save your progress in it.

Having said this, the singleplayer in MOVE! as of now is at best mediocre and aimless. We are instead witnessing an event similar to that of a blue moon in gaming: When the multiplayer mode cumbersomely carries the entirety of the game’s glory upon its shoulders, like a proud, fat and zitty Atlas somewhat saddened that he cannot reach his Cheetos without dropping the world on his head.

Yes, the multiplayer arena is delightfully, addictively, structure-crumblingly, absolutely FUN. There are three classes to choose from, and each of them has its own particular way of being a dick to its surroundings. As one of the seven dwarves, you have the chance to play God and decide whether the enemy knight coming your way will take a shovel, a spiky wall or an entire building to the face. As Sir Bombalot, you seem to enjoy divine protection, since not only does your shield have the power to break the laws of physics to serve as a parachute, you’re also able to master bomb-propelled flight while sustaining no damage whatsoever. As William Tell Me You’re Out Of Arrows, you have the ability to go Twilight on trees while crushing the hopes and dreams of every knee in sight (my personal favorite). Losing is fun, winning is fun and seeing structures meet their demise at the hands of physics (and a well-aimed catapult shot) combines a sight of terror with a visual orgasm, regardless of whether you’re part of the collapse.

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The first multiplayer mode I landed on was Capture the Flag, in which teams red and blue fight for a piece of cloth waving to the wind on the opposite side of the world. Thinking this was the only mode available, I then stumbled upon War, I mean, WAR!, where you must drain the opposing team’s reserve of tickets back from hell before yours run out. There’s also Rapid Deathmatch, which is the same except there aren’t any respawn tickets to be used, and Gold Hunt, or so I’ve heard, since I haven’t set eyes on that one yet.

UPDATE: I thought I’d just add this here: Zombie Fortress seems to have been included as one of the multiplayer modes, effectively obsoleting the singleplayer one. Now you can relive the thrill of Walking Dead in a medieval setting, and without whiny bitchery.

I have only one concern over the long-term future of the multiplayer experience in QUARTERS PLZ!: If the community eventually either rottens or dies, this will effectively become a dead world. I have my doubts concering the latter, though. I mean, look at Worms Armageddon. It’s beyond ancient and there still exists a multiplayer community. That leaves us with the grim possibility that the population of KAGville might eventually consist of nothing but a myriad of douchebags and their corresponding variations, while behind passworded doors some decent folk still play.

Concerning the soundtrack, or rather, the track, the only one that I ever managed to hear in the game is the title screen’s. I couldn’t tell if there were more, I’m not the kind that lingers at the title screen to think about life. It was composed by David Pencil, from Penny Arcade. I think that THEY’RE TUNNELING! would either need a constant soundtrack or none at all. As it is, it feels a bit pointless. But we never know, maybe the finished product will have a say in this too.

For now, I’ll just gaze into the horizon of possibilities with my totally cool and anachronistic glasses.

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9/10

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