VGNG 9: XNA Isn’t So Bad After All

It seems that Gazillion and crew had the foresight to include the XNA runtime with their application so I was actually able to play all of the VGNG games. Before I get to the inevitable conclusion followed by me casting my vote, though, I’d like to say a few words to any VGNG-compo developers that may stumble upon this text;

I have been kind of harsh on some games as providing valuable feedback wasn’t my aim with these posts; rather I have tried to describe some of the games to the limited readership of this blog. While I haven’t enjoyed the actual gameplay of every single game I have played, the many different styles of games and the environments in which they are presented has given me renewed insight into the variation of developers, even among the ones visiting a (arguably narrow) forum such as TIGsource, and for that I owe everyone who participated in the VGNG compo.


Corporate Moped Horde is a game in which you adjust a ramp to allow a bunch of businessmen on mopeds to get to a coffee house by using said ramp to jump past crates. As it is now it is a pretty physics toy that’s reminiscent of Scorched Earth, but a fun game with a lot of potential.

Incomprehensible Penguin Arena is an arena fighter that probably should’ve been tested by several people, although even in single player it’s still pretty amusing. You control a penguin on a disappearing ice block and you’re tasked with collecting fish and pushing the other penguins into the sea where there are whales that eat you if you’re not lucky. Temporary powerups and short “bonus missions” gives this title great potential for a party game.

Masters of Janitor Runner can only be played by two players so I guess I shouldn’t say too much about it. You play a janitor on a looping platform level and your mission is to collect all the cleaning utensils before the other janitor can. As there are no powerups or alternate ways to achieve progress (or hinder your opponent), I would assume it gets boring after awhile.

Narcoleptic Soccer Rush is a soccer game where the players randomly fall asleep. I didn’t feel that particular mechanic added very much to the gameplay, and it’s a bit on the easy side since the enemies doesn’t seem to make any effort to block you (other than the goalie), but still good fun for those of us who enjoyed the NES games “soccer” and “ice hockey” way back when. Also, Narcoleptic Soccer Rush had the XNA runtime included in the installer and gets extra credit since this apparently wasn’t an easy task.

Russian Landmine Patrol puts you in the shoes of a Russian mine sweeper and charges you with clearing a minefield so that a bunch of farmers can run safely across and get food. The mechanic where you don’t see the mines until you’re almost close enough to disarm them works fairly well, but since the game doesn’t change it gets boring after awhile.

Samurai Railroad Mansion is a Hogan’s Alley type game where you slash enemies before they slash you. Additional depth is added by forcing the player to uphold bushido and not attacking anyone before they attack you. This game was very pretty but also very hard, and not varied enough that I bothered to play it for very long.

Unstoppable Dwarf – Hot Pursuit takes place in a cave and gives you two magic spells (creating barriers and blasting holes in the ground) with which you are supposed to stop a dwarf from destroying some artifacts. The quick movement and repeating textures of this game made me nauseous so I wasn’t able to form a winning strategy before quitting, but it seemed like a pretty monotonous (although, comparatively pretty technically advanced) game.

Super Mario vs. Programming in China, a board game. I happen to like board games, but since it wasn’t a solitaire game setting it up just to play against myself didn’t seem like it would be worth the effort (and since it only took the developer 2 hours to complete, I’m guessing he felt the same way). It seems like Mario is at a slight disadvantage on the level presented due to the many cannons, though.

Posted on Mar 31/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | 1 Comment »

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VGNG 8: The Penultimate Batch

Discounting at least 2 XNA games that I can’t play with my current software configuration, I have 5 VGNG games left having played this batch, so in order to be able to wrap this up tomorrow; here’s my take on another 6…


Great Magic of the Deep, I’m not really sure of this one. It certainly seems like a poor excuse for a joke game since the third level is impossible to beat, but there might just be some ingenious way of beating it that just didn’t cross my mind. I don’t really see anything amusing with the game or the “ending”, so it sounds possible that I just missed something.

Heavy Metal Ninja Shootout is a vertical shooter. It has some upgrades and is fairly well-made but doesn’t really sport anything unique and isn’t particularly interesting.

Shameful Pachinko Romance allows you to create romances between characters based on how well you play Pachinko. As there isn’t much randomness to the balls and control is exact, you can easily get a perfect game every time so the quest to see every ending becomes pretty monotonous. And I still don’t like GDI graphics.

Small-time Scorched Earth Invasion is a mashup of space invaders and scorched earth in that you control a tank shooting projectiles affected by gravity at the enemies from Space Invaders. The game is made even more interesting since you play on a spherical planet instead of a plane, and given some more variation it could become really great. As it is now, you can just fire projectiles into a constant orbit and they will circle around and shield the planet until there are so many invaders that no other strategy would work anyway.

Twin Hobo Rocket has two hobos flying through the sky in a makeshift rocket, trying to get money attached to balloons. The controls is like a sluggish version of Asteroids and your only obstacle is all the stuff flying in the way, so it becomes repetitive after awhile. The brilliant art direction and voiced comments of the hobos prolong the life of the game, though.

Dynamite Prison Armageddon is a top-down puzzle game where you try to approach birthday cakes that house gremlins who create labyrinths of dynamite around you. While the difficulty is very uneven, the game is varied and presents some different solutions with very few means so it is certainly worth playing.

Posted on Mar 30/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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VGNG 7: Weekend Crusade Continued

With less than half of the entries left, patterns emerge; some developers implement a simple game mechanic and rely on the name to provide the selling point, others have the beginnings of a somewhat unique concept and still others have had the time to refine the games they made. This doesn’t say so much about the games themselves, but it does provide some interesting insight into how the developers approached the task, what they wanted to get out of it and how that matched up to what actually happened. Insightful art, in a way.


Enraged Rocket House has you driving an Ice Cream Truck around a neighborhood, trying to sell Ice Cream without getting caught by the Enraged Rocket House circling the skies. A very pretty game rendered in 3D with Ambient Occlusion applied in lightmaps, but the truck handled pretty badly meaning that whenever you stopped or slowed down you got caught – this in turn made it difficult to actually get something done.

Fabulous Hardware Annihilation seems inspired by the scene in “Office Space” where the guys break the office printer. It gives you a few seconds to click on an assortment of moving icons without hitting any of another set of moving icons. Pretty simple.

Infinite Nazi On Wheels is a horizontal shooter with some sort of huge Nazi tank in the background. As far as shooters go, it was alright although not getting any upgrades made it boring in the long run. I also didn’t really care for the windows GDI graphics.

Infinite Underwear Attack is an almost snake-like game where you control a dot to collect hamburgers in a room, for every burger you hit another enemy appears and once you hit one the game is over. Also very simple.

Morbidly Obese Rugby Nation starts out with two morbidly obese rugby teams on a field, and the player being allowed to do the kickoff. After that, you can’t do anything but do (failing) attempts to move for two minutes. Hardly a game, but the accompanying voice-synthesized commentary makes it entertaining.

Pro Mushroom Slam seems like a wrestling sim but you only really have one move at your disposal so it becomes a “game” of either mashing the button and win, or not mashing the button and lose.

Robotic Outlaw Mayhem is another platformer, this one is incredibly low-res and has a very versatile main character able to do both wall jumps and double jumps in the form of “dives”. The dive mechanic prohibits you from further controls, creating some interesting opportunities for difficult long jumps and the level design is at times interesting (although the aesthetic design is a little boring). There is also a story in this game hinted at by some cryptic messages on the walls, all in all I liked it and wished it was longer.

We Love Mind Control Rocket is a strategy game/construction management sim where you control resources in different parts of the world in order to build an army and defeat your siblings in the race for world domination. It was really well made in regards to presentation and I liked the options the game provided, but like others in it’s genre it takes a very long time to see the effects of your decisions – and by extension and even longer time to decide whether it’s implemented a good balance or not. I didn’t have the time today and while I certainly liked the theme I don’t think I liked it enough to try it again later – it certainly was a nice game but not the kind of game I’d personally go to a competition like this to find.

Posted on Mar 30/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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VGNG 6: A Return to Chaos

A busy day yesterday prevented me from trying any VGNG games, so I had to do some very short evaluations today… Might seem unfair, but on the other hand the ability to catch my interest in a matter of minutes is perhaps the most important feature in a game developed in less than a month and available for free.


Post-Apocalyptic Unicorn Uprising is a shooter… sort of. you control a flock of unicorns bent on destroying the robot invaders, to help you do that you can shoot rays from the horns of the unicorns as well as draw rainbow shields (much like in Kirby’s Canvas Curse). You can’t move around the unicorns yourself, but you can deplete your rainbow meter to revive dead ones, and while this mechanic is interesting there is a fundamental problem with mechanics that make you weaker when you’re hurt – usually, it all goes well until you make a single mistake and then you get caught in a vicious circle. The game is otherwise pretty simple and it would be nice to see a “proper” shooter use some of these new mechanics.

No-one can Stop the Sloth of the Blood God is an interesting real-time strategy title (or rather, tactics) where you control armies composed of different kinds of troops in order to help Russia conquer the world. The twist is that in order to win each battle, you need to satisfy the blood god by making sure at least 300 soldiers are killed before the battle is won forcing you to make sure you’re winning the battle at a slow rate. The different kinds of soldiers aren’t that well implemented as usually you’re best off by just using the most powerful units available, but the different nations in the world use vastly different strategies and while this only produces a megaman-like effect when you have to fight them in a certain order to stand a chance, the real-time manipulation of the battle flow makes this game fun to play.

Papal Shotgun Gladiator is an arena shooter where you play a member of the clergy armed with a shotgun in a lion-pit. Martyrs are thrown in and it’s your job to make sure enough of them finish their praying and become enlightened before the lions eat them. The game doesn’t seem to have an end as the difficulty progression is completely linear, and while shooting stuff can surely be fun there are games that do this better.

Presidential Crowbar Encounter, like Papal Shotgun Gladiator this one doesn’t do much to extend on the humor of the title. You see a crowbar and use a rubber-band mechanic to jam it into president Bush’ skull, which may be fun to look at once or twice but it’s hardly a game.

Rocket-Powered Frisbee Punch Out features a man with a rocket-propelled frisbee in his mouth flying through space taunting the bad guys in a spacewar taking place behind him. A funny concept for the story but the gameplay mostly consists of hammering the mouse button at the enemies. Plus it’s really short with only one screen of enemies and another one with a boss.

Secret of Software 64, a GROW-like game. Like them, it may be fun to play the one time you don’t know the answer but after that it’s pointless (disregarding the rumored secret ending). It was nice to see the animations, but there’s no logic behind the results and no different ordering combinations to try so I got done with this fairly quickly.

Viking Bazooka Bloodbath Lets you play as a viking with a bazooka in an platform/arena shooter. The controls are good (even though binding “up” to jump should be illegal) and the graphics and variation of firing are okay, but I got bored pretty quickly since the bar for getting ahead even in the early levels was set very high and encouraged sort of a “mole” style gameplay. The game does uses a very nice Halo-style system for death, though – you can take any number of sparse hits, but if you take two hits in short succession you die immediately.

Orbital Booty Interceptor puts you in the shoes(?) of an alien kidnapping people to fuel his spaceship. The claws used to capture people are the only functioning parts of the spaceship so you also use them to push yourself in the air. I sort of liked this game because even though it was very unforgiving it felt fluid and hinted that there was some decent progression, but each time I played the camera went haywire and the character disappeared out of screen and crashed shortly after since I couldn’t control it. It would probably have been good if it wasn’t so volatile.

Posted on Mar 30/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | 2 Comments »

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VGNG 5: OSX Edition

I decided to get home early and play a few of the VGNG games on OSX instead, easier said than done since almost no games could be run natively on a mac, and only a few used intermediary platforms. However…


Planet of the Forklift Kid, a physics-based platform puzzler featuring a kid running around and using forklifts to get by. The levels were a little too large for such small puzzles and the jumping was kind of unreliable, but it was a nice little game.

The Adventures of Death Episode 1: Emo Harvest on the Oregon Trail is another game that seems like a browser game. You play the game as the Grim Reaper skiing on the Oregon trail chopping down Emo kids in your path; the only way to go is down so the main challenge is to slash at the right time and do timed jump to hit switches revealing new paths. I would’ve liked to see less halts in the skiing and more alternate paths near the end, but for what it is, Emo Harvest on the Oregon Trail is alright.

Morbidly Obese Workout Man tasks you with running around on a platform-ish, screen-sized level that is looping in both directions, running to certain points, collecting food to build your stamina and avoiding the female jogger that’s jumping around. It hardly qualifies as a game since there’s no progression whatsoever and the only way to end the game is to stand still for a long time.

Obsessive Compulsive Penguin Simulator is another game with very little gameplay, you play a penguin with a compulsive need to flatten snow drifts and the game is basically to do so repeatedly in order to keep a good balance between obsession and compulsion. I suppose the theme of this game gives the interaction a deeper meaning, though.

Savage Balloon 3000 features the savage balloon and a lot of bees. You basically control the balloon with the mouse and try to avoid the bees until you reach their hive where you crash and then continue to the next level where you repeat the thing with a different-colored balloon. You can also activate the savagery where a side of the balloon becomes lethal for a short while – although this has some cooldown time so you have to save it for when you need it. A very repetitive game.

There were also a few half-entries that were unfinished or joke games…

Extreme Bedtime: The Next Generation  where you go to bed. And sleep.

Furry Punching Nitro where the furry always dies and everybody wins.

Mega Spatula Fury,  I would point out that McDonald’s has clamshell grills and don’t use spatulas to flip burgers, but the animations in this game are so awesome I just want him to finish it.

Posted on Mar 27/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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Byron Review Released

Child Psychologist Tanya Byron released her much-anticipated review today

The Prime Minister asked me to conduct this Review in order to help parents and their children get the best from new technologies while protecting children from inappropriate or harmful material. The objectives of the Review were:

  • To undertake a review of the evidence on risks to children’s safety and wellbeing of exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games.
  • To assess the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help prevent children from being exposed to such material and help parents understand and manage the risks of access to inappropriate content, and to make recommendations for improvements or additional action.

The entire review is 200+ pages long so I have only read the summary and it seems thoughtful enough – Byron says she puts the children themselves at the center of her investigation and I’m certainly not going to question a professional without reason – especially since I haven’t read the methods and evidence she cites to support her suggestions. What I will say though is that the report is – perhaps unsurprisingly – hardly revolutionary if you’ve been reading up on the politics surrounding games. That parents need to be better informed of age ratings and parental control mechanisms, that schools need to educate E-Safety and that stores need to display information clearer – It’s all been said before.

I’m certainly no expert but from the store clerks I’ve talked to this comic illustrates the root of the problem – the problem isn’t with the people who care about finding the solutions, but rather with the people who don’t.

Posted on Mar 27/08 by Saint and filed under Moral panic | No Comments »

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VGNG 4: Now in Alphabetic Order!

Voting has opened for the VGNG, meaning I’ll have to burn through the games at a faster rate, but I certainly don’t have anything better to do with my spare time.


Ace Starkiller in: Hillbilly Burger Bastards is an adventure game with not-too-obscure puzzles. While I liked some of the dialogue, I can’t understand why it was made with “retro-style” pixelated graphics; it is not very pretty and it makes it really hard to make out what is happening on more than one occasion. The attempts to include action sequences weren’t very good, but on the other hand it was almost always made clear that it was a wise choice to avoid direct conflict, so I won’t blame a good adventure game for having branches.

Attack of the Banjo on the High Seas is a combined Rhythm game/Simon says thing where you do Banjo-battle against a pirate. Pretty simple idea where the biggest hindrance was that you couldn’t see where the mouse was until you actually hit a fret. Didn’t last very long for me and – though it might be unfair to criticizes such a quick work – I was really put-off by the Bryce background. Maybe years of indoctrination by hateful artists left some marks after all.

Brain-Damaged Toon Underworld is another platformer, this one by semi-famous indie developer cactus. The game is very short and contains very little in terms of gameplay and story, but it still manages to set up a very nice, weird mood and I’m anxious to see where he takes this in the future if he keeps working on it.

Fotball Planet, the first sports game on the list, is a 2-player game where you play one-on-one soccer on a sphere. It’s painfully unfinished and not very fun (although I can’t say for sure since I didn’t have a second player to test it with me), but the idea of playing games on the surface of a sphere is interesting, I guess.

It should be said that ROM CHECK FAIL really made my day and my expectations rose so maybe I was unfair towards this batch.

Posted on Mar 26/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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VGNG 3: A Whole New Level


ROM CHECK FAIL is an odd entry in the VGNG since the name wasn’t auto-generated, originator Farbs describes the process as having removed the ‘N’ for a Videogame Generator. It is good enough to warrant it’s own post, though.

ROM CHECK FAIL simulates a mashed up arcade ROM image randomly swapping the gameplay every few seconds; the character you play, the enemies you face and the background theme randomly changes while you play. This means that you have to reevaluate your strategy very quickly on the fly and constantly make sure a potential swap wouldn’t catch you completely defenseless – the hectic adaptation gameplay is reminiscent of the WarioWare games.

Somewhat confusing, but immensely fun and a great example of how much gameplay you can achieve with simple means – although like all games heavy on references to other games, it might be hard to “get” if you haven’t played the original games.

Posted on Mar 26/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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VGNG 2: It continues

Another four entries in the VGNG…


No One Can Stop the Farm Pioneer is a farm sim where you raise cows, grow wheat and chop down trees to build stuff, and drive your spacetruck around the galaxy to find new planets to farm. It is incredibly good looking for such a short production – hell, good looking for any game, even. It is a rather slow game but stressful since you had to manage a food chain in real-time. I’d usually expect a lot more detail from a game as slow-paced but then again, I haven’t played it for very long. I’ll probably try it again later on.

Tiny Platypus Pimps is… well, I guess you could call it a pimping simulator where you try to traffic drugs. The idea of a platypus pimp is nice, but the game is really simple since there are very few things you can do – and very hard since doing any of them will alert the cops and cripple you. Not a big fan of this one, sadly, although it should be said that this is the most bug-free game of today’s batch.

8-bit Gun Tales is a megaman-style platform game featuring a revolver. Collision is really dodgy and leads to some messy situations but other than that it controls just fine and is quite nice if you’re a fan of jump challenges performed while being shot at. I’d say it looks rather bland (apart from the main character), but I guess that’s part of the visual style.

Time Shark II: Medieval Shark Strike Force is another platformer featuring a shark traveling in time to eradicate all the Hitler clones from history. Unsurprisingly, the tone and story of the game is hilarious and it gives more than a few nods to metroid and megaman. The controls are really sluggish which I guess you can expect from trying to control a shark on dry land, but that’s hardly an excuse since that’s what you do most of the game – also, it can be a little repetitive. I still liked this game though, the hilarious story, the biting animations and the terror of the Hitler Clones when you approached, won me over.

Posted on Mar 25/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development, Reflections | No Comments »

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Yes, we do need writers


I was going to go off on a rant about Adam Maxwell’s suggestion that writers in the games industry are superfluous, but luckily the IGDA Game Writers Special Interest Group posted a rebuttal stating all but the most personal points I thought of so I’ll keep it short.

Maxwell seems to attack not only the position of the writer but the concept of in-game stories itself. Working in a company known for making games with a strong narrative element, I consistently get blown away when reading new concepts and story drafts. While this feeling ebbs away and powerful scenes get tiresome after you see them slightly-less-broken for the twentieth time, there’s no denying that a believable story and characters work wonders for immersion – for the simple reason that you’re actually listening to it instead of getting hung-up on the clichés and contradictions. Sure, a person working full-time with writing might not be the first one to hire when starting up a game company, but I don’t see Maxwell providing enough arguments as to why we should disregard 10 years of refinement in game development.

Posted on Mar 25/08 by Saint and filed under General game development | 1 Comment »