Review: Dirchie Kart

Roaring retro racing

The first attempt on XBLIG to capture the spirit of 16-bit kart racers like Super Mario Kart was Wacky Karts, but this title suffered from an unforgiving balancing and "wacky" controls that made it mostly unenjoyable. Now a new contender by independent developer BrownBot has arrived on the marketplace, and their game Dirchie Kart does a way better job at delivering a fun kart racing experience. The full version includes ten different race tracks, three game modes, Avatar support and four player split screen matches. Battle and Drag events are accessible only in multiplayer mode and offer three Battle arenas and one Drag track. Due to a lack of multiple players, this review focuses on the single player component but will at least give some impressions gained from plugging in a second controller and checking out some two player split screen features. The standard single player race mode gives sufficient insight in what this game is about, though.

Brilliant Blue-G sketching out a classic platformer called Chester

Did you ever play a game thinking something like "Oh, cel shading would have looked really cool in this level!" and felt like changing the graphical look of the game at your will? Indie title Chester, an old school platformer by one-man-indie-developer Brilliant Blue-G will soon give players the opportunity to experience all the levels of the game in any of six different visual styles, provided that they have collected enough coins to purchase the unlockables. These styles comprise for example a pixelated 8-"bit" look, a "sketch" book style or gameboyish looking "lcd" visuals. All the graphics are completely hand-drawn, offering a unique scenery in three different settings. The game world gets torn apart by "The Bad Guy" who's also stolen all of the sweet cup cakes, and now it's Chester's turn to restore peace and retrieve the cakes. So much for the story, but what's the difference in rescuing a princess or securing some bakery products anyway? I don't care as long as the cake is not a lie...

Trial impressions: Adventures of Rocaman

Decent retro platformer being a little too classic

The first thing you notice when the title screen of this old school platformer shows up is the lack of support for widescreen displays and how blurry video output appears to be. Obviously, this game is trying to be overly accurate in emulating the retro experience a Super Nintendo console provided when it was plugged into a CRT television by applying an image post processing effect. Some people propably appreciate this kind of authenticity, but I was put off by the huge black bars on both sides of the screen and the poor picture quality only a cheap composite video cable would produce (without IPP). I have just recently bought a new HD widescreen television and I've come to expect no other than crisp, crystal clear visuals when booting an Xbox 360 game, but in this respect Adventures of Rocaman intentionally refuses to deliver. Other games such as Super Meat Boy or The Tempura of the Dead prove that you can be true to retro aesthetics without denying the advantages of modern display technology, which is why I disapprove of Syndrome Games' approach. But this is just a matter of taste and opinion and the gameplay certainly doesn't suffer too much from this design decision.

Spooky Squid Games working on bloody XBLIG platformer 'They Bleed Pixels'

The canadian indie developer Spooky Squid Games Inc. is currently working on a very promising looking title called 'They Bleed Pixels', a game they describe as "a fast paced, gothic, low-fi pixel art, platforming beat'em up". Its platforming gameplay is slightly reminiscient of N or N+ while its beat'em up component comes across as the 8-bit 2D equivalent of Bulletstorm, enabling the player to humiliate opponents by finishing them off with aerial kills, kicking them into spikes or stomping them into a bloody pulp.

So the game's title fits perfectly and with neat retro visuals and lovely chip tune music by DJ Finish Him, it's a game to look forward to for all fans of old school platformers. They haven't announced a release date yet but it's sure to hit XBLIG sometime this year.

Mini review: Inertia!

 In space, no one can hear you scream...

Inertia! is a rather short platformer offering only 9 levels but features some interesting novel gameplay. The player must escape a space station filled with traps like flames and broken power supply lines, and can defy gravity by activating inertia, letting the character float into the direction in which he had been moving before. While floating the character will bounce off walls, reaching locations he couldn't have gotten to otherwise. All levels can be played in time trial or reverse mode, the latter making you start at the end of each level and backtracking to the beginning. This may sound like a cheap way to extend the amount of content, but some levels are actually a little harder and require a different approach in reverse, which makes this mode a nice addition.

 The controls could be a little tighter for my taste as they feel a little too floaty (even without inertia being activated) and overly sensitive, but you will get used to it after a few minutes. Presentation and graphics are rather basic, but the soundtrack is very atmospheric and for 80 MSP you can't go wrong if you like platformers with a little twist.

Get the trial here and let me know how you liked the game!

NET YAROZE - spiritual predecessor of XBLIG - Part 1: Super Bub Contest

Developing games for XBLIG is relatively easy, assuming you have some knowledge of C# and some basic artistic skills (on second thought, the latter is not really a requirement as you can use avatars or zombies), because you can utilize a regular retail Xbox 360 console instead of purchasing an expensive development kit. Back in the old days, in a time nowadays referred to as the 90ies, it was much harder to see your own game come to life on a video game console. But there was a way, and it was called Net Yaroze, a special slimmed-down PlayStation 1 dev kit for hobby programmers. Net Yaroze games could be found on cover discs of the Official PlayStation Magazine and featured some competent remakes of classics such as Pac-Man or Boulder Dash.

My absolute favorite Net Yaroze title was featured on a demo disc back in 1998 and is called Super Bub Contest, a mix between Puzzle Bobble and Dr. Mario, featuring Tetris-like gameplay on a screen divided into two playfields.