Update: New Expeditions

It’s true, it has been approximately the half-life of argon since I last updated anything on the written (and original!) incarnation of the Indie Ocean.

Basically, I always feel pretty drained when I get home from a hard day sculpting pancake statues, draining canals with a straw, or whatever it is I do for a living right now. I can record and edit a video in typically under an hour, then leave it to render while I do something else. A written review, on the other hand, generally takes 3-4 hours to write, edit, format and post.

Shipwreck. The wreck might have something to do with the gigantic homicidal crustacean you brought aboard in your hand luggage.

Shipwreck. The wreck might have something to do with the gigantic homicidal crustacean you brought aboard in your hand luggage.

Having said that, I prefer doing the written stuff. I enjoy it more and find it more satisfying. Dare I say I think I’m also better at it. So the upshot of all this is that I’m going to try and knuckle down to a review every couple of weeks. Chances are, it’ll be whatever I’ve been playing lately, so it’s likely to be a combination of PC indies, console indies, (real) roguelikes, and occasionally mobile ports of board games. In your face, consistency!

Do I have any particular games lined up? Why yes; yes I do. Look out for Shipwreck; at long last the first real Zelda-alike on Xbox Live Indie Games (previously the closest we had was FenackStory which got an A for good intentions, a C for execution, and a kick in the face for length).

FenackStory. I reviewed this already, and typing the review took about 500 times as long as finishing the game.

FenackStory. I reviewed this already, and typing the review took about 500 times as long as finishing the game.

Continuing with the Zelda-apeing theme, you can also expect to catch a fleeting, sasquatch-like glimpse of some degree of comment about Lenna’s Inception, a quasi-procedural-ish action adventure game which uses visual assets that are different from, but strikingly reminiscent of, Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy.

Lenna's Inception. Went through a lot of changes before they cast DiCaprio.

Lenna’s Inception. Went through a lot of changes before they cast DiCaprio.

The gist here is that the written Indie Ocean is back in business, and if that means reviewing WazHack 75 times and posting rambles about how much I didn’t hate the ending of Mass Effect 3, then so be it. (Don’t worry, that was a lie. Except the bit about Mass Effect.)

See you soon, indie investigators. …Indiegators– Indievestig— Whatever.

Uprisings and Updates

The Indie Games Uprising III is over now, and there’s plenty to review once I’ve spent enough time with the remaining games. In the meantime there are some quick look videos on The Indie Ocean’s YouTube channel.
I can tell you right now, though, that one of the Uprising games has displaced a regular diner at my Captain’s Table of the finest Xbox Live Indie Games. Congratulations to Smooth Operators: Call Centre Chaos, which offers us a management sim smooth, professional and addictive enough to rival the classic likes of Theme Park. And for only 80 Microsoft points! That’s almost offensively good value. If you’ve ever got even a moment’s enjoyment from a Theme, Sim or Tycoon game, go and take a peek at Smooth Operators.

Smooth Operators: Call Centre Chaos

All the Nines: Uprising to the Challenge

It’s coming. In the wake of last year’s reasonably successful summer and winter Indie Uprising events comes the biggest yet: the Indie Games Uprising III, also known amusingly paradoxically as the Fall Uprising. Nine games in the ninth month, all brand new releases from ambitious indie developers, and some that have already made me gape with barely suppressed gaming lust.

The finished products haven’t landed yet, but the Indie Ocean’s pick of the bunch at this pre-release stage is City, Tuesday in which you play someone stuck repeatedly reliving the same five minutes before a terrorist attack. Profiles of this game and the others in the Uprising will pop up like mischievous gnomes over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, you can follow Uprising news on Twitter @XBLIGUprising or using the hashtag #IGU3, or at http://indiegames-uprising.com/

Once the games hit the market there will also be some unprecedentedly delicious video treats in store that you’ll find only on the Indie Ocean. Nine games, the voices of nine developers, and a big heap of my acerbic ruminations. Stick around.

Let’s Play: Antipole

In case you’re not aware, staunch and faithful readers, I also have a YouTube channel. I’ve never tried a blind Let’s Play before, but Antipole‘s gravity-warping Michael Jackson antics made me reckless.

Episode 1: I Sack Newton

Episode 2: Mostly Harmless

Episode 3: Remember When?

Three episodes down, but the gravity shenanigans are continuing apace.

Watch the playlist for the series as it happens here.

Or snoop around my whole channel here.

Why I Didn’t Buy Minecraft

I’ve played Minecraft-inspired games before. I’ve put dozens of hours into Terraria and a decent chunk of time into Total Miner: Forge. When Minecraft itself finally hit the Xbox recently, I had to at least play the demo. As it turned out, few demos have ever made me want to buy a game less.

I can understand some people being put off by the relatively sedentary pace or the lack of a clear goal. Not so for me. Let me walk you through it.

The demo puts you in a ready-built area, complete with a pond, a ruined hut, a small town and a castle. I went through the tutorial bits easily enough, fixed up the hut as instructed, then went to explore. After wandering around the castle for a while, night fell. I trotted into the town and holed up in one of the houses. Curious about the monsters that I knew would come out now it was dark, I stood at the window and watched. What I saw was a brief glimmer of green, then BANG! One wall of the house caved in as one of those exploding creatures decided it was in a bad mood. Zombies and spiders piled in, and my flimsy sword could only do so much. Without room to get out of the house, they finished me off pretty quickly.

I respawned without any of my weapons or tools, all the way back at the pond in the tutorial area. I could hear enemies nearby, so rather than trying to get to town, I ran to the hut I’d fixed up earlier. A few seconds later, BANG! Half the building dissolved. Unarmed and trapped again, I didn’t have a chance.

I respawned. This time I had no choice but to make a break for it, but I had to pass the hut which was still crawling with enemies. I sprinted to the tunnel towards town, but they chased me down and tore me apart.

I respawned. Same problem but this time the monster clump had been thinned out by the previous chase. I ran to the tunnel, got through it and almost made it to town, but a spider blindsided me and ate my head.

I respawned. Got through the tunnel, decided to avoid getting trapped in a building again and headed over a ridge to the left in the hope that I’d get away from this main mass of monsters and be able to dig a hole to hide myself in. I managed that, but then found myself just sitting and staring at a dirt wall, waiting for the night to pass. Not my idea of fun. I dug my way out and tried to head back to town, but BANG! A chunk of the hill vanished. While trying to find a new route, spiders caught me and skewered my face.

I respawned back at the pond again. Made a dash for town, got through the tunnel, got to a building. I slammed the door behind me and breathed a sigh of relief. Then CLICK. A zombie let itself in like a rude neighbour. I hadn’t even tried to mine for materials in the dangerous darkness, so I was unarmed. I might have been able to take out the zombie with my bare hands, but I never got chance to find out. BANG! The room was decorated in shades of miner innards.

I respawned. Not knowing what else to do, I ran to the town. The monsters saw me from the ruins of my previous hiding place but I managed to dart into a house across the street. This time I dived straight into bed in the hope that unconsciousness might save me. And it did. I awoke to bright sunshine, wandered to the window and saw a smirking green face looking right back at me. That hissssss of burning fuse began, and I ran to the back of the house to try and hack my way free. BANG! The front wall gave way, and a couple of spiders pranced in. As they chewed me to pieces yet again, I hit what can only be described as The Wall. The “Fuck. This. Shit.” wall of quitting Minecraft, deleting the piece of crap and pretending I’d never seen it.

I died eight times in the first night in the demo. What’s the point of shelter if it provides no protection at all? What’s the point of a day/night cycle that doesn’t allow you to live to see the dawn? What’s the point of a demo that makes willing purchasers run away screaming from your badly designed travesty of a game? I don’t know whether Minecraft has always been like this, whether it’s just the Xbox version or even just the demo. I don’t know and I don’t really care. It’s horrible and I want no part of it.

That is why I didn’t buy Minecraft. Did you?

New LP series

The new Let’s Play format for the Indie Ocean YouTube channel commences today. The plan is to Let’s Play one good game and one bad/frustrating game in tandem. When I’ve finished each pair, I’ll move on to another pair.

First up: Let’s Play Cursed Loot and Let’s Play Random the Dungeon. Guess which is which…