Friday, July 25, 2014

Xbox 360 Indy Games Erik Would Have Liked When He Was Thirteen

The independent game scene in the Xbox 360 marketplace is always interesting to browse through.  You have genuinely original ideas surrounded by rip-offs.  You have the budding promise of designers who desperately want to be able to get into the larger market buried under people looking to make a game as cheap and fast as they can to make a dollar.  You have creative designs using limited resources, and you have blatant eye candy and covers that outright lie about what the game contains within.

Today, we're going to focus on one of the latter.  Some of the independent games are quite honestly some of the most "mature" games when it comes to sexual content I've seen, passing any "graphic" scene from Mass Effect.  Others are so blatantly going for the "horny young man" demographic that I almost have to respect the fact that they're so honest.  I mean, who do you think the target market is for a game with this as the cover:

Let's dig deeper.

Caution: there's horribly rendered CG breasts barely covered by horribly rendered CG ribbons further on.  You have been warned.

I tried a few of these games, just to see if there was any actual value to them.  The first was Ace Gals Tennis.  Now, I'm not usually a fan of tennis games, because I hate how they play.  The camera remains fixed, even when you move to the other side of the court, and I'm awful at determining where the ball is when I'm in the back.

But hey, when the cover is this:

...well, you just know the game play has to be top-notch, right?

Now, to the game's credit, it tries to keep the illusion of playing with "sexy women" alive as long as it can.  The models for the characters on the "choose your trainer" screen uses the same art as the cover there, but...well, look at the trailer.

Yeah.  Those "in game" models sure look a bit different, don't they?  It's really hard to convey "sexy" through a Mii avatar.  Also, note the people in the stands.  They don't move.  Their eyes remain fixed on the camera when it pans around when the players trade sides.  The same vacant, soulless expressions, no applause, cheers, or booing depending on how a player does.

I would be so creeped out to play there.  Maybe that's why I keep choking when I tried to play the final round of the tournament.

Another game I tried is Anim Puzzle, because it is, quite simply, the most blatant use of sex in advertising I've ever seen.

And by "sex in advertising" I mean "you better pray those teenage boys don't look at the face, cause geezus that's terrifying."

It's a sliding blocks puzzle, like the 3x3, 4x4 and other sized puzzles we used to do as kids, with the added benefit of the pictures moving the whole time through standard .gif animation.  But surely they toned down the creepiness factor in game, right?  That's just played up on the cover like Ace Gals Tennis wa-

...that face in the bottom center panel is going to haunt my nightmares.  The game is more "terrifying" than sexy, and I think even my thirteen year old self would agree with me.

The same company made some other games, but I really don't think I can stand posting any more pictures from it.

So how about we try a game that doesn't start with "A?"  Okay, in that case, there's Cherry Poke Prison, one of the more shameless rip-offs of Leisure Suit Larry I've seen.

Cherry Poke Prison is a spin-off from a game series called Trailer Park King.

I could probably summarize the entire review by saying "think of the most exploitative movie they could get away showing on the USA network back in the '90s during Up All Night when you wanted to make Silk Stockings look sophisticated and intellectual.  Now dumb it down and throw a bunch of inbred hicks into it."

See, your character is a blatant womanizer, so his punishment is to be thrown into prison.  Your cousin, the Trailer Park King, pulls a few strings to get you transferred to a women's prison, because of course that happens.  From there, your job is to do everything you can to get rid of the "grr, mean" warden and his guards, allowing you to rule the prison and have all of the women (including the warden's daughter) treat you like the rightful stud you are.

Oh, and there's a hot tub.  Of course there is.  Prisons are known for that.
This is not an intelligent game.  The "one rule" the warden has for his daughter (who freely wanders around the prison) is apparently "don't have sex with anybody who works or stays in the prison."  It's a pretty liberal family for Hickville.  There's the bubble-headed French tourist, the nurse, the tough chick, and the other blond, and the warden's daughter.

The game is absolutely shameless.  Your character's (I think his name was Clyde?) dialogue is so soaked in innuendo it's not even trying to be subtle any more.  Take the worst pick-up line you ever heard.  This guy's regular dialogue is worse.

And yet...I don't hate it.  It's so stupid, it almost seems to parody itself.  The "click on items and click on other things until X joins Y to solve puzzle" is so outlandish that it's funny (sticking things into electrical sockets to turn on the TV, yeah, that makes sense), the challenges you have to pass to get people to like you are goofier than any character Disney might own, and the game did a good enough job making the warden into the villain that while I wouldn't pick Clyde to be the hero, I did want to see the brute get taken down.  Getting the harem afterwards was just details on the side.

Thirteen year old me, on the other hand, would have loved this.

Truly, this game will be discussed in the coming decades alongside games like The Last of Us, Shadow of the Colossus, and Journey.  As in, "this game was completely forgettable, as opposed to The Last of Us, Shadow of the Colossus, and Journey."

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