Sunday, April 6, 2014

Odd One Out: The Five Worst Puzzles

So... this is my first post in a couple months. I have no good explanation for this.
Judgment... now!
Well, that's not entirely true. I've been reviewing games up for judgment on Newgrounds. You can read the reviews I posted here.
I swear, that leaf is taunting me.
If you clicked that link, you might have noticed that I posted a negative review of a game called Odd One Out: Zebra, citing problems such as fake difficulty, false claims of originality, and most importantly, puzzles with multiple valid answers. Since this game got a higher rating than it deserved, I don't think anyone understood what I meant by 'multiple valid answers'. That, or they just didn't read my review.
I don't like the look on that guy's face.
Take a good look at this. You have three photographs, and one cartoon smiley. The goth girl was the "correct" answer, because she's the only one who isn't cheerful. See, this is a 'one of these things is not like the others'. The goal is to find the one that doesn't belong. The problem is, as you can plainly see, there is more than one valid answer here. This in itself would be fine, except for one thing: I got this question wrong. I selected the smiley, because it was the only one that wasn't a live photo. The smiley was the "wrong" answer, despite being just as valid as the "right" answer.
So far, the green check is my favorite character.
It's the same deal here. True, the other three are larger animals, but the hippo is also the only one that's aquatic.
I doubt that frog would take well to being called a reptile.
Oh, it gets better. Take a good look at this one. Not only is there more than one valid answer, but the explanation at the top is wrong. I shouldn't have to point this out, but frogs are not reptiles, they're amphibians. If you're smart enough to program a Flash game, you should be smart enough to figure that out.
Why is there so little in the background of this game?
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the worst puzzle in the game. Not only is more than one answer valid (Zipper is the only insect), but the explanation for Remy as the correct one has... let's call them issues. In fact, the puzzle as a whole has issues. For one, Remy is not only the only computer-generated character, but also the only Pixar character, and the only one originally from a feature film. On top of that, the game totes itself as being "excellent puzzle intelligent and fun," in those exact words. Having puzzles built around the creator's favorite cartoons is anything but intelligent, far from excellent, and too simplistic to be called fun.
I hate dogs.
Final Score: 2/10

What do I say to something like this? While it does have some clever moments, the game is still filled with poorly-thought-out questions like the one I placed above the final score. If the answer isn't painfully obvious, more than one of them are valid. If your puzzle game is supposed to have a specific correct answer for each puzzle, you cannot have equally-valid options. I get the feeling that whoever designed this thought that having multiple valid answers was somehow adding more challenge. That's not how you do it. Imagine if, say, Portal had a puzzle where there were two ways of completing the test, but only one right way. Two equally valid ways of completing a puzzle, but only one "right" way chosen by the designer. That's not challenge, that's incompetence. This game has all the cleverness of an Annoying Orange Wiki trivia page - that is to say, none.
Gamesgrow doesn't look this cheap.
This should come as a surprise to no one. The user who uploaded this game was called "onlinegamecitycom", and wouldn't you know it, they're a cheap Flash game hosting site. The only difference they have from Gamesgrow and Game4Joy is that their Flash games have been ported to mobile devices. Odd One Out: Zebra on Android. That's an unsettling thought.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Oh. Hello, purple background. How've you been doing?
What's with the text here?
Oh no.
We start off with this guy. He looks like some sort of lobster… lizard… potato… thing. And, as you can see, everything is black and white. On top of that, we get our first problem with the game: every few seconds, it fades to black. I repeat, it fades to black. Meaning you can’t see what you’re doing.
"Ask me what it means! Ask me what it means!"

Boring black background with nothing in it...
So, our protagonist is greeted by the aforementioned omnipotent god being, who brought him to this black void dimension as punishment for some crime. Our protagonist, understandably, takes some issue with this. Meanwhile, the god being keeps telling the protagonist that he’s a monster.
Oh, the text again. At least it's something.
By the way, the stages of the game are titled after the stages of grief. We’ll get back to that a bit later.
Why have a background with nothing in it?
Gameplay-wise, it’s just a basic platformer. Wait, let me rephrase that: it’s just a basic, incompetently-designed platformer. For starters, there are points where you’re supposed to drop down to lower platforms. The problem is, half the time you can’t even see the platforms. There are also moving platforms, which I unfortunately don’t have a screenshot of. In most games, when you land on a moving platform, you move along with it. In Dark, you don’t. You have to carefully follow them. Unless you’re just starting out, there’s no excuse for that!
I'll go insane looking at this background.
Your goal in each level is to reach this gravestone. Again, we’ll get back to that a bit later.
How could you... create such a dull background?
Back to the story (which unfortunately takes up two thirds of the game, because somewhere along the line the game designer forgot that’s what they were making), the omnipotent god being spends the entire game telling the protagonist what a horrible person he is. The problem is, because of omnipotent god being’s tactics in dealing with him, you sympathize with the protagonist, and genuinely want to see him escape the void and, possibly, redeem himself. I’ll explain what the problem with this is, you guessed it, later.
I will die if some actual scenery doesn't show up soon!
Starting in the second level, you start encountering these light beam things that blink on and off. If you touch them, you get sent back to an earlier point. This is a problem because, as I mentioned earlier, it fades to black every few seconds. Meaning you can’t see the obstacles half the time. Do I even need to explain what the problem with this is? Here’s the short version: it’s tedious.
*cough* Must... *cough* *cough* ...pull through... *cough*
And then you get to a point where omnipotent god being starts shouting at the protagonist with plus-sized font. BECAUSE THAT’S A PERFECTLY REASONABLE MANNER OF SPEAKING. Oh, and did I mention we’re supposed to side with the omnipotent god being? At least, that’s what I assume, considering what gets revealed later on.
Need... scenery... *coughcough*
Later on, the protagonist asks why the omnipotent god being can’t just turn back time so the unspecified crime can be undone. If you can read the text on the screenshot, you know how that bargaining attempt turned out. Now, up until this point, the game has had a few problems gameplay-wise, and a few problems story-wise. This part hurts the game’s theme. If the protagonist really was a complete monster, he wouldn’t show any remorse for his actions. Except here, he’s essentially asking for a second chance so he can set things right. But, the omnipotent god being doesn’t offer even the smallest chance of redemption.
Back to the gameplay, the third level adds enemies. That’s it. The level design is still tedious and lazy. Also, this is the level where I was forced to reset the game during my initial playthrough. See, the game temporarily saves your exact position if you touch certain platforms. And, it doesn’t matter where you touch the platform, as long as you’re touching the platform. Which means it’s possible to touch the side, and end up falling to your death over and over again until you reload the page. Again, no excuse.
Man, this omnipotent god being is a dick. He trapped the protagonist in this endless void, and is psychologically tormenting him until the protagonist tells him what he wants to hear. And he never says anything about giving the protagonist a second chance, or even letting him out of the void afterward. What did the protagonist do, anyway?
…Did… did this game just make me sympathize with a child murderer?

Let’s just get this out of the way real quick: no, this does not make the omnipotent god being the good guy. In this story, the way it’s written, there are no good guys. It’s just two jerks having a competition to see who can be the bigger asshole. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the protagonist’s crime. He killed his six-month-old daughter for a poorly-explained reason. He committed a horrible crime, and needs to be put in a prison. Now let’s talk about his punishment. He’s stuck in this endless void for eternity. And, he’s being psychologically tortured by an omnipotent god being. I don’t think that’s a proportional punishment. At most, he should just be given the chair. At least, he should spend some time in a jail cell. He should not spend the rest of forever stuck in a black void of nothingness. Also, remember earlier, when he asked to turn back time and undo his crime? If that was genuine, it means he’s willing to atone for his crime. But, he’s never given that option. I hope you see where I’m going with this.
And then, at the end of the game, he admits he is a monster. Yeah, I don’t think he really meant that. I think he only did that under pressure. Because, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but people will say anything you want them to if you put them under enough pressure!
.....................................I'll be okay...
Final Score: 4/10

The gameplay is meh, but since the game designer forgot he was making a game, I’m not going to focus on that right now. Instead, I’m going to focus on the message it conveyed. I don’t know what the intended message was, but here’s how it came off: don’t fight to redeem yourself, just accept your sins and your punishment, because you can never atone for them. ISN’T THAT A GREAT MESSAGE? The story was poorly-handled, the writing was atrocious, the CAPSLOCK omnipotent god voice is unlikeable, and I ended up sympathizing with the wrong character as a result.

Now I’ll tell you about the gameplay. The level designs are nothing special. Because you get sent back instead of dying, the game can become really tedious really quickly. And that fading to black makes certain sections entirely unpleasant. Yeah, other than that, there’s not a whole lot to talk about in terms of gameplay. That’s because this isn’t a normal game, it’s a pretentious art project that sacrifices gameplay in favor of themes and symbolism.
I'll be okay.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mini-Review: Juice Cubes

It's been awhile since I did a Unity game. The last one I did was, I believe, part of the first review I ever did on Embed Hell, back when it was on Tumblr. So, I think I'll do one now.
Was this what you were doing the whole time you were away?
This is Bejewled. I mean, Candy Crush Saga. I mean, Juice Cubes. It's a game created by Rovio, the same company behind Angry Birds.
I've always felt weird about anthropomorphized food...
Just like Angry Birds, Juice Cubes features a set of cute and colorful characters that grab your attention. And, just like Angry Birds, there really isn't a whole lot to say about it other than that.

Final Score: 6/10

It's a Bejewled clone, but with character. Not a whole lot else to say.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mini-Review: Create Your Own Flappy-Bird Game

Okay, this is the last time I'm ever talking about anything Flappy Bird-related.
Oh gods. That is the cheapest thing I've ever seen.
Do you know what was missing from Flappy Bird? Customization. Now, we have a Flash game that promises just that.
Hey, that background's pretty good.
That's right, now you can play Flappy Bird with literally any character you want, in any location you want, avoiding any object you want. Sounds exactly as fun as the original, right?
Whoever made this background must have been a real professional.
Final Score: 1/10

Actually, and you're not going to believe this, this version is worse. This, right here, is as far as I managed to get before the character became unresponsive, and fell to his death. The original was tedious and uninspired, sure, but at least I could control the damn bird!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Flash Flappy Bird

Yes, I know it's a port. But it's designed like a cheap Flash game. It plays like a cheap Flash game. It's high time it ended up here in some form.

Is the background this cheap on the iOS version, too?
Flappy Bird needs no introduction. And, I don't think I need to tell you about how it was recently taken down by its creator. I also don't think I need to tell you how it doesn't have a single ounce of originality.

You're joking, right?
I don't throw the word "unoriginal" around that often because I don't obsess over whether or not every single element of something has been done before. I care more about the product as a whole than I do about the elements that go into it. The only time I use the term "unoriginal" is when I'm referring to something that has been blatantly stolen from something else - like, for example, the pipes from Super Mario Bros. And for those of you who've lived under a rock for the past several decades, that's where the pipes are from. Flappy Bird ripped off Super Mario, not the other way around. I can't believe I have to explain this.

Those four buildings just repeat, over and over again.
The gameplay is exactly what you'd expect, except instead of tapping the screen, you're mashing the spacebar. It's just as monotonous, just as tedious, and just as much of a waste of time as the gameplay in the original game was.

And the bland blue sky... I hate bland blue skies.
Just like in the original, any contact with the pipes causes you to fall to the ground, presumably having suffered blunt force trauma. This happens a lot while playing this game. You don't actually fly, you just hop through the air repeatedly. It's like the multi-jump power-up in Fox-Box, only broken.

Where have I seen that ground texture before?
Any time you descend, you start to go into a nosedive. If Flappy Bird's beak is that heavy, how does he get off the ground at all? You need to constantly mash the spacebar (or, in the case of the original, the screen) in order to stay in the air. But, doing this runs the risk of slamming straight into the top of a pipe. Also, there's no ending. All you do is collect points by flying between the pipes. That would have been okay for a game made in the 80's, but this is 2014! There are higher standards now!

This game over screen looks familiar, too...
Final Score: 1/10

Half the time, when you lose, it's your own fault. It takes skill to implement something like that correctly. Here, it was not implemented correctly. Still, I give this game a point just for having it. This game exists to waste your time. Of course, you could probably figure that out on your own. The gameplay, what little there is, is tedious and agonizing. I said it before, and I'll say it again: Flappy Bird takes skill, but that doesn't make it good. Tedium is not challenge, something which this game clearly doesn't understand.

Until next time, I'll see you in hell - Embed Hell!
I don't normally enjoy hate games, but this one I like. It's called Squishy Bird. It's like Flappy Bird, except instead of controlling the bird flying through the pipe, you control a crushing mechanism to murder the bird when it attempts to fly through it. It's great for stress relief, I recommend it.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mini-Review: Candy Bird Saga

You know what we need more of? Clones that pretend to be parodies.

Worst. Background. Ever!
If this looks like Flappy Bird, well... that's because it is. Fly through the gaps, don't crash, get a high score. That's it.

What are those pink things?
Or you could just cheat, and fly under everything. That works too.

The number at the top is the best character.
Final Score: 1/10

How did the creator of Displaced create such a hack job? Yes, this game takes skill. Flappy Bird takes skill. That doesn't make it good. This game, and by extension Flappy Bird, is nothing short of tedious.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Top Ten Worst Flash Games Reviewed in 2013

I know this is a bit late, but I’ve been a bit late lately if you didn’t notice. But don’t worry, I have a perfectly good excuse… I mean reason. I just can’t tell you because it’s too… out there. I mean, really out there.
I... never... want... to... see... this... again.
Regardless, I’ve noticed that I play more crappy Flash games than I do good ones. This got me thinking about doing a top ten list on all the games I reviewed in 2013, to see exactly which one was the worst. And here it is.

10. Social Wars
A company made this garbage?
Final Score: 5/10

This game can be summed up with one sentence: Adam Smith hates your guts. Just like every other SocialPoint game, Social Wars demands real money for minor things that any other game would give out for free. It’s not exactly subtle with it, either. It even has a whole section with two giant robots begging you to buy them. If that isn’t bad enough, several character designs are copied from other sources. And I said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no way these hacks got the licenses to all of these characters. And that’s why I’m telling you that you should never give SocialPoint your money. They stole a bunch of character designs, and they’re trying to profit off them. For those of you who don’t know, we have a term for this sort of thing: it’s called copyright infringement.

9. Freaky Flickers World
Boring yellow background.
Final Score: 4/10

This is a game with multiple playable characters, and all of them play exactly the same, despite most of them being different kinds of Flickers. That’s like if you had a team where every member had a different elemental power, and all any of them did was throw rocks. Also, you know your game has problems when the very act of moving is a chore. The enemies pose no threat, and multiple levels can be rendered unwinnable with just a few misplaced items (not that you can control where they’re placed). So, if this game has that much wrong with it, why isn’t it higher on the list? Because it’s clear that, just like the toyline it’s based on, it’s clear that this was the best the creators could do. Also, it’s a beta release, not the full game.

8. Fireboy & Watergirl Escape the Magic World
I have grown to hate that house.
Final Score: 2/10

Hey kids, want to play a co-op game where one of the players doesn’t get to do anything for half the level? Then here’s the game for you! This is one of those games that fluctuates between unwinnable and incredibly easy. There’s also serious control issues with both characters. I said that Freaky Flickers wasn’t any higher on the list because I didn’t think its creators could do any better. I don’t believe that for any of the other games on this list. This could have easily been made a lot better than it turned out. It only could have turned out the way it did due to lack of effort.

7. The Fur Fighters
The horror... the horror...
Final Score: 2/10

Ah, PETA. Never has there been a group with better intentions that went about those intentions in a worse way. This game displays that perfectly. It has a good enough message – that killing animals for their fur is wrong. The problem is that this is PETA, the same group that thinks killing animals for any reason is wrong. Basically this means they don’t explain what’s wrong with just killing an animal for its fur. Well, they try… they just have horrible judgment when it comes to this subject. The gameplay is barely there, the enemies are all straw men, and the player character is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. That dead-eyed thing with the zombielike gait just makes it all the more obvious how weak PETA’s arguments are.

6. Fireboy Watergirl VS Alien
The background deserves better.
Final Score: 1/10

“In 2050, aliens invaded Earth. In order to defend the Earth, water girl and fire boy must eat aliens. Please not that water girl can only eat Water Aliens and fire boy, on the contrary.” That’s this game’s description. Yeah, you know it’s going to suck when the description looks this bad. I’ve noticed that a lot of Flash games have this problem, particularly when they use the word “eat” instead of “collect” or “catch”. But that’s not the problem with this game. The problem is that the game doesn’t make it clear which aliens each character can and can’t catch. That’s really all that’s wrong with the game, but considering it’s the game’s only mechanic, it’s enough to land it on this list.

5. The Happy Cricket Adventure
Why are professionals worse than amateurs?
Final Score: 1/10

A lot of Flash games trying to appeal to children end up being too easy to be worth playing. This is not one of those games. The big problem with this game is the difficulty. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be a kid’s game, since it was based on a kid’s movie, but I cannot get past the second world no matter how hard I try. I think it was trying to be challenging, but wound up overdoing it. The second level of the second world is almost unplayable for three reasons: the moving platform moves too fast, the blocks that get in your way move too slowly, and the controls tend to be delayed. This game was so bad, I think it might be the reason why the site it was on doesn’t exist anymore.

4. Bears Find ABC
Nothing matches... why?
Final Score: 0/10

There seems to be a trend among Flash games trying to appeal to children, where the game designers cripple the gameplay in the same way filmmakers water down their content for a young audience. This game is a prime example of this trend. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: difficulty and challenge are not the same thing. If I hid a vase in a field of nearly-identical vases, that would be tedious, but not challenging. Similarly, creating an I-Spy game where most of the objects are invisible is not challenging, it’s nearly impossible.

3. Magic Baby
Would you stop showing that?
Final Score: 0/10

Awhile ago, I posted a mini-review of a game where you just hold the arrow keys for a long time to win. This is kind of the same way, since all you have to do to beat it is hold J. Yes, J. J to shoot. Isn’t that the most random command key you’ve ever seen for a game? But that’s not what’s wrong with the game. Every single graphic in this game was stolen from someplace else. Butterfree sprites from Pokémon Crystal, Rayquaza sprites from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, a Charizard fan artwork, Ash’s official artwork, every single sprite and graphic in this game was copied from something else. But that’s not what’s wrong with this game. No, the real problem with this game is the hit detection, or lack thereof. You can’t die in this game. If there’s no chance of losing, then there’s no point in playing the game.

2. BratzillazEnchanted Adventure
I still remember the horror.
Final Score: 0/10

Ah, my first review, from back when I was on Tumblr. I still stand by my score for this one. It’s a point-and-click game. Wait no, that’s not an accurate description. It’s a point game. That’s all you do: wave your curser around and hope something happens. Not only is the gameplay weak, but the story is insulting at points, like the section where your character flies. If she could fly to scout out the area, why couldn’t she fly over the wall to retrieve the stupidly-named “petz” while she was at it? It really wasn’t that big of a wall. She didn’t even need to fly, she could just grab a long pole and jump over it that way. Or she could just go around, seeing as it was just a wall standing uselessly in the middle of nowhere with no other walls connected to it. This is a prime example of a game that had no effort put into it. Not only is the gameplay overly simplified, but it insults the intelligence of its target demographic.

1. Pumpkin Land
Aah! ...Sorry, that image triggered flashbacks.
Final Score: 0/10

You saw this coming. These are not games. These are distractions. Now I know what you’re thinking: “They’re educational games for children, of course there’s not much to them!” No. Sesame Street is educational. Pumpkin Land is an insult to its audience’s intelligence. Take, for example, the game about colors. It just drops multicolored pumpkins in a field, and they say the name of their color when you click them. That’s it. How would a little kid connect those names to the colors? What would keep those kids from thinking those are the names of the characters, if you can even call them that? And how about the infamous Hungry Pumpkin? That’s not going to help kids identify food any more than playing video games will make kids act violently. Gameplay-wise, there is none. The gameplay for this series does not exist. It’s just a poor man’s point-and-click. And those graphics… In case you need any more convincing that no effort was put into this game, just take a look at the graphics. How long did, say, the select screen take to draw? It couldn’t possibly have taken longer than one hour. The character designs are the worst. They’re ugly enough on their own, but coupled with the simple backgrounds, they’re downright unsettling. Honestly, the more I think about it, it’s almost as though its creators were trying to create something terrible.

Those were the worst games I reviewed in 2013. Hopefully, the worst is behind us.

Is that artwork stolen?
The future looks bleak. Until next time, I’ll see you in hell – Embed Hell!