Tag Archives: Minigore

Pirate’s Treasure Review: This game bugs me

Gamelab Innovation Center and Chillingo recently released Pirate’s Treasure, a dual-stick survival shooter that is sadly not innovative, nor even very fun. The game’s pirate protagonist hobbles too closely in the footsteps of those before him, namely John Gore from Minigore and Guerrilla Bob. If you’ve read my review of the latter title, you already know I have issues with both of those games; and so it pains me to say it, but Pirate’s Treasure is vastly inferior to both. It’s not nearly as polished as MiniGore, and it’s not as well-conceived as Guerrilla Bob.

In Pirate’s Treasure, you play the titular pirate — not a real pirate, but a caricature pirate — and kill bugs. Big bugs. Lots of big bugs. Why a pirate? Well, why not a pirate? Having made him a pirate, the developers could justify supplying him with a ridiculous accent and let him talk smack about rum, planks and booty. But honestly, with a setting and premise so generic — a tropical island full of bugs and a quest for the grim reaper’s gold — the main character could have been anything: a ninja, a soldier, an adventurer, a cowboy, an island native, a cybernetic mermaid bounty hunter dominatrix, or even a fairy princess.

The game is comprised of several arenas representing different areas of the island, such as the beach, forest, ruins, etc. You will constantly revisit these arenas to fulfill specific objectives, such as killing a specified number of enemies, collecting a number of coins, or surviving for an allotted period of time. Some stages will have multiple objectives. Successful completion of each stage earns you a key, with keys being used to unlock progressively more difficult stages and access to additional arenas. Lite RPG elements are also included, in which coins accumulated may be spent to improve your pirate’s speed, firepower, luck and special transformation.

The game is played as a traditional dual-stick shooter from a top-down perspective, with one thumb for movement and the other used to direct your fire in a full 360-degrees.

Likes:

Kid-Friendly: With its cute, big-eyed bugs, benign settings and being relatively light on violence and gore, Pirate’s Treasure is the most kid-friendly title in Chillingo’s triumvirate of dual-stick copycats (Minigore, Guerilla Bob, Pirate’s Treasure). While Pirate’s Treasure is probably the worst of the three, it’s definitely the most appropriate of the bunch for younger gamers.

Dislikes:

Unresponsive: Compared to its ilk, Pirate’s Treasure feels less responsive then its peers. The controls are stiffer, then game chugs a little on older devices, and it just doesn’t feel as tight as it could. Playable yes, tight no.

Repetitive: “This is gettin’ old,” the pirate occasionally quips whilst blasting bugs, and I couldn’t agree more. It really is getting old. Not only is Pirate’s Treasure is derivative of better games, but every stage is derivative of itself. You will constantly revisit the same areas again and again to kill the same enemies you’ve already killed. Each visit will assign you different objectives to complete, but there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re in the same place, shooting the same bugs without any significant change in gameplay. No shit it’s getting old, Dr. Pirate, Ph. D.

Generic: What on earth have giant bugs got to do with pirates?! Had pirates spent so much time battle insects as in this game, they would not have been feared as plunderers and villains, but praised and cherished and probably canonized as saints of pest control. Further in you will battle golems, various types of undead and Death himself, but there’s nothing very pirate-like about any of it. Rip out the pirate, change the voice track and you could insert Mario or Indiana Jones in his place without changing anything else. If the developers had wanted to include undead, why not have made them undead pirates, the animated corpses of previous pirate’s who’d gone after Death’s treasure? Instead of bugs, why not various creatures of the sea, being as pirates had so much to do with the water?

Having previously enjoyed Gamelab Innovation Center’s Roswell Fighter (iPhone / iPad), I had really been looking forward to getting my hands on Pirate’s Treasure. Unfortunately, I can only describe the game as a let down. While I wasn’t enamored with Guerrilla Bob, at least its enemies made sense within the context of the setting and story; more so than bugs and pirates. And Guerrilla Bob was just a better game in so many ways. Take it even further, reach for even better games in the realm of dual-stick shooters with RPG elements and I would recommend Isotope, Meteor Blitz and Alive 4-ever Returns over Pirate’s Treasure.

In summary, if you want a dual-stick shooter, you can do a lot better than Pirate’s Treasure. If you want a pirate-themed game, there are also better options available — The Battle of Pirate Bay, OMG Pirates! and WarShip quickly come to mind. If you have a child or younger sibling who is really interested in pirates, then Pirate’s Treasure may be worth checking out. Otherwise, your time and money would be better spent elsewhere. Pirate’s Treasure isn’t an awful game by any means, but let’s face it: there are so many dual-stick shooters on the app store, there’s really no reason to settle for anything less than the best.

Pirate’s Treasure is developed by Gamelab Innovation Center and published by Chillingo. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G at version 1.0. App Store Link: $1.99.

Guerilla Bob Review

With strong production values but little substance, Angry Mob‘s Guerilla Bob is a game without much staying power. The game’s story mode takes only an hour or two to complete, then unlocks a Survival mode. Sadly, even with the Survival mode there’s not much reason to come back to this one after finishing it.

Guerilla Bob is an arcade game with progressive levels masquerading as a dual-stick shooter. I say “masquerading” because the game borrows the dual-stick control scheme — a stick providing 360 degrees of movement, a stick providing 360 degrees of firing and buttons for switching weapons — without ever aspiring to the franticness inherent in the dual-stick shooter genre. At most, you will deal with only four or five enemies on screen at a time, and it’s rare to have even that many.

What Guerilla Bob most reminds me of is top-down 8-bit shooters like Ikari Warriors, or the top-down sections of the original Bionic Commando. But even those games, now more than 20 years old, displayed more ambition than Guerilla Bob.

Before I go any further, let me first say that Guerilla Bob is not a bad game. It looks nice and it plays nice, but provides a short and utterly forgettable experience. It’s a lot of hype and little delivery. The game plays out over eight linear, nearly identical levels and offers up only a handful of different enemy types. There are three pretty standard weapons: a machine gun, a rocket launcher and a flame-thrower, which can be upgraded during the course of play. The marketing jargon amounts only to so much jargon. It promises “FAST-PACED SHOOTER COMBAT”, and yet the game’s pacing is actually fairly pedestrian. It promises “KICK-A*S WEAPONRY”, but the included weapons are pretty typical. It promises “SECRET AREAS AND POWER-UPS”, where “secret areas” are usually just short side-paths off the main road leading to weapon upgrades, medals for extra points, or time-limited damage, defense or speed multipliers; an item sitting behind a building doesn’t qualify as a secret area in my mind. It promises “EPIC BOSS FIGHTS”, and while the bosses are larger than the standard soldiers, there’s nothing epic about them. The bosses are bigger, but follow the exact same patterns as their smaller counterparts and fall pretty easily. It promises “A VARIETY OF GAMEPLAY MODES”, amounting to a story mode with two difficulty levels — “Easy” for babies, and “Hard” for normal people — and a disposable Survival mode that’s hardly worth unlocking. In saying this, I’m not accusing it of being a bad game, but I do find the advertising lines to be somewhat misrepresentative of the actual playing experience.

The throw-away story pits Guerilla Bob against his childhood friend turned nemesis John Gore, from Mountain Sheep‘s MiniGore. In fact, Guerilla Bob spends so much time imitating MiniGore that it effectively fails to establish any identity of its own. During play, Guerilla Bob often shouts out Minigore-esque quips in a futile attempt at humor. And the inclusion of John Gore is laughable; Gore is a character who gets a lot more mileage than he deserves when you consider that the entirety of MiniGore is nothing more than a single, glorified Survival Mode. Mountain Sheep ought to spend less time pimping Gore out to other developers, and more time building content into their incomplete game, but that’s an entirely different editorial … My point is simply that rather than borrowing its identity from another title, Guerilla Bob would have been better off establishing a mythology all its own.

Likes:

Visual Presentation: Guerilla Bob’s strongest asset is definitely its visuals. Presented in stylistic top-down 3D, the game looks fantastic. The artwork is cartoony, but well-suited to the overall feel of the game, like a kid-friendly version of Rambo. It’s probably one of the best looking games of its type, and offers a consistent aesthetic throughout the experience that holds the game together.

Audio Presentation: Effort clearly went into the audio components of the game, which I appreciate. Far too many developers — even those of upper tier titles — neglect the importance of in-game audio (Soosiz and MiniSquadron, I’m looking at you). While I think Guerilla Bob’s MiniGore-esque quips fall flat, it’s nice to see Angry Mob trying, and the original musical score is a nice inclusion, though nothing I’d go looking for as a soundtrack purchase.

Progressive Stages: While most dual-stick shooters favor the open arena model, it’s nice to see a new entry providing progressive stages with “scripted” scenerios and boss fights. I think Guerilla Bob could have taken this a lot further than it actually does, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Achievements: As you play through Guerilla Bob, your accomplishments will unlock in-game achievements. I’m a big fan of goals in games, and of in-game achievements by extension. The game also takes advantage of Chillingo’s Crystal network, a service similar to OpenFeint, Agon or Plus+ which allows you to save and compare your achievements against others.

Dislikes:

Available Difficulty Modes: The Easy mode is way too easy, like baby easy. The Hard mode should have been labeled as Normal, and a third, more brutal difficulty setting would have been appreciated for the hardcore. Even on the Hard difficulty, I think dual-stick aficionados are going to find this one pretty easy.

John Gore: There are now so many characters in MiniGore that John Gore is barely integral to his own title, let alone as an inclusion in others. Guerilla Bob’s inclusion of such a disposable character only further compounds its own disposable nature, and borrowing so much of its identity from another game — a that game barely a complete experience — ultimately waters the title down. On finishing Guerilla Bob, it even suggests that to get “John Gore’s side of the story”, you should go play MiniGore. I actually laughed out loud. MiniGore doesn’t have a story … Prediction: the next MiniGore update will add Guerilla Bob as a playable character.

Survival Mode: The story mode being so short, the Survival Mode is an obvious bid at extending the playability of the title. Unfortunately, the survival mode becomes tiresome far too quickly. In my time with the mode, I never saw more than five enemies on screen at a time. If I want to play a Survival shooter, I’d be more likely to pick up something like … well, MiniGore honestly. Something frantic rather than plodding. Guerilla Bob’s survival mode just doesn’t provide enough incentive to keep returning to the game.

Repetition: Despite it’s progressive stages, Guerilla Bob ultimately feels pretty repetitive. The same art assets get reused in every stage to the point where the stages tend to run together. The biggest differential from one stage to the next is that some are daytime and some at night. Otherwise, you will follow the road through each stage, passing by recycled scenery and fighting the same enemies over and over again. It’s like one stage played eight times over with minor variations.

Guerilla Bob’s conclusion nods to the likelihood of a sequel, and it’s a game with much greater potential than it ever actually realizes. My only hope is that when the sequel comes, it brings more to the table than eight nearly identical stages and a handful of similar enemy types. For the sequel, Angry Mob should focus on delivering a more action-packed experience, with globe-trotting stages taking us through jungles, deserts, canyons, caverns, villages, towns and enemy compounds. Look to games such as Contra for inspiration in settings. The enemies we’ve already seen make the basis for standard enemy types, but should be more varied in appearance to match their setting: jungle soldiers in jungle levels, desert soldiers in desert levels, etc. In addition to these enemy types, add jeeps, tanks, helicopters, land mines, grenade tossers, bayonet and machete soldiers, snipers and attack dogs. Bosses in Guerilla Bob look different, but behave the same: without exception, they chase you and shoot. For truly epic boss battles, look to pattern-based opponents from old-school action games. Pit Guerilla Bob against a wall of fortified turrets, larger-than-life super-soldiers with special attacks, and opponents who in one way or another utilize unique environments in their attack patterns. If 8-bit developers could exercise such creativity on the NES, then I’m certain such feats are well within the realm of possibility for a Guerilla Bob sequel.

There are moments throughout Guerilla Bob when the game hints at brilliance in its design. Sadly, these moments are too brief and too few, but I’d like to cite them in the hope that Angry Mob will lend an ear and pay more mind to such moments in future games. The first is the bulldozer chase, in which an enemy comes up behind Guerilla Bob and pursues him through an obstacle course of boulders. The second is late in the game, where three bridges span a river; Guerilla Bob takes the center bridge while enemies attack from the bridges on either side. And the last is even later in the game, where Guerilla Bob rides a raft down a river while enemies attack him from the shore. These moments break the monotony of the stages, and help to vary the action that’s so uniform throughout the rest of the game. Any sequel to Guerilla Bob should play these variations to greater effect and provide more of them.

Back to the present and the game immediately at hand, Guerilla Bob is briefly entertaining and technically impressive. The game is short on lasting appeal, and leans too heavily on MiniGore, but is nonetheless worth a look. A dual-stick stick shooter for casual gamers, Guerilla Bob is best taken in short spurts over time. Hardcore players tending to devour games in one or two sittings will quickly tear through the game and leave it in their dust.

Guerilla Bob is developed by Angry Mob Games and distributed by Chillingo. The game is currently priced at $2.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.


Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone: 1975-76

Every week for the next couple of months, No D-pad will spotlight key games from the last 40 years of gaming.  Not only will this retrospective give readers a brief history of the industry, we will also point out notable classics and clones from that bygone era that are now available in the app store.  We hope you enjoy.

1975- While home gaming was growing in popularity due to the now infamous device known as Pong, a new type of game was entering the scene for computer gamers who wanted a more cerebral experience.  Graphical limitations and memory constraints confined games to small stories on single screens.  Expansive worlds found in contemporary FPSs and RPGs were simply impossible to create unless the experience came from the mind.  A few techno-savvy computer students decided to take up the challenge of providing bigger worlds and more plots to video games by spawning a new genre of games: text adventures AKA interactive fiction.

Left: screenshot from Advent Right: Frotz for the iPhone
Like an interactive book, players would read a paragraph or two about their surroundings and then proceed to manipulate their virtual world by typing messages back to the mainframe.  In many ways these simple IF-statement games laid the groundwork for inclusion of story development in all video games.  Although these early games were buggy, they evolved quickly into complex puzzler or in-depth character-driven mysteries.  The very first game of this type was a title called Adventure (also Colossal Cave); it is now available for free in the app store under the name Advent.  The app store also has a great collection of 255 other text adventures in one free downloadable package titled Frotz.
Dual stick controls over the years
Midway's Gunfight and the iPhone's Minigore: both are dual stick shooters

Other notable events from 1975 include the first-ever dual joystick shooter called Gun Fight by Midway.  This arcade title wasn’t a big hit at the time, but the idea of utilizing two controls– one for the movement of the player and the other for aim of the gun– had a monumental effect twenty-years later when the concept was shrank down utilized by both Nintendo and Sony in their home systems.  Now the dual stick is just a common to video games as Mario.  For a great dual stick experience on the iPhone check out Minigore or the upcoming Pirate’s Gold.

1976- Lots of exciting things were being developed in 1976, but not much found its way to consumers that year.  Breakout, designed by Apple’s own Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, is the notable exception.  Similar to Pong in design, the purpose of the game is to reflect an ever-bouncing all at a series bricks at the top of the screen.  Once all the blocks were gone, players would advance to the next level.  Super Breakout is now available on the iPhone.  But if you want something closer to the original, try the clone BrickOut.  Like the calm before a great storm, this year was slow for the budding video game industry, but things would quickly change.  The industry would soon experience major shifts that would set the course of video gaming for years to come.

Left: 1976's Break Out Middle: iPhone clone BrickOut Right: Super Breakout

Check back with us every week for more gaming history with our continuing series Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone.  For more in this series, click here.

Upcoming Minigore Christmas Update

It seems as if developers are getting ready for the holiday season, starting during the end of October all the way through to the end of December.  John Gore isn’t resting for the holidays though as he fights back crime the hard way through the endless forests and enemies we now know as “Furries”.

But don’t be alarmed, this Christmas update will give you a new character to help out the battle-worn John Gore in his never-ending goal of defeating the furries once and for all.  Chillingo was kind enough to provide us with a few drawings of the new character, Jerry Gore, for us to share with our readers.

Jerry Gore is the uncle of John Gore who has recently escaped the Hardland nursing home.  He’s up and ready to fight the furries with cane in hand, and it’s definitely good to see the old guys get into the battle.  Along with Jerry Gore, the update will put John Gore in a Santa costume along with a Wormwolf boss.

Please note that all these screens are concept art and are subject to change when the update is released.

mingorechristmas_2

minigorechristmas_3

Sway Update Adds John Gore

I’m sure most of you have heard of Minigore, the 3D survival shooter that has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide.  Crossovers are also something that most of you have heard of mainly from Pocket God crossovers and/or Doodle Jump crossovers.  Well it seems like Sway and Minigore have teamed up, and John Gore has joined the Sway alliance.  Personally, I think this is one of the coolest crossovers ever, and it’s definitely one that’s very welcomed.

Sway is a platformer that is made exclusively for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and it is one of the most innovative games to date.  Graphics are beautifully rendered, and controls are very natural and can only be accomplished on a touch screen.  Minigore, on the other hand, is a survival shooter with some wonderful voiceovers and graphics.  While I found Minigore to be a little bit shallow, it’s definitely worth $0.99 if the developers update the game as planned.