Explosionade is a featured game on Steam today, and under it was a bundle of four games from Mommy’s Best Games for 7.99. That many games for one dirt cheap price had me thinking “At least one of them has to be worthy of a review.” And it turns out, all of them are, with three being truly fun diversions. So today, you get FOUR reviews in one post. AREN’T YOU LUCKY!
(Hint: You are!)
So let’s start with Explosionade, which I didn’t quite know what to make of at first, so I closed it and played the others before coming back around for a second attempt. It grew on me after the first few levels.
You play a stereotypical nerd given guard duty while all the “manlier” soldiers in your space army are planning a final assault on an alien base. Getting bored, Private Atticus looks inside the storage bay he’s guarding and finds a prototype mech that’s so sweet, he HAS to take it for a test drive. In the sewers. This leads him to finding a whole bunch of aliens. Let the butt stompening commence!
The controls are a little complex at first, but once I got the hang of them, I didn’t have any problems with “wrong button syndrome.” (And y’all know that’s a common issue for my dumb ass.) The mech has a jump, a rocket boost, and a weird kind of float/hover mechanic thanks to an energy shield that will temporarily block enemy fire before it overheats and needs time to recharge.
The levels are all a single screen big if you zoom out using Y on a game pad, but you can also zoom in to get in closer with the action. The platforming levels are one part shooter and one part puzzle, and that obviously is going to appeal to me, since I loves me some puzzle games. The boss fights are a nice change of pace and have a little bit of variety, so overall, I don’t have anything to complain about. The graphics are good, the music is great, and the action is engaging and fun. I’ll give Explosionade 5 stars.
(“WHAT?” you gasp. “An indie game Zoe didn’t hate? Quick, Satan, check the thermostat!” Well hold onto your butts, people, because this is about to become a double-love post!)
Game two in this bundle is Shoot 1Up, a shmup with a really interesting concept for your fighters. Instead of fighting with just one ship, you can collect a small fleet of ships to wreak havoc on the alien invaders trying to ruin your planet. Using the right and left shoulder buttons, you can make your fleet spread out and deliver a massive special attack, or you can condense them to fly all on top of each other and concentrate their firepower into one thick stream of hot sticky death. The catch is, by spreading out, you increase the risk of losing ships, which shuts down the special weapon for a short time. So you swap between a tight formation to dodge enemy fire and then spread out to deliver a massive super stream of whoop-ass. It is oh so satisfying to slip though a bullet hell stream and then erase every last alien sumbitch in a few seconds.
Partway through each level, you’re given a choice to keep flying straight up or changing directions. I’m not sure if there’s any reason to do so other than to add some variety to the game play, but I couldn’t really tell any difference from flying sideways or flying vertically.
The bosses are big and impressive, and the fights are blazing fast and fun. If I had a complaint about this game, it’s only that it’s all over a bit too fast. Still, for a game that’s 3.99, it’s a good deal that delivers fun for fans of bullet hell shooters. I’ll give Shoot 1Up 4 stars.
Next is Weapon of Choice, which may be my favorite game out of this bundle simply for the huge amount of variety found within. It’s another alien invasion, as MBG seems to love that trope, but this time the aliens are using some high technology to mutate the local animals into hideous monsters, some of which are HUGE. (And a few of which are indestructible, something I only sorted out after losing a few people. Whoops! Sorry, soldier lady. My bad.)
Instead of having just one character to go on this mission, you have your choice of several fighters, each with their own unique weapon. These aren’t your typical game guns, either. One lovely lady has a gun that fires a swirl of knife blades. One of her buff and dudely comrades carries a freaking jet engine that can launch you backwards into traps if you aren’t careful (and can help you reach higher ground if you aim it right), while another who looks like a Carl Weathers clone (from his Predator role, even) launches laser turrets that fire in whatever direction you hold the right stick. Regardless of who you choose, holding down the right trigger will activate an alternate mode of fire, which can be…interesting. (No spoilers, though. You should try everyone and see what they do.)
Death is handled in a weird way that I think is fun and funny. You don’t die so much as fall down with an injury, and you’re given the choice of who to send in and carry on with. The new player can then pick up one of the injured players. What makes that funny is if you drop more than one soldier in the same area, you have to choose which one to carry. The one you pick up will praise you, sometimes in a comical way. But the one you drop…man, some of their protests at being left behind are comedy gold.
All characters are also equipped with a “spider” backpack that allows them to cling to most surfaces and ceilings, so it’s possible to cover each level in any number of ways. The soldiers all have a double jump, but tapping the left trigger a second time causes each to activate a unique ability. I won’t spoil those either as they’re fun to discover on your own and decide which one you like.
But wait, there’s more! More soldiers to pick up and carry to the end of each area to unlock them for future missions and play-throughs, each with their own unique guns. More bosses, and more endings, too. From the first level, it’s possible to choose three branching stories each with their own unique ending. The levels the soldier goes to are also unique, with no monsters sharing levels no matter which path you choose. That’s a lot of variety for a game from an indie crew.
The catch, though, is that the branches are very short. It’s possible to play all of them in a little under an hour because there are only three levels no matter which way you go. It’s this game where my cries of “more” are particularly bitter precisely because I was having so much fun. I wanted there to be more to it, just to see what other wild mutants the makers might have come up with. I wanted to rescue more buddies and unlock new weapons and special abilities. Don’t get me wrong. What’s available is already impressive. I just would have liked to see this story given more time to develop because it’s easily the most interesting of the three invasion plots in the bundle.
I’ll give Weapon of Choice 5 stars, and I admit, for a cheap game, it’s certainly a nice surprise to find something so fun and diverse in such a little package.
Finally, though, there’s Game Type, which…I don’t hate it, but it’s probably the least interesting out of the bundle because it’s so meandering and pointless. I remember this game was MBG making a statement about how hard it is to find indie games on Xbox Live, but beyond that goal, it’s not very good.
The game starts out each time with navigating a series of panels made to look like the Xbox Live dashboard, with all its cluttered ads and crap. Once the game starts, it’s a side scrolling shooter that throws shit out with no coherent theme. Donuts and footballs players and cats and cars and multi-colored orange slices…it’s a mess. It doesn’t help that the special weapon the floating hoodie-wearing girl uses is dull looking. Each time she fires it, she shouts “Parkour!” As a joke it falls flat the first time, and yet it’s told with every button press. “Parkour! Paaarkour! Paaarkooour!” Great, got it, let’s move on.
Game Type is the only one of the bundle I didn’t finish. I beat the first boss, a mockup of Long Cat protected by a floating desk who fires paw-prints and hairballs. Once that was done and the game just kept going through the same random enemies, I exited and closed it. It’s not something I want to spend time with, but I can’t say it’s a bad game. I’ve seen many Japanese shooters in a similar “style,” with a random assortment of enemies that have nothing in common with each other. I didn’t care for them either, but I’m sure someone out there considers them great fun. In any case, I’m giving Game Type 3 stars.
And so that’s three out of four games that I liked, and for the price, I think that’s totally fair. None of them have a lot of depth, and it’s possible to play through all of them in a single evening. But if you wanted something quick to pick up that’s mindless and fun, you can hardly go wrong with this bundle.