Monday, November 8, 2010


Playing Super Meat Boy, my new personal favourite platforming game ever, you unlock various characters from around the independent gaming scene. A lot of these characters are recognizable faces - Tim from Braid, Gish from Gish, what have you. But by god, there are a lot I haven't seen before. And thanks for that, because now I have exposure to some indie games I would never have dreamed of before.

Characters from games like Jumper, Mighty Jill Off, and Flywrench - I was able to go and download their (freeware!) games from their respective websites. But there was one character, Captain Video, from the Bit.Trip series, whose games are only on the Wii. Auurgh. Screw that. WiiWare is a hellhole. I'm not going near the thing. ...well someone must have heard this because a few days later, Bit.Trip Beat is available on Steam. For a measly $9. Awesome. So, I bought it, and for what it's worth, here's a first impression of this very, very addictive indie title.

Bit.Trip Beat is the first installment in the ever-expanding Bit.Trip series. In Beat's case, it plays like a super-evil cross between Audiosurf, Guitar Hero, Breaker, and Pong. The screen is set up fairly identically to Pong's - you control a "paddle" hitting back "balls". It is, at its core, a rhythm action game - the bits come at you as the "notes" and when you hit them back, they play their relative pitch and give you score. As you get more points, you progress through several stages - if you miss any bits, you fall back down the stages. If you fall back from the first stage, you end up in "the Nether", which is basically what Pong is - all black and white with basic chiptunes sounds - but totally evil. It acts as your safety net, and you can get back into the game as soon as possible.

So the gameplay is simple as hell. The soundtrack, likewise, is totally retro. Chiptunes-inspired beats, totally awesome. The best thing about the game though is the rush of adrenaline you get while playing it. This is a game that doesn't dick around. As soon as you start - you start. It's intense stuff, and with a progressive difficulty curve that starts off gentle and ends up soul-smashing, this is one of the best retro-inspired games I've played since... well, since Super Meat Boy. The visuals are trippy as an acid rush, the gameplay is simple yet inspired, the music is fucking brilliant, and the execution is flawless. Plus, it's one of few games I've seen that lets you connect your Steam account to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, in order to post achievements to your friends - which is a concept I'm surprised no-one else has used! In summary, it's totally awesome, and it's cheap - it's a blast, get into it!

Auurgh, I just realized Call of Duty: Black Ops came out today. It's sort of made me realize that I'm one of few people who like games like Bit.Trip anymore. Pure fun. Pure awesome. I hate Call of Duty and the ravenous sheep that follow it, because it makes independent games look like throwaway garbage, when they really are so much more than that! Call of Duty is a good series, competent shooters. No doubt. But it's buried under so much hype and PR bullshit that I just can't pull out the game's core from beneath the wreckage. But mostly, I hate it for similar reasons I hate the Halo franchise - it is dragging down the gaming industry. The independent scene is one I strive to actively support - every AAA title I've bought this year has been total arse, and every indie game I've bought has been whipped cream wonderful licked straight off the breasts of a hypothetical magic hooker. Except 'Splosion Man. But YOU GET MY POINT - Call of Duty has no soul left. It's mechanical and by-the-numbers, and somehow... that sells? While genuine ingenuity and creativity is left to rot by the sidelines? I'm reminded of the Psychonauts thing - one of the best games ever made ever, and it doesn't sell because it's new and different, ultimately bankrupting the company that made it. That's not on. I know I'm a small voice amongst a very loud, very annoying crowd, but I think the games industry really needs to look in the mirror and say: "No. This will not do."

Andrew Deavin will avoid Black Ops for as long as possible, so don't convince him to buy it. He's hanging out for the Super Meat Boy PC release. Also, he has written a full review of Super Meat Boy - just in case you thought you missed something - but it will only go up when Australian Gaming Network inevitably goes live. Which could be months away, but that's where it is, in case you guys are wondering.

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