The Animal Farm

September 24th, 2010

XBLIG Review: Nasty

I suppose it’s only fitting that since my first XBLIG review was a positive tribute to Fun Infused Games’s Hypership Out of Control, my second review should be a considerably harsher look at a game by the same group: Nasty.

Nasty is a fairly straight forward run ‘n gun: every level is a single screen full of enemies, platforms, and traps; your goal is to kill all the enemies to move on to the next room, all the time collecting gems and fruit to increase your score. On your way, powerups/weapons will aid you while bosses try to impede you.

First thing’s first: go ahead and turn off your rumble. Every time you shoot the controller vibrates, and since you’re constantly shooting, the game becomes a cleverly disguised massage app. You’ll probably want to turn off the sound effects too, since those gun shot sounds aren’t doing the game any favors but are still not the worst SFX the game offers.


Now let’s move on to the game itself. The premise isn’t terribly inviting - killing things until everything is dead is, quite bluntly, dull. On its own that’s forgivable. Plenty of games survive on a diet of mindless explosions and bro-tastic gunplay. Unfortunately, where those games succeed in their execution, Nasty does not.

The most glaring problem is the level design. The game boasts 100 levels, but a good majority of those levels can be beaten by standing still and shooting. This is no more apparent than in level 65(!) where I literally held down X until the level ended. In the few instances where that is not sufficient, you generally never have to take more than a few stops, stop, shoot, repeat. It’s about as mindless as it gets.

There are infrequent levels where the game tries to force a bit more from you, either by making you do some tricky platforming or by throwing in awkwardly positioned enemies. These are welcome, but even these levels have flaws - the platforming can be frustrating, especially when there’s a low-hanging ceiling that you repeatedly bump your head into only to fall in a pit of spikes. The awkwardly positioned enemies usually don’t increase the challenge, they only necessitate the need to find a better angle.


The boss battles are where we see the game’s potential shine, but there are only a handful. I fought two over the course of the first 70-ish levels. They were fun and challenging, and I would’ve much rather seen more of this and less of the straight-moving, easily predictable enemies that littered every level.

There are plenty of little tidbits to collect to boost your score (I did enjoy the point scoring system) and a good assortment of powerups/weapons. Alas, even most of the weapons work against you - the grenade launcher and wave shot were both pretty useless whereas the tri-shot was stupid powerful.


Moving past gameplay, there are a host of technical issues. The controls are loose - sometimes I would duck when I wanted, other times I would run forward and shoot at a downward angle, leading me straight into an enemy. The options menu is especially broken, with every move of the thumbstick doing something unwanted. There are collision detection bugs (when using the tri-shot weapon I frequently managed to shoot through walls) and a few places where the game noticeably jerks. There’s nothing here that explodes in your face, but there are enough little “gotchas” to cause frustration.

From a production value standpoint, the game is a mixed bag. Menus and screen transitions and cinematics feel appropriately polished. I legitimately enjoyed the handful of music tracks. Character and enemy designs are charming. Environment art runs the gamut from OK to atrociously bad. I’d say the game is pleasing to look at with a few standout experiences both good and bad. Oh, and again, the sound effects. Not good.


If the game does one thing really well, it’s its multiplayer offering. You can play the entire game with a second player. Better still, you can challenge others to competitive matches with different goals. The levels are a bit tight for a four player match, but this mode is a welcome diversion from the single player experience.

Unfortunately multiplayer is not enough to save Nasty. There’s just too much working against this game, with bland level design, extremely repetitive gameplay, loose controls, and a host of bugs. The game is a step above much of the XBLIG rubbish that litters the service, but I still can’t call it a good game. A little bird (who hopefully won’t hate me forever after reading this review**) has said the game’s sequel Nastier is in development; I’d skip Nasty and hope that Nastier turns out better.


(Footnotes follow)
** For those unfamiliar with my background, I’m a game developer, and I talk to other developers over Twitter. I’m writing these reviews from a position of unbiased respect - I like the creator, and I know how hard it is to make a game, and I’ve personally had my own games blasted; while I’m reviewing, though, I’m trying my hardest to set all that aside and look at a game critically. If you’re a developer I talk to who asks for a review, please keep that in mind.

September 24th, 2010

Review Pipeline

Some developers have been kind enough to share some free tokens for their games, allowing me to build a backlog of (slightly older) games to review:

Nasty (Fun Infused) - Coming This Weekend!
Dungeon Adventure (UberGeekGames)
Oldschool Adventure (Chris Hughes)
Super Avatar Hero Force (UberGeekGames)

That’s not necessarily the order, and you’d be silly to hold me to any kind of timeline, but that’s what I have so far.

These are all slightly older games; after I go through this batch, I’ll probably start picking out of the new releases or games that personally interest me - unless of course other people want to send me free games.

Random dungeon generator successfully ported to iPhone!