Justice Playthrough #52: KeyCars

It’s the video game version of the most disappointing toy ever!

Page 22, Game 29: KeyCars by Kenney

For this playthrough, I’m not a huge fan of games that are meant to be multi-player. I just wanna play the games at my own speed and not have to worry about corralling my wife to properly evaluate them. Besides, from what I’ve seen, implementation of many-players-one-screen can be a tad spotty. I don’t think you can assume that your average PC gamer has anything more than a keyboard and a mouse, quite honestly. I’ve seen “multiplayer” games that assume you have a multi-controller setup of some sort and … yeah, no.

So if you’re gonna get multiple people on the same screen, you probably need to cram them all onto the same keyboard. That can be awkward.

KeyCars addresses this problem in the most lunk-headedly simple way imaginable: controlling your car takes one key.

Just one.

If your car doesn’t exist yet, pressing a key brings it to life! If it DOES exist, holding down that same key makes it turn right!

That’s it. That’s the game.

Oh, and space bar will spawn a bunch of CPU-controlled vehicles, which collectively have the survival skills of a concussed lemming.

Such chaos. Very game.

The game really does feel like the most disappointing toy from my childhood. I wanted a remote-control car for Christmas, because that shit looked fuckin’ AWESOME. My parents, being broke AF, managed to find something that met the absolute barest possible minimum requirements for the requested toy. When you turned on the car in question, it immediately drove in a straight line. No throttle or anything like it — it would just go straight forward at its top speed, which was not terribly fast. The remote had a single button; hold it down, and the car will suddenly go in REVERSE! But while it’s going in reverse, it turns in a circle!

It’s the lamest, most awkward way to control a vehicle that still technically renders it capable of being directed somewhere.

Just as long as that somewhere was on a perfectly flat surface; carpet was WAY too rough a terrain for this damn thing to handle. Basically, I could sit in the kitchen and bang it off the fridge and the kitchen table chair legs until I got too frustrated by it to bother playing with it any more. Which happened quickly.

A few years later, I asked for ANOTHER remote-control car. I was too young to have the words to request “And could it please not be a total piece of shit? Can it be one of those cars that can, like, go places, and steer, and actually be fun to play with?”

I got the same fucking thing again. Except this one was green.

So, yeah, when your game is reminding me of the most bitterly disappointing ass-tastic toys of the mid 70’s, your game is not putting me in a headspace conducive to a favorable review.

And yet … it almost works, kind of. It doesn’t. But it gets closer than I’d think. One of the big problems is that the collision detection (the point of the game) that determines which car wrecks the other is weirdly arbitrary; I felt like too many collisions in which my car was the clear aggressor wound up with me asploded and the other car unscathed. A larger problem is that the score tracker only shows how many “points” you’ve racked-up since the most recent incarnation of your car spawned. That kinda wrecks any sense of ongoing progress; why is it not showing me a kill/death ratio for each relevant key? That’d be way more fun.

It’d also be a lot more fun if the CPU cars weren’t such flaming imbeciles. Seriously, I don’t want the AI to be Mad Max out there, but when you spawn NPC cars, it’s only a matter of time before the stupid bastards drive off the side of the map on their own. Even when the last car has the arena entirely to itself. Can I get just a little more challenge, please?

It’s silly and chaotic. It feels like with a little more refinement, it’d be fun, too. And what the hell, if you feel like daring your friends to play a 20-player game on your laptop, this will let you say you did it.

So what’s the next one gonna be like?

Page 2, Game 14: Tonight We Riot by Means Interactive

“A revolutionary crowd-based retro brawler”

I assume that the “revolutionary” is more a reference to smashing capitalism and/or chucking tea in the harbor, and not a claim to wildly innovative gameplay.

Given that it’s a RETRO brawler, I’m kinda hoping for the tea, actually.

Justice Playthrough #51: KIDS

KIDS! What’s the matter with KIDS these days?

Well, they seem to fall into a lot of holes, so that’s an issue. Also, swimming, and clapping, and being reborn a lot.

KIDS are kinda fuckin’ weird.

Page 2, Game 21: KIDS by Playables

KIDS straddles the line between “game” and “interactive animation.” In it, very smoothly animated featureless black and white people will … do things. Likely in response to you clicking on them. Or near them. If there’s a “game” here, it’s “figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing at this particular moment.”

Stage 1: Get all the people to limply collapse into the hole. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine. Unless they aren’t.

Once you’ve figured out just what it is the game wants you to be doing, you’ll move on to the next stage. Spoiler: this stage will likely be surreal and vaguely disquieting. It may involve guiding your featureless people through a … birth canal? Or possibly a digestive tract. Or maybe even an ovipositor. They’re coming out an orifice of some sort, dammit.

This game feels like it’s trying to Say Something, and I’m not the best audience for that. I’m honestly kind of a basic bitch; artistic statements about the folly of following the crowd or the absurd meaninglessness of existence or what have you really aren’t my jam. However, the game is ALSO providing a smooth and engaging experience; the animation may be simple, but it really is executed to perfection.

I was often confused. I was usually a tad creeped-out. But I was NEVER bored. However much I might not have been this game’s target audience, it never lost me. I gotta respect that.

I don’t know that I’d call this one of the bundle’s hidden gems, but it’s pretty damn good, and I get the impression it is very successful at being the game it wants to be. I’m just not confident I know what the hell that is.

If it sounds intriguing, I can definitely recommend giving it a look.

All righty, RNG. We staying on an artistic trip here?

Page 22, Game 29: KeyCars by Kenney

“Press any key to join the battle!”

Gonna call that a “no.”

But given that it sounds like I’m about to strap into a car and commit violence on other cars using my car as a weapon, I’ll be giving that a “FUK YEAH!!!”

Justice Playthrough #50: Where Is Cat?

Gosh, this game almost makes me wish I had children of my– HA HAAAAAA, no being child-free is awesome and I love it.

But this is still freaking adorable and I’m glad I played it.

Page 19, Game 21: Where is cat? by bartbonte

Where is cat?

This is room. Room has cat.

Perhaps in the bathtub? LOL don’t be stupid.

Click the cat.

Move on to next room.

Find cat again!

After seven rooms, hooray! You have found all the cat!

But the cat now has demands.

Fine, I’ll get your cupcakes you little bastard.

Go back to the rooms. Find what the cat wants!

This is a simple Flash game of pixel hunting that had me laughing my head off. Yup, kids designed this, all right. And also did the art, I’m quite confident.

If that’s an accurate representation of the stairs, I’m guessing Dad yells a lot.

Soothing classical music plays in the background, with an enthusiastic violin sting when you complete the level.

And WHY does the cat want all this crap? No spoilers!

It’s silly, it’s adorable. I’m never going to play it again, but I’m grateful to have spent ten minutes playing it. It’s a lovely little trifle.

What’s the next game going to be like?

Page 2, Game 21: KIDS by Playables

“A game of crowds.”

Is this about kids? Or about crowds? Or about kids in crowds?

I suppose I’ll find out.

Justice Playthrough #49: Vegetables

Failboat.

Page 49, Game 8: Vegetables Deluxe C64 by MikeRichmond

This is a game for the Commodore 64. Not a game done up in the style of a C64 game; an actual modern Commodore 64 game. If you do not own an actual C64, that is officially a YOU problem.

Though the description page does suggest an emulator.

Okay, so I downloaded the emulator and fired it up. Did some Googling on how to load a “.d64” file into the emulator. Followed the instructions. Made some decent guesses. Loaded the game!

This is as far as I got.

… and got stuck.

Spent some time trying to configure the joystick. Think I clicked the right buttons. The little indicator lights at the bottom of the emulator did seem to be indicating it saw my XBox controller as a live joystick. Vegetables Deluxe, however, was not buying that shit. It stayed on the above screen, and no amount of button mashing would let me move forward.

So after about a half hour or so, I finally gave up.

I don’t know if this is a problem with the emulator or a problem with the game. Either way, this game was not willing to exert any particular effort to allow me to play it.

… and I’m surprisingly okay with that.

I have encountered a number of games in this trawl that are Not For Me, and Vegetables Deluxe is one of them. This game is for an audience of people who either have functioning C64s or already know the emulator backwards and forwards, and could fire-up this game the moment it was downloaded. Maybe they love that they get to play a veggie-themed Bejeweled on their beloved retro machine, maybe they think it sucks. That’s their business.

I am not part of that community, and this game makes no effort to introduce me into it. And why should it? Would the effort of either bundling the emulator with this game or walking me through how to get it working really have been worthwhile to this dev? Maybe. But probably not; I’m just a tourist in this space, I wasn’t liable to stick around long even if I got the game running, and the game was in no mood to indulge me. That’s fine. That’s legit. Not every club needs to have me as a member.

So it’s another super-niche game. Are you a Commodore 64 enthusiast? Then here’s a new game for you. Enjoy. The rest of us have plenty of other entertainment options.

Who is this next game for?

Page 19, Game 21: Where is cat? by bartbonte

“Created for the #oujevipo4kids contest, a game for kids created with my kids.”

Ah, It is for kids. Created, in part, by kids.

This likely means this game isn’t gonna be for me, either. But sometimes, kids can produce works of bugfuck insanity. Let’s see how much creativity these plucky little tykes have.

Justice Playthrough #48: Delve

I’m kinda over dungeon crawling in RPGs. I mean, I’m fine with it in video games; not exactly inventive, but still potentially exciting. And I do loves me some dedicated tabletop dungeon delvers; I have so many hours dumped into Gloomhaven that I need to force myself to play other games because I own a whole bunch of ones that are much too awesome to just gather dust. But dungeon-crawling in something like, say, D&D just kinda bores me. Meticulously mapping shit out on graph paper, plodding through each room carefully looking for traps and clues, the tedious slog of monsters jumping out and fighting you … blech. I’m seriously over it.

Therefore, a 200+ page supplement devoted to dungeoneering in an RPG I don’t even play has no prayer of a good review, right? A dismissive “meh” is the absolutely ceiling of what you should expect from me here, yes?

Delve is a very detailed set of rules for creating dungeon-esque environments on the fly, WITHOUT getting bogged in the tedious minutiae of mapping a never-ending series of 10′ x 10′ corridors. It splits the difference between that and total free-form storytelling games, providing templates for everything you’d want for your adventure site. Where is it located? How hard is going to be to get through? What’s going to stand in your way? What nasty shit will you encounter once you finally get there?

Most of this is presented in the form of look-up dice charts, but in the hybrid spirit of the game, you’re admonished to not be a slave to the dice. Did the dice roll indicate you encounter something stupid and nonsensical? Then just ignore that shit. Maybe flip the dice; maybe a result of 85 (“Camp or Outpost”) makes no goddamn sense for the desolate hellwoods you’ve described, but a result of 58 (“Waterway”) actually fits in. Or do the results one line higher or lower seem particularly cool and you wish you’d rolled one of them? Then just do that, bro.

Honestly? I’m intrigued.

Free-form storytelling RPGs can be a lot of fun, but they always feel a bit flimsy to me; the fact that the table is just making the shit up on the fly can produce a cool narrative, but at the cost of a sense of accomplishment. The more structure a game has, the more viscerally satisfying your victories are. Gronk the Dwarf didn’t wrestle that bear to the ground because somebody at the table thought it would be hilarious; he wrestled it to the ground because Gronk’s player was a bit desperate and landed some KILLER dice rolls. Yeah, you show that cave-grizzly who’s BOSS, you majestic bearded bastard!

But the price of that structure comes form narrative flexibility. The GM has to put in a LOT of work ahead of time, which can be daunting and stressful. Adventures can feel samey and repetitive. The options available to the players can feel tightly constrained. You can only walk down so many 10′ wide, 10′ high stone corridors before coming down with a case of FuckThisItus. A more freeform game doesn’t have as strong a potential for walking away feeling like you just did something AWESOME, but it can allow for a lot more creativity.

Delve is clearly shooting for a middle ground allowing for both creativity AND structure. How well does it achieve this? Fuck if I know, I just kinda skimmed the 200+ pages of rulebook. But I’d be very, very interested to find out.

Based on the rules in this book, Ironsworn is clearly inspired by Apocalypse World, but is apparently its own system. Digging a bit more, it would seem that the base Ironsworn rulebook is available as a free download, and pulls decent online reviews.

When the dread specter of pestilence has at last been purged from these lands, I might consider organizing a group to play it.

This supplement makes me want to give its parent ruleset a try.

That’s a pretty damn good supplement.

All right, let’s cue-up another one:

Page 49, Game 8: Vegetables Deluxe C64 by MikeRichmond

“A Match 3 Game for PAL/NTSC Commodore 64 machines and emulators”

Hmm. I don’t like Bejeweled, and I hate vegetables. But I DO have some hard-core nostalgia going for C64 machines. Let’s have a look.

Justice Playthrough #47: adjacency

It should not be this chill. It is somehow very chill.

Page 14, Game 24: adjacency by sleepy macaw

Here are some shapes. All the shapes have an outline of a particular color. Some of the shapes are filled-in — likely with a different color. Click one of the filled-in shapes, and all the shapes next to it will be filled-in, too. Get the inside colors of the shapes to match their outlines, and you have won. Try to do it in the fewest moves possible — or, you know, don’t. That’s your business, mate.

Everything about this game oozes minimalist professionalism. Textured black backgrounds, gentle neon-esque colors that transition smoothly from one state to the next, a chill down-tempo electronic soundtrack. I could see someone banging-out a rudimentary version of this game in a one-day jam; the actual game is what happens when you take those dirt-simple basics and meticulously flesh them out with well-considered graphics and sound.

The puzzles, of course, get steadily more challenging as the game progresses. More colors, more shapes, more mechanisms to manipulate the board state.

These puzzles should get downright frustrating … yet I found the chill vibe permeating the endeavor rubbing off on me to the point where I honestly wasn’t getting that frustrated. The game doesn’t punish you for fucking up and winding up in an unrecoverable state; just click a button, and all is forgiven. You learn anything from that attempt, buddy? Good, good. Try again. I’m sure you’ll get it. I have faith in you.

Does it seem impossible to get one color past another without one of them being destroyed? No, friend, we wouldn’t do that to you. Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out sooner or later. You got this.

The game feels like solving a puzzle with Bob Ross. I mean that in a good way.

If I have a complaint, it’s that the game tends to under-explain some of its later mechanics; the aesthetic is “Click until you understand it,” but some of it would really benefit from just a few words explaining what’s going on. But like I said, there’s no punishment for abandoning a level to just fucking around until it makes sense, and the game makes it damned hard to be frustrated by anything.

I like this game; it’s easily one of the standouts in this playthrough. I definitely feel like I’ll come back to it. I have more puzzles to solve.

All right, we gonna start a streak of really good games here?

Page 5, Game 4: Ironsworn: Delve by Shawn Tomkin

“A massive expansion and toolkit for the Ironsworn tabletop roleplaying game.”

Ah, supplemental material for a tabletop game I don’t actually play. Don’t anticipate being as into this one. But I can certainly poke around it a bit.

Justice Playthrough #46: Voles of the Dusk

Hey, this isn’t a game at all! This is one of those … story things … with the pictures … but not the ones you click….

COMIC BOOK! Yeah. It’s a comic book.

Page 51, Game 19: Voles of the Dusk by GearHead

Humanity’s time has come and gone. It is a broken world, a ruined world. A world … of voles.

Such brood. Very dark.

And, you know, other small cute adorable rodent creatures.

“Voles of the Dusk” is a collection of three black-and-white comics following the adventures of The Nameless Vole, a dark and brooding hero who survives the wasteland by being a violent moron. Watch him battle for Doritos! Encounter a village of survivors making their lair in “a maximum security facility for the largest and most dangerous animals in the world!” (A zoo.) Battle monsters! Interrupt dodge-ball! Engage in political shenanigans!

And use artifacts of the old world!

Magic of the Ancients

This is a lovely little parody of grim self-serious post-apocalypse fiction. Most of the world seems to be managing pretty well, truth be told, the occasional brain-stealing scam notwithstanding.

Of course, there ARE still threats out there, and the villagers would like The Nameless Vole’s help dealing with a marauding cat that’s laired nearby.

Fun fact: after the apocalypse, voles are hazy on the difference between “cat” and “hyena.”

Luckily, they DO realize the hyena’s one weakness: riding lanwmowers.

Just like Kryptonite

This is some really silly shit, and I’m glad I read it. If you’d like to see some rodents taking the piss out of Mad Max, I can definitely recommend it.

(Though you may need to do a little work to read the downloadable; the file is “.cbz”, and I didn’t have anything that could read it. Luckily, “CDisplay Ex” is free for Windows and seemed to do the job just fine.)

All righty, where in this wasteland do we journey to next?

Page 14, Game 24: adjacency by sleepy macaw

“an abstract puzzle game”

I like abstract puzzle games. And macaws. Let’s see what this has to offer.

Justice Playthrough #45: Hero Too

I am obviously the wrong person to be evaluating this game.

Page 14, Game 4: Hero Too by ThatAceGal

This is a solo role-playing game that basically boils down to “Design a series of superhero comic books as a metaphor for your coming out as trans.” The game guides you through the broad outlines of creating your comic book series, starting with a big ol’ splash page and then narrating the outline of what happens next.

This makes some very obvious assumptions:

  • You are a big damn superhero comic book nerd
  • … with enough artistic and storytelling ability that expressing yourself through this medium will be insightful and not frustrating
  • … who is still processing some shit related to your gender identity, such that either you’re probably coming out as trans or you’ve already come out and are still figuring out what that means.

I am zero for three. I am the wrong person to evaluate this game.

However, I consider myself a perfectly fine candidate to inform you of this game’s existence.

Because maybe you, or someone you love, is three-for-three. Maybe you are or know somebody who LOOOOOOVES superhero comics and has even been dabbling in that medium themselves, but seems to be really struggling to figure out where the fuck they “fit” in the world and with how they want to present themselves within it. Maybe “Hero Too” could help them parse their identity, contextualize it, understand it better. Maybe playing this game could be an incredibly important experience for them.

… or maybe the’d play it and be all “Nah, bro, this game is actually a towering piece of shit. But if it had done THIS and THAT instead for THOSE OTHER THINGS…” and in so doing help create a game that better achieve’s this one’s goals.

This game is super niche — and that’s fine. It’s a huge world out there, with plenty of room for all sorts of niches. I honestly wish I could say that about more of what I’ve encountered in this playthough; I wish I’d found more games that made me say “Eh, this one simply wasn’t written for me” instead of some version of “This just sucks.”

Anyway. If you are or love an artistically inclined superhero comic megafan dealing with gender identity issues, here’s ya go. This game is literally for them, and I’d be damn curious to know what they think about it.

On to the next entry:

Page 51, Game 19: Voles of the Dusk by GearHead

“The human race is extinct and cute fuzzy rodents have inherited the Earth.”

Ah, fluffy post-apocalypse gaming. It could work.

Justice Playthrough #44: Desktop Goose

The first word in waterfowl-based anti-productivity software.

Page 24, Game 5: Desktop Goose by samperson

44 games in, and I finally hit something I already knew about! Had no idea this was in the bundle. I don’t think I would have installed it if it weren’t for this trawl.

Remember Untitled Goose Game? Those were innocent times, weren’t they. Tormenting villagers with a goose. Not with the entire continent of Australia being on fire, not with global pandemic, not with widespread racial unrest due to centuries of socially-approved brutality, just a simple goose. Who happened to be a massive bag of dicks.

And now, you can have that experience just hanging out on your desktop, doing … whatever!

I fired-up the goose and started up Slay the Spire, a game I’ve sunk way too many hours into. I figured it’d be a dick move if I evaluated another Bundle game while a rogue goose was fucking with my shit.

Your little desktop anti-helper

The goose wanders around and honks. The goose periodically drags some memes onto the screen. The goose will occasionally get agitated and steal your mouse pointer — particularly if you closed one of his memes. The goose doesn’t appreciate that at all. The goose will track mud onto your screen.

The goose just acts like a dick.

The goose is strangely endearing.

Long live the goose.

This next adventure will likely involve no geese:

Page 14, Game 4: Hero Too by ThatAceGal

“A one-player journaling RPG about messy trans narratives and superheroes”

… because if there’s one person you want giving their opinions on trans-focused games, it’s a fifty-year-old cis dude.

Yeah, I’mma be real careful with this one.

Justice Playthrough #43: Mon-cuties for All

Monster farming is a weird goddamn business.

Page 10, Game 19: Mon-cuties for All by Reine Works

You’re getting into the lucrative business of monster farming, because it beats being recruited to be a “hero.” (So I think my character was dodging the draft.) You grew up on this farm when you were a kid, so you know the biz. Time to get to raising monsters — like your starting critter!

Very monster

And what do you raise these creatures for? Their meat? Their fur? Monster cockfights? Nope. Your monster shows consist of … trivia contests!

The answer isn’t 4.

Yes, that’s right! Enter your monster in the show, answer three questions correctly, get $500! Miss even on, walk away with the loser prize of $100.

Think that’s weird? We’re just getting started. You’ll need to care for your monsters. Which apparently means petting them, via a dirt simple clicking game. Pet them enough, and in classic pocket cockfighting monster style, they evolve! What do they evolve into?

ERM.

WELP.

This just got fucking awkward.

So. Where to begin. There’s basically no game at all here. It’s just repetitive clicking. Click to care for your monsters, click to earn money — which, incidentally, appears to have no relationship with your monsters.

But even overlooking the total lack of a game — and why would you? — there’s the slight fact that “farming monsters” apparently very quickly becomes “farming women.”

Ewwwwwww.

Maybe other monsters turn into catboys or some shit? That wouldn’t make me feel much better if it were true.

This game feels gross and I’m not going to think about it anymore.

Replacing that game in my head, we have:

Page 24, Game 5: Desktop Goose by samperson

“I have created a goose that lives on your desktop. He is an asshole.”

Oh my. I think I’ve heard of this one.