SPOILER ALERT: Don’t even waste your time.
Years ago, the term “indie” was used almost exclusively for music. It wasn’t until more recently that video games took on the moniker from having such a thriving media drive behind it. In the mid 90’s, the site Newgrounds.com was founded and it worked as a home for creative people all across the internet to display anything from short, animated films to rendered stills to fully programmed games. One of these games was Alien Hominid by a now renowned independent company The Behemoth. Its success snowballed rapidly across the internet spawning the first true indie game to home console in 2004 when it was ported to the Playstation 2. This jump started the entire indie scene and pretty soon everybody who wanted to make a game was starting to do so. What was once unique and inspirational has now become a staple of the industry and, which such a vast pool of inexperienced dreamers, comes your equal parts innovation and garbage. Enter Spoiler Alert, a look into what happens when a company comes up with a concept and stops there.
Created by Mega Fuzz and published by Tiny Build Games, Spoiler Alert is a true to life indie game in every sense. The only problem is that it’s true to a Newgrounds submission from the mid 90’s indie game scene, opposed to what’s expected of an indie title today. Its “stylized” animation and simplistic gameplay may have worked when Flash was first introduced to the public, but now it feel decades dated and the charm of the basic brush strokes used seem lazy. The Behemoth pioneered this style, but it has grown to become their own. Everyone else trying to copy it feels like an impostor. The characters, in what appear to be forced nonsense nobodys in an attempt to be funny, aren’t humorous in either concept or design. The backgrounds and enemies suffer from the same problem. Everything looks pulled from a hat and animated with half the effort. But this is all purely cosmetic. Graphics don’t make a game, but surely some time was used to implement interesting and addictive mechanics.
Spoiler Alert (PC [Reviewed], iOS, Android)
Publisher: tinyBuild GAMES
Released: June 30, 2014
When a minimalist style is introduced, it must have solid gameplay to even out the experience. 8-bit graphics, charcoal sketches, outdated polygons have all been done to death by independent studios, but it’s the solid game itself that allows those stylistic choices to stand out and have the game rise to success. The charm wears off as soon as you realize there’s nothing worth getting attached to and this is another misstep for this game. The concept is that you’ve already beaten the game and, in order to avoid a time paradox, to must play the game backwards. You must collect what you would have had you actually played the game and avoid that which you would not have collected and kill enemies you would have in the game you didn’t play and avoid those that you hypothetically did not kill. While that explanation is a bit confusing and far from poetic, it perfectly suits the execution. Sloppy, simple backwards moving with little to no set up. Even the idea of having to play in reverse isn’t really explained at all. It simply starts you off moving backwards and jumping and even that feels stiff. While there are sections that give you abilities such as un-shooting fireballs, it isn’t enough to last an entire game and, apparently, the studio agreed.
A big worry I had coming into this was whether or not I would have time to review a new game at all. But Mega Fuzz did me a huge favor and made a game that can be fully complete in twenty minutes. There are only three worlds with about thirty levels each. Some levels are seconds long and require one of two jumps only. The challenge is increased only by the rushed and unpolished mechanics and even that wasn’t enough to hold me back. After blowing through the “story,” you are awarded with a new mode: Time Trial. This is where I could put my suspicion to the test and see if I had actually beaten an entire game in less time than it took in install it. Sure enough, in only one attempt I was able to get a silver medal and be completely finished with everything the game had to offer. While another, bonus world opened up, it was less than half the amount of levels are the were just as easy.
There is also a custom level builder, but between struggling to figure out what parts of the menu needed mouse or gamepad controls and the overall unintuitive nature of its layout, I couldn’t figure out how anything worked. Even when I thought I had made progress, it didn’t play out how I had set it up. I’m dubious of the mode’s overall efficiency even in the hands of an expert as even my progress wasn’t saved upon opening up the game at a later time so I doubt a custom level would have survived.
Spoiler Alert is a rushed and sloppy game that’s simply not worth playing. It’s a prime example of what happens when inexperienced people come up with a concept they think is original enough to satisfy the rest of the project (apparently, the creators haven’t heard of RetroGrade) and use that as an excuse to cut corners on everything else. The art style is just as lazy as the poor, basic control scheme and the entirety of what the game has to offer can be experienced in less time than it takes to watch an episode of any TV show. Remember kids: Ambition means more than just wanting to do something. It’s about actually trying, too.