Rick’s been playing games since before he could walk. I went from an NES to a PS3 with nothing in between. We love to game together, but finding games we can both enjoy can be tough. Indie Game Date is our quest to find great indie games that both of us will love.
With the exception of last week’s WTF title, No Luca No, all of the games we’ve played so far for Indie Game Date were things I’d found on Kairi Vice’s Indie Gamer Chick. But this week I decided to branch out a little and went with Guppy: Collects! 2, which I’d found on another XBox Live Indie Game review site, the XBLIG. The review wasn’t glowing, but it was positive, the gameplay seemed basic enough that even I would be able to have fun with it, and the art style was really cute. Also, cats.
Since Rick and I are still having trouble getting our schedules to line up this week, I decided to check it out on my own first, and then let him know if it was worth playing or not. I realize now that this probably wasn’t the right tact to take with this particular game, but if nothing else I got some entertainment from the sideways look he gave me for spending our hard earned cash on it. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad game. I had a lot of fun with it. But, it’s not particularly challenging and there were some design choices that should have added replay value, but weren’t implemented that way.
In the game you play as Guppy, a lumpy purple whale-fish thing. You are followed around by your posse of three cats, who also happen to represent your lives. In each level you are presented with a string of items and the icon of a button or buttons to press in order to collect that item. You press the buttons in sequence and you collect the items in the sequence. There is also a timer, but I usually lost by messing up a button, so that was never an issue for me. When you miss an item, one of your cats meows and disappears. After all the cats have disappeared you have one life left. Once that is gone the game is over and your score is totaled.
The mechanic that I mentioned above that should have added replay value to the game is that you can unlock costumes for Guppy as you progress through the game. The costumes you have collected are viewable in a gallery from the main menu, but you cannot choose which costume Guppy wears during any given level, the game simply chooses randomly from the ones you have unlocked. The problem is that costumes are unlocked randomly through each playthrough, regardless of the level or difficulty. Basically, if you made it to at least the sixth level in any given playthrough, you could unlock at least two costumes. Meaning that, despite never progressing beyond 1,200 points, I was able to unlock every costume in the game in less than 20 minutes because I played it a total of 10 times.
Now, I know I’m a noob, but I’d always assumed that the function of unlockables was to encourage the player to explore and progress further into the game, not just reward them for starting it more than once. So now I look like a total jerk for unlocking all the costumes before Rick even got a chance to play and I can’t seem to get them to reset, despite having deleted and re-downloaded the game. Despite this minor gripe, I did like the art style and the music, which were both bright and engaging. I do wish they’d taken a little more time with the actual gameplay, since I would love to see this sense of style applied to something with more depth.
I did finally manage to get Rick to play it. After a couple of false starts where he’s tried to use the directional buttons to move, instead of just following the prompts, and promptly died; Rick turned to me nonchalantly and asked me what my high score had been when I’d been playing by myself. It wasn’t until after I told him that I realized he’d just wanted to gauge what he needed to beat in order to trounce me. Yes, it was a redundant question, his victory over me was guaranteed before we began.