The Indie Fix: Bad Boxart Challenge 2017

Welcome to The Indie Fix, where we delve into the exciting world of indie gaming to have a gander at promising works in progress, weird and wonderful freeware offerings, or recently published games that may have slipped under your radar!

This week I’ve been checking out some of the entries from last month’s Bad Boxart Challenge.

If you’re as old as me, then you might remember the awful illustrations that sometimes used to adorn the cassettes and cartridges of the 8- and 16-bit era. Back then, graphics would often leave a lot to the imagination, so a little artistic license was always essential when it came to designing the inlays. Yet, some covers seemed to portray an almost entirely different game. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the Gallery of Trash here.

Anyway, the idea of the 72-hour jam was to create an original game based solely on the crappy artwork of an existing game – imagining what it could have been like if it actually resembled the cover. Here are my favourites from the jam.

Mushroom Cult

The Indie Fix: Bad Boxart Challenge 2017 - n3rdabl3

You’re a wall-jumping, sword-wielding ninja and there’s a giant levitating cog-eyed cat head firing syringes at you. The aim is simple: dodge the traps, scale the building-sized toadstools, chase and defeat the demonic head. Swinging your sword smashes the green syringes and deflects the red homing ones, while collecting enough pills earns you an extra life and golden syringes give you temporary invincibility.

Remarkably, most of these elements do feature in the rather eccentric cover of Bloody, a rubbish ZX Spectrum platformer that came out in 1987. Like Bloody, Mushroom Cult plays out like some trippy, drug-fuelled nightmare, although it has more in common with classic 16-bit games like Strider, Assassin and Zool, than anything that ever came out on the humble Speccy. It doesn’t take long to complete, but it’s good fun and quite tough, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and one or two secrets and jokey references to discover.

You can download Mushroom Cult for free on Game Jolt here.

Mr Weems and The She-Vampires

The Indie Fix: Bad Boxart Challenge 2017 - n3rdabl3

It sounds like a bad soft-porn flick from the 1970s and it does feature a seedy-looking middle-aged man, but the original Mr Weems was actually a top-down dungeon crawler released for the Spectrum in 1987. In contrast, the jam entry of the same name is a side-scrolling action platformer.

Mr Weems has inherited his grandfather’s castle, but before he can claim his legacy he needs to clear out all the she vampires – apparently the old man was in to some pretty sordid stuff. In game, this translates to five levels of jumping spike pits, collecting diamonds, dodging leaping piranha skeletons and shooting all the demonic wenches, bouncing frogs and dangling spiders.

It’s surprisingly good, nicely capturing the feel and spirit of those old bedroom-programmed platformers so typical of the mid-80s. It also features some decent 8-bit-style pixel art and a wonderfully lively chiptune backing track.

You can download Mr Weems and The She-Vampires for free on Game Jolt here.

Ninja Golf

The Indie Fix: Bad Boxart Challenge 2017 - n3rdabl3

The original was a side-scrolling beat ‘em up set on a golf course and released in 1990 for the relatively forgotten Atari 7800 (Atari’s answer to the NES/Famicom and Master System). But here, you’re actually playing golf, albeit with the heads of enemy ninjas.

The goal is to get a specific number of heads into the designated holes, though first you need to detach them from their bodies. Obligingly, enemy assassins keep rushing at you and trying to cut you down. By positioning yourself right and aiming with the mouse, you can lop off their heads with your trusty 9-iron and sink their masked noggins.

On later levels there are multiple holes to fill and sometimes you need to bounce heads round corners. You also come across samurai who first need to be stripped of their armour using your sword before you can decapitate them. And you’ll need to use your putter to deflect shuriken back at their throwers.

Despite the ropey visuals and silliness of the premise, Ninja Golf is fun, challenging and rather addictive. I actually think it has the potential to be developed into a fuller concept.

You can download Ninja Golf for free on Game Jolt here.