This guest post comes from The Ghost Generation, a family of gaming bloggers over at theghostgeneration.com. They’re passionate about indie games, and this review isn’t a happy one. Be ready for some delightfully harsh language and some steamy opinions.—GG
First of all, I want to thank Steven aka Ghetto Gamer for allowing The Ghost Generation to do a guest article and infect his readers with our brand of literary delirium! We’ll be returning the favor soon and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come.
The task at hand- I was given a review key for an upcoming Nintendo Switch game called Stellatum. The Ghost Generation is a blog, but I’m also doing reviews for Nintendo Switch games and since we’re trying to build our rep I get excited every time I get an opportunity.
I checked it out on the eShop and, to my eyes, it didn’t look like the greatest thing I’d ever play BUT it had that “hidden gem/fun for short bursts” quality that helped me keep an open mind. Frantic shooting, space stuff, the usual. I figured it wouldn’t be anything ground breaking but again, I kept an open mind. Holy shit was I amazed when it nearly immediately went completely downhill, and I mean fast.
It seemed to be some sort of parody, or maybe a lesson in what NOT to do to make a good video game, but whatever it was it bugged the hell out of me. I don’t do scored reviews for The Ghost Generation, it’s just not my style. I do however keep a pretty similar format to most people’s reviews but – I’m breaking pretty much every format here and this review is gonna be editorial style.
I don’t want to have to give negative reviews to games, especially indies. No matter how shitty a game turns out to be, it takes a TON of time and hard work to bring a game to market, and there’s something special to be said for nearly any game that sees the light of day. The problem is, there is also this subset of indie devs that crank out the kind of tomfuckery that makes most of us cringe – the dreaded “shovelware.” The kind of swill that people crank out to make a few quick bucks, the kind of thing that you can barely even call a “game” loosely, and the kind of thing that is so devoid of art it makes you a little sad just interacting with it. This is the kind of thing I’ll gladly give a scathing review to because it is precisely the kind of thing that SHOULD. NOT. EXIST.
Awkward and almost inertia based movement? Check. Unresponsive and seemingly random controls & input recognition. Yep. Bad-even-for-a-mobile game graphics? Chiggity-check. Craptastic audio? Obtuse and poorly realized upgrade system? Spelling and grammar errors around every corner? Yes to all. I could keep going but I feel like an asshole.
See, I started to think to myself: “Maybe it’s just me”. So I did what any respectable critic-type would do: I attempted to soldier on. I winced my way through the first level and when I tried to move on to the second one, the game froze. Yep, froze dead in its tracks. I closed out and restarted the game, then did the same thing again. Went through the first level (it didn’t remember that I had beaten it on the previous attempt), finished it again, and tried to go to the second. Wanna guess what happened THIS time? It crashed. The fucking thing crashed. This was NOT going well.
I was not going to let this damn game get the best of me, so I went back in. This time it worked, I made it to the second level but the problem is, the controls were so god forsaken irritating that I just couldn’t. I freely admit it, the game was so awful that I couldn’t bear to keep going. It was almost passive-aggressively unfun, nearly punitive in nature. It was like I’d been sentenced to community service and instead of picking up trash on the highway I’d been given Stellatum to play for 250 hours. I’d take the trash, and you’d feel the same if you bought it.
It’s probably a bold move to do a guest spot on someone else’s site and have it be a scathing diatribe about the ills of shovelware but hey, this dude knew what he signed up for so I’m rolling with it. [Editior’s Note: This is true. -GG] I also know he’d agree with me if he played it and you would too- and since they want to charge $15 FOR IT on the eShop, I want to do my civic duty and save ALL of you from buying it.
I feel bad, I really do-but it’s just unacceptable to me for anyone to be making bullshit like this in 2019. Hollow Knight? One of the greatest action/platformers of our time (#stopsayingmetroidvania) and it was essentially made by 2 dudes. Stardew Valley? One of the biggest indie hits in history, and made by ONE dude. Dead Cells? Super small team, and one of the best damn indie games to ever see the light of day. See a pattern? So I don’t want to hear excuses. Nope, fuck off with that and let’s call is like it is- people knowingly make shitty games and they do it because they know that enough people will unwittingly buy it and they’ll make some money. That’s it. No love, no labor, no art. Just predatory commerce for the sake of it, and that’s something we just shouldn’t stand for as a gaming public.
Hell, I wanted to like the game – I want to like ALL the games, but that’s not reality. Still though, when I get an opportunity to review someone’s work I always start with the intent of it being the greatest thing I’ve ever played. Inevitably that isn’t the case, but I like to give people the respect of starting at the top and working my way down.
I also go into reviews with the rule that I finish the game, maybe not 100%, but I “beat” it at minimum. So was Stellatum REALLY so bad that I would break nearly all of my self-imposed rules and drop it like a cigarette butt? Yes. Yes it was.
Here’s the thing too, I don’t even think the people that MADE the damn thing care about it. I sent an email to thank them for the key and the opportunity to review the game and they didn’t even write me back. I know we’re all busy people but I also get emails every day from devs/publishers so that’s not much of an excuse. Their website is a mess, I don’t even think they’re on social media, and the whole thing reeks of those people who go door to door trying to sell magazine subscriptions. I’m not even going to link to them or mention them by name if that tells you anything, I’m THAT opposed to anyone wasting their hard-earned money on this.
I know how our brains work when it comes to the glorious Nintendo Switch eShop, because mine works the same way as yours. It’s fucking bananas, and if we see something we might even remotely enjoy we’re clicking PURCHASE before we’ve had the chance to take another breath. Don’t even ASK me about my Switch backlog, it’s none of your god damn business. It’s my personal favorite console of all time, it’s a massive success, and it has a ridiculous amount of amazing, artful, and well-made games available for anyone who might hold one in their joyful hands.
The problem is that you also stumble upon stuff like this, and given that we all work hard for our money, especially these days – I feel like I owe it to you guys to be honest about shit like this cause $15 might not sound like a lot to some people but to some? $15 is food for a couple days, the difference between making a payment and another late fee, a lifeline of whatever kind you want to project – so YOUR $15 should go to things that respect your money, and this ain’t it.
A note to the predatory devs that make stuff like this: STOP IT. Nobody wins, it might SEEM like you’re winning by making a few bucks but I assure you that’s not what’s happening.
See, by producing bullshit products to make ill-gotten profits, you’re contributing to all of the darkest parts of our society. The liars, the thieves, the ones who prey on the weak. The swindlers, the abusers, the honorless. You’re telling the world “I’m OK with ripping people off” and I know that I couldn’t do it, I’d never sleep cause my conscience would eat at me every night as I stared at my ceiling fan. I might not be rich, I might not be famous, I might not be much to the world at large but god damn it I have my integrity. I lose that, I’m done. I won’t believe in myself and you won’t either. So, like I said- STOP IT. Take your time and make something we can all be proud of. Or, if you’re just in it for the money, go do essentially ANYTHING else.
Making stuff like this will get you found out eventually cause the people who ARE passionate about good games won’t touch your stuff with a ten foot pole. Don’t believe me? No worries, but you’ll see eventually. I’m just trying to be a decent human being and help you get on the right path and save innocent wallets from the punishment of abiding your wares.
The point I’m trying to make here is this: There are talented people out there busting their asses 20 hours a day for months on end to make rad games. There are people, like myself, who love rad games and voraciously devour them as much as possible. There is a thriving community made up of a diverse, intelligent, and welcoming group of people who unite under a common goal-the enjoyment of the artistic medium of video games and the fun/relaxation/stimulation they provide.
Bad games give bad experiences, and when it is abundantly clear that something was made with nearly no love to speak of we owe it to the gaming community to say a loud and proud NO THANKS, cause maybe then the predators will stop trying to trick us and we’ll put the power where it needs to be: in the hands of the loving and the talented.
The Ghost Generation is a brand new blog/website by two happily married parents of two minions who rant, rave, and review video games. Est. August 2019