Review: Chaos (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Developer: HellborgDE
Publisher: Microsoft Indie Games
Genre: Uh… Physics Based Circle-Slammy Thing?
Release Date: 8/12/2009

Despite Matt Yeagar’s best efforts to point out the good, I have regarded Microsoft’s Indie Games service – under any name – as the dregs of not only Microsoft’s online service, but as the dregs of gaming in general. I know I’ve stated that I had a low opinion of Apple’s iTunes games before I found a few decent ones, but there’s a fundamental difference in the services: whereas Apple’s quality control is apparent, even to the point of being Draconian, Microsoft either has no one minding the Indie store, or that person is staring at butterflies all day. Between Beer Screensaver, Clock 24/7, LED Display and Rumble Massage, this service is passing off some genuine horsecrap as legitimate games, and what’s sad is that I’ve only pointed out some of the crud.

With this in mind, I accepted the review of Chaos, which has two things going for it out of the box: a delightfully short name to type for someone breaking in a new keyboard, and an 80 MS Point price point, which is only $1 in real-world money. It’s the cheapest game I’ve ever reviewed, to the point where I wonder if my next step is to review flash applications. I also went in with an open mind; after all, my first iPhone game review was of Toki Tori, which is one of the best games I’ve played this year, for any platform. Maybe Chaos would show that there’s some truly great things to be had on the service.

The good news is that there are some good games that I was able to try on the Indie service. The bad news is that even with its attractive price point, Chaos isn’t one of them.

There’s not much to talk about with Chaos in terms of modes or gameplay. There’s two modes: Arcade and Deathmatch. They both revolve around the same principle; there are a bunch of balls bouncing around the stage, and they’re going really fast. It’s your job to use your own ball to slow them down to the point where they’re not leaving any more speed trails. You do this with a force field, which is activated with the right analogue stick. In Deathmatch mode, instead of slowing down the balls, you use this force field to propel them at another player, the player with the most kills wins, and up to four players are supported.

In theory, this is a simple yet fun idea for a $1 game. Unfortunately, the controls are simply too schizophrenic. Your own “character” is simply too hard to control, as even a subtle move in one direction is enough to send it flying across the screen. This makes it hard to use the subtle control needed to get on the right side of the careening balls that you have to try to control with the limited tools at your disposal, and at least in Arcade mode, this often meant that it was easier to send balls flying even faster than it was to slow them down. To make matters worse, if a fast-moving ball hits another one that’s almost stopped, it makes that one go as well, making playing Arcade mode akin to herding sheep that are high on angel dust. The game’s name is Chaos, and that’s applicable, especially in the later stages, when there’s just too much going on for any sane person to worry about, between the speed of the balls moving and the fact that some are tied together, meaning to hit one sends another one flying and spinning uncontrollably.

If Arcade mode is hard to play, Deathmatch mode is simply an orgy of confusion. When you use your force field, it turns the ball you are using to attack your colour, meaning if it hits an opponent, it scores a point for you. However, in the matches I was able to have against the computer (I was not able to test the game against a human), it seemed all the kills either of us got were more or less accidental, and the kill counts reflected this; my usual games had 2 kills and around 9 unrelated deaths. The CPU opponent was usually omnipotent about what was going on, and I only beat the first opponent a couple times, each time by accident. I could see four humans having a decent go of this, but there’s so little to the main gameplay, and so little control of what’s going on, that I don’t see people sticking with this mode past the first five minutes. While this is solid bang for your literal buck, there are simply better ways to spend both time and money on the XBox 360. There’s no real sounds to talk about, but at least the game looks glitzy; there’s liberal use of particle effects and pretty colours. I’d best describe it as a homeless man’s Geometry Wars, but really, for not much more money, you can actually have Geometry Wars.

I wish there was more to say about this game, but there isn’t; I’ve described the entire game, and I’m not even 800 words into this review. But hey, at least it’s not turning my controller into a vibrator while showing me a picture of a pint of beer.

The Scores
Modes: Below Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Very Bad
Balance: Awful
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Pretty Poor
Miscellaneous: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary

I almost feel bad reviewing this game, and using our normal rating system on it; this game – like most on the service – isn’t really equipped for it. I feel like I just clubbed a baby seal that’s been drinking Hennessey for six straight hours; it’s not exactly a fair fight.

If you desperately want a game to play on your 360 that only costs $1, there are better options. Try something like I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1, which is a good enough Robotron wannabe to allow me to ignore its extremely stupid name, and costs the same 80 Microsoft Points that this game does. In the end, I can’t recommend Chaos at any price.



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