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Welcome back to Kickstarter Flops, which is now called Kickblunders! I decided to bring this back, due to how many bad Kickstarters were popping up, and the eventual closing of Steam Greenlight this Spring, which may result in more schlock making its way to Kickstarter. Some new rules for these editorials will be that for every bad Kickstarter, there has to be a good one. I don’t want these to be all negative. I also won’t tackle Kickstarters that are by kids. While I don’t see why Kickstarters should be put up by kids who probably don’t know the consequences of a failed Kickstarter, but it wouldn’t look good for me to criticize them. And yes, I am well aware of the Banner Saga 3, Die for Valhalla, and Mutant Football League Kickstarters that have passed their funding goals and stretch goals. I think they had some of the best Kickstarters of February, and if you want to, you can and should go support them. The links to the Die for Valhalla, Mutant Football League and The Banner Saga 3 Kickstarter are as linked. Now then, let’s get started!
Avoid: Maya Chieftain
I’ll start off with this project, because while it’s not the worst Kickstarter ever, a strategy game that gives me vibes of old PC strategy games like Liberty or Death is a neat idea. The problems come in the form of how everything is executed and shown off. The pitch part of the page is very lackluster with little detail. The game itself also looks really bad. Like, it isn’t even alpha state yet. I know it says that the individual in question has been working on this game for a year, but that doesn’t look like it. Everything looks like it was done in Microsoft Paint. It’s a shame since the idea itself is not bad, but you only have one chance at a first impression, and I’m sorry, but Maya Chieftain has failed in that regard.
Instead, you should back: Caveman Warriors
What is not to love about an easy-to-get-into quirky arcade-style action game? It reeks of quality, and the only real criticism I have is that the playable character animations should be more expressive and, in general, better. You can play with four friends, with each character having their own unique abilities. With inspiration from the Joe & Mac series of arcade platformers, Castle Crashers, Metal Slug, and Trine, Caveman Warriors from developer JanduSoft hit all the right boxes in terms of pitching a polished and fun experience.
Avoid: Benjamin’s Fate
With Steam Greenlight slowly getting shown the door and taken out back by Valve, one of the most notorious and downright crummy things a developer on Greenlight and Steam in general could do is take down the submission and re-upload it so it can show up back to the top of the new releases/submissions. Greenlight is notorious for stupid garbage like this, and it makes the developers that do this look like petty punks. Maybe the reason why your game isn’t being up-voted is because it’s bad, and re-uploading it won’t change a thing. Why did I go on this little tirade? It’s because the developer of Benjamin’s Fate did this on Kickstarter. First off, don’t do that. Second, I’m sorry, but the game is not very impressive looking. I don’t care if you are a team or a single-man studio, there is a clear difference between developers putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a project, and ones that don’t. Benjamin’s Fate is one of the projects that don’t. It’s a very boring-looking action adventure game that looks like an asset flip (when an individual buys a load of gaming assets not made by them, and then uploads it as their own product). You can tell me all day long about the features you have, but when you don’t show any of those features, and just show off your bland asset flip-looking character and world with nothing to do, then that’s failing yet again at first impressions. Also, if you are going to re-upload, at the very least make it better looking, so it’s not just a cut-and-paste rehash.
Instead, you should back: Guard Duty (It's been funded, but I'm still going to talk about it)
What we have here is a 2D adventure game that, to me, looks like it was inspired by early LucasArts adventure games. Sick Chicken’s Guard Duty has you play as two lead characters, a drunken guard named Tondbert, and his future ancestor Agent Starborn. It is up to the two of them to save their time periods from the evil rule of a tyrant who has no mortality. It’s definitely an interesting mix with the past and future timeline, and the fact that they are trying to make a more streamlined version of classic adventure games gets my support. I think a majority of retro gamers can admit that, while the old adventure games are nostalgic, a lot of them don’t hold up, due to bad or clunky puzzle design. I just adore a lot of this game, from the sprites to the setting. It’s a charming little adventure game that I feel like deserves more attention. I wish the 2D non-sprite art was a tad better, but that’s just a nitpick. My major concern is how the two-person team is going to be balancing out the tonal difference between the two leads’ worlds in, terms of story, and how the puzzle-solving will help each hero. Still, I found this to be a delightful Kickstarter project, and if you love adventure games, then you should definitely back Guard Duty.
Avoid: Dawn: An Alescian Tale
I never thought I would see the Dollar Store version of Dust: An Elysian Tail. While it is not the worst Kickstarter that I have ever seen, because it put in some effort to look decent, it’s still not great. First off, it’s a rip-off of a game that has been out for a couple of years now with the title and gameplay being close to Dust. Actually, that’s a tad generous, because the gameplay in Dawn looks terrible. Just clunky movements, unfinished animations, and bland level design is not appealing to look at. I know it’s harsh to keep Kickstarter devs on such harsh grading scale, but you can’t be giving only 30-40% anymore. Just because you use sprites doesn’t mean it’s going to pull in Shovel Knight numbers. Just because you are a veteran game dev, doesn’t mean that everyone is going to just drop their money onto your lap. You have to be giving it 100% these days, since the indie and Kickstarter scene are becoming very competitive.
Instead, you should back: Anew: The Distant Light
This game by Resonator, a studio founded by Steve Copeland and Jeff Spoonhower, who have worked on the Saint Rows franchise, Bioshock, Borderlands, and Uncharted. You play as a child who wakes up inside a special suit, on a distant alien moon where you must explore, survive, and fight your way back home. The world around is dangerous with multiple life forms that would love nothing more than to see you die a horrible grizzly death. Sure, it’s yet another Metroidvania-style game, but if they are done right with a world you want to explore, and is fun to go through, then I’m down to playing it. You will even be able to find unlockables, so you can upgrade not only yourself, but your space craft. The game looks great, and it shows the difference between a game with a sense of art direction and a game that’s just ugly to look at. You can tell a lot of effort was put into this game with its beautiful and alien landscapes and, for a lack of a better word, alien design to the creatures and machines. I’m a little concerned with how the story will unfold, since it’s taking the Dark Souls/cinematic platformer route, where it’s told through the world you live in and will be limited, since sometimes it can be used as an excuse for the sake of them not knowing how to write a good story. I can tell that isn’t the case with this game, but still. If you like your Metroidvania games, and want to support a game that had blood, sweat, and tears put into it, then you should definitely back Anew: The Distant Light.
Avoid: Poly Heroes
Listen, I respect that everyone at one point or another wants to make a video game. I get that passion and drive too, and I feel like anyone can, but in reality, only the rare few will commit to the time and effort that goes into making one. I don’t really see that drive in Poly Heroes. On top of the fact that one guy wants to make an entire MMO out of the game, the game looks like a bunch of pre-bought assets. If anyone were supposed to take this Kickstarter seriously, it would need a lot more work to be done, and to not show off the game at such an early stage. You can’t be doing this kind of stuff anymore. After the Mighty Number 9 fiasco, it’s going to be tougher to get funding through Kickstarter, and unless you can knock it out of the park on the first try, you are going to be going on an uphill battle to try and get your game funded.
Instead, you should back: Heartbound
I decided to mention Heartbound by Pirate Software, and while it has already made its funding goal, I still would rather help it out. This ambitious pixel-based RPG has you playing as a boy and his pet dog as they travel through time and space. The game offers a lot of elements that include a battle system, where you encounter and interact with enemies through mini-games that are described like the ones you find in Warioware, a town-building element, and a grand world to explore. The graphics look fantastic, and the game has easily some of the most impressive sprite work seen in 2017. While I am concerned that it is kind of leaning on the legacy left by Undertale, I hope it can be good while wearing its Undertale inspirations on its sleeves. It is doing a good job in doing so, but still. It felt like after Undertale came out, a couple of indie RPGs were coming out that are trying to be like Undertale. I don’t blame them, and I backed one of them, like last year’s GLITCHED, but I thought I would make that little observation. If you like sprite-based RPGs, then you should checkout Heartbound.
There are definitely more disappointing Kickstarters to avoid, and ones to back, but I want to see what you all think about this article. What do you think the Kickstarters to avoid could learn from the ones I recommend? Would you like to see some more articles focusing on the good and bad Kickstarters?