Triple Indie Tuesday Review: Unholy Heights, Redshirt, Cook, Serve, Delicious!

It’s another edition of “review multiple games at once to clean out Gef’s disgustingly long backlog”. This edition comes with a food trigger warning for Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Unholy Heights

Unholy Heights is an adorable Japanese indie title that is a mixture of tower defense and life sim. You play as the Devil himself who has decided to buy an apartment complex and fill it with monsters. Unfortunately, local heroes have caught wind of this devious plan and it’s up to you to lead your tenants into battle and hopefully keep them happy so they won’t skip town on you.

Gameplay consists of attracting monsters to your apartment complex and taking care of their needs by buying them stuff. You can attract different monsters by placing certain items in the apartments and by completing quests. Monsters need a variety of things to keep them happy. Some monsters don’t like it when their rooms are too hot, others don’t like it when their rooms are too cold, and others are perverts who want naughty wallpaper. Keeping them happy is basically a matter of buying them things when they ask and keeping the rent at an acceptable range.

Yeah, that hipster beside the billboard is you, you’re the Devil.

The other part of the game involves heroes trying to ruin your business venture by making off with your gold and killing your monsters. When you select a quest by using the notice board (quest difficulty is indicated by the number of stars it has) you’ll usually have one day before the heroes show up and make a mad dash to the top floor to make off with your gold. To combat the heroes, you knock on doors to summon the monsters within, monsters can have melee, medium, or long range attacks, and it’s up to you to know when to summon them to gain an advantage over your foe. If your monster’s taking too much punishment, you can make them retreat by clicking on them (although this won’t work if an enemy is blocking their room). Once all enemies are defeated, you gain gold and new monsters and quests are unlocked.

I don’t like to use the term “casual game” because some people pronounce “casual game” the way most people pronounce “tapeworm” but Unholy Heights is a simple game that you can pick up and play for a bit and then put down. If you like tower defense and sim games and are looking for something to play on the go, this is a good choice, plus the art style is adorable.

As for negatives, the sound effects get really annoying really quickly, which is why it’s best to play it in very short bursts. A few of the monsters have some annoying quirks. Beastmen and Abyssals hate each other and will refuse to be in the same building with the other, so if you want one you can’t have the other unless you want them to be really upset with you. I could understand if they couldn’t be on the same floor or even have their rooms next to each other, but that they can’t even stay in the same building seems….a bit much. The game is also ridiculously heteronormative, to the point that there are male Succubi (not incubi, succubi) that are pretty much interchangeable with their female counterparts. If you look at some of the art for the game (on Steam Trading Cards, for instance, you will be forgiven for thinking that the two Succubi in the picture are women (the one with the green hair is the dude). Unless there’s been an update I don’t know about or I just have the most heteronormative copy of the game, your monsters will only ever take lovers and have families with different-sex partners.

These issues aside, however, Unholy Heights is light on both the tower defense and simulation aspects, but it’s a neat little game that’s worth playing if you need to scratch either of those itches.

Redshirt

I was very excited to play Redshirt after The Border House blog did a feature on it. Unfortunately it was released on Steam and I thought the price point was a bit too high for what I was seeing in the screenshots, that said, I found it in a Groupees bundle for the bargain price of $1, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Redshirt is a parody of sci-fi series like Star Trek and social networking sites like Facebook. You are a new arrival aboard space station Megalodon-9. You start your illustrious career as a Transporter Accident Cleanup Technician (which is as glamorous as it sounds) and you soon discover that every crew member is required to use the proprietary social network called Spacebook. However, you barely set foot on the space station when you hear rumours that something bad will happen soon aboard the station, and it’s up to you to make sure you stop being a disposable crew member with all haste!

Basically Redshirt is a parody of Facebook. You build relationships with people by adding them as friends, liking their posts, posting status messages, sending private messages, and arranging group and solo activities that affect your skills (for better or worse). There are many different ways you can win the game: from accumulating cash to making friends with influential people to climbing the career ladder. I tried to go a couple different ways and eventually ended up simply buying my way off the station, just to keep you on your toes, the game will sometimes throw an “Away” mission at you, heavily randomized events where your colleagues (and sometimes even you yourself) will most likely end up dead.  You also have a limited number of actions per day (usually just two): Should you “like” a friend’s post or invite your boss out for lunch? Redshirt is made of these small decisions.

The other cool thing about Redshirt is that your character’s gender is on a slider (you can also set it to private) and you can also indicate an interest in men, women, or all genders (it doesn’t get more specific than that). One race, the Xx’th’xx, a race of squid people, always have their gender set to private.

Humour is an important aspect of any parody game, and Redshirt’s humour got a chuckle out of me, but it’s definitely not one of those games where you laugh out loud for five minutes straight. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek look at common tropes in science fiction, and in that respect it does what it’s supposed to do. The art style is pretty cartoonish with everyone having very exaggerated facial features, which is, I suppose, par for the course in a game like this. Sound and music, by the way, are nothing special.

An example of an Away Mission screen.

I think Redshirt could have been a great game. I mean, what other game lets you select gender using a slider? Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a ton of repetition. Every character you meet will just spit out the same lines over and over. Your significant other will constantly complain that you never take them out on romantic dates (even if you just went on a date with them the day before). An Away mission might set you back because it kills off your S.O. but don’t worry, you can enter a relationship with an interchangeable crew member soon enough. (In my case, someone sent me a relationship request the morning after my girlfriend died.) At first cultivating relationships was fun but by the end I was just going through the same handful of actions to build up my skills. None of the characters felt remotely real to me. I should note that this game procedurally generates crew members, so they are literally a random collection of interests for you to poke at. You will also often find yourself being hit on by straight people who can’t seem to figure out that you’re only interested in women.

I’d like to recommend Redshirt because it’s an amusing parody of science fiction and social networking, but because it’s so repetitious I really can’t recommend buying it unless it’s on sale. It could have been a very good game, but as it is, the crew felt less like actual people and more like checklists.

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Cook, Serve, Delicious! is billed as a “hardcore restaurant sim” where you take over a worn down restaurant in the SherriSoda Tower. Your job is to  take that restaurant and return it to it’s former status as a five star restaurant.

You start with zero stars and work your way up by completing tasks such as being in service for a certain number of days, passing health inspections, and upgrading your foods and equipment, taking catering jobs, etc. Before each day begins, you can buy and upgrade foods and equipment and set your menu. Your goal is to generate positive “Buzz” for your restaurant, you get positive buzz by fulfilling orders and changing up your menu to keep things fresh. Different foods have factors that positively or negatively impact your performance. Certain foods might be especially fatty or considered “munchies” that customers won’t order during rush hour. Some foods create a lot of garbage, others are environmentally friendly, and still others are considered perfect rainy day eats. Some foods are ready to eat, others require cooking or other prep work. All of these factors are important when planning a menu.

Once you have your menu items picked for the day, you move on to the portion of the game where you actually prepare and serve food for customers. In order to make them happy, you need to complete the order to their specifications (obviously) but you also need to do so in a timely manner, as you only have so long before orders disappear, would-be customers leave, and your restaurant gets some negative buzz attached to it. Fulfilling orders is as simple as reading the order and clicking (or using the keyboard) on the desired ingredients (for instance, if someone orders a salad with ranch dressing and cheese, you would click on ranch, then cheese, and then click the Serve button). Sometimes you will also need to complete chores like cleaning the toilets or taking out the trash. In general, the orders come at a relaxed pace unless it’s the appropriately named Rush Hour, which has you scrambling to fulfill orders and hoping that you can get to them all in time before three customers in a row walk out on you. It’s probably the most hectic and stressful part of the game.

For an indie game, Cook, Serve, Delicious! has a lot of content. You can pick up catering missions that require you to feed a group of people particular foods. You can place bets with people via email. I’m only up to one star and Steam has me clocked in at seven hours. This is a great game to pick up and play when you just have five minutes or so to play one in=game day, and I believe it was previously on mobile devices so if you’re looking for an on-the-go restaurant sim, this is probably the only choice you have. In any case, it’s a great game to pick up and play for a few minutes. The one downside is that it will probably make you hungry.

Overall, I’d recommend Cook, Serve, Delicious! if you want a simple (yet challenging) game that you can play in short bursts. Just don’t play it when you’re hungry.

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