In the Pit is an Xbox Live Indie Games title created by luvcraft, a poster on both Insert Credit and Select Button. It’s an audio-only stealth game. I’ve meant to write about this title for a long time, but for some reason, I never did. In the Pit is very fun and offers a level of immersion never found in another game while presenting a novel way to experience a game. While I’m guessing other audio games must exist, I’ve never heard of one.
I originally heard about the game because the creator, luvcraft, posted on SB and IC (or possibly just one. I can’t remember). I didn’t and don’t post much on either forum, so we didn’t know each other, but I still valued the community there enough to look into it. Of course, the fact that it was an audio game was enough to pique my interest in itself. I knew I had to pay close attention to the sound, so I used headphones. Waiting until I was alone so I wouldn’t be interrupted, I put on my headphones, laid down on the couch, closed my eyes, and started the game. I had to listen to menus, which takes longer than glancing at a visual menu, but it was still easy enough. Soon I was in the game.
In the Pit had me take control of a monster living in a pit, forced to be the pet of an evil king and feed off of the king’s enemies who are thrown into the pit. I was tasked with finding and eating said enemies of the king. By paying close attention to the direction of the sound, I could tell in which direction the enemy was. In the Pit also used the controller’s force feedback to let me know when I had come into contact with the pit’s walls and to simulate the sensing of my victims’ heartbeats. I only had stereo sound, so I did have the limitation that something directly in front of me and directly behind me sounded the same, but it didn’t prove to be too much of a problem. Completely letting go of vision was a strange sensation. I don’t normally even close my eyes to listen to music (although In the Pit taught me that maybe I should). I never before relied so heavily upon my hearing.
The difficulty curve and level design of In the Pit is top-notch. Each level properly builds upon skills learned previously as a game rightfully should. For example, after teaching me to dive, I wondered why I would need it. I then learned that if I wished to continue playing, I would need to learn when to use it. The boss of the game was also a proper boss. Recently proper bosses are included in games less and less frequently. A boss should serve to correctly test skills acquired throughout a game in a more compact, difficult environment. A boss is simply an exam. A science student would be outraged if his or her math class had an essay exam on the Iliad, and rightfully so, but gamers seem to think nothing of bosses being wild tangents to the game itself. (Excuse me. I seem have gone off on a tangent myself.) The final boss of In the Pit required that I use what I had learned previously in a more challenging trial. The game can be completed in, probably, a half hour, and it’s fun the whole time. The story provides enough fun and excitement to easily motivate the player to continue playing. I did, however, run into a problem. In the Pit crashed twice for me. It was very annoying, and it kept me from finishing at first because I put off retrying. I haven’t tried the game recently; hopefully it’s been fixed. As I didn’t look into the problem online, I also don’t know if it was an isolated problem. Besides that technical error, In the Pit is a highly polished game with correct design ideals.
The fact that In the Pit is an audio game made me interested, but the game isn’t gimmicky. As I mentioned already, luvcraft uses what I consider proper design ideals – dying doesn’t set you too far back, the game doesn’t waste your time, levels build upon skills learned, bosses correctly test those skills, and the story provides adequate motivation. It also seems to me that no visual game can immerse a player like In the Pit unless the player wears some sort of full vision glasses. Even then, the frame would be in the field of vision as well. The only thing that breaks me out of the immersion in this game (besides the crashes) are the feel of the couch and controller and my own thoughts (and I wouldn’t want to lose my own identity or thoughts to a game). The “gimmick” itself should be enough reason to check out In the Pit, but the design proves its worth as a great game. In the Pit is available for 400 MS Points and is available as a free demo. If audio-only gaming sounds interesting to you or if you care about good design, check it out. Review also on GameFAQs
There really isn’t much more I should have to say about DiscoTech. D7 Studios took a simple concept and didn’t add superfluous frills or mechanics. What they did do was took care to polish the game, created an intuitive, precise control scheme, and designed interesting levels with obvious care and thought. DiscoTech is a fun tilt-based labyrinth game that really outshines its competition. Boogie on down to the App Store to pick it up for $0.99!
While I didn’t put it in the official review, DiscoTech also blows the iOS version of Super Monkey Ball out of the water.
Christmas Eve was busy at work, but it wasn’t anywhere near as busy to me as it was on the 23rd. That’s good and bad though. For some reason, I was more into it the previous day. After work, I found that my friend was also doing nothing that night, so I invited him over to hang out with my roommate and me. We drank some beers, played Donkey Kong Jenga, and watched Star Wars and Harold & Kumar 2. It’s good to hang out once in a while, and I had a lot of time. It was a much more fun way to spend Christmas Eve and the start of Christmas Day than usual.
On the 25th I went to my mom’s house. For Christmas my family gave me some money to pay some bills. That’s good, because I have a lot of bills. I also got some hand sanitizer, a pen, some candy, and some gum. Yay! It was super noisy all day with loud movies and some family yelling (along with the kids), so I escaped into Pete’s office to work quietly. I managed to write my review of ProtoGalaxy, a pretty cool arcade shooter.
There was a lot of terrific food! We had a buffet set up for most of the day. Look, food:
Lox, bagel crisps, cream cheese, capers
Crackers and cheese
Three types of cookies
Salami, cheese, and bread
Marshmallows (I guess? I didn’t see them)
Other tasty stuff
And then for dinner we had filet mignon and vegies! I was pretty damn full by the end of the day. Now today I’m looking forward to removing all the Christmas magazines, taking care of the newspapers, and zoning. I’m looking forward to it.
With ProtoGalaxy, what appears to be a small title actually has quite a bit of depth. Fans of arcade shooters will be very pleased. It has lots of action but is definitely not mindless due to its complex levels and upgrade system. Ship customization obviously adds a lot of strategy, and as I said, the graphics, music, and sound are all good. Four-player co-op adds a lot of value to me, as I absolutely love local co-op. In addition, the level editor adds more content for people who want to jump deeper into the mechanics of the game if they’re willing to put in the time. ProtoGalaxy is a great a game and is currently $4.99 on Steam, 50% off its normal $9.99 price tag!