Indie Games Uprising III Review: QRTH-PHYL – What’s old is new again

The Indie Games Uprising III has begun. As a community, the developers of the XBLIG scene have banded together to unite under a common banner, to stand shoulder to shoulder and scream loud enough that even the most aloof gamer might hear them.  In that spirit, together, they have chosen to start by chanting… QRTH-PHYL… which is pronounced… qurth-phil?  Qrith-phile?

Maybe it means Quarter-phile?  Like as in someone addicted to pumping quarters into an arcade machine?

However it is actually pronounced, it has arrived and with it comes The Indie Games Uprising III.

There are a lot of ways one might describe QRTH-PHYL; the 3D version of Snake, a simple high score seeking arcade game, the trippy one in The Uprising, the Uprising game most likely to give Indie Gamer Chick a seizure*, really any of these would be appropriate. Yet, they all feel as if they fall short of fully describing the real essence of QRTH-PHYL (that’s a sentence I’ll never type again, ever).

There is no denying that at the core, QRTH-PHYL is an updated version of Snake. Which all of you who ever owned a Nokia cell phone in the 90’s should be more than familiar with.  It is really much more than just Snake made 3D though.  The game has you controlling a yellow alien snake thing through very trippy stages that pay tribute to the look and feel of classic arcade games.  The levels vary from flat panels that you can flip from one side to the other on, cube like levels where each side contains dangers and golden, point flavored squares. Lastly, a sort of zero-g room where you twist and turn to collect all the free hanging cubes.  The latter is probably the highlight of QRTH-PHYL, in fact there is a good chance it will make you wonder why no one else seems to have made Snake in 3D yet.

In addition to taking the game of Snake into the third dimension, QRTH-PHYL also allows you to move in more or less any direction (rather than just left, right, up down).  This means of course that you can take whatever path you want, but it also means that “threading the needle” in particularly difficult spots is a lot harder since you could be a little off on the angle.  Turning the right way after the snake has grown can still be as heart pounding as ever though.

The point of the game is to collect enough cubes (i.e. points) to unlock the next stage. Once the next stage is unlocked a doorway opens on the panel/cube/room and you can enter/exit through it. Each cube/panel level is followed by an open room level, and so on.  The better you do, the harder the next stage will be, as the game “adapts” to the player; which is to say that it gets harder or easier based on how much or how little you suck at it.  The adaptation feature also means that the game is never the same, no matter how many times you play it, which is good because though QRTH-PHYL may be fun it doesn’t offer much else (though for a dollar, there is plenty here to keep you entertained, more so if you have others to compete with for a high score – XBLIG’s can’t implement a true online leaderboard unfortunately).

QRTH-PHYL comes at the senses with brightly colored retro inspired graphics that can be a lot to take in.  This is accompanied by a soundtrack/sound effects that have a very electronic, and somewhat alien sound to them.  The visuals can get a bit distracting, but the sounds play perfectly with them and the all around atmosphere created is, for lack of better words, pretty cool.  Played in a room with low light and a pair of gaming headphones on can really suck you into the game. Or kill you if you are epileptic. Either or.


The game has two issues that keep it from greatness (not counting its simplicity, which isn’t a negative in a game like this).  The first is that the controls are not immediately intuitive. It takes some time to really get the hang of controlling the snake, and even after a couple of hours of play it is still easy to find it difficult to wield (primarily in the flat/cube stages).  The other aspect of the game that didn’t thrill me was that because the levels often change while playing them, for example obstacles that weren’t there the last time you were on that side of the cube may be now, it is exceptionally easy and common to turn a corner right into a wall. It doesn’t help that the ability to steer seems to be momentarily interrupted when changing sides, meaning that while you may be pushing right with all that you have, the wall comes up so quickly you have no chance.  These aren’t deal breakers, more like sigh inducing moments that punctuate the gameplay now and then.

Anyone who reviews games will tell you that it can be hard to really rate a game sometimes, because occasionally you just aren’t exceptionally good at it.  I topped out at around 2358 for my high score, Indie Gamer Chick managed at least 2898 and Tim Hurley managed 3168 at the time of my writing this.  Clearly, I am not a god at QRTH-PHYL. I’m slightly embarrassed to say it took me far too long to realize the green cubes made rage lasers (that’s what I’m calling them for obvious reasons). Well worth 80 points, the game is still fun and entertaining to play (and to try and pronounce after a couple glasses of wine), and it is a very unique and interesting twist on a classic. A few control issues and rage inducing moments are hardly enough to warrant skipping QRTH-PHYL, and clearly, The Uprising is off to a good start.

Final Rating: 8/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: XBLIG
Time to completion: Each attempt varies based on how good you are.
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Copy furnished by hermitgames
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Recommend Purchase Price: Can’t go lower.
Why you should buy it: Fun and very unique twist on a classic that really improves on it
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You’re Indiana Jones (get it?)

*Apparently QRTH-PHYL actually did give Indie Gamer Chick a seizure, and no, I’m not an insensitive dick-wad for including that line; I checked with her first. Catherine also wanted me to make sure that everyone understands that she does have epilepsy and that people who don’t have a pre-existing condition are not likely to experience any problems playing this or any other XBLIG game.
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About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.