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Spanker’s Army VVG Indie Verse #XBLIG Review

VVG Indie Verse Review

“Spanker’s Army”

By: Mr. Deeke

Today on VVG’s Indie Verse Reviews we’ll be taking a look at an Indie title that is more suited for younger gamers and represents the freedom of the Xbox Indies Community when it comes to developers who make a game with their own creative craftsmanship. Spanker’s Army is an entirely self-created (with exception to the music) title as the developers have drawn and customized every in-game sprite themselves, using good old-fashioned elbow grease to bring an original and humorous title to the XBLIG Marketplace.

Spanker’s Army 80 MSP

This game isn’t for everyone, and serious gamers shouldn’t try it unless they are open to these sorts of games. Spanker’s Army is truly an Indie release in that the developers have self-drawn and created everything about the game, making something that’s entirely creative and their own. While the release does use techno-style music that was created by another composer, everything else about the game was created with their own style and effort. I do have to say that the game leans more towards younger players to full enjoy the title, as many younger children–perhaps ages 6-10–have always wanted to make their own video game…and now with the XNA Creator’s Club, they can.

Spanker's Army

  • Developer – CameronC
  • Genre – Action & Adventure
  • XBL Marketplace URL Spanker’s Army
  • Release Date – 5/7/2011
  • Try or Buy? –  Try Before You Buy
  • Price – 80 MSP ($1)
  • Rating – 2.5/5

Lead your troops in battle, smash your enemies, and enjoy this fun adventure!

–Xbox Live Marketplace Description

I. Game Mechanics

Players get to choose from different characters to use throughout the game, leveling each as they play and accumulating gold and EXP through progressing along the quite expansive map. Starting off isn’t nearly as good as the few final stages, so players should give it a good try before totally giving up and moving on. While the graphics are entirely self-drawn sprites that can easily be looked over, they show a certain flair of self-creation that shouldn’t be outright ignored, yet many gamers are hasty to move on to another release with higher-end graphics.

Basically Spanker’s Army is sort of an RPG-ish type game with a top-down view and a grid-based movement system where players are represented by a comical head rather than a full-body character. Bounce the heads…I mean characters to the goals, whether they be freeing caged animals who subsequently join your party to fight enemies or to destroy a pack of marauders from attacking a village.

This game utilizes a twin-stick mechanic that doesn’t take much to get used to, and the controls themselves are pretty well laid out. Gamers will make use of blocking attacks and defending against melee strikes with their shield by pressing LT and attacking by simply using the Right Analog Stick in whichever direction the opponent is in. Players attack with an equipped item, and at the start players must use their fist before they accrue enough gold to purchase a real weapon.

Spanker’s Army is sort of slow to start off as gamers must make their way through many mini-stages each with their own goals…but the basic idea is to destroy enemies, collect gold, and to navigate to the exit points to move on to the next area. It’s possible to re-play each point on the path which makes it somewhat easy to grind gold.

The controls for the Army System are a bit confusing…yet they’re easy to get acclimated to when player’s are familiar with them: RT halts the army and makes them stay put, LB makes the army follow the main character, and RB is the attack command that makes your forces attack any nearby enemies. Making use of these commands can be the difference between victory and defeat in many cases, and sometimes players are only as good as their weakest ally.

II. Weapons/Items

After players complete a stage they’re brought to the mini-map where they can either move on to the next stage or purchase new wares to make their force more formidable. There are a myriad of weapons to choose from, with two different types: ranged (throwing items used by pressing X) and melee (which are used with the Right Analog Stick).

Amongst the melee items there are weapons such as daggers, clubs, longswords and lances–each of which have their own price value that is lower to higher from left to right. Each weapon is valued at it’s effectiveness in battle, so weapons that are stronger and do more damage will be more costly and expensive.

Ranged weapons include bows, crossbows, and throwing spears, each with their own advantages and weaknesses in battle. The range of each weapon is determined by its value, similar to the melee weapons’ placement–from left to right each ranged weapon will be more costly according to it’s effectiveness in dealing damage in battle.

III. Unique Features

The Army system is a unique feature in Spanker’s Army that players can make advantageous use of while fighting multiple enemies. The player is basically the leader of the pack–whether the pack is made up of animals or actual combatants depends on how far players have progressed through the game itself, as players unlock new NPC’s to add to their forces as they get farther. The army system allows players to command their forces to either attack, follow, or dis-engage and stay put in a safe zone so they aren’t hurt. This can be useful when players want to save a particular NPC in their army from being damaged.

The hand-drawn style is another unique feature found in this Xbox Indie, as many XBLIG releases don’t have this signature look that basically spells out dozens of hours of drawing environments and pictures, which is an impressive amount of work for two developers to complete. Spanker’s Army was created by a duo of Xbox Indie developers who persevered and created a game and released it on the marketplace, which shows an impressive amount of effort and shouldn’t be outright ignored.

IV. Critique

The Good

An Impressive Self-Created Xbox Indie Title. Programming and developing an XBLIG release is no easy task and takes a lot of hard work and effort, especially in the graphics department where artists labor day and night to create environments, sprites, characters, box art–you name it, the artists have something to do with it. When I personally see a game like this out on the marketplace I take a look at it and always wonder how long it took the development team to self-draw all these elements and more.

Original and Humorous. When I first started playing the game I have to admit I laughed at the comical styles of the bouncing heads-without-a-body that were prevalent to this game. The originality of the title is something I enjoyed along with the hilarious enemies and allies amidst the backdrop of the hand-drawn environments.

Perfect Fit for Younger Players. Spanker’s Army seems like it would be a great game for younger gamers to enjoy, especially players who like a sort of medieval style hero’s journey adventure where the main character starts off as a pauper and ends up a force to be reckoned with inside the kingdom. I honestly believe that younger kids would enjoy this game the most, especially with the bouncing heads and all.

The Bad

Somewhat Confusing at the Start. This game can take a bit to get used to as there is no real tutorial, yet the first ten or so stages act as a tutorial of sorts where players can get used to the controls and the overall structure of the game itself. There is a menu that shows controls and allows gamers to learn the basics while commanding their rag tag group of animals that act as an early army of sorts…yet being thrown right into the fray with little explanation can be disorienting nonetheless.

Slow Progression. The game doesn’t start to get at it’s best until the middle to the end, where players have accrued enough gold to purchase awesome weaponry and have formidable forces in their army to take down enemy kingdoms. During this stage the game takes on a sort of conquest feel where gamers command their armies and fight a multitude of enemies for victory or defeat, using their wits and weapons to battle in new areas.

Low Quality Gameplay Elements. There are many Xbox Indie releases out there to choose from that can be more enjoyable to players, especially older gamers who are more mature (or immature) and are looking for great graphics and tons of explosive action. For those gamers, this title isn’t what they’re looking for, and many would look past this game.

VI. Wrap-Up

Overall Spanker’s Army has a few enjoyable aspects, as I personally enjoy the creativeness and the twin-stick battle system, yet many gamers might not like the release at all. While many gamers are harsh and quick to dismiss these sorts of titles, I’d recommend that younger players try it out, especially those that are creative and like to draw. Who knows, perhaps they’ll be inspired to create their very own Xbox Indie release after they see that Spanker’s Army was the culmination of two developer’s perseverance and hard work. Making a game is no easy feat, even if you create all the in-game sprites yourself, and Spanker’s Army deserves some recognition for that.

With that being said, there are a few aspects of Spanker’s Army that I’d personally change, however it does have a certain Indie charm that can be endearing to gamers out there, and it provides quite a bit of play time that younger gamers can enjoy. Although the developers show a creative flair that should be noted, I’d have to give this game a lower score because it really doesn’t capture players enough to keep playing, especially on a console like Xbox 360 where gamers can switch to a retail release with high-def graphics and action.

Special thanks to aaronthesplazer for video footage of this Xbox Indie release.

For more information on Spanker’s Army and the Xbox Indie development team that created it, check out their official website.


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