Category: Promotional games

Devolverland Expo: Playing around in a virtual E3.

2020 has been quite the year. A roller coaster ride that sees no signs of stopping, and there’s no way to get off the ride. COVID-19 has really sidelined a lot of projects, such as E3, the famous video games expo usually to show off the hot new games. The ESA actually canceled this year’s E3, after going for a good 24 years straight before that. As a result, many publishers have been live streaming their events from the safety of their homes. That includes the rather infamous Devolver Digital.

Devolver Digital’s been around the video game landscape since 2009, taking up the mantle of B-tier publisher releasing out there, off-the-beaten path games like Hotline Miami, mostly to critical acclaim. They’re also the absolute masters of the advergame, releasing a free game to promote a movie or a holiday event.

Since E3 was canceled, Devolver Digital opted to follow its peers by doing a livestream of their conference instead, complete with the oddball sketch comedy that’s rather goofy and ridiculous. After doing the usual announcements of their upcoming games like Shadow Warrior 3, Serious Sam 4, and Fall Guys, they advertised one more game. This one was different, and was free to play right that moment.

At least Devolver Digital doesn’t have to share space with the big publishers or controller companies.

Devolverland Expo is a bit more self-indulgent than the previous efforts. Developed by Flying Wild Hog – the Shadow Warrior reboot developers – it’s a first-person game that gives you the experience of being at a convention without risking yourself getting sick.

This isn’t the first time they’ve done this kind of promotional game. I’ve written about them doing this twice before: The Expendabros, a standalone expansion to Broforce that was based on the then-recent The Expendables 3, and Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike, a pixel-style difficult platformer made by the same people who made Enter the Gungeon. I’m not surprised they decided to go back to that well once again, this time with something fairly relevant, considering current events.

I mean, this looks less tacky than seeing an ad for Medal of Honor: Warfighter

The plot is simple: The Devolverland Expo was going to be this big event to show of the hot new games, but due to unexpected events, the expo was canceled. Despite that, the player decides to head to the convention hall anyway – which is a loose representation of the Los Angeles Convention Center, where E3 is usually held – and after doing some quick hacking on a power box near the entrance, access to the Devolverland Expo is granted.

COME TO THE ROBOT ZONE, HUMAN

Since Flying Wild Hog are known for their first-person prowess like Hard Reset and the Shadow Warrior reboot, the game is also a first-person game. Though, it’s more of a first-person exploration game than an FPS. After entering the expo hall proper, there’s robots roaming around that’ll capture the player if they’re in line of sight for too long. But you’re not defenseless, as there is a convenient weapon that’ll give you a bit of an upper hand.

Those red neon lights makes me think that’s a prize for a game show, rather that a promotional item at a booth.

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Suicide Squad: Special Ops: A licensed game that’s not some mobile thing?!

I’ve been writing a lot about various tie-in games over the past few years. Hollywood Hellfire, Expendabros, Duty Calls, that sort of stuff. A fair share of these are usually just stuff made in flash on a shoestring budget and will likely be forgotten unless people are smart to preserve these artifacts.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, these games actually have installers and can be played from a PC, which surprises me these days. To me, that’s something from the old Shockwave days, and not something most people do in the present day. But this recent one, based on a big comic book movie, was one I wasn’t expecting to go that route.

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So. much. green.

I have to give props to the blog “I’m Reloading” for bringing this game to my attention. It’s one of my favorite blogs because reload animations are solely unappreciated in video games, and somebody’s gotta highlight them. They showed a recent animation to some Suicide Squad game, and they mentioned “It’s on PC.” Cue me scrambling right to the website to give it a download.

So it’s a first-person shooter. In it, you choose between three members of the titular Suicide Squad: Deadshot, who is your by-the-numbers FPS protagonist with an assault rifle and mini launchers on their hands; Harley Quinn, a melee focused character with a baseball bat and a six-shooter backup at range; and El Diablo, who just sets everything on fire.

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Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike: A holiday war of attrition.

I think Devolver Digital is slowly becoming one of my favorite publishers. Earlier this year, they teamed up with The Expendables 3 and released a demo for Broforce called The Expendabros that was pretty damn fun. (You can read about that game here.) They gave the dormant Serious Sam and Shadow Warrior franchises new life with new games in the series, and published the awesome yet frustrating Hotline Miami. So yeah, they’re a pretty cool publisher.

Now they’re spreading some holiday cheer with yet another free game, this time featuring their mascot/CFO/Twitter darling Fork Parker. This one is quite a doozy…

Try saying this title five times fast.

Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike is a Christmas-themed promotional game featuring Parker and developed by Dodge Roll Games, developers on Enter the Gungeon. Unlike Expendabros, Holiday Profit Hike is not a reskinned version of Gungeon, despite that concept sounding really cool. Instead, it’s a unique game of its own.

Fork Parker is like if Ted Turner merged with Cave Johnson. He’s lovable despite being an old guy.

You play as Fork Parker, who must make a load of profits for Q4. His solution? Climb a tall “mountain” filled with perilous spikes, snowball-throwing yeti, and tacky Christmas sweaters while trying to grab cash along the way. If you get to the end and finish in the black, you’ve saved Devolver Digital. A fairly simple holiday-related story, and for a game like this it doesn’t need anything more complicated than that.

Holiday Profit Hike boasts a pixel art aesthetic, which I’m usually not a fan of, but I’ve been slowly warming up to it in recent years. That art style works in its favor, as Dodge Roll Games somehow made a dodgy old dude like Parker into a cute-looking character because of it. It also has a few music tracks, and one main track that loops endlessly. The tunes are a bit short and repetitive, but it fits the rest of the game’s atmosphere.

The start of a painful, yet rewarding journey.

So what makes this game different from other platformers? Well, Parker comes equipped with a cool feature in which he can throw pitons at certain walls and floors and make a rope zipline he can ride with his cane. This is the core mechanic of the game, and is pretty unique for a platformer. He can even use his cane as a pogo stick to temporarily stun some enemies. Parker’s apparently taking a few tips from fellow old man with a cane Scrooge McDuck.

This game follows the formula that games like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV follow in which one hit is certain death. There’s a lot of spikes strewn around, and lots of slippery blocks will be the cause of many deaths. Thank god the game has checkpoints after every major puzzle, but even with those, it’s not an easy challenge. Nothing sucks more than getting past a difficult part, only to die in a spike pit, negating all progress.

This one part almost drove me insane. I’m surprised I beat it, honestly.

I don’t get frustrated at games very often, but Holiday Profit Hike broke me. I died so many times that my swearing became shrieks and cries of “NO!” when I botched a difficult section. The part above is what wrecked me the most, causing me to swear and shout more than anything else in the game at that point. Eventually I got so frustrated from failing so much on this one section that I received concern from other people in my house. When people start worrying about me over a game like this, I knew I had to take a break.

This is why I’m not a businessman. Or a platformer expert.

However, I am not a quitter. I will push myself, yelling and screaming until I finally get past those damn difficult sections. After many failed tries, I persevered and got to the top of the mountain in an hour and a half. Alas, I got the worst ending, but it’s better than giving up and missing out.

The game isn’t very long, and doesn’t have much in replay value. The only other options are get better and beat the game with a positive score to get the best ending, or to speed run through it, which is an impressive feat if you can do it. I don’t think I’m up for replaying this, but I did enjoy playing through it in spite of it breaking me more than any game has in years.

If you wanna play this, it’s available on Steam. It’s very frustrating, but still fun despite the hard difficulty. Props to Devolver for giving out a free holiday game, and to Dodge Roll Games for perfectly capturing the spirit of a balls-hard platformer. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel of this. Just make it a bit easier next time, alright?

The Expendabros: The broest movie tie-in game… ever?

If there’s anything I like about video games, it’s when there’s video game tie-ins to movies or TV shows. Most of the time, they get a small developer to make a crappy $60 game on a shoestring budget that’s usually long forgotten. Other times, they’re just dinky games made in Flash as a brief tie-in to an upcoming movie, such as the “Hollywood Hellfire” tie-in for This is The End. Then there’s the times where they go all out and make full-fledged free games, such as a Quake mod for some forgotten show called Soldier of Fortune Inc, made by the guy who would later go on to make They Hunger for Half-Life.

Thus, when I heard about this, I got legitimately excited:

Broforce: The Expendables Missions, aka Expendabros is a genius idea: Take the goofy machoness of Devolver Digital and Free Lives’ Broforce and combine it with an upcoming film — The Expendables 3 in this case — and you got this amazing movie tie-in. Expendabros is freely available to play, and Broforce is not required to own this. In a sense, this is a good extended demo of for Broforce.

Since I had yet to play Broforce, I was skeptical with this game. I’m not one for games with pixel art styles since they’re very overdone, but if it compliments the gameplay like in Hotline Miami, I can let it slide. In this case, it definitely works in Broforce‘s favor.

Obstacles, enemies, sawblades? What is this, Super Meat Boy?!

Broforce is a mash of action platformers like Bionic Commando, with the violent action of Metal Slug and Contra. You have one life and three special items by default, with each “bro” having its own signature weapon and special. You get more lives by saving your bros in cages, and rescuing enough bros unlocks an additional bro character to play as. Run out of lives and you’re sent back to the last major checkpoint.

The plot to Expendabros is a loose recreation of The Expendables 3: Barney Ross — here called “Broney Ross” — and his crew of Expendables has to stop Conrad Stonebanks from destroying the Expendables, who will destroy them by any means necessary.

Much like Broforce, Ross must shoot and explode his way through enemies while saving his bros, eventually finding the commander or boss of the level before making a dramatic explosive escape. As you go through the game’s ten levels, you fight more powerful enemies, and even ridiculous areas like rooms with saw blades and rocket turrets everywhere. At one point, you fight this guy:

I'm pretty sure Stonebanks doesn't have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but a man can dream.

I’m pretty sure Stonebanks doesn’t have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but we can consider this artistic liberty with the license.

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Hollywood Hellfire: A movie tie-in game? In 2013?!

Licensed titles. You know what I’m talking about: Movie games, games based on TV shows, even one based on a book series because the publisher got the book rights and not the movie rights. The lesser-known licensed titles are the movie tie-in games. The ones done by a small team usually done just to tie in with the game, and is enjoyable for about 30 minutes. A few examples that come to mind is that flash platformers of films like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid or modifications of existing games like the Underworld modification for Half-Life by the same people who brought us They Hunger.

While reading my usual email junk of Twitch newsletters, IGN deals and newsletters for The Hobbit, I was glancing through an email from Sony Pictures of this quirky little game at the bottom of the newsletter: Hollywood Hellfire, a new movie tie-in game for the forthcoming comedy This is The End.

Sounds like a knockoff game you see on a TV show.

I am not a big moviegoer, so I didn’t know this movie existed until today. Seems to be a self-parody of disaster movies, with exaggerated versions of the actors portrayed in the film. All I got out of the trailer was stoner gags, Emma Watson robbing the main characters, and Michael Cera being impaled on a pole. Plus a strange fascination with “titty-fucking.”

This rivals the Zynga Slingo Joker for “nightmare fuel” territory.

It’s a rather basic platformer where you play as stars Seth Rogen or Jay Baruchel, running through a wartorn Hollywood, grabbing mushrooms for points, water jugs for extra lives and food for health. You have three hearts, lose them all (or fall into a lava pit), you die. Run out of lives, its game over.

While dodging fireballs and James Franco’s head, you jump on moving platforms, bounce on blue jump pads, and run away from hazards in a few areas. I only got to the third level before I finally lost, so I don’t know what the ending is like.

The game itself has a confusing sense of design: It has a chip tune soundtrack and 8-bit sound effects, yet the platforming and art style is very reminiscent of mid-to-late-’90s platformers. It’s like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a modern game or a retro throwback!

If you’re one of those people with Sony Rewards, you can get Rewards points with the game, or so I thought. I’ve been a member for years thanks to Wheel of Fortune‘s Wheel Watchers Club but they say I’m not eligible for these points. Bastards.

If you wanna play this yourself, you can try it out here. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE, SEE BELOW.) As always, don’t expect this to be up forever, so play it while you can. Gotta get those badges and high scores to share on your favorite social media groups!

I also found out Jonah Hill is in this movie along with Seth Rogen. I always got the two confused for a long time, and I still confuse them every once in a while. Now that they’re in the same film, maybe I should start writing that script for a buddy cop film starring Hill and Rogen. Probably better than whatever Hollywood dreck is out there.


Update 6/6/2020: Technology is great as it gives us cool unique ways to promote games. However, technology also sucks, because it means that this game is hard to find, or straight up lost to time.

One, the website no longer exists, as that link redirects to the main Sony Pictures webpage. Two, trying to use the Internet Archive to play an archived version causes a splash screen to show that the Unity Web Player is required to play it, something Unity discontinued their support for a few years ago.

My brief crawling online to find a replacement place to play this has lead me to nothing but dead ends. Compared to other things I wrote about on the site, you can still find places to play Expendabros and Suicide Squad: Special Ops, but not this. Hollywood Hellfire might actually be lost media now, and that incredibly sucks.

Thus I’m putting out an open request: If you know of a place where this game is available, please let me know. I’m big on preserving stuff like this, the junk that nobody should remember. This should not be about something that existed for a few months in 2013 and is lost forever.