CTG

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by DeRail Games for Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
When DeRail Games first entered the market, they announced a trio of games that would feature a bouncing emoticon named Hug. The first game in the “Hug Trilogy” was Jump’n Bounce, a platformer that was notable for the fact that it featured a character that could not stop jumping. The second was Panic Attack – The Devil’s Favorite Game, which had the same control scheme, but challenged players to dash through danger-packed environments as quickly as possible. When DeRail Games teased their third game, they showed only a silhouette of a cat holding a sniper rifle…


As it turns out – oddly enough – that’s actually a fair representation of the gameplay in the final product. In CTG, you play the part of a cat that is armed to the fangs with heavy firepower, although he doesn’t technically have a sniper rifle. Instead the cat has numerous other weapons at his disposal… but we’ll get to those in a minute.

So where’s Hug, you ask? He’s here, but this time he isn’t the star of the show, and he looks a little different than he did in his previous adventures. Here, Hug is covered in spikes, and he has a constant scowl on his face. Plus, there’s not just one, but several of these spiked emoticons bouncing around the environment, causing trouble for our feline anti-hero, and taking away one of his 9 lives if they land on him.

But the emoticons are only half of the equation. The real enemies here are the grannies. That’s right, this is a game about an alley cat who is trying to kill as many grannies as possible. It would be one thing if you were simply targeting the grannies and taking them down with your oversized weapons, but you’re actually using your guns to bounce the grannies up into the air so that you can knock them into one of the room’s “granny grinders”. Yep, ground up grannies. Fun for the whole family.

Setting the zany premise aside, there’s a lot going on with the game’s mechanics, particularly when it comes to your arsenal. From the outset, you are equipped with 4 weapons, each of which is assigned to one of the 4 shoulder buttons. You won’t need to master them all right away, however, as the game eases you into the situations where you’re required to use them. All of the weapons have infinite ammo, but each of them works differently and these differences are core to the game’s design.



The most basic of these weapons – and the one that you’ll be using the most – is the straight-firing gun assigned to the RIGHT BUMPER. This gun will fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger, which you’ll be expected to do often. It’s also the only weapon that has a temporary powerup available for it, in the form of a rapid fire option. When your trigger finger is getting tired, you’ll definitely appreciate this time-limited powerup which lets you unleash a steady stream of standard projectiles.

When you fire a round from this weapon, it will move in a straight line until it hits a wall or an enemy, but it does not actually kill the enemies (nor do any of your weapons). Instead, shooting an enemy causes it to bounce.



With your basic walking grannies, you can send one or more of them flying into the sky with regular fire from your main weapon. The grannies will bounce off of walls and blocks as you attempt to guide them toward the granny grinders, which are usually near the room’s ceiling. Bouncing emoticons act differently when you shoot them, as they will actually bounce off of your bullets when you hit them, making their movement somewhat less predictable. However, emoticons are the only things that can break through cracked blocks – which often surround the grinders – so you’ll need to knock them into the blocks to clear a path. If you don’t clear all of the breakable blocks within a certain time, they’ll explode on their own. This ensures that you will always be able to complete the level, but you also need to remain aware of this, in case you were using unbroken blocks as a strategy for keeping grannies at bay.



The other 3 weapons at your disposal have very specific purposes, and each of them has a charge ability. On the LEFT BUMPER is a bouncing shot that sends projectiles dribbling along the floor like basketballs. The longer you charge the weapon before letting off the button, the higher the bounce will be. Projectiles from this weapon will bounce around until they hit an enemy, or disappear on their own after a few seconds. You can use this weapon to lob shots over walls to attack your enemies indirectly.

Next up is the Crazy Bounce, which is assigned to the RIGHT TRIGGER. This weapon only fires when it is fully charged, and unlike the dribbling basketball-like projectile, bullets from this weapon fire in a straight line. Also, these projectiles do not stop moving when they hit an enemy, and they stay on the screen much longer before disappearing. Fire a few of these into the playfield to add some extra mayhem to the proceedings, and to knock multiple enemies around.

And finally, there’s the Mega Blaster on the LEFT TRIGGER. This weapon must also be fully charged before it will fire. When it hits its target, it causes a huge explosion which knocks enemies straight into the air. This can be used to knock a group of grannies straight up, and it’s required to knock around some of the heavier enemies.



Grannies come in a few varieties. The most basic is your standard walking granny. Shoot her to bounce her into the air and into a grinder, and *poof* granny goulash. The walking grannies are the game’s lemmings, simply walking in a straight line, falling off of ledges, and turning around if they happen to walk into a solid object.

There are also some bazooka-wielding grannies that can fire emoticons as projectiles. These aren’t as dangerous as you might think, but they’re really hard to bounce into a grinder because they always stand still. This means that you’ll have to do a lot more wrangling if you want to get them to their spinning death. However, they’ll die on their own if there are any remaining at the end of a level.

Then, there’s the rascals. These are grannies that are riding around on ECV’s, which makes them much heavier than your standard enemies. Your regular shots have almost no impact on them, and they’ll continue to scoot closer to you with every second, aiming to run kitty down, and simultaneously blocking his shots from hitting the line of grannies patrolling behind them. With these motorized menaces, your only recourse is the Mega Blaster. Hit them once to send them into the air, and then hit them with another Mega Blaster shot to push them in the desired direction. But getting in multiple charged shots can be difficult when you’re surrounded by enemies.



This is where much of the game’s challenge comes in later levels, because you need to balance your attacks between the walking grannies and the rascal-riders. The Mega Blaster is not terribly effective against long lines of walking grannies because it takes so long to recharge. As such, you’ll need to launch a rascal granny into the air, and the try to get her to a grinder – or just get her out of the way – before a line of walking grannies swarm your position. Odds are, you’ll be frantically switching between rapid-firing the grannies with your regular weapon, while unleashing the occasional Mega Blaster shot for crowd control. In this respect, it’s something like a gravity-based Smash T.V.



Finally, there is the mother of all enemies, which is the bus filled with grannies. These busses will always drive very slowly in your direction. Because they’re slower than other granny types, and because they block your regular shots, they are like a long moving wall. You can launch the bus into the air with your Mega Blaster, but only once it has fully entered the room (because the ceiling keeps it from moving upward otherwise).



This means that you have to let the bus drive well into the playfield and wait until it is positioned under a grinder before your attacks will be effective. This gives your other enemies plenty of opportunity to move in on your position while your fire is being blocked. Plus the bus is filled with bazooka grannies that keep firing new emoticons in to the playfield. If you’re hit by any kind of enemy while you’re charging your weapon, the charge will be interrupted, and you’ll have to start again. Painful though it may be, you are rewarded for getting the bus up into the grinder as you briefly get to see all of the bus windows splattered with blood before it disappears.

The game introduces each of these enemy types slowly, but by the end of the 25-level romp, you’ll be dealing with many enemy types simultaneously, including multiple rascals coming toward you at once, and even multiple busses. Grannies always enter from the sides of the screen, and emoticons appear through openings marked with yellow and black stripes (and from bazooka grannies). There’s a bubble effect that appears at the opening before the emoticon enters the room, giving you a chance to get out of the way, provided you’ve left yourself any room to run.



The goal of each level is simple: get every enemy into one of the grinders before you lose all 9 of your lives. Getting hit by grannies or emoticons will cost you one life. Emoticons splat nicely if they come in contact with the cat, but grannies can only be killed in grinders. So, if a granny hits you, she doesn’t just disappear; you have to shoot her or get away. You have a fairly lengthy temporarily invincibility period that allows you to reposition yourself before it wears off. This comes in particularly handy when you have multiple rascals closing in on you (they always turn toward you when they land from a platform or bullet hit), and you need to put some distance between you and them to retain your remaining lives, and sanity.

If you lose the fight, you’ll see face of the cat appear in the center of the screen, and its head will explode accompanied by a disgusting *splat* sound. Blood, brains, and even the cat’s tongue will splat on the screen and slowly run down. You have infinite continues, but your score only carries over from level to level until you use a continue. If you save and quit, you can return to the level you were on last, but there is no level select option to play previously completed levels.


Your life count is returned to 9 at the start of each level, and an alarm will sound for each life you lose when you’re down to your last 3. This gives you a reminder of your remaining life count without requiring you to check the HUD, but also adds to the panic of the onscreen action if you’re surrounded by enemies at the time, which is highly likely.

The cat is free to move to the left and right, and some later levels have ladders that allow him to climb up and down as well. The right analogue stick aims his weapon independently of his movement, allowing him to aim left, right, and up, as well as any of the directions in between. No downward aiming is available, which also means that climbing ladders makes the cat less useful against his enemies.



There are also several 1-way platforms that you can push your enemies through. These work to get enemies out of your way, and often put enemies on a straight line to a grinder, or at least directly beneath one. Many of these platforms are left open on the ends, meaning that you’ll often have to manually crowd control the top layer of grannies while fending off the ones on the lower level with you.

In addition to the panic-inducing crowd control levels, there are a few puzzle-style levels as well, where you have to figure out the correct strategy for winning. This includes situations where you have no direct contact with your enemies and have to use grenade attacks to kill them, or you need to use your bouncing shot to hit enemies with a ricochet.



Multipliers build up for each successive enemy you can get into a grinder before the multiplier text disappears from the screen. As such, you are rewarded for lining up huge rows of grannies and getting them all into the grinder in a line.




2D CRED
DeRail Games is based in Oslo, Norway, and they are focused on making games for the Xbox Live Indie Games channel and PC presented in a “new retro” style, featuring basic graphics with a mix of arcade-style gameplay and 80’s platformers.



Their two previous releases were Jump’n Bounce and Panic Attack – The Devil’s Favorite Game on Xbox Live Indie Games. As mentioned above, these were the first two games in the trilogy of titles that featured Hug, the bouncing emoticon.

Jump’n Bounce features 50 single screen levels, most of which have multiple possible routes to reach the exit. As Hug, you must traverse each of the levels, dodging enemies, collecting 1UPs, and making your way to the exit. However, unlike most platformers where the player is free to hop and bop his way through the game, Hug is unable to stop bouncing, and all of the gameplay is built around this.

Navigating tight corridors and wide open areas is made all the more challenging by your endless bouncing, and you’ll frequently have to bounce under enemies and obstacles to reach your goal. You do have one additional tool at your disposal, which is a smash dive that allows you to break through certain bricks. You can also repeatedly use the smash dive maneuver to stick close to the ground and get through areas where a high bounce would surely get you killed.




Panic Attack takes the ever-bouncing Hug away from the comfort of his single-screen environments, placing him in large scrolling environments filled edge to edge with deadly enemies and spikes. This time, he not only needs to perform precision platforming maneuvers, but he’ll need to do it quickly.

Hug dashes through environments, fighting the clock as he attempts to avoid rows of descending spikes and other obstacles. Hug will need to use his smash dive move with much greater frequency to squeeze through areas with low clearance, but he has a couple of new tools at his disposal as well.

He now has a double-jump move which lets him cross great distances, but also requires the right timing when hopping between narrow platforms suspended over rows of spikes. And, playing on the speed-based nature of the game, Hug has a turbo meter, which lets him unleash a bit of extra speed by mashing the RIGHT TRIGGER.

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