Review: Stop the Bats!

 The pony fangaming scene has a good share of games inspired by particular episodes. Stop the Bats! is one of them, created by Versimer in a mere 8 days using C++ and the SFML library. That's fairly impressive in itself, considering that some fangames use premade engines and still take longer to complete.

But just how good is the game itself? Well, you're gonna have to hit the page break to find out.

 The game's premise is fairly simple; you are Applejack, defending your apple trees from bats (and Flutterbat) as they try to suck the nutrients out of their fruits. Your primary weapon is your bucking ability, which takes the bats down in two or three hits. The concept is easy to grasp quickly, which is good because the game doesn't give you much time to learn.

Knocking a whole swarm of bats off of a tree with one attack is oh so satisfying, both visually and audibly.

 The first thing that should be noted about the gameplay is that the difficulty ramps up aggressively quickly. While the first couple of waves are easy enough, with bats that are easily fended off, the second variety of bat marks a sharp difficulty spike, as they start to come faster and become harder to take down. Flutterbat's presence also adds to the difficulty, as she will directly interfere with your attempts to take out the bats, knocking you down and costing a few seconds each time. She's difficult to avoid, much less attack directly, while the player is already focused on taking down the bats attacking the apple trees.

 Upgrades are required early on for any chance of survival, and they must be chosen carefully, as your coins are limited. They must also be chosen quickly, as the action does not pause while the shop screen is open, leaving bats free to destroy your apple trees - and more annoyingly, leaving Flutterbat free to swoop down and attack you directly, knocking you out of the menu anyway.

 This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, and the controls only contribute to the difficulty; attacking requires a long wind-up time, even with the final bucking speed upgrade, and
initiating the attack cuts your jump height, making it difficult to aim at the bats. Thankfully, the attack's range is fairly generous even before upgrades, which helps alleviate the issue somewhat. The lack of a keyboard-based option to purchase upgrades is also a relatively minor inconvenience, and although the game isn't terribly impacted by it, having the option would be convenient for those who prefer to set up JoyToKey bindings and play with a gamepad.

As often as this screen's going to show up, it could stand to be a little flashier. Just sayin'.

 In terms of presentation, the game is well-presented but nothing special. The retro aesthetic of the game looks good, and the C64-esque 8-bit rendition of Stop the Bats fits well with the game (even if it starts to get old after a while). However, the lack of any high score logging system is a disappointment in a game which draws it appeal mainly from score attacking; games of this type draw their replayability from being able to compare scores with other players, and even a local "most apples saved" score (or "most waves survived", for those of us who aren't good enough to last the whole game) would give players motivation to keep trying to improve their score. It also irks me that the game closes out entirely after a defeat instead of allowing another try.

 Overall, the game is entertaining and well worth a play or two. The concept is simple, addicting, and well-executed, if a bit rough around the edges, and the game is very easy to pick up and play, either for a quick session or for hours at a time. The sheer difficulty may turn some players away, but others will find an enjoyable experience.

- RedEnchilada

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