Regarding Muffin Knight and More (Updated)
In what is a first (and hopefully the last) for AppSpy, I have had to correct a review based on information that came to light after being written with this resulting in its score dropping down a category. I feel I should explain my actions here as this is a unique case and one whose error lies entirely at the feet of the reviewer.
As a reviewer and especially as a critic I try to constantly keep my horizons as broad as possible, ingesting not only as many games across as many platforms as possible, but also films, TV, music, novels, and other media to make it easier to have points of reference within my writing. Unfortunately my gamer-fu failed me as I had a mental blank and didn't recognize the association between Muffin Knight and Super Crate Box.
This is, as I have said, a failing on my part completely and it affects my review in one pivotal way - I had considered the game to be one that was entirely original in its take on platforming and endless gameplay, which was a major factor in deciding its 'fun factor'. Revising this assessment brought the final score down by only 0.2 of a mark (from 4.2), which was enough to switch it from 5/5 to 4/5 - and hence the unique situation we are now in.
I should clarify my position regarding Muffin Knight and say that I still think it's an amazing game (as a score of 4 still suggests). The game builds upon the gameplay from SCB in a way that starts to take it in a unique direction (or in the least a self-defining direction) which is the least you could ask for in this situation - this is how new categories/genres of games become established and as long as a developer's creative integrity shines through then we won't end up with situations like this. In particular the game's upgrade system along with unlockable game-changing power-ups and local multiplayer help to set Muffin Knight apart and with further support from the developer they hold the potential to add to the core gameplay in a meaningful way.
I did get in contact with Vlambeer and Angry Mob Games regarding their games and while the sting of the 'Ninja Fishing' debacle is still fresh, Rami Ismail from Vlambeer was surprisingly positive about the situation.
"We don't really care about retaining the niche. We believe Super Crate Box is the best Super Crate Box there is - when we created it, we poured so much effort into it that's it should be pretty hard to recreate that for a third party."
However, this isn't to say Vlambeer is acting completely blase and Rami had something far more passionate to say about the rife nature of 'imitation' within the App Store.
"We used to think imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, but nowadays we consider it the sincerest form of butt****. We fully support iteration, we just don't think clones are useful to our industry - they're only useful to creatively bankrupt companies to stay afloat at the expense of creatively strong but financially weaker companies... we're just scared that one day, some absolutely genius game never gets made because the creator gave up for greener pastures after his/her games were cloned. It's our - and maybe should be everyones - goal to keep that from happening."
For those wondering about the iOS release of Super Crate Box you can check out the trailer here. The game is set to recreate the freeware title experience (with a couple of minor tweaks - such as a revised tutorial), though updates and additions to the game (including multiplayer) have not been ruled out - for now Vlambeer is focusing on bringing the core SCB experience to the App Store. For those of you lucky enough to have an iCade, SCB will also support this on release.
Super Crate Box is slated for a release in September.
We are yet to be contacted directly by Angry Mob Games and will provide further updates once they do.
UPDATE: Bogdan Iliesiu from Angry Mob Games has been in touch and has given us their side of the story. Bogdan wasn't shy at all about Muffin Knight's inspirations, though the project did initially start out in another directions before adding in elements from Super Crate Box.
"We were indeed inspired by Super Crate Box. That's because we loved playing it when it came out on PC, and we all thought it was an awesome game."
"We did our best to make Muffin Knight a very polished game, with lots of content, incredible 3D graphics, professional voice talent and sound effects... As for the gameplay, we have a lot of elements which differentiate us from SCB, like the XP, Unlock and Level Up system, the various playable characters and the boss fights. And then there's the intense multiplayer head-to-head multiplayer mode, which isn't present in Super Crate Box. The list can go on with lots of minor details and fine touches we added."
Angry Mob Games isn't without some heart and an offer was made to Vlambeer to promote SCB within their game (including credits and a link to the iOS version when it releases). According to our emails this offer wasn't made until after the release of Muffin Knight, however it's easy to give some leeway to Angry Mob as Vlambeer's announcement of an iOS version of SCB came mere days before Muffin Knight's release with prior indications of a port being unlikel.
It should be said that despite Vlambeer's firm stance against the practice of 'imitation' some praise was given to Muffin Knight's 'heart and polish'. For a company that recently felt victimized by the worst kind of 'imitation', it's a rather touching comment (though Rami of Vlambeer did say they expected a bit more creativity from the weapons).
At any rate it seems like things have settled in to a 'wait and see' situation where fans of SCB are left waiting to see the results of Vlambeer and Halfbot's work. Meanwhile, Bogdan remains optimistic about Muffin Knight's future.
"I'm sure people will play both titles, as they each have their own personality and they play differently. So there's definitely room for both."
We'll keep an eye on both and look forward to SCB's release later this month.