Bad Ass Babes

When it rains it pours and after a long drought with few side-scrolling brawlers for me to play, I suddenly find myself with two controversial titles. Where Mother Russia Bleeds uses gore, violence, nudity and drug use to promote its game, all with a pixel art visual look, Bad Ass Babes uses gore, violence, nudity and… well more nudity to promote its game, all with photo realistic graphics.

The game is rather tongue-in-cheek and never really takes itself seriously, at least not as far as the story goes. Aliens have invaded Earth, killed most of the males and have begun breeding programs with the female population to produce alien hybrids. In order for the ladies to endure multiple and regular child births they are gifted with exceptional strength and super powers. While many are happy with this lifestyle and relish their new powers, others have formed a resistance and want to regain their free will. It all sounds like something from Duke Nukem, except instead of a muscle bound hero to rescue them, the ladies are saving themselves.

At the moment Episode 1 is available for $10 USD and follows the story of our heroines rejecting their alien overlords and fighting through hordes of aliens and zombies to rescue their friends and join the resistance known as the Bad Ass Babes.

Inspired by classic fighting games such as Streets of Rage and the visual style of Mortal Kombat, Australian indie game developer Andrew Thatcher set out to create a game he wanted to play and pooled his knowledge of photography and video work to make it a reality. The game uses the Openbor engine, similar to Mugen it allows users to create their own fighting games without specifically needing to code everything themselves.

 

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Visually the game looks good, the characters are large and clear and in nearly every instance either provocative or ridiculous, which suits the style of the game. Nearly every element in the game has been photographed or scanned, although a few elements are clearly CG and stand out noticeably. In a way that reminds me further of 90’s fighting games to be honest. The classic Crime Wave in particular comes to mind when looking at Bad Ass Babes, only that this game runs at a higher resolution. While technology has certainly improved over the years since Mortal Kombat, with the amount of graphical elements in this game it must have taken an awfully long time to put them all into place.

A common question will be – ‘Just how much sex and nudity is included in this game?’. I can tell you there is no sex at all. Beyond a little twerking, nudity is equivalent to that of a Burlesque show, that is to say there is some topless nudity. Just about everything below the waist is mosaiced out, bar one or two static background ladies and at a couple of points in the game you fight a large plasticine looking penis. There’s nothing really explicit or gratuitous in my opinion. The nudity in the game is used sparingly and typically denotes a special move.

For those of you who did read my Mother Russia Bleeds review you’ll know I nit-picked at the level design. In that game you moved from left to right and nothing more with no alternative paths, tiered platforms, vertical progression, pits, ladders, etc. Bad Ass Babes isn’t as fancy in its level design as say the original Double Dragon, and it doesn’t have the level diversity of games like Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, but it’s certainly got some variations. A large pit features in one level and on most stages players are given the option to take an alternate (and often easier) path, although doing so might hinder your chances of unlocking all of the games characters.

Sound isn’t too bad, plenty of grunts and screams. Some more voice acting would have been nice, and perhaps we’ll see more in future episodes. The soundtrack sports a mostly electric / dubstep theme and suits the game.

 

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Ultimately though fighting games are all about the fighting. You can have all the gore and boobs in the world but if the fighting mechanics are rubbish then the game is a waste of time. Thankfully, despite its camp story, scantily clad ladies and over the top gore, the game actually sports a fairly robust fighting system, likely a result of using the Openbor engine and plenty of fine tuning. Each of the characters has a different fighting style, and after sampling each of them I quickly found ‘Chika’ to be my preferred character with a fantastic super move that made quick work of large groups (and the final boss) as well as some great combo / juggling moves with potential there for an almost infinite combo. There’s the opportunity to employ a few cheesy moves too which I actually appreciate, as someone who spent a lot of time cheesing Goro and Shao Kahn to defeat their ridiculous AI it brought a smile to my face to find the ‘trick’ in defeating one of the game’s later enemies come ally ‘Inferno’.

Fighting stages are broken up with motorbike chases and shooting galleries, simple diversions to break up the action. Thankfully you begin the game with an abundance of life, as I found myself being killed frequently in the bike scenes, possibly just a lack of skill and patience on my part. They aren’t necessary but it’s a nice touch, slightly reminiscent of the classic Shinobi bonus stages.

Once you’ve completed the game you unlock ‘Extreme Mode’ which is kind of neat. As you rescue and unlock each of the characters, they join your fighting team on screen, so by the end you can have yourself and four computer controlled allies all fighting on the screen at once – it gets pretty hectic.

Speaking of allies the game supports local co-op so you and a friend can fight the enemy invasion together, although from what I could tell the game doesn’t support player interaction, some special co-op ultimate moves would have been a really nice touch. Online co-op would also be a nice touch as too often we don’t get to play games in the same room as our friends.

 

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The game has it’s share of problems too. Aside from a number of spelling errors, I found that the Survival Mode doesn’t really finish – when you get to the end of the level, mobs stop spawning and nothing really happens. I experienced a couple of crashes during my playtime, most especially when trying to minimise the game or change from full-screen to windowed, although I suspect they are more likely faults with the Openbor engine, hopefully fixed in an upcoming patch and included in this game.

Content wise it’s going to leave you hanging for a bit more as well. While no doubt Episode 1 took Andrew an awful long time to complete, it won’t take you long before you defeat it with more than one character. More hidden content, bonus content unlocks, achievements and the likes would be a welcome addition to the game and give the player reasons for multiple completions. Difficulty options would be a nice addition as well, although I’m not sure if the engine supports them. I also struck upon the idea that removing character selection at the start of each level and perhaps tweaking the story and ending for each girl might encourage multiple playthroughs – at the moment though the story and endings are the same.

Before I passed my final judgment I wanted to see for myself other examples of games using the Openbor engine. Sadly the few I downloaded felt rather sub-par. There were lots of ripped sprites and graphics from other games, none of which had any polish to them and the combat felt largely clunky. While I’m certain there are a few jewels out there, the recommended titles I downloaded didn’t do much to inspire me. Testimony further then to the level of work and polish that Andrew has applied to his game.

SUMMARY: Ultimately Bad Ass Babes isn’t going to be a game for everyone. Some, like myself, will enjoy the game for what it is, some will be indifferent and some will take offense. Whatever social justice issues might arise however are not for me to discuss in this review. Is it worth $10 USD? Well you’ll get an afternoon’s entertainment out of it and you’ll be supporting not only a local game developer but also local models, actors and other artists. I’m certainly interested in picking up Episode 2 when it comes out.

SCORE: 75%

 

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Bad Ass Babes if available now on GameJolt and has been Greenlit on Steam.

Reviewed On: PC
Review System: Intel i7-6700k, 32GB DRR4, Nvidia 770 GTX
Playtime: 4 Hours



Pixel Pop Network
managed to catch up with Andrew Thatcher, developer of Bad Ass Babes for a chat;

PPN> Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. It’s been a fairly long road for Bad Ass Babes, how long has the game been in development for?

Andrew> It has been over two years. I never thought it would take this long but I have been working solo on this project whilst juggling real life commitments. I was fortunate enough in the past few months to scrape some money together and hire some people to assist with bits and pieces of coding and scripting.

PPN> You started with modelling and then moved into photography and film work. What was the motivation for you to move into video games?

Andrew> I love photography and film making and am proud that I have been able to make zero budget films, but they will only ever get so far in terms of appreciation and exposure. With video games though we live in a time where all you really need is a good idea and a computer. I grew up playing video games; they were always my true escape from the norm of everyday life. Even as a kid I wished there were some sequels or changes done to some of my favourite games. I then came across the fan made game scene and found a game engine that I could figure out how to use.

PPN> You’d already had some experience with Openbor on a couple of earlier projects. What was the inspiration for moving onto a big project like this?

Andrew> I had made so many fan games of licenced properties and they had thousands of downloads and were well received, however they were free and I didn’t make any money from them. Despite the success at the end of the day it is someone else’s property so you could never get too excited. I wanted to create something original that I would be solely responsible for, that would put me and my creativity centre stage. With this game everything about it bleeds my imagination and cheesy sense of storytelling and humour.

PPN> All self-taught or did you partake in any study, courses or the like? Have you considered taking things to the next level and learning more complex programming languages?

Andrew> All self-taught. The Openbor engine community was at one stage very helpful and supportive. I would love to learn different programs but I am a visual and creative person who struggles to grasp scripts and coding. I am a creature of habit so for now I will stick with what I reasonably know.

PPN> So why babes and boobs and not say dragons, swords, ninjas or street punks?

Andrew> What hot blooded male would ever choose anything else over boobs? <Laughs> In all seriousness it was a strategic move, the indie game market is filled with those types of games already. I wanted to create something that would be extremely unique and that would stand out from the competition. Why can’t we have the best of all these worlds? My game has strong, empowered and sexy women, aliens, mutants, fighting, weapons, gore, humour, vehicle levels, shooting levels, even RPG elements and much more.

 

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PPN> Did you draw inspiration from any games in particular? Streets of Rage? Crime Wave? Duke Nukem? Mortal Kombat?

Andrew> Yes lots of influence from Mortal Kombat (in terms of the digitised sprites and gore) and Streets of Rage for the beat em up concept but I think I drew inspiration probably more from cheesy B grade movies like Return of the Living Dead, Toxic Avenger, Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Brain Dead/Bad Taste (love my movies!)

PPN> The models and actors in the game are all local talent, am I right? How did you go about recruiting people to help with the game?

Andrew> Yes lots of local, Australian talent. Given my background of film making and photography I knew how to pitch concepts and where to put casting calls. It was difficult for some to understand the tone of the game and that it was light hearted fun. My wife has always been supportive of all my projects and actually helped create a prototype character for the game. I was then able to build a showcase module to help pitch the game to potential talent.

PPN> We’ve come a long way since the original Mortal Kombat and those early days of digital sprites. Can you run us through the process of creating a character for Bad Ass Babes?

Andrew> Yes we have but the process pretty much remains the same (more or less). I filmed the talent performing the desired animations then went through the footage and took screen grabs of the desired key frames of animation. I then removed the backgrounds manually by using Microsoft paint and then created a palletised sprite image. I did not use a green screen for the background as I found it difficult to get the floor and the necessary space covered as well as the issue of the background fluorescent colour reflecting/ bleeding onto the flesh of the talent and would not give a nice look. This made the removing of the background process very time consuming but I am happy with the finished product.

PPN> There was a failed Kickstarter and a lacklustre Indiegogo campaign. What do you think has held the game back from success? Subject matter? Game genre? Or something else?

Andrew> All of the above. I think the fact that it is something so unique and special which is its attraction but also its deterrent for some. Sure I could play it safe and make a generic game to appease the masses but then I would not be true to myself. There are so many poor retro pixel art games being made with a generic story and gameplay. People will eventually turn their backs on that and look for something fresh. At the end of the day I think if you make something that you genuinely are passionate about and enjoy then there will always eventually be a market for it. Those failed campaigns were very upsetting as I had little press or public support. I even had one online gaming website (which shall not be named) write up a set of questions for me to answer in the hopes I would be a chauvinistic pig and make for an easy article to rip into me and my work but I answered all their questions in such a thought out manner that they ended up not publishing my responses. I think this is a game that is easily wrongfully judged on first impression but when you actually play the game you will see that there is something special here, something that is fun. If this game was a movie I’m sure there would be less of a problem.

 

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PPN> On a far more upbeat note the game has just been Greenlit on Steam! Congratulations. What does this mean for the current and future production of Bad Ass Babes?

Andrew> Thank you! This is all very new to me, as I said I am used to making little zero budget productions and getting menial success. This will be a huge opportunity to showcase what I am capable of and hopefully make some connections and opportunities for myself. I will continue updating the build of the game based on feedback etc to aspire to create the most polished and entertaining version of the game that I can. After a few months of enjoying this games success I will look towards working on a sequel as I have already filmed and created a lot of content to continue the adventure.

PPN> The game is currently $10 USD on GameJolt, will we be looking at a similar price for Episode 2 when it arrives? How many Episodes have you got planned for the game?

Andrew> Yes I think a similar price point for Episode 2 will be fair. When I came up with this games concept I realised I could not create it and do it justice in one game. This could be a franchise and there’s so many directions I can go with this IP. I think for this story there are probably a total of two or three episodes.

PPN> Will those who purchase the game now on GameJolt have access to the Steam version as well? Will you continue to support and update the GameJolt version?

Andrew> That’s a good point. This is new to me so I’m not sure how yet but I think that if you have paid for the PC version once you should be able to download it from anywhere for ease of use. I will need to look into it more and figure out the best way to do that for all parties.

PPN> Any plans on the far and distant horizon for projects after Bad Ass Babes? Other genres or game engines you’d like to play around with?

Andrew> Yes there is actually an idea that came to me a few days ago. It is a concept that will appeal to a broader audience than this game but will still maintain my style and unique approach. I really can’t say too much about it yet. But for now my focus is promoting this game and then working on its sequel.

PPN> Thanks again for talking with us Andrew, we wish you all the best with Bad Ass Babes and look forward to Episode 2 in the near future.

Andrew> It was my pleasure. I hope you enjoyed the game and that others will purchase the game, enjoy and spread the word.

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One Comment
  1. September 10, 2016 | Reply

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