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Off-Brand Games: DuLuDuBi Star

by Tony Ponce   //   5:06 PM on 02.10.2010



Over the past few months, word has spread of a certain Chinese PC game that tore every page out of the Nintendo handbook and replaced them with abrasive dollar-store toilet paper. DuLuDuBi Star is a clone of 2007's Super Mario Galaxy and inarguably the most shameless cases of intellectual piracy in recent memory. Yes, I'd say even more so than Limbo of the Lost.

Naturally, this excited me. I saw the GameTrailer video. I checked a few YouTube videos here and there. I had to play this game somehow. All I needed was a copy of the game and the means with which to properly install Chinese software.

I made a mistake. A terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible mistake.

The time I wasted on this steaming heap of fecal matter can never be recovered. Those hours I lost are gone forever. My transformation from curious optimist to full-blown cynic is now complete and I can never go back.

What stings me most isn't how bad this game is (and boy, is it baaaad), it's the résumé of the company responsible for its existence. There will be retribution against this band of criminals. Believe me when I warn that you have no idea how deep this shit runs. None whatsoever.



OFFENDER: DuLuDuBi Star
DEVELOPED BY: Fantawild
RELEASED ON: PC, 2008
TASTES LIKE: Super Mario Galaxy

Fantawild is not a garage developer with a shoestring budget and a basket full of hopes and aspirations. It is a massive multimedia conglomerate, itself a subsidiary of a much larger investment group known as Huaqiang Holdings, that has its hand in just about every entertainment field you can imagine. It develops traditional and CGI animation, 3D film technologies, interactive software, and a whole host of related culture-tech productions. It maintains a stable of in-house properties that appears everywhere from cartoons to merchandising, leading the charge for greater awareness of domestic animation.

Then there are the theme parks. Yes, there are several Fantawild Adventure parks that rank among the most popular in China. Figuring that they aren't rich enough, the top Huaqiang brass decided to expand outside their borders by constructing parks in Iran and South Africa.

Fantawild is the Disney of China. Its sphere of influence is greater than that of the actual Disney within the nation. It is the company's ultimate goal to match and surpass Disney in every facet imaginable.



The mascot of Fantawild Adventure is an adorable blue dinosaur named DuLuDuBi. He has a female counterpart named DuLuDuNi; together they are the Mickey and Minnie of Fantawild, appearing on T-shirts, plush pillows, what-name-you. To promote the characters, a PC game starring the critters was developed and made available for free. It's a universe-touring 3D platformer that spans five themed zones, following DuLuDuBi in his quest to save DuLuDuNi from some great evil.

And it's Super Mario Galaxy. That just blows my mind. Considering the pedigree of the empire behind the characters' inception, you would think that this piece of software would reflect pride in one of the company's critical brands enough. It's not like the guys are lacking in resources and creativity. Just what was going on in that boardroom when the idea for a DuLuDuBi game was pitched?



To be fair, even Disney has been known to draw "inspiration" from other sources. The Lion King appears to have a link with Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor, better known in the West as Kimba the White Lion. Atlantis: The Lost Empire plays out like a condensed version of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water despite assurances from the Atlantis producer and co-director that they had never heard of the latter. Then there are the numerous public domain fairy tales that serve as the foundation for many of Disney's legendary films, but retelling an old story with a unique twist is not the same case as copying a more recent work.

Speaking of which, who hasn't glanced into the discount movie bins at Wal-Mart or their local drugstore, found cheaply-produced animated films, typically under the GoodTimes label, and muttered something about them being Disney knock-offs? We associate stories like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland so closely with Disney that we forget that they didn't originate with Disney.

The rule is that mind share is won through extensive polish regardless of whether or not you were the originator of the property. Disney's more questionable films like The Lion King are not discredited because the quality of the product is so high. On top of that, the movies feature enough hallmark Disney "magic" that even the toughest skeptics may be willing to chalk up the similarities as mere coincidence.

DuLuDuBi Star has no such magic. The law in China is completely topsy-turvy. The Chinese look at the word "copyright" and take it to mean that it is "alright" to "copy." Why wouldn't you if you could get away with it scot-free? Given the depths of Fantawild's pockets, do you really think it gives a damn about masking its intentions? Hell no.

I've put this off long enough.



HOW SHAMELESS IS IT?

Alright, here we go. All the text is in Chinese, but it shouldn't be too hard to navigate the menu. That button on the far left looks promising. I'll click it.



Aaaaand here we are, the hub world. Look at those graphics. It's good to see that even in 2008 the spirit of the Nintendo 64 is being kept alive. So... wait. Is that the Jeopardy theme? The Jeopardy theme is playing in the overworld. The Jeopardy theme. This should set the tone for the rest of the article, shouldn't it?

So I'm running around, acclimating myself with the controls. The WASD keys control movement. Yeah, just what I was hoping for in a 3D platformer. I would have loved some of the nuance that analog controls provide, but nope! This will do just dandy!

Left mouse click is your Super Mario Galaxy spin attack and right mouse click is your jump. Kinda awkward that those aren't mapped to the keyboard, but I suppose it makes sense since you use the mouse to navigate menus. No reason to swap hand positions continuously. Back to the jump, clicking again while airborne will launch a double jump accompanied by a "wahoo" sound clip pulled straight out of Klonoa. I haven't even gone to the first level and already I see two bits of lifted assets.

Finally, there are the camera controls mapped to the Q and E keys. Don't think you'll get anything resembling a decent viewing angle with this shit. The camera locks into one of four positions, none of which are ideal for any given situation. Would it have killed to have a button to center the camera behind your character? But that would have required actual work!



All the zone entrances have a big padlock on them, so I gotta go to the only one that's open. Thankfully, there is a path of arrows leading right to the portal and... wait a second. Those arrows look familiar. Oh! Those are the arrows from Dance Dance Revolution! Genius! Pure genius!



Okay. Select your galaxy. The closed galaxies are represented by big question mark boxes. Whoa. Déjà vu, indeed.



Now I select my mission. Enter a zone, select a galaxy, select a level and go after a star. Yep! This is the Super Mario Galaxy format alright!



I land on this planetoid and gotta collect these crystal shard pieces. Collecting all will open up...



... this slingshot launcher to the next planetoid. It's automatic, so there is no need for the spin attack like in Galaxy.



All I gotta do is clear this gap, land on the floating platform, and grab that star. Lemme just jump and...



Oh, you've gotta be kidding! The momentum in this game is horrible! You try to turn in mid-air to correct a jump and you just stall. It's worse than in Castlevania since at least in that game you'll continue your forward arc despite pushing the D-pad in the opposite direction.

And what exactly killed me, anyway? In Galaxy, you can see the giant gravity wells that suck you in. Here, you fall through the center of the planet, expecting to pop out the other side but don't. It makes zero fucking sense.



Great, my first star. Oh yeah, strike a cool pose, you little blue bastard. Think you're hot shit, don't cha?



What kind of enemies are there? We've got these Piranha Plant/Goomba hybrids...



... some Bullet Bills...



... these bulbous, chainsaw-wielding puff balls...



... and baby triceratops with mile-long tumors. Isn't that a bit top-heavy? I know I'd have problems maintaining my balance if I had a blue whale's dick growing out of my forehead.



But what are minions without strong bosses to lead them into battle? Who should make an appearance but the Dino Piranha as well as...



... Kamella! Yeah, they probably got sick of Mario's shit and decided to harass some other fuckernutter. Moving from fat plumber to blue midget dinosaur must have been a real step up the ladder of villainy.



Alright, I just gotta climb up these steps. Cakewalk. Just jump up to the top, just keep climbing, and...



Fuck! In any Mario game, this would be the easiest thing in the world. Why is it so God damn hard here? Why is it so God damn hard!? I'm just trying to climb up the fucking steps! I can't jump in straight lines because pushing right just sends off the edge furthest from the wall!

Here's where the whole nonsense with the camera comes down to piss in my Cheerios. With the WASD keys, you can only move in the four cardinal directions or the four ordinal directions. Navigating narrow walkways or jumps becomes an exercise in frustration because, thanks to the goofy-ass camera, you can never walk in a straight line! You'll always gravitate to one of the edges, so you resort to taking your time and staggering your movements -- up, up-left, up, up-right, up, up-right, fuck! Fell off again! So damn tedious!



Sweet Jesus, there is no way in hell I'm making it across here! It would be perfect if you could gradually inch the camera into a suitable position whereby you only have to hold down a single key to run across. This part is especially devious in that the platforms run back and forth in a zigzag pattern so you have to constantly change the camera angle. These are conveyer belts, so you can't just sit and take your time! You better move your ass! Oops! You overshot the landing and fell into the abyss! Fuck you! Back to start!

The game for the most part is very easy and straightforward, but when you get to trouble spots like this that make you want to jab a hot poker down your urethra, you'll find 1-ups scattered about all over the place. It's like the creators knew that the game was shit and had to pump you full of extra lives so that even when you are losing you aren't being penalized. It's like heavily sedating trauma victims with morphine to distract them from the stumps where their limbs used to be.



Oh, c'mon! Can you move any slower? You have to get down to the end of this pathway while dodging rolling boulders that pop in out of nowhere, but the game is so poorly optimized that this section taxes your hardware to an unbelievable degree. You grind your teeth as you craaaaaaawl to the next safe zone. C'mon! C'mon! It's gonna hit me! It's gonna hit me! Jump to boost speed! It doesn't help, but do it anyway! C'mon! C'mon! Grrrrrrrrrrrr!



Here's another fun activity! Remember having to collect five shards to either open up a slingshot or reveal the star? This is the same thing, only instead of collecting shards you hit switches. The twist? They can only be flipped in a specific order. You try one, doesn't work. Another, doesn't work. Then you get one that works, so one down. Now try those first two again in case one of them is the second in the sequence. On and on until you trigger all five. What's the point? Variety? Dick is what it is! Give me back the shards if you are going to send me on fetch quest!



The fuck am I doing back here!? I beat this one already! Stop recycling levels, you sick fucks!



Look, a dialogue with your pink damsel-in-distress... HOLY MARY AND JOSEPH! What is up with her eyes!? Is she possessed? Must be! Makes sense, though. You'd have to be possessed to want to be in this shitty fucking game.



...

No. Just no. A third time? Now with a time limit? What is wrong with you people!? I'm not even in the same fucking galaxy anymore! I shouldn't be dealing with this again!

Now is probably a good time to explain the level structure. As I mentioned before, there are five major zones. Each zone is split into three separate galaxies consisting of three to four levels and a fourth galaxy consisting of a single boss battle. In an individual mission, you visit up to three different planetoids. On each planetoid, your goal is either to go straight to the star or slingshot, to collect five crystal shards, or to flip five switches. Planetoids get revisited multiple times across several levels within a particular zone.

That last part bugs me. Often, you revisit a planetoid in a completely separate galaxy from where you saw it the first time. What's the point of splitting levels across galaxies if you are going to be revisiting the same places no matter where you go? The game's idea of variety is changing up the goals. On your first visit, you may only need to reach the slingshot. On the second visit, you might have to flip switches to reveal the slingshot. Not like the makers could have made new environments or anything. Ya know, something fun.

What's the point of the Super Mario Galaxy-style mission structure at all? You don't unlock the next galaxy until you've found all the stars in the current one, and you don't unlock the next zone until you've beaten the current zone's boss. In Galaxy, you could skip entire levels and still acquire enough stars to reach the final stage. It's very open-ended. In DuLuDuBi Star, it's a straight run from A to B. It's perhaps the only thing straight about this whole damn game.



Oh, go fuck yourself.



Here's a great time waster. You land on a giant cube that can only be navigated via these maze-like corridors. You've got to hit switches so you try the first one. Nope. Go to the next. Nope. Branching path. Oops. A dead end. Backtrack and go down the other path. Finally find the first switch. Keep going until you hit the end of the line then turn around and go aaaaaaall the way back to the start to check that first switch that didn't work the first time and...

My God. So stupid.



Hey! It's an ice world! The floor is slippery! This makes your character's already shitty momentum even shittier! Will the wonders never cease?



I guess not! Yeah! Do your best Sonic the Hedgehog impression and grind those icy rails! Your walking speed is faster, but grind anyway!



Okay, final zone, the volcano worlds.

Oh my God. It's a puzzle! An honest-to-God puzzle! Thank the Lord on high! A little bit of variety!

You have to reach the star suspended above the lava. To do so, you must raise the star platforms be stepping on the corresponding colored tiles. Trigger on just enough to create some steps that you can scale. If you screw up, hit the reset tile and try again.

I still don't believe it. It's a Chinese New Year miracle.



This is it. The last level before the final boss. I've taken everything this game could throw at me and soldiered onward. No last-minute shenanigans are gonna mess my stride. All I have to do run up this path that winds around this volcano and grab the star at the summit. Just gotta dodge falling rocks... fuck. Just gotta clear this jump... fuck. Are there any 1-ups in this level? I guess they wised up and took away that crutch. I can still do this. I've got two dozen lives. I'm in this for the long...



Game over? GAME OVER!? Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

What the hell is going on!? All of a sudden the game decided to pull the rug out from under me. Losing all your lives has no significant drawback other than wasting time you could be spending replaying that same level. You get booted back to the main menu, click start, wait for the hub world to load, run to the zone entrance, select the galaxy, select the mission, wait for the mission to load, only to lose your miserable three lives clipping through the God damn volcano wall.

That doesn't make any sense, does it? You have to run up the path without falling off, so you'd think you could hug the side of the mountain and possibly rebound off it in the event you overshoot a jump. Instead, you phase right through and die instantly. Did the programmers forget to program collision detection here?

This is mind-numbing! In a previous level...



... you have to jump across these outcroppings poking through this lava fall. I took my care not to get too close to the lava, but as it turns out nothing happens when I touched it! Yeah! The game treated it as a solid wall. So the stuff that you think would kill you does not while the stuff that you think is safe does kill you.

...

WHAT?



This level is a culmination of every bone-headed decision that went into this game's creation. It's a real pillar of shit. Everything can and will kill you repeatedly not because you are a poor player but because the developers were too busy jerking off their dogs to realize that they had no fucking clue how to make a video game.

This level is a fight against multiple forces. You are fighting against the controls, you are fighting against the camera, you are fighting against the clock, you are fighting against the platforms, you are fighting against the falling debris, and you are fighting against the jumps. It is one giant gangbang and you are the unlucky bitch taking it up the ass.

You want to position the camera in an optimal position, but it's ultimately fruitless. No matter what angle you choose, you still run like a drunken hobo. If the camera is behind you, pushing up will send you off the right ledge to your death. Pushing up-left will send you off the left ledge through the volcano wall and to your death as well. So you gotta take your time and stagger up the path.

Only you can't take your time. There's a time limit! But don't move too fast because rocks will fall on you! So you gotta wait for the rocks to fall, but then the ground crumbles beneath you, so you gotta keep moving! You are pretty much dead once a rock hits you! If it doesn't knock you into the lava, you won't recover before the tile you landed on collapses and drops you into the lava anyway!

You gotta jump across gaps but they aren't straight jumps! They are sorta wrapped around the side of the volcano, so you are tempted to try and change direction in mid-air. As we've previously established, that'll stall you and cause you to drop like a fucking anchor! So you have to jump off at a diagonal and pray that a rock doesn't up and land on your skull!

Then you reach a gap that is too wide to cross! You try again and again to clear the jump but keep falling short! You try to time your double jump at the apex and it doesn't work! You try to spin at the end of the double jump for a little extra oomph and it doesn't work! What you have to do is jump, spin at the apex of that first jump, jump again, then spin at the apex of that jump! You've never been required to perform this technique at any other point of the game! HOW IN THE SEVEN LAYERS OF HELL WOULD ANYONE THINK TO DO THAT!?

SO ALL YOU GOTTA DO IS MAKE SURE YOU SUCCESSFULLY PULL OFF THIS ONE TECHNIQUE THAT IS ONLY USED AT THIS SPECIFIC MOMENT, WHILE JUMPING IN A STRAIGHT LINE AND RESISTING THE URGE TO MESS WITH THE CONTROLS, WHILE DODGING ROCKS THAT APPEAR WHENEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT, WITHOUT JUMPING TOO FAR TOO THE RIGHT OR TO THE LEFT INTO THE WALL THAT DOESN'T EXIST, ALL FLAWLESSLY IN UNDER A MINUTE WITHOUT STOPPING?

WHAT!!! FUCKING!!! BULLSHIT!!!!!



By the grace of God or Satan or Amun-Ra, I made it to the final boss. Who has been the source of my torture? A squid wearing an '80s power suit. Of course. Why the fuck would it be anything else?



The battle is divided into three stages. First, he flies around in this saucer, launching swarms of Bullet Bills at me. I have to trick the black ones into hitting his hull three times. After that...



... I have to pursue him down a long stretch of moving platforms. After all the shit I've been through, I was able to breeze through this segment without issue.

Once I reach the Sushi Fucker, he transforms into...



... a giant lava octopus. All I have to do is avoid his tentacles and knock the stones that fall down into his God damn face. Three times and bam! It's over.

DuLuDuBi has rescued DuLuDuNi. The credits roll. Everyone is fucking happy. The end.



Now this flaming icon appears on the main menu. Clicking it brings up...



... this screen. What is this? Instructions to unlocking a bonus game? A certificate of completion? Why the hell would I want to be reminded of my "exploits"? I don't know and I don't care. I've had it up to here with this shit-bomb.

DuLuDuBi Star is the ultimate insult. It has no appeal whatsoever. It lifts assets from a number of properties, possibly more that I've missed, and offers no apology. It's so bad that I can't even look at Super Mario Galaxy anymore. This game has ruined Galaxy for me forever.

See, this is why digital distribution is a bad idea! I want nothing more than to grab the game disc and feed it through a document shredder, but I can't because there is no physical media! How am I to vent my seething anger? I could smash the computer itself and toss it into the nearest canal, but that wouldn't be practical! When a disc or cartridge is destroyed, there is one less of it in the world. You can't do that to a download. It replicates. It's a fucking virus for which there is no cure.

Does Fantawild care? No, it doesn't. Not one bit. It just laughs and tells you to go fuck a mule. It is too mighty to be toppled, so its actions will go unchecked by the good ol' People's Republic of China. That whole country is messed up.

We need to go to the top, to the Huaqiang Holdings board of directors. I want them to face brutal justice. I want them to go out like that scene from Dogma where two angels, in the name of our Lord Alanis Morissette, make Swiss cheese out of everyone in the room. Then I want Ben Affleck to turn to the camera and say, "Applesauce, bitch!" Only then will I be satisfied.

Fuck DuLuDuBi, fuck Fantawild, and, for good measure, fuck you too. I'm out. Peace.

MIYAMOTO IS NOT PLEASED:
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