Sawbuck Gamer


Cognitive Dissonance

Your brain is your own worst enemy in XCVB.

By Danny Gallagher • August 22, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

The late, great Mitch Hedberg once joked that he didn’t like arrows because of their inherently oppressive nature. He didn’t see them as helpful guides that get you where you need to go. The “line with two-thirds of a triangle on the end,” he believed, orders you to shut up, fall in line, and move in a certain direction without question or comment. But that’s not the arrows’ fault. Getting mad at them is like screaming at a bank teller over a ridiculous fee that corporate executives in another time zone thought was a good idea. The arrow is just doing its job.

XCVB harnesses the arrow’s singular purpose to create a complex puzzle. Players must get a perpendicular pair of arrows (think a pointy “L”) to the goal without running into any walls. You do this using four keys on the keyboard: X, C, V, and B. X inverts the direction of the horizontal arrow, and C does the same for the vertical one. The last two buttons move the pair in the current direction of their assigned arrows. It’s a spatial memory challenge. As you move through the maze, you have to turn the arrows to change their movements and guide them around corners. Remembering the purpose of each key and the position of the arrows gets maddening quickly, but as frustrating as it is, I had fun watching my brain argue with itself over something it should have a knack for. If arrows had feelings, XCVB would be a great way for them to score some cathartic revenge on us judgmental humans.

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10 Responses to “Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    One correction: (and what made the game go from “mildly difficult” to “wow, that’s a lot harder than I thought!”)  The X and C don’t rotate 90 degrees, they each change the direction of one of the arrows.  (X switches the left/right arrow, and C switches the up/down one.)  This makes it a lot tougher to change direction as you go.  (The way you described it, you could just use one turning key to move around, like always rotating a piece in Tetris clockwise, for example.)

    • Matt Gerardi says:

      Ah thanks for pointing that out. That was an editing error. Danny had it right!

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  2. Merve says:

    I feel like if I trained at this game for a few hours, I’d be really good at it. But I just gave up at the orange levels, because life’s too short to follow arrows around, man.

  3. CrabNaga says:

    I kind of like these games where the difficulty is mastering the controls. After you try it for a while, you’ll enter a zen state where you can complete most of the levels pretty quickly. Get interrupted in the middle of it, though, and you’ll be back at square one (i.e. running into walls constantly).

    Pretty fun game, although the camera tricks made the last few levels pretty annoying.

  4. Cloks says:

    It’d be better if the hit detection was better. Again, poor controls kill an innovative game.

  5. JonRimmer says:

    I was enjoying this until a few levels in, when for some reason the author decided to throw in a load of one-tile wide gaps you have to navigate. At that point, the challenge of mastering the unusual control scheme is replaced with trying to time things properly with a sloppy collision detection system, which is a lot less fun. He should have had more faith in his original concept.

  6. SamPlays says:

    In it’s own way, this is similar to a rhythm game. There’s very little room for improvisation and you could probably make it far in the game if you mapped out the proper sequence of “X”, “C”, “V”, “B” to navigate the map (via trial and error if the map is larger than the screen).

  7. I’m the creator of this game. Thanks very much for the writeup. I also appreciate the positive response and criticisms in the Comments I see. Especially with regards the collisions/hit detection which essentially was an issue with the way in which Flixels collisions (very rectangular) and which I didn’t have time to fix for the jam.
    As well as the thought about the 1 tile precision levels. I felt that that was most definitely the worst design choice I made, as it makes the game inconsistent. Since the game was for a jam, and to be hosted on newgrounds my main concern at the time was catering to those I believed would click out of the game at the first moment of lost attention. And so the style of levels changed rapidly. I am currently working on a full version called Super XCVB which will hopefully address all of these sort of niggling issues as well as be a top notch game. 
    David Ryan