Strange month. A month in which we discovered that NeoGAF isnt really that important and cant make a difference. A month in which Xbox Indie devs were, kind of, shunted aside in favour of Windows Mobile 7 devs. The Creators Club closed and the App Hub opened in its place; all of the bugs that were there before remained. Every cloud, though, and Mommys Best Games managed to turn the situation to their advantage and get a decent amount of press by refusing to release Explosionade until the problems were fixed. Naturally the fix lasted a matter of days before it broke again, was fixed, broke again
You can buy any of these games via xbox.com by clicking the link associated with each game, or on the Games Marketplace on your Xbox 360. Simply enter the marketplace and scroll up to Indie Games, where you can check the top rated titles, the games that have just come out, or browse to find the games mentioned in this thread. Indie Game trials last eight minutes, which is often enough to establish what you think about it. Even if you dont buy any of these games, at least trial them, tell people what you think, get more people trying them.
(Xbox LIVE Indie Games are available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. If youre outside those countries you can still play these games by setting up a Gamertag for free for one of those countries. Its worth doing.)
The Gold award, for the absolute best game that came out last month.
radiangames Fluid is the fourth game from radiangames, after JoyJoy, Crossfire (now reduced to 80 Microsoft Points) and the excellent Inferno. Fluid, though, is the best of the lot.
The gameplay is extremely simple, and reminds me in a way of Halfbrick Echoes. You are placed in a course and faced with loads and loads of orbs dotted around the place. You have to collect them all to finish the level. Simple, right? Well, no. For every orb you collect, an enemy takes its place. These are slow but they track you and when there are fifty after you at once, theyre hard to avoid.
Youre helped by a few powerups, theres a warp zone which transports you to another part of the level, and another powerup that allows you to carve through the enemies without dying. It slows you down, though, and speed is key.
Theres an excellent medals system at work, see. A number of target times are given, and you can earn between zero and four silver medals depending on the speed at which you complete the level. Complete it even faster and you can earn gold medals, though these are very, very hard to achieve. And of course, very, very addictive to go after. Its this that keeps you playing and playing. The levels are quite small but this just adds to the speed running addictiveness. With so little area to play in shaving milliseconds off your time becomes compulsive.
It looks brilliant, as all the radiangames games do, and theres tons and tons of gameplay if you let yourself get drawn in to collecting gold medals.
Got some coverage on Kotaku, this, and an 8/10 at Eurogamer. I hope that helps and this gets the sales it deserves to get. Its only 80 Microsoft Points, after all.
The Silver award, for games that are incredible, but hey, only one game can be the Gold award winner. In any other month, any of these could have earned it!
DiceXY is excellent. You may not be aware, but I'm in love with a videogame called Loopop Cube: Lup ★ Salad. This game takes the same basic mechanic but removes Salad, remaining an excellent puzzle game. Have you heard of Puzznic? It's that with Dice!
All you have to do, is move the dice around the grid (which works on a 2D plane, so you must account for gravity) and match two of them to make them disappear. It sounds delightfully simple.
It's not, though. Sometimes you'll need to match three, or you'll match three and have one left over, or you'll have to match them in a specific order so that the immovable blocks don't get in the way.
It controls great, takes advantage of one of the best puzzle mechanics around, and is a must buy.
Explosionade is a pretty perfect example of a 2D platformer/shooter done right. Its not really fair to call it a platformer because, while there are platforms, completing each level isnt very hard and the platforming isnt really where the challenge lies.
Its a score attack game, and getting through each level with the maximum points is not so easy. Theres gold to collect for points (and health, and an attack upgrade). There are enemies to kill for a hefty bonus at the end. Theres a 30 second window on each level which will net you a bonus if you finish within it.
So, maximising your return from every level is no simple feat, and practice is necessary. Luckily, practice is fun, with perfect controls (once you remap jump and shield) allowing for a really nice experience. Enemies go down quickly for the most part and theres a nice amount of feedback when you shoot them, which is lovely when you come from a game like Comic Jumper which has similar gameplay but with the fun part removed. Bosses on the other hand are a brilliant challenge, requiring expert use of the shield to take down.
Difficulty levels and speed adjustments mean that the better you get, the harder you can make the game for yourself. For 80 Microsoft Points, no brainer.
Ripple is a twin stick with a really nice (proper) retro look about it. Shooting enemies doesn't kill them, it turns them white. You then press a trigger to launch a ripple outwards from your ship and any white enemy it touches is destroyed. Each ripple has its own multiplier so the more enemies you kill with a ripple, the higher your score.
Basically it's the best risk/reward system in a twin stick ever. You can either play it safe and kill a few enemies at a time for a few points, or run around turning loads of them white as the screen fills up and then takes loads out at once in a ripple for maximum points. But you might die first.
The little stuff is nice, too. The text is lovely, the music is some chilled out guitar, and there's nice sfx when you're browsing menus and stuff, and the effect that the ripple makes against the walls is really nice.
You can design your own enemies too. A bargain at 80 Microsoft Points.
Cutouts! is so called because its made entirely from cut out pieces of felt, and as a result everything is just ridiculously charming. The animation of the character is really nice and really impressive, considering the methods used to make it. The first time the background scrolls is just a lovely sight to behold. Youve seen it in 2D games for years but its somehow more nice when its made of felt.
The game itself is a throwback to 2D platformers of yesteryear, and brilliant for it. You have to run through different worlds jumping on enemies (even the spiky ones) and collecting 100 things to earn an extra life. Its beautifully familiar.
As ever, its the feel of it thats most important. So many Indies get this completely wrong and jumping is too floaty, or too rigid, or too unresponsive, but Cutouts feels really nice. It means its a lot of fun to play as well as look at. Only 80 Microsoft Points, and a really nice experience.
The Bronze Award, not the best games out this month, but every one of these is still either great, or has a really unique aspect to it that more than makes it worth trying.
I really liked For Glory. It's kind of Roguey, in a way. You have to fight right and right and right until you die, then you start again from the beginning with upgrades you've bought with all the gold you won the last time through. You get further, and further. Etc. It's really simple, but the gameplay fits really nicely with the style which looks kinda basic in screenshots but in motion looks awesome.
Excruciating Guitar Voyage looks totally unique (photorealistic graphics!) and looks great in motion, with the colours and stuff just creating an awesome mood. The trial doesn't show an awful lot, unfortunately, it feels like it's over before it's even got started. The promise of lots of puzzles is enough to get me to want to play more though, and the sewer level is doable in the trial and I had fun doing it, if the puzzles ramp up it really promises a lot.
Coral's Curse, oh, I REALLY want to be good at this. It looks great and has a great idea behind it, you've been transformed into a snake thing and can control either end of your body with the left and right sticks. This probably opens up thousands of possibilities but I found it quite difficult to control and I didn't feel like I was getting any better. I was disappoint. The game itself looks great and there's a map which implies that it's massive, I just couldn't get on with the controls at all. Should be brilliant, and absolutely will be if you persevere with the controls and can make it work for yourself.
U Want Cookie? is... good. It's a top down game where you have to navigate your guy from the start point to, obviously, a cookie. There are crumbs along the way to pick up and collecting all these gives you a load of extra points. Guns, fans, mines to avoid, it feels a bit like a top-down N+, in a way. Nice little score attack game that could really have benefited from online leaderboards, but is enjoyable nonetheless. I think it comes with some kind of achievements system too, but can't be sure.
Fruitbash was unexpectedly cool. It's basically Jewel Quest, if you've played that. And basically Bejeweled, which I know you know. So you have to match three, and whenever you do so, the squares behind turn gold. Turn all the squares gold to clear a level. I'm not actually sure where the challenge comes in, in Jewel Quest you were working to a time limit but here there's nothing like that, so I've no idea if you can actually lose, but the gameplay is pretty solid aside from that.
Bluebones Curse. This is really lovely, from the people behind Being, which is also really lovely. You're a skeleton (with some funny voice work) and you have to traverse a number of small 2D platform levels. It's really satisfying to control, the jumping has a really nice weight to it.
I dont think Harmonium is a game, even though it looks like one and it has a timer. You place white squares in a grid and a line sweeps across and depending on where and how many you placed in a column, youll get a different sound. So you make little jingles. Basically anything you do sounds kinda cool, I like it. Can adjust the tempo too, or enter Game of Life mode, where the song you made evolves with every pass. Really nice.
Blazin' Balls Xtreme Edition is cool. You have to manouvre your ball to the end of a thin course in as quick a time as possible. There are loads of coloured panels which affect you. Cyan inverts left and right, blue jumps, red slows you down, etc. Yellow is pretty funny. It's a pretty fun game to mess with, but thinking about it now I can't remember what it had in the way of leaderboards. Really could use online ones for maximum fun. Checked the trial. No leaderboards at all. Missed potential.
Head Shot Z is another Silver Dollar Games affair, and their second game in a row that I haven't hated. I mean, it's not amazing or anything, but it's playable and has a decent scoring mechanic. You have people on a horizontal plane, and some are zombies. You have to move your crosshair and shoot them. You then get a little gauge that you can press A at with the correct timing to reload quicker, which is neat. You get scored at the end for things like accuracy and not having any humans get killed by you or them. The best bit is when you kill the final zombie on a level, it's pretty satisfying. This is gonna top the Top Downloads charts for the next three months so get used to seeing it, but it's not so bad, really.
Chaos Gateway is a visual novel, of the kind I'm led to believe the Japanese enjoy so much. It's perhaps not worth a purchase, but is interesting because I can't remember the last time I saw something like this on a console (in English.) So even though the writing isn't great, and the story is a bit convenient and lazy feeling, it's still weirdly compelling. Looks like there's some basic QTE type minigames in there too. If you ever enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure books and their clunky set pieces, I imagine youll find something to love here too.
Inertia! is a 2D platform game with an intriguing mechanic, the control of gravity. You can run left and right and jump as usual, but if you hold X gravity is sort of, switched off, and if you're jumping you just continue floating in that direction and bouncing off walls and stuff. It's not the best controlling game you'll ever play, but the potential for exploration is amazing, and it's definitly worth a look.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it gives you zombies, make a videogame.
Mutant Zombie Onslaught is a twin stick with a plot, and slightly more interesting gameplay than the usual. Your basic aim is to enter a room and clear it of zombie mutants. You can then collect cash, weapons, health and enter the next room where you do the same again.
It sounds a bit tiresome but it plays really well, and thats whats important. Theres not a great deal of exploration to do but theres a really nice feeling of it, and the system of upgrading weapons and buying new ones is a great addition.
Some games are bad. Really bad. So bad that they dont even deserve a functioning link to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. But if youre in the mood for some punishment, or just want to be reminded how much better the games above are, check these out, last months most terrible games.
Sniper Defense is horrendous. Move a crosshair around and shoot slow moving mutants. Looks rubbish, and plays so so boringly. There's no substance at all.
In Summer Breeze you move a little thing around to stop leaves hitting the floor, hovering underneath them pushes them up a bit. It's literally impossible to play well because the cursor moves too erratically, and there's far too many leaves to deal with, too far apart. Just can't be done.
EleMental Orbs is some kind of Dr Mario game which has unresponsive controls in that they just don't bother responding at all. You press left and nothing happens. You press leeeeft and nothing happens. You press left left left left left and nothing happens. You press left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left left and move one space to the left. Completely unplayable
Avatarmageddon is terrible. The plainest, dullest, boringest over-the-shoulder shooter I've ever played. Your enemies are coloured squares, that's how much effort's gone into this one.
Zombie Academy, crap. The mode you can play in the trial lets you move left and right and jump over spikes to avoid skulls that are being thrown at you. Except you can't jump over spikes. You just move left and right and hope that the game jumps for you. Completely bizarre idea and somewhat pointless.
Avatar Kung-Fu is boring. You move left pressing X to kill ennemi [sic] and that's it. Everything's a one hit kill and it's dull. Does not feel like much of a game.
Alpha Chimp: Episode 1 is pretty horrible. You control a chimp and fight other chimps by throwing rocks and meleeing them. Controls aren't great though, there's a second delay before anything happens.
Cosmic Crash is a twin stick that takes four hours to get going, and even longer to die. Even if you're intentionally trying to die it takes ages. Got bored long before the game (presumably) gets going.
Lab Rabbit is a slow, slow, awkward platform game, with pointlessly complex jumping mechanics and a completely inexplicable number of sales.
Racer Rocket is in no way a racing game. You press a button to launch your rocket then press B every 30 seconds or so as you watch all the other rockets fly away. Right.
Mower is a first person game where you mow a lawn, and that's literally all it is. Its completely insane.
Oh Noes!!1 puts you in charge of a giant chicken bent on world domination. You dominate said world by taking part in a really dull game. You stand in the same place as the world scrolls around and hold the right stick in the same place to kill everything that comes nearby until you've had enough of it. Then you stop. The jaunty piano music is pretty cool for the first minute or so, then is incredibly tiresome.
I quit Of Steel and Sorcery about 20% of the way into the first battle. Which actually took about two minutes, I'm pretty sure the trial isn't long enough to kill the damn thing. You can do 8/9 points of damage, and it heals 10 every turn or other turn. It has over 500 HP. You basically hammer A and that's it. You can buff slightly but it barely made a difference to how long it was taking. It was like playing Track and Field as an RPG and it took so long to reduce its HP by 100 I just could not be bothered to continue. And that was the very first battle. Can't play a game full of that.
And to end on an awesome note
Every month, well revisit a couple of games that you may have missed from months gone by. These games are lost in the depths of the Games Marketplace, pull them out of there! Played a really awesome Indie Game in the past? PM me and well see about getting it in here in the future.
Rotorscope was second in DreamBuildPlay last year, and with good reason. Its recently had a price drop to 240 Microsoft Points and so theres no better time than right now to buy it.
If youve played Professor Layton and the Unwound Future on DS, youll be familiar with the type of puzzle youll find here, because there are some similar-ish puzzles there. VEXIS which came out on Indies last month is similar too. You have to rotate a grid to make some coloured blocks move around according to the laws of gravity, and you have to manouvre them so that three are joined in a line, which causes them to disappear. Get rid of all the coloured blocks to win.
It still annoys me that you cant use the left and right triggers to rotate the grid, but the controls soon become second nature. You can also flip it with Y which adds an extra element of strategy and gives you something else to think about.
The whole things presented as part of an overarching mystery story and is a very nice package overall. It didnt do so well at DBP for no reason.
Tobes Vertical Adventure has been beset by problems since its release, and I think its really hampered its sales.
It launched without analogue control and the D-Pad on the Xbox 360 controller made it impossible to control. By the time it was patched, the damage was done and its time on New Arrivals was over. The people that had trialled it hated it, and now nobody else was going to find it. Even the analogue controls didnt end its problems, with no dead zone meaning that Tobe constantly fell off the left of platforms into spikes, or pits, and it was still unplayable. Thats been fixed as well now, and its an absolute joy.
The beauty is in the wonderful design of the levels. Your aim is to make your way down to the bottom to collect a treasure. When you do so, though, the level begins to collapse and youve got a minute or so to make your way back up. With certain platforms breaking away the route you can take up is much changed from the route you had to take down, and it often reveals new treasures and routes to treasures you couldnt get before. With only a minute to escape though, do you have the time to get them?
I love the calm, measured trip down, and then the hurried, frantic trip back up. Its a brilliant idea and its been executed wonderfully. It looks incredible, too. The art, and the animation are just stunning. If every game in the world looked like this I wouldnt moan about it.
240 Microsoft Points, this one, and one of the best games to spend them on. Especially if you have the Mad Catz drum controller.
So, what did you think of these games? What do you think of what youre playing this month?
Enjoy your Indie Games.