Kind of an odd month. It didnt feel like there was much being released, and the stuff that did come out was mostly average. The good stuff, though, was of a ridiculously high quality, especially Hypership which I still cant stop going back to. Having seen some sales figures for it though, Ive become somewhat dismayed at the state of humanity as a whole.
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.
Go. Play. Enjoy. Tell us what you think!
(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.
I was slightly worried this month. The first two games to come out were Treasure Treasure and radiangames Inferno and I loved them both, I was already wondering what to pick as the game of the month. Then Hypership Out of Control came along and just blew everything else away.
Youre piloting a ship but the space brakes are out. Thisd be OK but the accelerator is jammed. This is not a recipe for a successful voyage. Its up to the player to manoeuvre the ship through asteroids and walls and mines and space bees and just survive as long as possible. In the normal mode, you get three lives and each wave, basically a set of obstacles, increases your max speed until youre going so fast you can barely keep up so you die and then play again and again and again because the game is like crack.
Thatd be enough for a dollar, but it doesnt stop there. Hardcore mode reduces the number of lives to one. Another mode removes the maximum speed limit and so you go much faster, much quicker. Aside from a practice mode which you can use to play any of the games ten waves that youve reached through normal play, the final mode is coindown. This gives you a number of coins to begin with and they gradually tick down, you have to collect more because youll lose when they reach zero.
In the other modes, coins are collected for points and to add to your multiplier, 99 coins is worth X2, X3, up to X5. Your points also rack up quicker as you increase speed. The coin mechanic is a simple one but it means that the longer you survive, the quicker your points shoot up. Points can be tracked on global leaderboards which you can access if youve got a gold account.
Surely thats enough as content goes, but no! Theres co-op gameplay, and the game also comes with 20 awardments for you to earn based on things like completing waves, earning points and collecting the games many power-ups. Things to slow you down, speed you up, give you a more powerful gun or a shield, or more.
Its a ridiculously simple concept at heart, but so much effort has gone into the presentation, the brilliant music (which Im still humming) and the wonderful humour that its impossible not to love it and just play it over and over again. This is the cheapest game youll buy all year at only 80 Microsoft Points, and is my second favourite game on the whole service. It was a really easy choice for game of the month.
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!
Treasure Treasure: FFEE is a one or two player 2D platformer in which the player has to explore a huge single level looking for treasure. Dont let the fact that theres one level put you off, theres loads to do here. There are 21 treasure chests dotted around the fortress, and a boy and girl are searching for them. Each one is a test for the player in how to reach and then open it; they can only be opened from the side so clearing obstructions or simply getting to each chest is a self-contained puzzle.
The game can be played on your own by pressing Y to switch between the pair, or is even better when youve got two players with one person controlling each character. The characters have different skillsets so its essential to keep them together where possible, though the splitscreen effect is excellent. The boy can push huge blocks and carry smaller ones, as well as carrying bombs. The girl has a much higher jump, and using their skills effectively is key to reaching and opening all 21 chests.
And then, of course, the style. Set in a GameBoy-like window, with the palette reminiscent of that system. The animation is brilliant, and the idle animations especially so. Sound, also, is top class. The whole package is a steal at 80 Microsoft Points.
radiangames Inferno is Gauntlet for the 21st century; albeit less excruciatingly difficult. Its probably the least stylish of the radiangames series, but it doesnt suffer for it, and by no means does it not look great. So, the gameplay then. At its most basic level its a twin-stick, You move with the left, and shoot with the right. Rather than being a score attack game, though, you have to explore levels looking for gold and keys, and kill any enemy that stands between you and the exit to the next level.
Getting through the levels is your goal, here. This is made easier by upgrades which you can buy using upgrade points youre awarded now and then, and theyre unlocked by spending the gold youve found. These range from health upgrades to better shields or weapons. Gold can also be spent on bombs, or on keys to stop you needing to get through that heavily guarded passage and get the key thats behind there.
Theres a lot to do and see, theres a wealth of different enemies with different attack patterns and different methods to kill them. Theres secret passages to find, and theres a new game plus. All for 80 Microsoft Points.
The trial of Neighbourhood is GANG INFESTED has the most horrible 8-minute limit because it's never quite enough to finish a game, and it always seems to kick in just when it gets interesting! You're a gang, and you have to take over adjacent territories of other gangs by rolling dice. However many gangsters you have in your section is how many dice you get to roll, so you have to be careful. Win, and you take over the opponents section, lose and all but one of the gangsters dies. Your goal: take over the entire board. It's really interesting, balancing attack and defence. I made the mistake first of going all out attack and ended up with loads of weak territories which were soon picked off. Then I tried to balance attack and defence and did much better, until the bloody time ran out!
Every few turns you get special cards to weaken your opponents or strengthen yourself which you can use whenever and wherever you want.
The only problem is that it seems a bit lacking in content. I guess there's an unlimited supply of games as they're randomised but a multiplayer mode, or even a silly little campaign would've been nice. Easily worth 80 Microsoft Points.
Mama & Son - Clean House is great. It's funny, which is easy enough to tell from the plot. The son notices a UFO and being an ex-commando figures I'ma shoot this shit up. Mama, poor Mama, has to clean up all his mess. You can control either him or her, with the AI controlling the other and you can switch between them with Y if you want to. You can also play hardcore mode and control them together using different halves of the control pad. It's as hardcore as it says.
The gameplay is pretty simple and set in small one-screen levels. With the son (whos named Really) you just run and jump and shoot aliens until your ammo runs out. With Mama you run and jump and automatically sweep up spent bullets and bits of alien into the rubbish bins. You can also clean the walls if you stop near those, that's automatic too.
What's nice is the balance between the two characters. Really can die an unlimited number of times but if Mama runs out of health, it's game over. So you have to use Really to defend Mama as she cleans. Really will run out of ammo though, and the only way to get more is for Mama to clean up after him, so both players have essential roles.
The AI didn't seem great so far better with two players, but it can be played online (or of course, in hardcore mode).
There's a story mode, or an endless survival mode. 80 Points, bargain.
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.
Jewel Dervish is here for having an interesting twist (youll see) on the now-really-boring match-three concept. Think Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble but the jewels are in the middle around a special jewel, and depending on where you hit the jewels, it rotates. So every shot is under slightly different conditions. It's pretty unique. You have to clear all the jewels around the special one to win. The presentation is horrible though, especially the help screen, and it can be quite difficult to get shots aimed precisely. Still, worth a go.
VEXIS (Buckshot Games) is a very nice puzzle game. You have to make a white block get to a black block by rotating the level 90degrees left and right and using gravity to weave a path through. There are some special blocks that keep disappearing, and others that will fall after three seconds in whatever direction is down at the time. I like it a lot, not stuffed with content but I certainly dont begrudge paying 80 points for it.
Denkis Juggle! is fun, notable mainly for having probably my favourite avatar support of any game I've played. I'm not gonna say what it does, but it's brilliant and really made me smile. The game is kind of like Pong with one paddle, balls bounce up and you just keep bouncing them. It looks great and sounds better, but it's not the easiest thing to control with an analogue stick, and D-Pad support is absent. I think I prefer it on iPhone (and it's a third of the price) but it's certainly worth checking out the trial. Full game includes multiplayer too, which the iPhone doesn't have.
360 Megapack HD Remix probably shouldnt be good, but it is. I launched it thinking these exact words: "might as well get it out of the way, I suppose." Then it turned out to be not bad at all. There's massage crap and other pointless apps, but there are some games as well. The first one is a bit like The Impossible Game but you can press X to flip gravity and ride on the ceiling. Regardless of the rest of the package, that little mini-game is worth the entry fee on its own, then you get some other games too. Great stuff.
Old School Adventure is another one to buy. The level design seems to be pretty excellent and it feels grand and MetroidVania-like to me which is easily enough to warrant your 80 Points. The gameplay I'm gonna have to just deal with. It plays fine apart from the jumping which isn't nice at all. If you press jump while running, you kinda jump too far in that direction too fast, and it doesn't feel natural. Then there's a second or so where you can't adjust the jump in mid air and you're in the spikes so many times because of it. With checkpoints being so regular though, it's never really that frustrating because you'll hardly ever lose any major progress. Just a learning curve, really.
Jungle (Animal Chess) is like chess with animals in the jungle. Well, it's not that much like chess. The tutorial makes it sound really confusing but it's actually very simple, and kinda nice. You've got animals numbered one to eight and a higher numbered animal can take a lower numbered animal, except a rat (1) which can take an elephant (8). Certain animals can swim and jump water. You just have to make it to the other players fort. It's cool, but if you capture the other player's elephant before they capture yours you're near invincible which kinda spoils it. Worth a look though, just, well, don't expect anything anywhere near as deep as chess.
Tank Battles is good but my God, THE LOADING. I think a good half of the time I played was watching a loading screen tick up ohsosloooowly. The game's a lot of fun though. Not sure how good the online play will ever be but there's some decent offline modes too, you can play a normal battle or there's a campaign. The battles are for four players, you just wander around the top-down arena in your tank shooting, trying not to get shot. Controls are excellent, responsive, and it plays really great. When it's loaded.
RAID. Well, there's not much that can send a chill down my spine more than seeing a game by Silver Dollar Games. I actually quite enjoyed this though! It's basically a series of QTEs where you burst into a top-down room and have to press the corresponding button to an enemy, and leave civilians alone. It's pretty mindless but at the same time, it's quite satisfying as you explore a whole building bursting into rooms and shooting people. I'm surprised.
More surprised. This months best zombie game is actually a good game.
Ninja VS. Zombie should blatantly be terrible, it should be the worst game ever, but I love it. It's a platform game where you have small levels in which to kill all the zombies, or get to an exit. Zombies can't be killed by your attack, and as the game says: "When you apply a strong attack to the enemy, the enemy is blown off." Erm. Yeah, so you have to hold X to do really powerful punches to smash zombies into walls of spikes, I cannot stress enough how satisfying that is. Seriously, its amazing. You can also trigger switches to shoot knives into zombies heads, also brilliant.
What I loved is the variation though, you get six levels in the trial and every one uses the same basic mechanics in different ways. Level six in particular was brilliant, it's one of the best timing-based platform levels I've ever played. Granted, I can't think of another one specifically, but getting the timing right for this level and making it to the exit felt awesome.
(Note: don't try and play this with an analogue stick, you'll drift left and it's impossible.)
Some games are bad. Really bad. So bad that they dont even deserve a functioning link to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. But if you just want to be reminded how much better the games above are, check these out, last months most terrible games.
アバター　アップ　オンライン is a rubbish Japanese game that makes very little sense. You just shoot boxes to knock the opponents avatar off the screen while they do the same to you. Then there's a horrific noise and a counter goes up to about 362 and you try again but harder. Then after a while something happens and your avatar stands there for a bit. Huh.
Avatar Crate Crusaders is made by dicks. Knowing full well that people use A to select things on options screens, they've made that the "buy" button which is totally cynical and screw 'em. You have to play a number of small games at once, each using one button to jump over crates or avoid them somehow. It's rubbish, but then they could have made Alundra and I still wouldn't buy it from them.
Snailien Invasion is Worms, I s'pose, but without the turn-based aspect of it. Two big issues here. The controls I couldn't get on with at all. You have to aim with the right stick and then fire with the right trigger, all the while aiming with the right stick to use your ninja rope(tm) with the left trigger, and it's just too much to deal with at once, to say nothing of all the other controls. Then there's the ninja rope. In the trailer, this looks awesome, swinging around firing on stuff. In the game, you're zoomed in so much that you can't actually see anything at all to grapple on to, and you just have to keep firing the rope off-screen in the hope that you connect with something. I just didn't enjoy a single second of playing it.
Cattle Crashers is boring. You just have to stick to the left of the screen to make sure that cattle don't drop off it. You can also throw dynamite to destroy enemies that don't seem to do anything anyway. It's so slow, and it feels like you can't even do anything to stop cattle disappearing to the left half the time as they just slowly drift off. Then you slowly drift off, into a deep deep sleep.
Notebook Shooter is the worst kind of twin-stick. It's slow, it's boring, it's ugly. You don't even need to move for about five minutes because the enemies come so slowly. Horrible.
I played Walketh. I say "played," but what actually happened was I pressed some buttons at random before going "what the hell am I doing?" and turning it off. It's an RPG where the screen is black and you have to use sound to navigate, it says, but beyond hitting a wall there didn't seem to be any hints as to where you can or should move. Am I supposed to be drawing a map as I go, or something? Don't see the point at all.
Aurelia. From the people behind Zombie Shotgun Massacre, it's a 2D platformer, kind of. The first thing that happens is you talk to God and then ROLL YOUR EYES at the properly horrendous attempt at humour. Properly. Horrendous. Then you have to move right attacking enemies and such, which wasn't terrible... Then, however, you get put in a vertically scrolling level where a spiked floor trails you. The floor moves too fast, the view is too zoomed in so you can't see the next safe platform, and the controls don't make it easy to get there even if you can. Your health depletes, and then you have to start again from the very beginning of the game. No checkpoints here, buddy.
Anti-Aircraft Warfare confused me. The more I shot enemies, the more a health bar went down. I assumed it was their health, but then when it ran out the game just stopped. It's really not very good, and when a dev doesn't know left and right you're kinda expecting the worst before you've even started. Gameplay: move an anti-aircraft gun around shooting planes down.
The Tribes of Ursea. There's nothing fun about this game at all. It just plays horribly. You have to fly around over-the-shoulder with really weird controls and then shoot at something or other, it's not clear what, and it's impossible to keep locked on and honestly, it's not playable.
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!
Prismatic is a puzzle game with great presentation, and an excellent core mechanic. Set in a fairytale world with all the characters and style youd expect from that, youre tasked with bringing light to a number of orbs, bring light to all the orbs to complete the level.
Basically how it works is that you get a grid, and a beam of light. A set number of mirrors are at your disposal and you use them to reflect the beam of light so that it hits ever orb in the level. You also have prisms which refract light in all three directions. Youve got a set number of pieces to complete each level which is where the puzzling comes in! A guide beam is available to see where light is being reflected but you can turn this off for an expert score bonus at the end of each level.
Special mention has to go to the sound. From its Peggle-like increasing pitch the longer you chain orbs, to the absolutely wonderful music that plays when you complete a level, it just sounds brilliant and makes solving a puzzle ridiculously satisfying.
Pixel Boarder is stunning. It looks completely gorgeous, as you can see, but the music is absolutely astounding and its worth a trial just to hear it. Id argue that its worth buying just to hear it more, but the game itself is excellent too.
But in no way easy.
Its a 2D snowboarding game, which you control with both thumbsticks. The left stick controls the left side of your body, and the right the right. You can either lean up, or down and the controls are analogue so get used to doing it in degrees. It takes ages to get used to, and even longer to get good at it. When you are though, its easily one of the most rewarding games on the service. And easily the nicest sounding.
Try not to let the trial put you off!