Hello there, internet friends! With the Robs indisposed this week, what with PAX and other various misbehaviors, I’m here to tell you all about the Xbox Live Indie Games released between August 23rd and August 29th, 2010. As usual, the indie scene was full of games, from good to bad to ugly to confusing to… full of balls.
Also, are there any English majors out there who can give me a word for “clever idea, poor execution?” Maybe with a connotation of “I really want to like this but I don’t?” Because I’d use that word a lot in this column.
Shall we dive in?
As always, not every release will get more than a few sentences. The games with multiple paragraphs have basically managed to stand-out due to their entertainment value and/or shockingly amazing awesomeness (these will feature the *Must Play* tag) or because they’re so incredibly terrible potential consumers deserve a warning (these feature the *Utter Failure* tag).
Remember, the Indie-Dome (like all reviews) is an opinion piece. The comments (or lack thereof) made throughout convey the reviewer’s thoughts on the overall quality (or lack thereof) of the submissions in a given week. These comments are not directed towards the developers, but rather their games. Seriously, we know most of you folks put a lot of hard work into these things, so please don’t take it personally.
(Developer: Danthekilla – 80 Points)
I kicked the week off with more of an “app” than a game. This one presents — you guessed it — amazing facts every time you press A. Did you know that no two countries with McDonald’s have ever fought? Yeah, this game is about as much fun as a free list of trivia you’d find anywhere on the internet. Oh, but you can send these facts as messages to your XBL friends, or change the backgrounds and fonts. So… there’s that.
(Developer: DualOpAmp29 – 80 Points)
More like “got an idea for a good game?” Rimshot! This is a collection of vaguely ball-themed games that don’t work. Most of them involve clicking on balls moving across the screen, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds. There was also a basketball game in which I was completely unable to sink a shot, but keep in mind that I’m a white dude so that could be my fault.
I suppose the game in which your controls are reversed might have been interesting if you aren’t the type of person to invert your Y axis in every game you play anyway. And at the end of my session I was given a score of 537 with no leaderboard or sense of scale, so I don’t know how good that score is.
(Developer: Mediatonic – 240 Points)
Okay. Buy this game. Seriously. It’s three dollars. If you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back. (Offer Expires September 17, 2009.) (Ed. Note – Whoops. Should have posted this sooner. — R.T.)
This is a platforming game in which you jump up vertical levels to defeat bosses who (probably) stole your princess. The game’s sense of humor (and excellence despite its brevity) rivals Portal. I want to include some of the game’s witticisms here to make my point, but that would ruin it. The game’s funny, the animation is the best I’ve seen in an indie game, every jump lands so perfectly you’d think this was made by Nintendo, and there are medals to encourage you to replay the game. I beat it in an hour but I will go back to it.
Seriously, I’m not joking. Stop reading this and buy this game right now.
(Developer: Aztec – 240 Points)
Um, this is a game app that promises to better your life by giving you subliminal messages while you look at clouds. I don’t think the messages are subliminal when they’re on the screen long enough for me to read them. The game attempts to give you therapy in the genres of “Relaxation,” “Attract Opposite Sex,” “Stop Smoking,” “Lose Weight,” and “Rejuvenate Yourself,” whatever the fuck that means.
I tried one for “Achieve Success” or some such but my wife wasn’t in the mood that night and I didn’t get a promotion the next day, so I guess it didn’t work. Too bad there isn’t a “Buy This Game” suggestion embedded in there anywhere.
Three dollars my ass.
The Zombie Shotgun Massacre
(Developer: DarthCheesiest – 80 Points)
This game had the highest sex and violence scores of any of the games I played, so I was tentatively excited. Didn’t work out for me. You play a mildly hot chick in a bikini who goes around shooting zombies in 2.5D. Sometimes they drop cards with more bikini chicks on them, but I’m not sure what the story or gameplay explanation for this is. Some of the zombies look like Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. So… there’s that.
(Developer: Battenberg Software – 80 Points)
Okay, I was drunk while playing this and still recognize it as a bad Mario Kart knockoff. Power-ups, drifting, bah. The power-ups are lame and drifting barely works. The graphics are okay, but what’s the point of playing with your Avatar when all you’ll see is the back of their head? Kind of reminds me of topless mode in BMX XXX now that I think about it. There are better games in the genre out there folks.
(Developer: DeRail Games – 80 Points)
Just another bouncing game. *
(Developer: Altered Reality – 80 Points)
In this oddly named game you dodge gravity wells and comets while picking up tokens. It’s incredibly addictive, even solo, but I imagine it’d be a hoot and/or a holler when played with up to four players. The soundtrack kicks ass. And this might sound like a slight thing, but you can pres Y during the loading screens tips on how to play to more tips so you aren’t staring at the same one for ten seconds. This is a brilliant mechanic and I don’t know how everyone else missed it. Altered Reality absolutely nailed it and this is how games should be.
(Developer: AlMra – 80 Points)
In this game you run around 2D mazes, dodging balls and lighting up squares. This game is not fun. The controls feel wonky and I couldn’t tell how to know if I was going to get hit or not. Some of the puzzles seem just this side of impossible. If you buy this game I will lose all respect for you and punch you.
(Developer: Stegersaurus Games – 80 Points)
I’m not sure I understand the name of this game. You move a cursor around the screen and it hits things which make noise. The controller vibrates when you hit things but I’m not sure that makes this a massager game. I guess I should point out that one mode included cat noises, and that my cat loved it, so if your cat got a Microsoft Points card for his birthday, take that into consideration.
(Developer: FauxRoboStudios – 80 Points)
In this game, which would have been topical a few months ago, you play a boy attached to a balloon who dodges birds and helicopters crossing the sky. Each level is procedurally generated and reminds me of the chocobo races in Final Fantasy X; success is more a function of how the level plays out than how you play. It would be completely forgettable except for the CNN style display, where news tickers provide funny messages and sometimes anchormen appear on screen who you can hit. And watch out for paparazzi, who might blind you with their flashes. All in all, you might have some fun with this, but mostly as a novelty.
(Developer: theHans – 80 Points)
Here’s a math lesson, kids, just in time for back-to-school:
I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!! + Pseudo-3D/Mode 7 style graphics – Fun = When Zombies Meet Avatars.
(Developer: Adam D Smith – 80 Points)
This game is good. It promises to “leverage your synergy and have you shove around boxes for some reason” and it doesn’t disappoint. The whole game is presented as a corporate training exercise, complete with a “Company Handbook” instead of an instruction manual, messages such as “Our company is no longer in need of your services; press A and we’ll find someone better” when you die and promises of “free coffee in the break room” (I just hope the coffee isn’t a lie). The 1940′s music soundtrack was pretty cool.
Oh, you want to know about the game? It’s a fairly addictive one in which you push boxes onto triggers. It might be a little too difficult, but so is having a job. Also, this is the only game I played that allowed me to Press A instead of Start at the loading screen, which is what I usually do anyway. And it said “Please” to boot!
(Developer: Ron Bunce – 80 Points)
Sort of the opposite of mission control? Didn’t play tutorial. Awkward controls; shields and fuel might have been mixed up. No challenge at all. Only game in which I prayed for the trial to end. Too easy.
(Developer: FifaKane – 80 Points)
I never played the first Astro Taxi, so I may have missed some plot points, but I think I get the gist. You’re a space taxi driver, delivering passengers from one platform to another. The gameplay is mildly addictive and the music is good. The game might be a bit too tough, but it’s still fun.
(Developer: Mike Sharpe – 240 Points)
This is a spray-painting simulator. It’s fairly thorough — you get sprays, rollers, stencils, markers, and more, all in a plethora of colors. The graphics are decent. There’s an in-game boom box that lets you change the music, so there’s that. That’s about all I have to say about it.
(Developer: Ikumo vDog – 400 Points)
If you speak Japanese and like generic action RPG’s, this might be just for you. But not for me. The action is fairly boring and I’m kind of scared that it starts with a screen in Japanese after which you have to click “yes” or “no.” What did I agree to? And at 400 points… are you kidding me?
(Developer: Allen Pestaluky – 80 Points)
This game is sort of fun. You play a kid hiding under a box, Solid Snake-style, from aliens. Your mission is to save your friends from the alien searchlights before your box breaks down. The time limits are generous and there are neat power-ups like invisibility candy bars and duct tape to repair your box.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is fun, but has some quirks: The X and Y axis control can’t be reversed, and why can the searchlights snatch you while they can’t snatch your friends? But lay those sort of things aside and you have a nifty game to kill an hour or two.
(Developer: DualOpAmp29 – 80 Points)
There is nothing good to be said about this game. Actually, no, that’s not true: This isn’t a game. Calling Sidewalk Sally a “game” is like calling the death rattle of a cat hit by a car “music.” This is a 2D side-scrolling rollerblading game in which you occasionally press a button to jump over cracks in the sidewalk and you fail every time. Oh, but there are two jump buttons, one of which makes you jump longer than the other, making the latter button completely useless.
Look, my trusty 360 controller and I have taken out the Reapers, an Archdemon, Venom, scores of Covenant and Flood, zombies, GLaDOS, God herself, the Joker, Big Daddies, Obadiah Stane, Dr. Robotnik, and leagues of other bad guys, so I’ll be god damned if I’m gonna pay a dollar to have my ass kicked by a crack in the sidewalk. The ’70s music is sort of okay. Did I mention that to skate you have to pump A over and over again? Christ, I need a drink just thinking about this game.
(Developer: Good Guy Robot – 240 Points)
This is a decent puzzle game in which you move around blocks to match a given pattern. The music is nice and a quick reset button makes screw-ups less punishing. The biggest problem with this game is moving blocks in 2-D space with the analog stick. Maybe the new 360 controller will fix this. All in all, though, it’s worth a shot for puzzle game fans.
(Developer: Culin23 – 80 Points)
I don’t have a kid, so I won’t say it’s completely worthless, but I can’t imagine many infants would be “soothed” by static coming from your speakers. It does have plenty of modes, from thunderstorm and ocean to “advanced” (whatever the hell that is) to white, pink, and brown noise (whatever the hell those are; wasn’t “brown noise” a joke in South Park?). The thunderstorm is somewhat pleasant, but I don’t get the others. And it doesn’t support 5.1 channel surround sound.
(Developer: Hobbit125 – 240 Points)
As a master ninja you’ll push blocks in front of cannons to collect keys or something. My memory on the details are a little fuzzy. The puzzle design is fairly clever and the music is fun and shogun-y (whatever that means; I need to stop drinking while gaming. At least I took notes.) The game didn’t hold my attention for long, but it was fun.
(Developer: Angel of Osmend – 80 Points)
This is sort of a Zelda clone with dialogue, I guess. In trial mode “Loading is disabled…” I don’t know what that means. The controls are strange and combat is uninteresting. The graphics would have been bad on the NES. You’ll fight a lot of scorpions which are apparently “dream foxes.” I’d like to give this game a “Utter Failure” ranking, but as an RPG it’s probably long enough that there’s a non-zero chance it will get good at some point. But I’m not going to play it that long.
(Developer: SniperED007 – 240 Points)
You are a dude who kicks a ball with his head and feet to collect stars at the top of the screen. You flick the stick up to head-butt the ball and flick it down to kick it. The controls are kind of neat and might be addictive on a cell phone game or something, but I don’t see myself playing it much on my console.
(Developer: Andrew French – 80 Points)
Okay, I get it. You play a fork who jumps up to the top of the screen — Forklift. I haven’t seen a reversal this clever since Raiden in MGS2. Unfortunately, the game is no fun and this coming from a guy who used to build forts out of hymnals in church and pretend my hands were little men in the forts.
(Developer: Maximinus – 80 Points)
Quick-Time events for dunking. Draw a line with your thumstick for jump shots. This is not fun.
(Developer: Apoxxle – 80 Points)
This game pretty much sums up the bulk of my experience on Indie Games this week: a decent game with some clever design ideas ruined by a couple of bone-headed choices. RR!J!S! is a combination platformer/twin stick shooter with dropping platforms, mine carts, and nasty parallelogram bad guys. Graphics are more or less nonexistent but who gives a shit? Apoxxle clearly knows game design: each gameplay element is introduced in a non-threatening way first before making it more difficult — such as rails you can climb across appearing first over solid ground then later appearing over lava. This leads to complex gameplay without tutorials, reminding me of the way world 1-1 played in Super Mario Bros. And I’ve never seen a game combine twin-stick shooting and platforming like this.
Unfortunately, Apoxxle needs to play a little more Mario before putting out Rectangle 2: sometimes mine carts keep going until they reach the end of their track and stop, so if you don’t jump on them after jumping to a different platform, you’re stuck. In a Mario game the carts probably would have moved back and forth to give you a second chance. Also, why does it take two minutes to resize the screen before you can play? All in all, though, there are enough neat ideas here to warrant giving it a try if you want to play something new.
(Developer: Hawkeye – 80 Points)
You could call this one the opposite of Worms. Instead of blowing up opposing worms, you control a group of Martians who walk in a straight line and use their special powers to redirect the lines, build bridges, and jet-pack over pits to get a handful of them into the goal at the end of each stage.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of variety to the powers and they aren’t labeled or explained very well, so it’s easy to use up your limited supply of each power and become trapped in the stage. Still an idea with potential, though, and the game has a decent sense of humor to boot.
(Developer: LiquidHelium – 80 Points)
This game also gets the idea of giving you text-free tutorials as you go, sort of like Run Rectangle! Jump! Shoot! It’s a platformer in which you touch keys to open new routes. There’s nothing technically wrong with this game. It’s just not fun.
(Developer: sharmilee13 – 240 Points)
This is a 2D racing game. Seriously. Theoretically you can customize your car… by changing its color. I literally won first race by holding down the right trigger and left on the thumbstick. So I’m as useful as two pieces of tape. Fucking brilliant.
Oh. My. God. I just realized this game costs three times as much as some indie games that are actually good. Find the guys who made this and hurt them. Hurt them now.
*Someone out there will get the reference.
- Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess
- Bigger And/Or Better
- Got Balls?
- Subliminal Suggestions
- Avatar Grand Prix
- Avatar Man
- Sidewalk Sally
- Avatar Slam Dunk
- Drag Impact