This was a good week. Not a ridiculous amount of releases, but most of them were pretty good. A couple of them were pretty awesome, actually. As per usual there were some disappointing missed opportunities and some surprising gems; most notably Anti-aircraft Warfare for the former and Walketh for the latter. But enough spoiling you with the good stuff before you even start reading. If you want more details you’ll have to work for ‘em.
But seriously, Walketh is awesome.
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: PlayItLoud – 80 points)
First off, Walketh isn’t really much to look at. Literally. Aside from the menu and the HUD, it features no graphics. This is because you’re “…deep inside a pitch dark dungeon” with nothing to light your way. Sure, it seems like lazy design, and only the developers know whether or not that’s actually true, but none of that matters. What matters is that Walketh is an entertaining Roguelike with a unique approach and a one dollar price tag.
Really, if you’ve ever played any Roguelike you’ll know what to expect with Walketh. The only real difference here is that you won’t be looking at a map or at any sort of visual representation of anything you’re interacting with (save the occasional wordy description). You’ll still be scouring the dank dungeon halls for loot and slaying various monstrosities, only rather than relying on your eyes you’ll be using your ears, hands (the controller vibrates when you walk into a wall) and brain (to memorize the layout). Unfortunately, unlike other games in the genre the dungeons aren’t entirely random. However, while the layouts never change the enemy and item placement is random, so where you once found some ridiculously awesome armor you might find absolutely nothing. Or a giant bug anxious to gnaw the gristle from your bones.
Needless to say, if you enjoy a good Roguelike you’d do well to check out Walketh.
(Developer: LPS Inc – 80 points)
Basically, ArchRobo, Robotic Annihilation is a decent twin-stick shooter crossed with a Gauntlet-style adventure. Only with robots and a soundtrack that feels like it was ripped right out of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
You and up to four friends can fight your way through 28 levels (some maze-like, some open), destroying robots of various colors and finding special power ups that will add new weapons to your arsenal like the Spread Shot. Or the somewhat useful yet rather silly ability to slow down your enemies’ bullets. That’s right, not the enemies themselves, but the glowing red crap they throw at you. It’s a little weird.
It’s difficult to get excited about ArchRobo, mostly because radiangames Inferno does pretty much the same thing only about ten times better and for the same price. Still, if you feel the need to compulsively collect each and every shooter released on Live, you could do a lot worse.
(Developer: LotusXP – 240 points)
Don’t be fooled when you read about Didgery. The cliched, RPG-like story in the description is really just a fancy mish-mash of words to make it sound epic. Don’t be fooled when you look at it, either. Sure it uses playing cards, but this is no mere game of Solitaire.
Want to know more? Well then check out our review to learn what it’s all about. And, you know, find out if you should buy it and stuff.
(Developer: Mr Possoms – 80 points)
I used to be a huge fan of Destruction Derby many years ago. Specifically the second one. So I figured there would be a good chance I’d enjoy Demo Durb. The verdict? Meh.
It’s functional and all that, and the fact that you’re only “dead” if your car breaks down and your driver gets run over before reaching the special repawn circle is a pretty good idea, but driving around in a small circle with three other people/AIs gets kind of dull rather fast. I feel like a larger arena with more vehicular combatants would have made everything a lot more fun.
(Developer: DUALHAZE – 80 points)
Retro-style platformers are all the rage these days, calling into question just why we keep referring to them as “retro” in the first place. Still, here we have another contribution to the genre. Unfortunately it’s one that looks good but isn’t. You see, for everything Aurelia does right it seems to get something else wrong. Usually in a big way.
It has brightly colored and clean visuals, but the overall design is uninspired. It has the makings of a decent (and possibly humorous) story, but there are too many juvenile jokes (and not the good kind, either) and “leet speak” references. It’s basically a platformer with some light combat elements, but the jumping mechanic is terrible. You can probably see where the rest of this is going.
Still, it would be much easier to overlook Aurelia‘s faults (God: “… Imma tap dat ass! For real, dawg.. lol.”) if it weren’t for the terrible jumping. In a platformer. And just why is it so terrible? First of all the double-jump mechanic is unreliable. Half of the time the second button press doesn’t register, which isn’t so bad during the first level but when you’re trying to out-climb a rising floor of spikes… On top of that, the jumping itself feels restricted. You just don’t go very far, which will lead to a lot of missed jumps, falling on spikes and other frustrations. Even double-jumping can’t help you with some of these leaps. You’ll have to figure out the specific spot to launch from through trial and error. Not cool.
(Developer: Ferret Mojo Entertainment – 80 points)
There have been a lot of homages and downright copies of various games and genres released with Live’s Indie Games, but not many (if any) that attempted to create an LCD game.
Ant Mission is a simple game, requiring you to take food from the left side of the screen to the right (to your colony) while avoiding lethal water droplets. Everything is presented in black silhouettes and it all moves one frame at a time, just like in one of those handheld LCD screen games you’ve probably never played. There’s an option to switch between the LCD display mode and a “2D Extreme” style, but the 2DX mode is locked in the trial and I can’t find any videos of it in action, so I couldn’t tell you for sure if it plays any different. So far as I can see, it just adds a more 3D look to the ant, food and water, along with some much-needed color.
It’s a decent enough distraction, but it’s not very compelling. I’d expect the real selling point is the “Toddler Mode” that removes scoring altogether and gives you unlimited lives. It seems like it would make for a great toddler toy.
(Developer: Diego Salazar – 80 points)
You know you’re off to a bad start when you’re looking at a game’s controls and it gets the Left Trigger and Right Trigger mixed up. Well, the game itself doesn’t fare any better.
Anti-aircraft Warfare is terrible. You’re supposed to shoot down jets as they bombard a city (which looks like one of those fake towns the military constructs in the middle of the desert for bomb testing), but you’ll have to use an incredibly inaccurate AA turret to do it. It’s every bit as dull and annoying as it sounds.
To be fair, Anti-aircraft Warfare is slightly less terrible than Mr. Salazar’s other offerings, but it’s still nowhere close to good or even passable. It also incorporates the same visual style associated with those other games, which is a shame because it looks awful, too.
Do yourself a favor, if you see any indie games with graphics like this just assume they’re made by the same guy and avoid them like the plague.
(Developer: mgKelley – 80 points)
It’s pretty obvious that a lot of love went in to Nuclear Wasteland. It looks great, uses a control scheme pulled straight from Modern Warfare (minus the grenades) and offers up plenty of high score beating, mutant blasting fun.
Running around an enclosed area avoiding/shooting flesh-eating zombie mutants and unlocking new weapons is the name of the game here. After you survive various waves, doors to the many towers and bunkers will unlock and give you access to health and ammo refills, as well as some new and improved ordinance. Conceptually it’s just like one of those top-down twin-stick arena shooters, only in first-person.
The only complaints I could really level at the game would be about the lack of certain features. First of all, the amount of firearms you can unlock seems rather small. Then there’s the total lack of multiplayer, split-screen or otherwise, that feels like a missed opportunity. Of course, because everything looks so nice multiplayer would probably slow the game down significantly, and it’s only a dollar so the lack of a larger arsenal is easy to ignore, but still. Something to think about for the sequel.
There’s going to be a sequel, right?
(Developer: VoodooChief – 80 points)
A Shooter is exactly what you’d expect: a shooter. Duh. But more than just a typical side-scrolling space shooter, it’s a good side-scrolling space shooter.
It looks nice, the sound effects are good and all of the ships give you some very satisfactory feedback when you blow them up. It’s got everything a shooter needs, and like I’ve mentioned in the past it even does that one thing differently that makes it stand out. In this case, it’s the Smart Bomb.
The Smart Bomb is unlike bombs in other shooters in that it doesn’t actually damage the enemies. Instead, it removes their projectiles. In many different ways, actually, as there are many different types of bombs to collect. My personal favorite turns every on-screen enemy bullet into a harmless (and large) apple that you can collect for bonus points. Sure it’s goofy, but it’s also a lot of fun.
My one big complaint about A Shooter would have to be the bosses. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but fighting a slightly larger than normal ship, which is usually a recolor of the previous levels boss with a more complex attack pattern, just doesn’t do it for me. It would be nice if they were a bit more unique or at the very least a little bigger. One other issue I have is that the levels all feel too short. It feels like I’m only playing for a minute before I’m at the boss, which is rather disappointing.
Still, it’s a solid shooter with colorful visuals and will keep you entertained for quite some time. Even more so if you have a few friends over to try out the four player co-op.
(Developer: Black Hat Games – 80 points)
Much like Techno Kitten Adventure, xTreme Surfer x is an insane psychedelic trip of a game. Unlike the jet-packing kitten, the surfer doesn’t nail that perfect balance of crazy and goofy fun.
You have to keep your little stick figure surfer alive as long as possible by avoiding obstacles and grabbing pills. The surfer is also a junkie, you see. Anyway, like most games of its type everything gets faster the longer you go. What makes things a little more interesting is that there’s a fine line between grabbing enough pills to keep going and bringing about a drug trip. I imagine the crazy drug trips net you more points, but with all the flashing, pulsing colors and random shapes bouncing around the screen it’s more of a nuisance than a blessing.
It’s not a horrible game, just a horribly inappropriate one that may make your eyes bleed.
(Developer: Vagabond1982uk – 240 points)
Could it be? Is it possible? Yes! Yes it is! Someone made a jigsaw puzzle video game that’s actually interesting!
Extreme Jigsaw Madness takes the typical idea of using a controller to drag puzzle pieces around and combines it with a frantic, timed puzzle game (yes, yes, jigsaw puzzles are puzzles, too). You have a set amount of time to finish each puzzle, and as you complete each one they get more and more complicated. Fortunately you have the ability to use “locks” that will show you a brief glimpse of the completed picture, as well as lock any correctly aligned pieces into place. Locks are limited, but you can earn more by stringing together correct placements and creating combos.
You can also invite up to three friends to join you in your jigsaw-frenzy, leading to some chaotic fun. Of course, if this sounds too crazy there’s also a classic mode that removes the combos, locks and timers and just lets you enjoy a good puzzle.
(Developer: FreelanceGamesDotC – 80 points)
So yeah, Starchon isn’t exactly a “new” idea. It’s heavily inspired by the Indie Games’ little darlings, Abaddon and Abaddon: Retribution. You protect a big ship from incoming swarms or enemy fighters, while using the money/experience/salvage from your kills to upgrade your ship or purchase new models. So chances are if you’ve played either of the Abaddon games you’ll know exactly what to expect here. More or less.
One feature absent from this piece of flattery is the option to upgrade the big ship itself. You won’t be repairing it, adding turrets or anything else for that matter. This means you’ll have to work extra hard to protect your charge. The trade-off here is that there are more ships you can unlock and upgrade for yourself, as well as a host of individual components for you to research and slap on to your shiny new toys.
The fact that Starchon is pretty much a copy of Abaddon doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, though. In fact it’s a pretty good one. It’s priced right, offers a lot of crap to unlock, even more to blow up and so on. The downside to all this is that Abaddon has been around longer, does it better and costs exactly the same amount. Still, if you’ve played the inspiration to death you might as well grab Starchon. You can think of it as some kind of side-story.
- Walketh (80 points)
- Nuclear Wasteland (80 points)
- A Shooter (80 points)
- Aurelia (80 points)
- Anti-aircraft Warfare (80 points)