Another week down, and we’re inches away from the end of the Indie Games Winter Uprising. I have to admit, I’m rather sad to see it go. Now there’s less assurance that the coming weeks won’t suck. Of course that’s not to say that all of the non-Uprising games have been icky. In fact, there were quite a few great releases in these past couple of weeks that weren’t a part of the movement. Still, once December is over it’s going to be Business As Usual. We hope you enjoy this week’s Dome and some of the bizarre, yet (mostly) entertaining games within.
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.
Unless otherwise stated, only the trial versions were played and will be taken at face value. So if features present in the full version of the game are not shown or indicated in the demo, we obviously won’t be able to mention them. You don’t seriously think any of us has the money to buy each and every indie game that comes out each week, do you?
(Developer: ECHS BACHS – 240 points)
Ouch. A hideous and utterly pointless 3D map for your Avatar to awkwardly run around in is not a great start to the week. I wish I could say I’m just being harsh, but unless you need a change of pants every time you have to use Google Maps there’s absolutely nothing here for you to enjoy. Hell, even if you did douse yourself every time you take a virtual walk through the streets of the town you grew up in or where you live now, chances are you won’t care.
Not only are AVATOUR‘s “virtual places” less detailed than the backgrounds in a flight simulator from the mid-nineties, with giant gaps where buildings should be and textures that couldn’t be muddier if they were comprised of actual mud, but if they are actually real places there’s no way to tell, since there’s no indication anywhere of where you’re supposed to be. Sure, you can travel around in one of four different vehicles, but what’s the point?
(Developer: Silver Dollar Games 3 – 240 points)
Shooting Models is a game about just that: shooting models. Not in the twisted humor sort of way, but in more of a paparazzi way. Basically it’s one of those voyeuristic “watch videos of pretty girls” kind of games.
And yet, as stupid as I know this game is, it’s still shockingly entertaining. Maybe it’s the way you have to keep your thumb at the ready so you can snap that awesome shot before the model looks away or covers her face. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing most of my “shots” getting high scores. Or maybe I’m just getting in touch with my inner peeping tom. I don’t quite understand why there’s any sort of appeal here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not at least worth a look.
(Developer: MagicalTimeBean – 240 points)
Uprising release number… what is this now, eight? Well now, it looks like we’ve finally cleared that mid-release hump. And what better game to do it with than the sequel to one of Live’s most popular indie adventure games? Of course, you still have to check out our review if you want to know how all of the Zelda-meets-tower-defense gameplay fares against its predecessor. What? You didn’t think we’d make it easy for you, did you?
(Developer: All Seeing Eye Games – 80 points)
I’m not too big into the whole “music” thing. I have fun pretending I’m playing an actual guitar and all, but I just don’t have the requisite interest to really care about all of these indie games/apps that let you jam and such. But even I can appreciate just how much Drum Studio: Platinum Edition offers those who do like this stuff.
Here’s a basic idea of what you can do: you can customize your drum’s sounds, choosing from a ton of pre-recorded samples and then saving them to a specific profile you can reload any time. You can record your sessions, go back and edit or even layer more on top of them. You can start up a song saved to your HDD or computer (provided your 360 is connected to it) and play along with your favorite tunes. You can play online with other people and record your sessions. And there’s drum set controller and Avatar support. Whoopie.
Really, the only downside to Drum Studio: Platinum Edition is that it only features drums. It’s a silly complaint given the title, I know, but drums alone very rarely make a complete song. Still, being able to create, save and share your own music is awesome and there’s more than enough features to keep virtual drumming enthusiasts busy for a long, long time.
(Developer: Mike D Smith – 80 points)
Rainbow Ball into Adventure is yet another example of why we shouldn’t make snap-judgments based on screen shots. Or at least why I shouldn’t.
After moving past the game’s rather charming title screen, which was obviously drawn by a very young child, you’re thrust into a pretty barren hub room. Here you’ll see a sizable selection of levels for you to complete, with seemingly random numerals floating above each random group of spasming shapes. Up to now it’s still anyone’s guess as to what this game is even about, save the titular ball made up of bowed rain.
Upon entering your first level, it all makes sense: Rainbow Ball into Adventure is a lighter, simpler version of Katamari Damacy. Each level is filled with objects that will adhere to your orb when it touches them, provided they’re small enough. As you gather more items the ball increases in size, allowing you to grab larger items that will have you growing even more, etc…
The levels are all fairly simple and the game doesn’t have many of the features fans of that other series are familiar with, such as getting items knocked off or using both sticks to control your movement. Also the levels are pretty tiny and while the “young children” motif (hand drawn 2D items in some levels, the voices of children counting down the final seconds on the clock, etc…) is cute, some of the repetition gets a little annoying after the second or third level. Even so, Rainbow Ball into Adventure is a surprisingly solid attempt at creating a more accessible version of one incredibly weird and well-loved classic.
(Developer: Raoghard – 80 points)
Toy Stunt Bike is Trials HD. It’s Trials HD crossed with Toy Commander and Avatars. And that’s awesome.
The idea is to get from one end of the stage to the other without crashing by hopping, climbing, ramping and flipping your way over and beyond all manner of obstacles along the way. Each level has three goals you can medal in: overall time, overall score and flag collection. The first two are obvious as they require you to cross the finish line in a timely manner and land lots of tricks to score big. Flag collection is an interesting addition to the formula, as some of these babies are hidden pretty well, and going after them will put your score, time and stability at risk.
There seem to be a good number of tracks to tackle, and it’s always entertaining to see your Avatar crash. A few of them were downright painful. The environments, while rather simple, are still charming, what with all of the “everything’s HUGE!” going on. But the best part is that the full version contains online leaderboards that will pop up every time you finish a stage. So as soon as you finish you can compare your time and score to everyone else on Xbox Live. You know you want that. And you know you want this one dollar copy/clone/homage to one of Live’s most popular… dirt bike platformers?
(Developer: Running Pixel – 80 points)
Oh Kozu, how you toy with me. First I think you’re going to be a mediocre twin-stick shooter. Let’s face it, those screen shots aren’t exactly flattering. Then I start you up and you go and charm me with your highly stylized and nifty graphical style (think “doodle” crossed with Okami). I begin to fall in love with your simple but effective tactics of throwing wave after wave of enemies at me while occasionally doling out power-ups that, as far as I can tell, are permanent unless you die. I start to think about how you’re kind of like Z0MB1ES, only your hook is stylish graphics instead of a catchy theme song.
Then you go and break my heart with your tendency to spawn enemies right under me, resulting in far too many cheap deaths.
I still like you, though. I just think that we don’t make such a great couple. But we can still be friends, right? I totally want to stay friends.
(Developer: Maximinus – 80 points)
8 Ball Pool Champion is a great game of virtual Pool. Perhaps the best available out of the entire Live indie games library. This is partially because the ball physics aren’t broken like in certain other pool games, but also due to the fairly extensive options you can tweak in your games.
Each match is basically stripes and solids, with three AI difficulty settings to play with. And while the Easy mode isn’t exactly a pushover, it also doesn’t feel super human. You can also utilize various versions of the Cheat-O-Laser that can either predict those fancy trick shots for you or be turned off almost entirely to allow for a more formal game.
There are also modes allowing for up to four players, as well as the option to team up against the AI. My only gripe would be that there’s only really one game type (i.e. stripes and solids), but considering the fact that you can have an entertaining game of pool in your living room with a few friends for a one-time investment of a single dollar, and avoid paying too much to play a real game in a stuffy, smoke filled utility closet that tries to pass for a pool hall, it’s not so bad.
(Developer: Riddlersoft – 80 points)
Okay, so Osr Unhinged is the second game this week that’s basically Trials HD for a buck. While that’s not a bad thing any way you look at it, it’s worth noting that it actually does things a little differently than its big brother or this week’s contemporary you just read about above.
You’ll still be climbing, ramping and flipping your bike around while trying not to crash, but Osr Unhinged also plays around with things like limited visibility and gravity orientation. What does that mean? Well it means that you may find yourself flying off of a cliff, only to have gravity switch on you and end up driving straight down the side of that same sheer cliff face. Or that you’ll be speeding through a stage that’s incredibly dark, with only the dim light from the front of your bike to guide you. It’s insane and it’s awesome and it’s something you should buy.
(Developer: radiangames – 80 points)
Uprising release number nine. We’re getting closer to the end here, folks. And what better way to wind down than to help ourselves to another serving of some radiangames? Sure, you still have to check out the review and as of writing this it hasn’t been played yet, but come on. It’s radiangames. It’s not like you don’t know how it’s going to fare, right?
(Developer: MatthewT – 240 points)
Santa And The Zombie Encounter is a bit of an odd duck of a twin-stick shooter. It’s actually more of a top-down perspective adventure game with guns and zombies.
Santa’s crashed his sleigh (possibly due to inebriation if the bottle lying on the ground next to him is any indication), and needs to gather up his reindeer so he can get back to work. Or maybe home. The game isn’t too clear on the backstory. Regardless, you need to hunt them reindeer down while blasting your way through the zombie hordes and upgrading your weaponry as you go.
At the start of your game you can choose from four different loadouts, including an assault rifle/flamethrower, sniper rifle/uzi and more. Once you choose a loadout, you’re locked-in, but you can use money you earn through killing or reuniting reindeer to improve various aspects of your guns.
The one big problem with Santa And The Zombie Encounter (aside from oddly lengthy load times between areas) is that it can get rather boring at times. Santa doesn’t move all that fast and there are areas with very few things to interact with, let alone shoot at. These stretches of quiet are fine, but since you’re rather slow and can’t run any faster they end up being dull, plodding affairs. Even so, it’s an enjoyable game that’s even more entertaining with friends.
(Developer: Raylight – 240 points)
C.L.E.S Party feels like a complete disaster.
There are no tutorials, so you have to figure out the controls on your own (by the way, using a trigger to jump sucks). The game itself is totally chaotic and damn near impossible to follow, and the camera constantly zooming in and out doesn’t help. But I think the worst part of it all is how the camera follows the ball a little too religiously. On more than one occasion I actually lost track of my character because they were off screen due to that damn camera shadowing the ball too closely.
The controls are alright, it looks pretty good and the sound is fine, but the actual gameplay and camera are so spastic that it’s just a nauseating pain in the butt to try and play.
(Developer: BINANIC STUDIO – 80 points)
Ahoy Pirates seems like an okay party game, with lots of special power-ups to use and a few distinct game modes to play around in. The controls take a little getting used to, but that’s not really a problem. And the unmarked stage boundaries (i.e. invisible walls) are a little irritating, but they aren’t too bad. The real problem is that it’s got the most asinine setup for a trial I’ve ever played.
You’re allowed to tool around alone for a few minutes with absolutely nothing to do. Sure it helps you to get acquainted with the controls, but there’s nothing to do. Once you finish with that, or give up because it’s freaking boring, you can try another game. This time you get to watch a bunch of AI bots play through a game mode. You don’t play at all, you just watch.
Seriously, what the hell? This can’t be an effective method for demoing your game.
(Developer: Wonder Cheese – 80 points)
The goal of Lunacy is to propel your ship through an asteroid field to land on various moons. You tap the left trigger to launch, the left thumbstick steers and the right trigger activates a temporary shield that will keep you safe from those darned floating space rocks.
Zipping from moon to moon, deftly swerving around asteroids is mildly entertaining, but it just feels like there’s something missing from the formula. I don’t know what that would be, but at the moment Lunacy just feels kind of bland.
(Developer: Ska Studios – 80 points)
ZP2KX: Zombies & Pterodactyls! marks yet another Uprising milestone: Double-digits. You know the drill. If you want to know about our thoughts on the tenth release, check out the review. Oh sure, the original game is well loved by a whole lot of 360 owners but there’s still a chance that this one won’t quite cut it. I know, I’m not really convincing myself either, but you never know…
(Developer: RicolaVG – 80 points)
Much like the original Finish, Finish 2: Colors has you guiding a ball into a ring while navigating through a maze that gets more and more complex the longer you last. Touch anything other then empty space or the goal and you’ll have to start over.
The new addition to this sequel is the ability to swap between multiple balls in order to guide them to their matching goals. Green is A, red is B, etc… It certainly adds a different spin to the formula, but at the same time it seems as though it may get a bit too crazy. Even the two introductory levels involving two colors and no obstacles were pretty tough to handle, so I can only imagine how ridiculous later levels with four colors and lots of narrow spaces will be. Still, if you’re looking for a super-difficult “don’t touch the sides” kind of game, look no further than Finish 2: Colors.
(Developer: lunatic studios – 240 points)
This is it, the final stretch. Aphelion 2 marks the eleventh Uprising release, leaving only three games left in the lineup. And you know, now that I think about it, there were quite a few RPGs that were a part of this movement. So how does this more traditional (mechanically speaking) role-playing affair hold up? You know the answer to that question: check the review.
- Drum Studio: Platinum Edition (80 points)
- Toy Stunt Bike (80 points)
- Osr Unhinged (80 points)
- AVATOUR (240 points)
- C.L.E.S Party (240 points)
- Ahoy Pirates (80 points)