Login | Signup

Summer Uprising III Review Roundup | Week Two: Entropy, City Tuesday, Xenominer & A Bitter End?

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Autotivity, Chris Zukowski, City Tuesday, Entropy, Gristmill Studio, Indie Games, Pixel, Ratchet Game Studios, Summer Uprising, Xbox Live Indie Games, Xenominer

Summer Uprising III Review Roundup | Week Two: Entropy, City Tuesday, Xenominer & A Bitter End?

Summer Uprising III has come to a close, bringing us another four days of intriguing and worthwhile Xbox Live Indie games. As promised in Part 1, it's time to get involved with Week 2's micro-review roundup: which includes Entropy, City Tuesday, Xenominer and Pixel.

Yes, I admit that the article is a bit late - but time makes fools of us all. Especially in the silly season when a relatively quiet week can turn into sleepless Torchlight and Borderlands-powered delirium.

Click here to read the week 1 roundup: Qrth-Phyl, Sententia, Diehard Dungeon, Gateways and Smooth Operators.

Entropy

Developer: Autotivity

Get Trial/Buy: 80 Microsoft Points

Entropy is easily one of the most accomplished puzzlers I've ever played on XBLIG. From a first-person perspective, you'll manipulate the base physical properties of objects and fluids to solve an increasingly clever series of puzzles. Though things start slow and simple, but build to pleasingly cerebral levels after the first dozen levels. 80 Microsoft Points will net you a seriously good-looking game too, with only a slightly choppy framerate betraying its humble roots.

Sadly, Entropy does fall short in one area: personality. The experience utterly fails to draw you into its universe, and pilfers what little uniqueness it can muster wholesale from Portal (right down to cube-related scrawlings on the wall). I can't help but feel that it would have been better served with a unique aesthetic, one that sets it apart from that Valve game rather than purposefully inviting unflattering comparisons.

For 80 Microsoft Points, though, it's impossible not to recommend. Puzzle fans should get on this, and hard.

City Tuesday

Developer: Chris Zukowski

Get Trial/Buy: 80 Microsoft Points

Have you ever watched Groundhog Day? Good. Now imagine that each day only lasts about five minutes and there's a terrorist bomb to defuse. In this excitingly innovative project, you'll observe short scenes as citizens go about their daily lives and work out how best to interfere to set off a chain of events that will lead you to finding and disarming the explosives in time. If this sounds impressive, that's because it absolutely is.

The disarmingly simple minimalist art style and music, coupled with a few incredibly nifty solutions, make City Tuesday a breathtakingly unique proposition.

However, it won't last long. You'll need less than an hour (perhaps half that if you're observant and/or logical) to see everything it has to offer, and it's a shame that you'll spend a good half of the game learning the ropes through a front-loaded tutorial. City Tuesday seems to end just as it hits its stride, but it's still a worthwhile way to spend a small amount of time and money. I'd love to see a more fully-realised sequel on the PC marketplace.

I'd rather pay 68p for 45 engrossing minutes than £40 for countless hours of mediocre tripe.

Xenominer

Developer: Gristmill Studio

Get Trial/Buy: 80 Microsoft Points

Oh look: yet another voxel mining game aiming to muscle through the gaping open door left by Fortresscraft. Have you got anything new for us, Xenominer?

Yes, plenty, as it turns out. Stranded on an desolate alien planet, players are forced to eke out a living by extracting Oxygen from snow and mining ores to construct better equipment, using a ranged plasma lance to mine out complex cavern networks at a distance. Having to take shelter from deadly radiation emitted from passing meteors adds a sense of urgency to the experience, bolstered by ever-dwindling air and battery supplies. Brilliantly, you're even able to rely on programmable mining robots to take over some of the busywork, which is a seriously impressive feature.

Mind you, having to cower in a hole while an asteroid passes over and unable to excavate further due to a depleted battery isn't going to be everyone's idea of a good time.

The focus on survival provides something often lacking from the genre: an objective and sense of progression. The alien world is gorgeous in its uninhabited splendour, rich colour palette and inexplicable geometry. Though you'll have to invest a lot of time and patience to make progress, Xenominer is definitely a cut above your standard Minecraft-a-like and a steal for 80 points.

Pixel

Developer: Ratchet Game Studios

Get Trial/Buy: 80 Microsoft Points

As Summer Uprising III's grand finale, you might expect Pixel to round things out in sensational style. It's certainly stylish enough to sucker you in; a slickly futuristic first person platformer that revels in an eyecatching minimalist aesthetic.

But there's no substance to be found here.

I could savage the shocking controls, which manage to be both twitchy and cumbersome at the same time. I could moan about the glitches, both in terms of nonexistent platforms and bizarre bugs that require a level restart. I could take a hatchet to the featureless levels that make precision jumping incredibly difficult and the mundane, thankless gameplay that wastes a few decent ideas. But, frankly, I don't have the energy nor desire to rip apart a small studio's work just to vent my frustrations.

Perhaps Pixel could be salvaged with some serious patches, but first-person platforming is rarely a genre you'll want to iterate on. An inauspicious end to the party, but one that shouldn't put you off from getting involved with the rest of the lineup.

All in all? Despite a few missteps and perhaps a reluctance to shield the weaker games at the centre of the promotion, Summer Uprising III has delivered some absolute gems. Qrth-Phyl, Gateways, Diehard Dungeon and Smooth Operators should shoot straight to the top of your download queue, while City Tuesday, Xenominer and Entropy are on hand to satisfy your more esoteric cravings.

If you enjoyed any of these games, be sure to visit the Xbox Live Indie marketplace every once in a while. The gems may be rare, but they shine so brightly - and so cheaply too.

Add a comment0 comments

Email Address:

You don't need an account to comment. Just enter your email address. We'll keep it private.