Imagine, if you will, my horror at discovering that only three Xbox Live Indie games released this week... and then realising that two of them are zombie games. I screamed and wailed. I ground my teeth into a fine silky powder. I cried and peed.
And then, perversely, imagine my surprise when I played them... only to discover that they're both pretty good. If you're willing to look past the hackneyed source material, we've got two worthy winners this week. So let's do this in alphabetical order.
If you're an avid follower of Xbox Live Indie Games, you may have already heard of Red Tie Miner. Maximinus' original dig 'em up released at the tail end of 2011, and tasked players with excavating their way out of an enormous sprawling mine while collecting mineral resources to spend on equipment and upgrades. It was a fun little game that played a little like an attractive cross between Dig Dug and Minecraft, but was somewhat devoid of threat or purpose beyond simple escape.
The obvious solution, therefore, would be to throw in a bunch of flesh-eating zombies to hound your every move. And that's exactly what they did.Click here to read more...
Another slow week leaves us with only one real contender for our Indie GOTW trophy; standing alone in a small and mediocre selection of also-rans and unbelievably-priced disasters. So without further ado, I bring you the best of a bad bunch... followed by the bunch itself.
Damn, but that's a horrible title. We've gotten absolutely sick of the zombie games infection on XBLIG and gaming in general, and UBERZOMBIE USA does its best to pretend to be "just another" cynical cash-in that attempts to milk an already-curdling cliché.
But don't browse away just yet. Despite what the name and MS Paint box art might have you believe, UBERZOMBIE is actually a great little action/tower defence hybrid; packed with value, longevity and surprising depth.Click here to read more...
Cards on the table: this hasn't been a great week for Indie games.
I've lost track of the number of times that the phrase "well, I suppose I've played worse" escaped my lips over the last few days, and apart from a single standout title, you're probably better off spending your Microsoft Points on EvilQuest, L.A.R.A. or Avatar Grand Prix 2.
Still, at least we have a winner.
Joe Danger: Special Edition costs 1200 Microsoft Points. Trials HD costs 1200 Microsoft Points. And Toy Stunt Bike 2 costs eighty.
Basic mathematics, therefore, suggests that this latest physics-based motocross romp needs to at most 15 times worse than either in order to be worth a purchase - and I'm delighted to report that it's much better than that.Click here to read more...
There's nothing worse than seeing a game fall short of its potential, and this week, what could have been an exciting and innovative contender has been brought low by a basic title that absolutely nails the fundamentals. Execution is king, and imaginative concepts are nothing without raw gameplay to back them up.
As usual, click the links or banners to visit the Xbox Live Marketplace and queue up the trial versions.
First person shooters have met with mixed success on the Xbox Live Indie game service. The small file size restrictions and relatively rudimentary programming tools available have only really allowed developers to create basic arena shooters; functional but no different to any number of dual-stick SHMUPS in terms of gameplay.
However, L.A.R.A. has taken a brave stab at delivering a full-fat, fully-featured FPS experience... and succeeds.
The story, such as it is, proves to be an excuse rather than a premise. Robots are loose. You have to kill them. And then kill more of them. For reasons. But this unimaginative start point provides the springboard for a surprisingly excellent shooter that packs a whole mess of considerate touches.Click here to read more...
This week's selection of Xbox Live Indie Games may be light on quantity, but quality and value have been ramped up to absolutely insane levels. 80 Microsoft Points - about sixty eight pence to us Brits - will net you a cavalcade of monstrous multiplayer racing or slick singleplayer shooting, and it's been incredibly difficult to choose which of the two standout titles deserve our Game Of The Week award.
If you've got some spare points floating around, you should treat yourself to both. After all, they might not be around forever...
Developer: Battenberg Software
Avatar racing games have been around ever since Microsoft allowed Indie developers access to the toolkit, and we've seen plenty of Mario Kart-style arcade racers over the last few years. However, Avatar Grand Prix 2 is probably the best of the lot: a polished and mechanically brilliant experience that packs an inordinate amount of content into its tiny £0.68 price tag.Click here to read more...
The upcoming annual Dream Build Play competition, coupled with the fact that pesky triple-A coverage from this year's E3 trade show has been monopolising most of my time, means that we have a lot of catching up to do. This week we have two headline games to bring to your attention that are entirely different in scope yet equal in quality... and thus, it's time for another joint award. Not only that, but our third title might actually teach you something. The horror!
So... in alphabetical order... let's go!
After Castle Pain received numerous awards and accolades, Magiko Games are back to present another microcosmic masterclass. PLATFORMANCE: Temple Death is a respectful homage to classic platformers from the golden age of 8-Bit gaming, and thanks to its rock solid mechanics and imaginative level design, is set to become an instant hit.
And yes, it's going to kick your arse.Click here for solar systems and sum fighters!
This last week, I've taken an uncharacteristic break to prepare for E3 and get a cheeky bit of cheap sunshine thanks to a last-minute deal... but enough lame excuses [I thought we fired you? -Ed]. Whilst I've been separated from my console, my Windows 7 mobile has staunchly stayed within easy reach - so it's time to round up some of the best indie games to have supported the fledgling platform!
Well, after a little rant. Before last year's Xbox.com site redesign that included indie games into the browser marketplace, Microsoft rightfully took a lot of flak for failing to give these titles enough exposure. Unfortunately they've failed to learn from their mistakes, meaning that Indie games aren't hosted in the browser marketplace along with their Microsoft-published big brothers.
The upshot is that you'll need Zune (groan) installed to take advantage of the download links... and it took a fair bit of detective work using Bing's (groan harder) visual search to track them down. Prepare for an longer, angrier rant at a later date. I now return you to our feature presentation.
If Hypership Out Of Control looks familiar, it's because Fun Infused Games' breakthrough indie hit is no stranger to our Game Of The Week roundups. In fact, we rated it as one of the best XBLI titles of 2010... and it's now also one of the best games on Windows 7 phones.Click here to continue our mobile indie adventure! >>
Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen: this has been one of the best weeks for Xbox Live Indie games that I've ever witnessed. The quality of some of the titles on offer is absolutely astounding; rivalling their full-price XBLA brothers in terms of length, mechanics and graphics. In fact, it's been so good that I've had to declare two joint winners.
Don't you dare download that avatar outfit. Buy these games instead.
Blocks That Matter is one of the most polished, rewarding and plain great platformers that I've had yet to see on the Indie marketplace - and in fact, that I've played in recent weeks.
Sod the usual preamble, because it's time to delve into exactly why this sweet Swedish smorgasbord deserves your 240 Microsoft Points.
After the developers, Swing Swing Submarine, are kidnapped Misery-style in order to finish their anticipated title, it transpires that they weren't actually working on a game at all. Rather, they created an experimental drilling robot, and it's up to the plucky little automaton to rescue its creators from captivity and certain death. To do so, players will guide it through intricate levels and use its powerful drill to destroy blocks of scenery that stand in your way.
So far, so basic, but as the title clearly states: the blocks of matter... matter. You collect them Minecraft-style once destroyed, and can then reassemble them into tetrominoes that form new platforms and staircases to access new areas. The puzzles are clever, the platforming mechanics are floaty yet precise and, quite frankly, the anarchic sense of humour and snappy writing makes this little an absolute gem.Click here for an splendid space combat and 10 amazingly awful games! >>
If last week was a bit of a dry spell for Xbox Live Indie Games, this week has been a veritable deluge. Competition is fierce, and with the new rating regulations in place, we can start to trust the star rating systems again.
It's been difficult to strim the list down to just three (not to mention picking a winner), but here we go nonetheless...
Cards on the table: I genuinely expected Lasercat to be absolutely awful. After all, the last game to feature feline protagonists and neon weaponry was pretty poor to say the least. Not to mention this one.
However, Lasercat has managed to get the cream by catting out the usual exploitative gimmicks and getting its claws into purrfect catforming mekittens [Seriously, that's enough now- Ed]...
Sorry, I've never been particularly good at creative writing. But I do happen to be skilled at spotting great indie titles, and Lasercat ticks all the boxes necessary for it to become a bona fide hit. It's a retro-themed platformer with a huge amount of levels, floaty yet precise mechanics and a sadistic streak a mile wide. The puzzles and obstacles are tricky yet rewarding to circumvent, and the presentation is top notch thanks to a classic sprite-based vibe and a charming sense of humour. The fact that you'll have to answer silly trivia questions every time you pick up a key is a nice touch, and hell, you might even learn something along the way.Click here to continue our weekly Indie adventure! >>
Oh brother. This week has been fairly quiet for Xbox Live Indie Games, and we assume that many developers are holding back their wares to allow the controversy surrounding FortressCraft to settle down. After all, it's currently the best selling Xbox Live game on the service! We have a couple of titles for your delectation - but I'd urge you to check out our previous roundups for a wider selection.
The Vorganians are a peaceful race - and thus, when their ambassador Bob decides to visit the Earth to check out their interstellar neighbours, nobody bothered to equip his flying saucer with any weaponry. Armed with nothing but reflexes, players will need to dodge through labyrinths of incoming space junk while collecting humanity's energy waste.
It's simple stuff, but handled very nicely.
The British-based BBQ Games have added another faux-retro arcade title to their lineup, and actually, We Come In Peace is really rather good. Sharp controls make dodging though the increasingly-intricate levels an absolute breeze, and the stylish visuals wouldn't look out of place on an Atari 2800. Bear in mind that we like the Atari 2800 before taking that as an insult.Click here to continue reading this week's Indie roundup >>
This week in Indie Games, Microsoft has drawn a line under the ratings manipulation scandal by limiting votes to Gold Members. It's a cumbersome and heavy-handed way of dealing with a complex problem, but hey, at least trolls will now have to pay £30-£40 for the privilege.
This week, the marketplace has provided us with three unique and interesting games to spend our hard-earned points on... and there isn't a twinstick shooter, zombie or avatar in sight.
We love it when Indie games eschew the usual twinstick shooter and avatar-based zombie fare to deliver a new and innovative experience, and this week's flagship title has done exactly that. Neonex Games, a British student outfit, worked on Ultraviolet as part of their final year project - and it deservedly won the Best Games Technology Group project 2010 award.
It's easy to see why.
Two players face off across a constantly-tilting game grid, and can move their ship along a single axis in the vein of Tempest and Space Giraffe. Gems continually appear in the middle of the grid and are affected by gravity, falling in the direction that the board happens to be facing. The objective is to fill your energy gauge by collecting these gems with your tractor beam before your opponent does, and you can squabble over the same prizes using an intuitive QTE.Click here to continue reading our weekly Indie exploration >>
FortressCraft is our Xbox Live Indie Game Of The Week. It has to be. You can read our full review of the new big dog on Indie campus, but since we're all about the underdogs here at Dealspwn, it's time to take another look back over the last few months and shine the spotlight on a few games that managed to slip under my radar. I'm only one man, after all.
Rather than focusing on raw excellence, this week I've got a grab bag of the sublime, ridiculous and the sublimely ridiculous. These are all games that I caught my attention but didn't have time to review, have been retrospectively suggested to me or whose developers have been hollering at me to give them some loverage. So be it. Let's do this thing!
That's the noise a laser makes. We all know that. But in this bizarre and anarchic indie game, it's the noise that makes a laser. PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is a scrolling shooter with attractive wireframe graphics, but in a unique twist, you don't need a controller to play it. Rather, two players will need to use sound effects to navigate and shoot their way through its challenging levels.
One player, the navigator, blows into his or her microphone or headset to gain altitude and can clam up to let the rocketpack-equipped spaceman descend (dodging obstacles and incoming fire in the process). The gunner, however, has to shoot... by saying "pew." Each "pew" is worth a single bullet, meaning that you'll have to say it an awful lot. Hence the name.
Yes, you'll look plenty silly while you're playing. Yes, it's a novel gimmick rather than a true innovation. Yes, your lips will go numb after a few minutes. But there's no denying that PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew provides riotous, hilarious, awesome fun and makes for a massive crowd pleaser at parties. The fact that you'll need two microphones or headsets provides a barrier to entry, but Guitar Heroes will likely have a couple knocking around... and the cooperatively-minded friends to play it with.
PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is crazy, silly, ludicrous and exceptional. If you've got a couple of mikes and some uninhibited mates, you absolutely must download it.
Bounce is a colourful Breakout clone (sort of) made by one of our very own Dealspwn regulars, and actually, it's a lot of fun. You operate a paddle at the bottom of the screen and use it to deflect a ball around an arena containing very, very strange shenanigans. Expect grandmothers, donkeys, flying plum puddings, a laugh-out-loud hilarious theme song and all manner of insane, titillating chicanery.Click here to continue our sublime and ridiculous Indie roundup>>
The Hearts Of Men deservedly topped our latest Xbox Live Indie Game Of The Week roundup by providing polished dungeon-crawling action, great mechanics, a fantastic eye-catching art style and enough couch coooperative shenanigans to outlast several crates of beer. It's slick, accessible, packed with value and undeniably brilliant.
Why not read our glowing full review for more details?
The good folks at Coltran Studios have provided us with five codes to give away, meaning that it's high time you got involved and snagged yourself a copy!
Want to win The Hearts Of Men? It couldn't be simpler. Just drop us a line in the comments and show The Hearts Of Men and Coltran Studios some love! Any evidence that you've checked out the demo or visited the official site will rocket you to the front of the pack, though the five winners will be determined randomly if it's too close to call.
So what are you waiting for?! Get into the comments and win!
The Hearts Of Men is out now on the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel for 80 Microsoft Points.
This has been a decidedly turbulent week for Xbox Live Indie Games. Our sensational interview with MStar Games' Mike Bergenstjerna absolutely slammed the state of the service, with esteemed MVP George Clingerman wading in with his own exceptional set of observations and solutions. On top of that, some misguided lacrosse fans have been playing havoc with the ratings system.
But never mind all that. It's easy to lose sight of the all-important games in amongst all the controversy, so this week, we've got four great titles for your consideration. As always, click the links to check out the trial versions!
Call us misty-eyed retro fanboys if you must, but we love it when a game makes us feel like we're back in the good old 16-Bit days. Oozi: Earth Adventure feels like it deserves pride of place in a SEGA Mega Drive compilation, and though it obviously comes from a cookie cutter mould, it provides a seriously solid experience for the meagre asking price.
As well as a heady dose of nostalgia.
Controlling the titular blob, you'll jump your way around five long levels, leap over spike pits, collect stars and leap upon enemies to kill them. We've danced this dance before a thousand times, but the incredibly responsive controls and authentic visual style makes Oozi: Earth Adventure feel like a classic retro title from yesteryear. As well as the meaty campaign, there are also a few challenge levels and a timed arcade mode to add some welcome extra bang for your sixty-eight pence.
Oozi: Earth Adventure Episode 1 oozes style, content and value. Future episodes will need to shake up the formula with new abilities and challenges, but for now, this is an fantastic start to what could be an exceptional Indie franchise.
CEPINAS is yet another space shooter. Oh yes. But this time, there's an interesting new twist. The experience hinges around capturing planets by encircling them in a ring of lasers, and once you've done so, they can be upgraded into massive fortresses that actively defend against enemies taking them over for their own nefarious ends. Nuanced controls and sharp visuals will help CEPINAS break out of the pack and (hopefully) onto your radar.Click here to continue this week's Indie review roundup >>
If there's one thing better than old-school scrolling shooters, it's old-school scrolling bosses. Games have fallen out of love with massive, sprawling end-of-level enemies these days, so luckily Infinity Danger is here to deliver nothing but the big boys. The aim of the game is to dispatch as many randomly-generated bosses as possible before a timer runs out, providing a completely different experience to any other twinstick shooter out there.
Each boss consists of a vulnerable central core surrounded by a dizzying array of randomly-generated platforms that bristle with firepower. Gatling guns, lasers, homing missles and turrets throw out a barrage of bullets to weave through - and though the objective is to eventually crack their core, players will need to tactically pick them apart in order to do so. Focusing fire on key sections can cause entire wings to fall away and destroying key turrets (such as the horrifyingly powerful laser cannons) will make your job a lot easier. Tight twinstick controls make this a breeze to pull off, and tactically neutering your erstwhile nemeses never gets old.
Each and every one of these encounters feels as epic, important and downright hectic as you'd expect from the likes of Ikaruga or R-Type. Outstanding.Click here to continue our Indie adventure!
Sometimes a free trial simply isn't long enough to understand the true measure of a game. After playing the first level of ETMD: Extraterrestrials Must Die, you'd be forgiven for casting it aside as just another scrolling shooter (albeit a pretty one)... but in this case, you'd be dead wrong. Advanced mechanics, persistent RPG elements and buckets of hidden depth allow this unsung SHMUP to punch well above its weight.
The scrolly, shooty, twitchy formula will feel instantly familiar in the hands of any classic shoot 'em up fan. Players need to guide their ship upscreen, blast a horde of enemies, evade their incoming fire and eventually face off against massive bosses that often resemble scaled-up versions of their cannon fodder brethren. So far, so completely uninspiring, but ETMD is absolutely packed with clever features.
Dozens of primary weapons and auxiliary outriggers allow players to customise their loadouts and firing patterns... along with a mind-boggling array of offensive and defensive equipment. Your ship supports four equipment slots that can be kitted out with some seriously nifty gear. A huge mass driver, smart bomb, self-healing system and even decoys can be deployed to turn the tide of tough battles; and the replenishing energy pool means that players can make these decisions on-the-fly.
However, ETMD's true value lies within its upgrade system and difficulty level. Collecting salvage points adds up to persistent boosts to health, energy and recharge rates... and the weapons are scattered throughout the levels on each difficulty setting! As well as letting players take pride in their ever-improving warship, this system also provides hefty replayability and value. Finding all the weapons can become extremely addictive, and tough levels can be circumvented by grinding on easier difficulties for fun, profit and hull upgrades.Click here to continue our Indie adventure!
We've been having an Indie-themed day thanks to our two interviews with FortressCraft's lead designer, but it's time to take our eyes off the horizon and focus on the here and now. We've got three great games to bring to your attention this week, starting with some epic hack & slash action!
Hack. Slash. Hack some more. Good old-fashioned third person brawlers have to work harder and harder to get our attention and justify our painful thumb cramps; and we've seen some truly terrible attempts as well as some standout gems on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace. However, our pick of the week manages to nail all the fundamentals whilst providing some great context for the action - and reminds us why we fell in love with the classic dungeon crawlers of old.
The Hearts Of Men is half isometric hack & slash dungeon crawler backed up with a healthy dose of traditional bullet-dodging shoot 'em up mechanics. The core experience subscribes to the traditional (and much-loved) Gauntlet formula, with four characters providing a different array of abilities and attacks. This makes for some fun singleplayer variety, but really shines in its 4-player couch cooperative mode. Get some friends over - partly because it's fun, but also because the difficulty can crush lone heroes in later levels.Click here to continue this week's exploration of the best Indie games...
There are no two ways about it: this has been a fairly slow week on the Xbox Live Indie scene. However, there are still a couple of titles that are worth your dosh even though they're having trouble breaking out into the mainstream.
Guys, please remember to rate any Indie games you play using the star system. You can do this on the dashboard or in your browser, but developers and consumers desperately need this feedback. Frankly, it's the least we all can do.
We all love playing RPGs where the lead character starts out as a scruffy peasant who eventually makes good as a knight in shining armour. In the case of Wizard's Keep, however, this is a perfect analogy for the game itself. This unassuming title does little to entice gamers with flashy advertising or shiny visuals, but it's a solid outing that delivers surprisingly impressive value.
Not that you'd know it from the screenshots.
Wizard's Keep is essentially a Zelda clone with a few extra bells and whistles. Heroes start down the path to riches and revenge with a wooden shield, small dagger and a pocket full of gold coins that can be spent on better equipment. Isometric maps and dungeons contain plenty of critters and light switch-based puzzles to beat; providing plenty of experience to gradually power up your character. It's basic stuff, but it's handled extremely well.Click here for gameplay over graphics...
In a break with tradition, I'm going to start this week's column with an appeal for more of you to try out our previous GOTW. Avatar Adventurers Online is the first Xbox Live Indie MMO and is growing into a truly inclusive experience. The small community is extremely friendly and willing to help newcomers get into the groove- but it will need a thriving player base to ultimately succeed.
You owe it to yourself- and the hard-working developers- to give this one a go.
Right, onto this week's two standout games!
By now, you should all be familiar with the concept of Breakout. IonBall appears to be a steampunk clone of the arcade classic at first glance; providing familiar block-busting gameplay along with attractive gritty art design. However, it soon becomes clear that Ironsun's effort is an entirely different beast thanks to RPG mechanics... and boss battles?! Breakout will never be the same again.
The core gameplay remains unchanged from the original formula. Players control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and need to clear the field of coloured blocks by bouncing a ball around. Once a level is completed, though, you'll earn experience to upgrade your paddle in a number of different ways. Simple improvements such as increased width or faster movement will naturally make the proceedings much easier, but a slew of more interesting features (such as being able to influence the ball's movement with the analog stick) provides some more thoughtful options for skilled players.Click here to continue this week's Indie Adventure!
It's finally happened. Our previous Indie Game Of The Week demonstrated that big ideas can flourish on Xbox Live... and we now finally have a fully-fledged MMORPG on the service courtesy of Avatar Adventurers Online. The mechanics might be a little rough around the edges, but it's an incredibly well-featured experience that weighs in at a considerably lower price than most DLC microtransactions.
After a brief and comprehensive tutorial, your avatar will be loosed onto several huge overworld maps linked by handy villages. Fans of classic JRPGs will instantly engage with the addictive need to fight monsters, earn experience and deck out your character with increasingly-powerful gear. The fact that your avatar is front and center serves to firmly root you in the action, and a slew of abilities allow you to specialise in any combination of attack, magic and healing.
Read on for more Avatar Adventuring and two other great Indie titles