This week's cream of the Xbox Live Indie scene is going on the defensive in a big way. In fact, you could say that they're building on the success of their predecessors. What I'm getting at, in a circuitous and painfully obvious way, is that this week's highlights all focus on building fortifications, defending from attack and working together to stem the tide... but in completely different and imaginative ways.
As always, click the banners or links to hit up the marketplace, and be sure to download the trial versions so that you can try before you buy. I'd also urge you to bookmark the Xbox.com indie marketplace, since it's now the only convenient way of keeping tabs on the new releases now that Metro has thoroughly screwed the pooch.
If you're deeply into freeware PC gaming, you might be aware of a capable free defence game called The Defender II. VD Productions (interesting choice of name there) created a nifty little title that tasks players with defending a castle from fifty waves of ravening monsters, evolving their characters all the while and optionally tricking out the battlefield with all manner of static fortifications.
The Defenders is essentially a polished, optimised and gamepad-enabled port of the original... and it's really rather good.
The premise is, as you'd expect, incredibly streamlined. Ravening beasts, ghosts and titanic boss monsters have launched an all-out assault on your castle, and it's up to you and three local friends to man the defence. You can choose between a powerful knight, spell-slinging mage and a tactical builder at the beginning of each match, and on a basic level, you'll charge at the hordes and smack them down with simple side-scrolling 2D combat. Each character has different special abilities that compliment each other, and while the wizards and warriors are hard at work holding the line, the builder will merrily scamper about erecting defences, setting up towers and making the aggressors' short lives an absolute misery. As the waves increase in size and scope, invisible monsters enter the fray and bosses engulf entire screens with their horrific bulk, you'll need to work together and coordinate in order to avoid destruction. It's addictive, hectic and fantastic fun.
Monsters drop gold when killed, and every so often you'll have the chance to spend your hard-earned cash on a truly enormous selection of character upgrades. Absolutely everything about your hero can be improved, from their base stats to their abilities as well as the selection of fortifications at their disposal. Again, it's important to liase with your fellow players and make sure that your team is as well-rounded as possible.
The main problem with The Defenders is presentation. Now, look. I always feel incredibly guilty on the rare occasions when I call out Xbox Live Indie games on graphics and polish since most studios don't have the time, money or even the experience necessary to create an audiovisual delight. And as far as we're concerned, they don't have to. But as a responsible critic, I'm compelled to point out that The Defenders is incredibly crude and primitive from a visual standpoint. Sprites and backgrounds lack all but the most basic detail, animations are jerky and the splitscreen mode can become slightly headache-indudcing. We also encountered the odd bit of stuttering from time to time.
But what you've got here is substance, not style. The Defenders is a cracking cooperative romp, and if you're open minded enough to ignore the visuals, you'll discover a whole heap of gaming goodness.
Lootfest: Live Design
The original Lootfest handily topped one of our Xbox Live Indie Game Of The Week roundups when it released last July. We grooved on its stylish presentation, we loved its cooperative RPG combat and lusted after all the, erm, loot. Gamefarm is back for another run at the title, but this time around, things are very different.
Gamefarm have clearly noticed that FortressCraft-a-likes (itself heavily based on Minecraft) are getting a lot of attention at the moment, and decided to essentially release a cooperative level editor that allows you to randomly generate worlds, create scenery and buildings and then essentially mess around in them with some mates. A number of toys such as remote control cars and RC tanks - yes please - encourage players to design tracks, while zombie hordes can be triggered to give you some traditional action/defence gameplay. The editing itself is functional if a little clunky, and tends to force you to hold B while moving the right thumbstick, which isn't ideal. On top of that, the in-game tutorials are nowhere near as comprehensive as they ought to be.
However, Lootfest: Live Design is still well worth a download, as it goes the extra mile to provide as many features as possible. Online multiplayer works brilliantly, the music is excellent, there's a huge amount of customisation options and, frankly, you'll be able to while away many hours dicking around for fun, loot and profit.
All Your Creeps
We all love a bit of tower defence, and the genre keeps going from strength to strength thanks to developers pepping up the classic build towers, wait for victory formula. At first glance, All Your Creeps appears is a traditional tower defence title with a hectic arcade focus: simply, you'll have to defend a rocket from a ravaging armada of space pigs (no, really) by placing gun towers and walls to keep them out. The arcade element stems from the fact that there are no resources to speak of (you can place a tower every couple of seconds) and a tight time limit makes for hectic short play sessions. It's incredibly simplistic when played solo, but the real fun is to be had when you get some friends involved.
Up to two players can cooperatively deploy towers while two others choose and deploy waves of swine from the sides of the screen, which soon becomes outrageously hectic as the stalwart defenders scurry to beat back the waves of incoming pigs. Though I feel that the balance favours the porcine aggressors, who can spam the most powerful units with abandon, it's still an enjoyable waste of time and certainly not a waste of money.