ETMD: Extraterrestrials Must Die!
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.
Mechanically, ETMD is absolutely sound, but newcomers may feel a little disappointed by how sluggishly the ship handles (and rage-quit the demo accordingly). However, this is all part of the plan. Holding the left trigger vastly increases your ship's maneuvrability and speed - but at the expense of disabling your primary weapons. This trade-off between speed and firepower makes the experience much deeper than most other XNA shooters out there.
ETMD is a bit of a visual mixed bag, but one with a high level of detail nonetheless. Its animated sprites look particularly sharp on HD screens, and the backgrounds are pleasing to behold if a little busy at times. In a nice touch, your ship isn't just a static sprite and provides a three-quarter view as you bank left and right. The devil's in the detail.
Sure, it has its flaws. Some levels occasionally feel like blatant padding and you'll see plenty of palette swaps throughout the campaign, but considering the quality and quantity on offer, Boddicker Games have crafted a winner.
ETMD delivers a solid and satisfying shoot 'em up experience that's stuffed with clever ideas. Boddicker Games have thrown a lot of nifty gimmicks at this one, and luckily, almost everything has stuck. Don't let it slip under the radar.
The Sugar Killerz
Goodness me, we've certainly got a lot of twinstick shooters on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace. And here's another one. 400 Microsoft Points is a seriously big ask for a colourful, shallow clone - so the The Sugar Killerz has to work very hard to justify its price tag.
And it does. The focus is on balls-out four player cooperative action, with AI taking over the human roles if you don't have enough friends to bulk out the roster. There are plenty of weapons and enemy types to go around, and a riotous sense of unashamed fun and humour to compliment the gameplay. The graphics are also very impressive for an XBL Indie title: showcasing capable character design and some great backgrounds.
The Sugar Killerz may have a terrible name, but it's far from a terrible game. High production values and rampant, ridiculous fun is the order of the day. Highly recommended.
Okay guys, it's time to put your mature adult hats on for a minute. As you might have gathered, Load is a game about sperm. Players will need to guide their spermatozoa through the (strangely labyrinthine) vaginal canal in order to eventually reach the ovum; contending with high speeds and twisting courses. No laughing at the back.
I apologise for that, because contrary to what you might expect, Load actually treats its subject matter with as much respect as humanly possible. The graphics are slick, subtle and nowhere near as biological as you might imagine, and there isn't a single dick joke or lame pun in sight. Tight controls, a dynamic soundtrack and responsive controls make , though the experience is ultimately fairly limited.
Load is the best game about sperm you'll play this week. And it turns out to be pretty good, too.