It's been such a long road. Getting from there to here. It's been such a long time. But my time is finally... oh no, sorry, that's awful.
Do over. Welcome back, dear reader, to our weekly Xbox Live roundups where we showcase three of the best Indie games to hit the marketplace and give them some well-deserved attention. We've had to take a couple of months off over the silly season, but safeguards are now in place and we're ready to get back into the swing of things.
As always, the point of these roundups are to give you convenient links to the trial versions along with some mini reviews to explain why you ought to give them a chance. If you like what you see - and what you play - the inexpensive full version will only be a thumb jab away. Which saves you the trouble of having to locate the Indie marketplace in its horrible new dashboard position, more to the point.
It's good to be bad. Given half a chance, even the most honourable among us tend to dabble in a little light evil from time to time, whether it's the odd bit of stealing in Skyrim or blowing up an entire town for fun and profit in Fallout 3. However, most games that actually centre on the nasty tend to be extremely disappointing (Overlord, anyone?) as they never really let us cut loose... or use their premise as a shield to disguise some fairly mediocre game mechanics.
EvilQuest, however, manages to blend the need for greed with a heartwarmingly authentic retro RPG that evokes the glorious fond memories of the SNES/Mega Drive golden age.
Playing as Galvis "The Bastard," you'll embark on a 2D adventure throughout multiple dungeons and environments; with the gameplay resembling a cross between the original Final Fantasy and the first Zelda games. Slick combat, plenty of magic spells and some wonderfully evocative pixel art transports us back to a bygone age of roleplaying bliss. A capable storyline, accessible controls and a chippy soundtrack help to further bolster the nostalgia value as well as the quality of the experience.
As an evil antagonist, though, you'll also be able to mete out arbitrary violence against the innocent and eventually crush the world under your despicable heels. This change in focus is a welcome one, and you'll frequently commit some nauseatingly horrible acts, but it does occasionally jar with the inability to kill NPCs or shopkeepers in the hub village. Would Galvis really have to save up to buy a shield rather than strangling the shopkeeper with his own digestive tract?
Still, the depravity is also surprisingly meaty. Your 80 Microsoft Points will net you many hours of adventuring; more if you optionally decide to grind away and keep your level ahead of the curve. Outstanding value awaits those who are brave - and profoundly nasty - enough to enter.
Halfway between parody and homage, EvilQuest manages to absolutely nail the sweet spot that keeps you engaged as well as amused. Being bad has rarely been so brilliant... and such good value.
After creating the world, cleansing it with a flood and taking a well-earned nap, the Rainbow is more than a little perturbed to discover that humanity has cocked everything up again. There's only one thing to do: bring the Rapture by returning to Earth and squashing the human race as it clings to Earth's rolling hillsides, facilitated simply by holding down the A button to increase momentum and using the landscape as ramps. Destroying cars, killing humans and leaping above the cloud layer grants you the energy you need to keep moving. More destruction, more jumps, more awesome. Sounds good to us.
The core gameplay is simple and slick, although it's admittedly incredibly derivative. At this point I'm compelled to point out that Rainbow Rapture is a functional clone of Tiny Wings, one of 2011's Best Mobile Games, and it definitely lacks the procedurally generated charm of its predecessor. Luckily, the art style is still cute and colourful enough to impress, and the Rainbow's invective-filled speech bubbles are an absolute laugh to behold. Critically, Rainbow Rapture also includes plenty of addictive challenges to accomplish, beefing up the replay value substantially as well as encouraging you to approach the experience in different ways.
Rainbow Rapture is a satisfying little diversion that, if you're not careful, can eat up several hours thanks to its compelling challenges and sense of humour. Another seriously impressive offering for 80 Microsoft Points.
Lots Of Guns
Developer: Stegersaurus Games
Guns. Lots of guns. Sold.
Believe it or not, Lots Of Guns isn't a shoot'em up. Instead, it's a vertically-scrolling platformer that challenges players to keep moving up the levels as relentless flames pursue them from below. Enemies pour down from the top of the screen, and thankfully you'll be presented with a burgeoning supply of ammunition to keep them at bay during your desperate ascent. Getting to grips with how each firearm works takes some getting used to, but the mechanics are tight and effective enough to completely obliterate any hint of a learning curve. You'll be netting high scores within minutes, and doing so with a smile on your face.
Eyecatching voxel visuals make Lots Of Guns very impressive indeed from a visual standpoint, but it ultimately becomes a pleasant distraction rather than a true gaming contender thanks to the incredibly basic level design. If you can call it that. The level format is infinitely repeated: platforms on the edges, platform in the middle, platform at the edges, platform in the middle, platforms at... and so on and so forth. A little more variety would have worked wonders, and it sadly pales in comparison to Who Is God! and other notable high score attack classics.
Lots Of Guns is an excellent diversion and one that you'll frequently come back to. The levels are repetitive to the extreme, but the action is sweet. Which, frankly, is all we need.