This has been a trying week for Xbox Live Indie developers since Microsoft's Top Downloads stats and dashboard lists have been repeatedly bricking. This is a key source of publicity for the XBL Indie scene- but that doesn't mean that there aren't some great games that deserve your attention.
Excruciating Guitar Voyage
Demo/Buy (240 MSP)
You can always rely on the Independent scene to deliver a good sense of humour. Excruciating Guitar Adventure presents the tale of a land where metal has been outlawed and only a hairy layabout can free the populace from the iron grip of King Bozo. Hilarious voice acting provides a fair few laughs and a divisive visual style will either delight or repulse you with a unique scrapbook vibe- but there's actually a very clever little puzzle game hidden behind the blue jokes.
PX is a hairy oaf that possesses no particularly heroic qualities apart from a fairly high and floaty jump. However, he's strangely resistant to being set on fire or charged with thousands of volts... and whilst he feels every hilarious second of excruciating pain, he's capable of platforming while burning or with electricity coursing through his veins. As such, players will navigate the meticulously-designed levels by subjecting poor PX to hazardous conditions and using him as a go-between: such as charging up a bridge control by electrocuting him, or burning down a barrier by using PX to transfer the flames. This simple mechanic is soon taken to extremes, but it remains an absolute joy to use.
Excruciating Guitar Adventure may be a little rough around the edges, but it's a nifty little adventure that will probably make you chuckle a few times (usually chuckling at PX's expense). I'd heartily recommend checking out the demo. Trust me, it's anything but excruciating.
Developer: Silver Dollar Games
Quick Time Events have become one of the most vilified and maligned game mechanics out there. They can ruin a game when implemented poorly... but by taking advantage of the split-second panic that they inspire, RAID surprisingly manages to simulate some of the pulse-pounding immediacy of a DEA drugs bust.
The action takes place from a top-down perspective as your two-man team works its way through a selection of different rooms and structures. After breaching the door, you'll have a split second to assess the situation, work out if the target is armed and then hit the correct face button; which is actually much more tense and satisfying than it sounds. A deployable sniper soon adds an extra layer of strategy to the proceedings- and though the graphics are on the functional rather than shiny side, it's a neat little title that brings a lot of value to the table. Highly recommended.
Developer: Abnormal Software
Demo/Buy (240 MSP)
Coral isn't your standard platforming protagonist. Her top half may resemble a comely female torso, but black magic has converted her legs into an enormous serpent that can be controlled independently. She may be on a quest to return to human form using standard platform controls, but her snake tail is independently controlled with the right stick and can be manipulated to slither through narrow gaps or smack away enemies with its barbed tip. It's a unique control setup that feels different from almost every other game out there. Imagine Noby Noby Boy meets Castlevania and you might be somewhere near the mark.
The rest of the game unfolds as a exploration-based platformer, with plenty of health upgrades and powerups to find as well as the all-important keys that unlock new areas. The level is absolutely enormous, though Coral's Curse thankfully features a useful map that puts players back on course (a surprising rarity in the Indie scene). Put simply, this is a platformer unlike any other- and don't let the 240 Microsoft Point price put you off!
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