Space Sims have become an endangered species throughout this console generation- so it's a cause for riotous jubilation when one manages to hit the marketplace. MStar Games won our prestigious Indie Game Of The Year award with the epic space adventure Space Pirates From Tomorrow, but thanks to Final Rift, we now finally have some competition in the genre! Choice is good... and luckily, Final Rift is very, very good indeed.
Final Rift conforms to a familiar formula. You'll start out with a battered ship, meagre funds and an entire universe to explore. To improve your ride and reach distant systems, players will need to engage in a variety of subquests for money to spend on new weapons, tech and shady stock market deals. Space combat is a joy thanks to slick HD graphics and smooth controls (that need to be set to the "racing" setting in the options menu to mirror most other flight simulators)- and as you'd expect, earning money and reputation soon becomes extremely addictive.
Unlike most Space Sims that unlock the entire galaxy from the very start, Final Rift takes a much more focused approach to progression. Systems are broken down into stages (the titular rifts) that can be accessed by purchasing alien artefacts- providing a hook beyond simply playing for the fun of it. This does admittedly serve to make the universe a lot smaller and limited than we're used to, but make no mistake, there's still plenty to do. Considering that it only costs 80 Microsoft Points, the experience is nothing short of astounding.
Final Rift is big, slick, beautiful and absolutely astounding value for 80 meagre Microsoft Points. Download the demo immediately. That's an order.
We certainly aren't short of challenging platformers with retro 8-bit art styles on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace. In fact, they're second only to twinstick shooters in terms of glutting up the service. However, Nyan-Tech packs a refreshing new gameplay mechanic that serves to lift it head and shoulders over the competition. Platforms are summoned into existence and moved around by pressing their labelled buttons on the controller, essentially challenging players to control the levels themselves on top of the character. It will take a while to wrap your brain around the basic idea, but it finally comes together into frantic, hectic fun.
Nyan-Tech is neat new take on the platform genre that rewards fast fingers and a sharp mind. Have what it takes? Grab the demo!
If Braid could be any more indie, it would probably be Timeslip. At first glance, it's a traditional platformer with cutsey visuals that simply revolves around jumping a snail across levels and shooting enemies. However, once the tight time limit runs out, the action rewinds and duplicates your previous actions- allowing you to access switches and inaccessible areas while your past self goes through the motions. This concept is taken to extremes in later levels, requiring a surprising amount of forward planning and brainpower to circumvent some of the more challenging puzzles.
Timeslip may be a little rough around the edges, but it's a cerebral experience that's well worth a download as well as your time. No pun intended.