Welcome once again to my roundup of the week's best Xbox Live Indie Games... and listen up, because we've got a real fight on our hands for first place. Both have the quality we're looking for, but they offer extremely different game experiences that cater for very different audiences. All three of this week's showings demonstrate the innovation, polish and tender loving care that the Indie scene uniquely provides... so with no further ado, it's time to get involved!
Treasure Treasure: Fortress Forage
Treasure Treasure doesn't look like much at first glance... but that's part of its charm. It captures the essence of the a smooth Game Boy platformer, right down to the LCD screen and adorably crude (yet stylish) sprites. The premise is also charmingly simple, with two kids ascending a castle to solve puzzles, jump over plaftorms and search for treasure. The faux-retro stylings are cute and familiar, bringing up warm fuzzy feelings and old memories of long family car journeys. However, the presentation belies a nifty cooperative that can be leveraged by both one or two players.
The two protagonists both move at the same speed and are exactly the same height (which is important, trust me), but the similarities end there. Troy, the stocky lad, can push objects and flip bombs onto his head to destroy obstacles... but needs to rely on the much more agile Trixie to reach high platforms. Each character can stand on one another to gain extra height or access unreachable items, and each puzzle requires both characters to be carefully utilised to succeed. One player can switch between each character at will (which feels like a slow paced puzzler rather than a platformer), or two players can cooperate for a more immediate and dynamic experience. The castle is absolutely enormous- and features 21 (not 25, thanks Late) treasures to collect. You'll need your wits about you to collect the lot.
Ingenious cooperative mechanics are a sure-fire way to get noticed in the Indie scene. And let's face it, a nuanced graphical style doesn't hurt either. By delivering both along with an enormous dose of genuine charm and cerebral puzzling, Treasure Treasure more than deserves your time, attention and less than a pound of your hard-earned cash.
Tower Defence is a momentously popular, extremely pervasive and surprisingly addictive subgenre that managed capture our hearts despite the majority of the gameplay requiring us to sit back and watch rather than actually playing. However, the prevalence of free browser-based titles force the Indie scene to provide- and I'm delighted to report that StormGate more than justifies a retail purchase thanks to its impressive level of quality and polish.
The premise is simple, but with a town-building twist on the tired old formula. You know the drill. Marauding fantasy troops are descending on your town, and you'll need place a variety of towers in preset locations to fend them off as they amble down a winding path. Your towers can be upgraded as they earn experience, and spells can be deployed to hinder enemies in real time. However, the town itself can be upgraded with a variety of helpful buildings and fortifications that have their own useful effect in battle. Equipping your town wisely is as important to victory as well-placed towers in the long run! A two-trigger interface makes deploying turrets an absolute breeze, and the graphics are focused on functionality over glitz. StormGate certainly isn't a looker, but you'll get all the information you need at a single glance. Which, at the end of the day, is the whole point.
Thirty levels, a capable musical score and a wide selection of tactics make StormGate one of the best Tower Defence games on the Indie Service. It doesn't offer anything particularly new, but it does hone the tried-and-tested formula to an accessible and sturdy experience. Fans of the genre should definitely try the demo.
Developer: guma productions
After my rant about Geometry Wars clones in a previous Game of the Week roundup, you might be surprised to see a wireframe geometric twinstick shooter making an appearance this time around. However, Magnetic Wars manages to elevate itself above the competition by providing a neat new gimmick : the ability to change the polarity of your ship to counter incoming fire. Positively or negatively charging the hull causes incoming projectiles of the same polarity to deflect away from you, often fanning out into beautiful patterns due to the simple yet impressive physics engine. The graphics are slick and the magnetic physics are frequently wondrous to behold.
Magnetic Wars is a seriously tough but incredibly rewarding shoot 'em up that requires sharp reflexes and some serious cunning to beat. Whilst the huge number of twinstick shooters on the Indie service threaten to drag it down into the pack, I absolutely recommend that fans of frantic SHMUPS drag it back out and give it a go.