- Developer: RIC Games
- Demo/Buy (80 MSP)
FS Racer's monicker is something of a misnomer. Sometimes I want to race; to feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and the sweat drip down my brow as I desperately fight for every inch of ground at every corner.
Often, however, I just want to drive... and that's exactly what this little Indie gem lets me do.
FS Racer is a relaxing blend of Wipeout and SEGA's Outrun; the objective being to rag a futuristic hovering F1 car around twisting tracks. Rather than winning races, however, the emphasis is on covering as long a distance as possible within the time limit. Opponents are obstacles to be circumvented rather than bitter rivals- and the only real opponent is your own ability. There's unfortunately no multiplayer mode- but since it's not technically a racing title, that's not really a problem. Each of the four cars represent a different difficulty level and time limit, and the 14 tracks take a very different approach. FS Racer comprises a single enormous map with various themed zones, and each track takes a different route through this massive environment that takes in multiple areas. There's always something to look at in the background... and after all, that's half of the joy of driving.
Of course, the other half is handling the vehicle itself- and I'm delighted to report that FS Racer is mechanically extremely sound. Car handling feels absolutely perfect; and the range of camera angles, rear view and even a replay function provides much more value than you'd expect from an 80 Point Indie title. Collision detection is a little finnicky, but it serves to deter players from colliding with opponents or the track barriers.
Visually, FS Racer copes exceptionally well with what it's got. An overall lack of detailed texturing has been countered by the pleasing variety of environments and an eyecatching cell-shaded car rendering. It also runs at a consistent 60 FPS, which is an impressive rarity on the service. A few original songs provide an excellent accompaniment to the action, including a particularly impressive guitar track that's a delight to drift along to.
FS Racer is a well-featured driving experience that's as relaxing as you want it to be. The impressive frame rate, replays, camera and unique world map elevate it above most of the competition; and I'd heartily recommend dropping the 80 points and going for a drive.
ArchRobo: Robotic Annihilation
- Developer: LPS Inc
- Demo/Buy (80 MSP)
It's often better to do something well rather than something different, and ArchRobo secured its place in this week's roundup simply by being astoundingly fun to play. It's a twinstick shooter... that takes place in simple mazes... but a selection of imaginative weapons really punch up the action (including a monumentally fun sword that you can swing about with the thumstick). The gameplay is fast and fluid, featuring randomly-generated cooperative levels that allow your mates to get involved as well.
ArchRobo is an addictive shoot 'em up that makes the genre its own with an imaginative arsenal and chaotic cooperative mode. Whilst it may be a little rough around the edges, it reminds me of hours spent playing similar games on the Amiga 600... and I guarantee it'll evoke similar nostalgia whilst providing some new surprises of its own.
- Developer: Red Circle
- Demo/Buy (240 MSP)
We've got plenty of space shooters on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace, but Isagoras manages to differenciate itself from the crowd with an impressive graphics engine. It's rendered in stylish 2.5D, and tells a half-decent story of alien invasion through some hand-shaded artwork. The bosses are some of the best I've squared off against recently, requiring split second timing and nerves of steel to defeat.
Isagoras could have been a strong contender for this week's first place... but for a single glaring flaw. It's incredibly sluggish. Enemies still deploy and attack at a furious pace, but you'll be hard-pressed to manoeuvre your slick-looking fighter from one side of the screen to the other quick enough to actually engage them. Being able to intuitively dodge and attack is absolutely essential for a SHMUP- and faster movement would have made all the difference.
Despite a surprising lack of speed, Isagoras is a capable shooter with an distinctive art style and creative bosses. The 3D graphics really make it stand out in the glutted marketplace- and I'd highly recommend that SHMUP fans try out the demo and find out for themselves.