If there's one thing better than old-school scrolling shooters, it's old-school scrolling bosses. Games have fallen out of love with massive, sprawling end-of-level enemies these days, so luckily Infinity Danger is here to deliver nothing but the big boys. The aim of the game is to dispatch as many randomly-generated bosses as possible before a timer runs out, providing a completely different experience to any other twinstick shooter out there.
Each boss consists of a vulnerable central core surrounded by a dizzying array of randomly-generated platforms that bristle with firepower. Gatling guns, lasers, homing missles and turrets throw out a barrage of bullets to weave through - and though the objective is to eventually crack their core, players will need to tactically pick them apart in order to do so. Focusing fire on key sections can cause entire wings to fall away and destroying key turrets (such as the horrifyingly powerful laser cannons) will make your job a lot easier. Tight twinstick controls make this a breeze to pull off, and tactically neutering your erstwhile nemeses never gets old.
Each and every one of these encounters feels as epic, important and downright hectic as you'd expect from the likes of Ikaruga or R-Type. Outstanding.
Rather than giving the player limited lives, Infinity Danger lets you respawn instantly upon dying... but removes valuable seconds from the ever-depleting timer. Destroying turrets and platform segments adds time, however, meaning that a strong offence is often enough to recover from a run of bad luck.
Just in case you need any more incentive to keep on gunning, your global leaderboard position is displayed in the bottom corner of the screen. Watching your ranking rise with each neutered part and downed boss is a massive thrill that will hopefully become even more relevant as more gamers start getting involved. A host of unlockable achievement-like awards also help to sweeten the deal for completionists and obsessive compulsives alike.
In terms of presentation, Infinite Danger feels like an authentic Japanese arcade thoroughbred... despite being made by Western developers. A catchy soundtrack, sharp HD visuals and more random Japanese characters than you can shake a stick at help to create an engaging and attractive experience. The level of quality and polish is deeply impressive and puts countless XBLA titles to shame. Like this one. Shame on you, Raystorm.
Infinite Danger is infinitely awesome. Massive bosses, engaging action and furiously addictive leaderboards should make it an Indie smash hit by all rights. Get on this immediately.
Solve It Pack 1
Sometimes it can be infinitely more rewarding to exercise your brain rather than your twitchy thumbs, and Solve It Pack 1 does exactly that. The objective is to guide Dennis the dog (?) through complex grid-based levels by assembling individual commands into an ordered schedule of turns, jumps and steps.
Doing so couldn't be simpler. Just order the commands you want into the list and test them with the Start button. Job done.
This may sound like a fairly weak premise to base a full game around, but the depth soon comes courtesy of branching stages and a limited amount of commands. This makes strategic thinking and finding clever routes the order of the day. Attractive visuals and inoffensive music make it a rather charming little outing, and for 80 points, it's fairly good value to boot. Hopefully subsequent packs will offer new commands and more intricate levels to circumvent.
Solve It Pack 1 will hopefully be the first of many. By blending tough puzzles with accessible controls and ideas, Marklund Games may have discovered an emergent franchise.
Bureau - Agent Kendall
These days, Indie games really have to work to convince us thrifty gamers to part with 400 Microsoft Points... and luckily Bureau - Agent Kendall manages to do exactly that. Playing as the kooky (and cynically attractive) FBI Agent Kendall, you'll need to collect clues, solve crimes and engage in some very well-written dialogue to progress.
In fact, I was blown away by the quality of the script and the experience as a whole. The characters feel authentic and real despite their obvious stereotypes (and the lead character's annoyingly cynical boob physics that cheapen us all), and the 3D visuals are exceptional in comparison to its peers on the service. However, this same quality doesn't carry over to the main presentation itself (such as the text callouts and PDA) that could have used some more fine tuning. Like it or not, consumers unfortunately expect 400 Microsoft Points to net them an extremely polished and professional product, and the cheap little details don't do this one any favours.
Bureau - Agent Kendall takes a break from the norm and is all the better for it. It's a breath of fresh air that more than justifies its price tag with the excellent quality of its writing and graphics.