In a break with tradition, I'm going to start this week's column with an appeal for more of you to try out our previous GOTW. Avatar Adventurers Online is the first Xbox Live Indie MMO and is growing into a truly inclusive experience. The small community is extremely friendly and willing to help newcomers get into the groove- but it will need a thriving player base to ultimately succeed.
You owe it to yourself- and the hard-working developers- to give this one a go.
Right, onto this week's two standout games!
By now, you should all be familiar with the concept of Breakout. IonBall appears to be a steampunk clone of the arcade classic at first glance; providing familiar block-busting gameplay along with attractive gritty art design. However, it soon becomes clear that Ironsun's effort is an entirely different beast thanks to RPG mechanics... and boss battles?! Breakout will never be the same again.
The core gameplay remains unchanged from the original formula. Players control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and need to clear the field of coloured blocks by bouncing a ball around. Once a level is completed, though, you'll earn experience to upgrade your paddle in a number of different ways. Simple improvements such as increased width or faster movement will naturally make the proceedings much easier, but a slew of more interesting features (such as being able to influence the ball's movement with the analog stick) provides some more thoughtful options for skilled players.
Titanic boss battles will challenge you to keep the ball in play whilst dodging incoming fire, providing a refreshing and completely unprecedented change of pace. Players will need every shred of reflexes, skill and barefaced luck that they can muster, but intelligently upgrading your paddle will make for much easier victories.
By mixing beloved, accessible arcade mechanics with addictive RPG elements, IonBall stands proud as one of the most impressive games to have released in recent weeks... as well as one of the best Breakout clones on the market. An essential purchase on Xbox 360 or Windows Phone 7.
Zombie Football Carnage
Yawn. Another zombie game on the Indie marketplace. Who'd have thought it?
You'd be forgiven for approaching Zombie Football Carnage with some skepticism- but the experience manages to tower over its slew of cynical rivals by simply being damn good. Impressive cell-shaded visuals and smooth controls make piling through waves of undead horrors an absolute joy that would have felt right at home on Xbox Live Arcade, and a range of unlockable abilities provide a seriously addictive hook that borders on compulsion. A P2P high score table also provides a fun way of tracking your progress and challenging other players.
Note, however, that Zombie Football Carnage certainly isn't for the faint hearted as it delivers a huge splatter of gory, gratuitous ultraviolence. Luckily a cheeky sense of humour underpins the the action and makes the experience more charming than disgusting.
Zombie Football Carnage is a gory, beautiful and polished brawler that's a fantastic bargain at 80 Microsoft Points. Touchdown!