Parasitus: Ninja Zero
Developer: Heart Attack Machine Games
We frequently say that many Xbox Live Indie Games feel like forgotten classics from a bygone age; pixel-perfect emulations of retro experiences that wouldn't look out of place if you'd just blown the dust out of a much loved cartridge from the back of your wardrobe. Parasitus: Ninja Zero is one such title, and frankly, we wish we'd been able to play it back in the day.
Essentially, Parasitus resembles a cross between Castlevania and Magic Sword (if any of you remember it). Playing as a powerful ninja - obviously - you'll descend through five sprawling levels full of ravening monsters, zombies and demons to slay. It's incredibly linear, but on the flip side, the combat mechanics are about as competent as they come. Sword swipes, air attacks, dashes and block combos are all incredibly responsive and easy to pull off, meaning that the steep difficulty is tempered with the skills you'll need to get the job done. New abilities unlock throughout the game, making for an interesting learning curve and fluid, frantic engagements. Parasitus is so gloriously reverential and respectfully accurate that it feels wrong to play it without a SNES pad or a pocket full of coins. 2 player cooperative is probably the best way to enjoy it as the extra sword will prove invaluable in the later levels.
The presentation is extremely impressive and worthy of a paragraph all to itself. It looks, sounds and feels like a SNES or Mega Drive title; featuring lavish sprite work, 16-Bit backgrounds and a perfect trade-off between detail and retro homage. Trust me, the screenshots don't do it justice. The feeling of nostalgia is almost palpable and is likely to bring a wistful tear to your eyes... joining the tears already streaming down your face thanks to the brutal difficulty of the harder modes, mind. A patch is apparently on the way to sort out a few of the cheaper balance issues.
Parasitus: Ninja Zero is a glorious and gory throwback to the good old days - but doesn't sacrifice fluid controls and fun factor along the way. Fans of retro platformers should spin up the trial as soon as possible.
Honor In Vengeance II
Hooray, another 3D arcade space sim! It's just not possible to have too many of them on the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace (hell, there aren't enough anywhere at the moment), and Honour In Vengeance II provides a shallow yet extremely engaging battle royale against literally hundreds of ravening agressors.
I'm not exaggerating. Throughout the three missions, you'll do battle against fleets of hundreds of enemy fighters; weaving through their formations and purchasing a selection of regenerating powerups to bolster your offensive capabilities. Tight controls and a considerate amount of auto-aim guarantee that you'll take to the proceedings without any unnecessary impediments - and your two wingmen can be ordered to freelance around the battlefield or stick on your six using a limited, if surprisingly welcome, command interface. The action itself is certainly a little shallow and simplistic, but the visceral thrill of the enormous armadas and an astoundingly mid-game save function ensure that you'll rarely tire of the experience.
Honor In Vengeance II is also a feast for the eyes. The 3D visuals are astoundingly crisp, with detailed HD skyboxes (spaceboxes?) and a generally high level of visual polish throughout. Full voice acting also makes an appearance - and though it's admittedly a little ropey, it's great to hear VA in an 80 Point Indie Game. Outstanding work.
Honor In Vengeance II brings the rain, brings the fleets and brings it home. 80 Microsoft Points is an unbelievable bargain for what it has to offer.
Zombies Ruined My Day
Developer: Mancebo Games
Oh great, another Zombie game. I was all set and ready for Zombies Ruined My Day to ruin my day, but as luck would have it, this little game is actually very entertaining as far as it goes.
You'll doubtlessly recognise the format. Leagues of undead horrors pour into the cramped 2D stages, and you'll need to fall back on a range of weapons and explosives to kill them all without getting infected (thus ruining your chances at making a good first impression with your prospective date). The twinstick aiming and movement controls work extremely well, and the mechanical polish is enough to elevate it above the legion of similar games on the service. Slick visuals and a colourful art style do their best to differentiate it from the pack, and do so with a surprising degree of competency.
It's just silly, mindless fun - pure and simple. There's nothing wrong with that.
Zombies Ruined My Day won't ruin your day. Don't go in expecting anything particularly new or groundbreaking, but chances are you'll have a blast nonetheless.