Microsoft has royally screwed the pooch this week by burying the entire Indie Games channel in yet another dashboard menu, classifying it as a specialist shop rather than a game marketplace. This means that you'll have to do a little more work to find them- but here are our three picks of the week for your convienience. Remember that the entire Indie library is still easily available right here in your browser!
Since the dawn of our medium, gamers have loved matching 3. Call it OCD, but we all find it deeply satisfying to group gems, skulls, bombs, balls and pretty much everything into nice neat lines of three or more. Many Indie titles have attempted to follow in the footsteps of Bejeweled, Puzzle Bobble and Puzzle Quest by offering the same kind of primal compulsion... and very rarely, one manages to equal and even completely surpass its predecessors. Enter Steam Heroes.
Steam Heroes is much more than a simple pastiche of PopCap's original masterpiece, though at first glance everything seems to be intact. Using the familiar Bejeweled mechanics, you'll swap the position of coloured steam capsules, bombs and items to fill up power gauges. Rather than the traditional slow-paced consecutive turns, however, your party of steampunk adventurers engage in simultaneous and constant combat with the enemy; with each colour of steam representing a different character and combat characteristic. For example, red steam allows your shieldbearing robot to absorb more damage over time, and blue steam increases the damage yield of your offensive fighter. Keeping the gauges constantly topped off requires frantic and frequent matches that will tax even the most experienced puzzle veteran. Don't get me wrong, though, as you'll soon discover a deceptively deep layer of strategy that stops the experience becoming repetitive.
Steam Heroes seperates itself even further from the pack by introducing a fun and amusingly self-aware storyline. Your heroes are on a quest to stop the villanous Baron Von Smog from polluting the once-beautiful Steam Land... which would be as cheesy and utterly laughable as it sounds if it weren't for rock-solid voice acting and crisp HD artwork that brims with character. Steam Heroes is a pleasure to behold and the art direction elevates the entire experience.
Put simply: Steam Heroes is a colourful, frantic and thoroughly worthwhile adventure that even the most jaded match-3 aficionado will enjoy. Apparently Projector Games are having a hard time with the new Xbox Live Marketplace debacle, so make sure that you don't let this Indie gem slip under the radar!
Miasma: Citizens of Free Thought
Let's not beat around the bush. Miasma looks absolutely incredible- sporting visual prowess that toes the line with the best XBLA has to offer. It's a turn-based grid strategy game in the vein of Konami's (sadly underrated) Metal Gear Ac!d series, allowing players to control an elite team of soldiers and immerse themselves in an effective- if overly serious- storyline. Moving and firing weapons requires operatives to expend their limited Action Points, though canny commanders will be able to use cover, items and explosive scenery to devastating effect. Shoot the barrels, natch.
Miasma may take itself very seriously- but it has every right to. Fans of turn-based strategy will find an eyepopping masterpiece for half the price of an XBLA outing, and a fraction of a retail release.
- Developer: Celey
- Demo/Buy (80 Microsoft Points)
Armed with nothing but rags and a simple club, a brave knight will sally forth against a horde of evil creatures. And die within seconds. You see, he's sadly outmatched by his foes, but killing enemies rewards him with all-important Glory. This, in turn, acts as persistent currency for the next hero to spend on an enormous array of weapons and armour that gives Castle Crashers a run for its money. Getting further and further through the game with each successive hero (with a randomly-generated name each time, nice touch) and upgrading weapons to Godly levels is as addictive as it gets. The graphics are a little on the primitive side and the gameplay is basic, but frankly you've got to prioritise fun uber alles else every once in a while.
For Glory is good, clean, honest fun. And it's dirt cheap. Sometimes, that's all you want from a game.