The Indie Games are back where they belong: safely ensconced within the passing trade of the Xbox Live Games Marketplace. It's business as usual, folks- and to celebrate, this week has heralded one of the closest battles for first place we've ever had.
Storybook Tactics: Tales Of The Nefarious Necromancers
The Strategy Role Playing Game (SRPG to its mates) is a niche genre that doesn't really fare too well over here. The likes of Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics and Metal Gear Ac!d have all provided us with unforgettable game experiences- yet tend to repel the mainstream audience with a bewildering array of numbers, stats and modifiers. Storybook Tactics, on the other hand, provides engaging and accessible tactical fun without compromising depth. Oh, and it costs less than a single British quid.
The first thing you'll notice about Storybook Tactics are the visuals. Rather than an overly fussy presentation, the art style has plumped for a charming retro vibe. The cuboid characters work well with the grid-based maps, allowing players to size up the battlefield at a glance without being distracted by needless paraphernalia. The combat itself is fast and deceptively nuanced: requiring an expenditure of Ability Points to pull off attacks and a range of moves/skills mapped effortlessly to the controller face buttons. "Easy to play, hard to master" is undeniably a cliche, but it's never been more appropriate.
Storybook Tactics also packs an astonishing amount of value into its tiny file allowance. 25 unique unlockable classes with different abilities provides enormous tactical potential- and 20 different levels deliver impressive play time. Once that's over and done with, the Hard Mode will tax armchair generals to the limit!
I've only got one personal gripe with Storybook Tactics- but that's only because I'm a bit of a beard when it comes to my tactical RPGs. Whilst the combat system is streamlined, simple and easy to get to grips with, the numbers themselves are hidden away. It's difficult to know exactly how status effects and actually affect the course of the battle. But hey, that's just me. Most of you will be far less geeky than me and will find this to be a pro rather than a con!
Storybook Tactics is an accessible and deep strategy RPG with charming retro stylings and an unbelievably low price point. Looking for a quality tactical experience that'll cost you next to nothing? Mercury Wave Studios have you covered.
The TEMPURA Of The DEAD
TEMPURA Of The DEAD is an old-school 8 bit brawler that's been brought screaming into the 21st century with an imaginative new premise. Zombies have taken over America, and only the the guntoting president of the United States and an honourable Samurai can possibly defeat them. You'll need swap between the two characters to defeat the hordes of undead nightmares, using a mixture of firepower and swordplay.
The twist in the tale is that zombies not only need to be decapitated, but their heads also have to be juggled several times and finally deep fried in order to release their souls! It's a fun new dynamic that makes the gameplay feel fresh and funky despite the hackneyed concept.
TEMPURA Of The DEAD is hardcore, fiercely difficult and feels like a forgotten retro gem from yesteryear. Well worth checking out.
Iredia: Atram's Secret
The word 'edutainment' usually makes gamers cross themselves and run screaming from the room- but in this case, you'll all probably learn something. After discovering that her sister has been born deaf, the intrepid Sara embarks on an platforming adventure to recover her flute and learn about how the human ear works. A capable physics engine and some natty animations actually make learning... fun? Whoa. I can't believe I just said that.
Iredia: Atram's Secret is a prime example of edutainment that lets you learn through actually playing a game. Quite frankly, this is the way forward for the concept.