We've been having an Indie-themed day thanks to our two interviews with FortressCraft's lead designer, but it's time to take our eyes off the horizon and focus on the here and now. We've got three great games to bring to your attention this week, starting with some epic hack & slash action!
The Hearts Of Men
Hack. Slash. Hack some more. Good old-fashioned third person brawlers have to work harder and harder to get our attention and justify our painful thumb cramps; and we've seen some truly terrible attempts as well as some standout gems on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace. However, our pick of the week manages to nail all the fundamentals whilst providing some great context for the action - and reminds us why we fell in love with the classic dungeon crawlers of old.
The Hearts Of Men is half isometric hack & slash dungeon crawler backed up with a healthy dose of traditional bullet-dodging shoot 'em up mechanics. The core experience subscribes to the traditional (and much-loved) Gauntlet formula, with four characters providing a different array of abilities and attacks. This makes for some fun singleplayer variety, but really shines in its 4-player couch cooperative mode. Get some friends over - partly because it's fun, but also because the difficulty can crush lone heroes in later levels.
Visually, The Hearts Of Men uses attractive comic-style artwork to root its players in the game world, with special attention paid to player character sprites and detailed enemies. It's a distinct flair, and one that pays off in spades.
The Hearts Of Men is a meaty, challenging and rewarding adventure that's best shared with a few mates. At 80 Points, it's a bit of a bargain.
Solar System 4D
Aargh! Edutainment! Noooooo!
Ahem. Developers tend to get a bad rep every time they try to get us to learn something, but Solar System 4D is an excellent educational tool rather than a patronising, snivelling little piece of tat. You can explore the universe in full 3D, view some close-up NASA photos and learn... well... interesting facts about our celestial neighbours.
Is it a game? No, not really. But it's great to see the service being increasingly used for more varied and interesting experiences. Xbox Live Indie Games channel isn't just for zombie massages any more.
Solar System 4D is a slick, engaging and powerful education tool that'd feel right at home in the classroom as well as the living room.
Match-3 games tap into our primal compulsion to match similar objects together, but frequently don't cater for simultaneous multiplayer. TriLinea ReAct attempts to buck this trend by making two players duke it out on the same board, mixing classic falling block puzzles with visceral spells and abilities.
Don't let the 400 MSP price tag put you off. TriLinea ReAct more than justifies the spend with superbly polished (and absolutely beautiful) backgrounds, great gameplay and truly fantastic graphics that elevate it clear above its peers. Unfortunately the same can't quite be said of the controls... which are a right mare to put it mildly.
TriLinea ReAct is a slick, sweet and polished new perspective on Match-3 games. The controls are a bit of a pain, but once mastered, it's well worth checking out. Definitely try out the demo to get a feel for it!