TIC: Part 1
Developer: Red Candy Games
A lot can happen in eight months. Empires can rise and fall, celebrities can rise to stardom and disappear into obscurity... and Independent developers can create some stunning works of art. TIC is most definitely an example of the latter, and frankly, it's one of the most impressive Indie platormers we've ever seen from both a visual and gameplay standpoint.
Players assume the titular role of TIC, a cute unicycling robot who sets out to defend his peaceful planet from a ravening extraterrestrial organisation known as EvilCorp. To do so, he'll need to collect silver acorns in order to power up his powerful drill that allows him to access new areas. Responsive controls and an energy-based hovering mechanic makes exploring the expansive levels an absolute joy, and multiple characters provide interesting new ways of going about your objectives. As well as the main storyline, you'll also be able to embark on a number of challenge maps that utilise the solid platforming mechanics to devastating advantage.
However, Red Candy Games' major triumph are unquestionably the visuals. TIC: Part 1 is profoundly beautiful - not just in comparison with most Xbox Live Indie titles, but with most games I've ever played. Luscious hand-drawn landscapes and gorgeously crisp sprites make it genuinely breathtaking to behold, and it's clear that TIC: Part 1 is a labour of love that resulted from painstakingly hard work by seriously talented artists. Put simply: it's very lovely indeed.
Some players may argue that the first part of an episodic series might not provide reasonable value, but for less than two quid, TIC: Part 1 offers 2-3 hours of gameplay, some bonus challenge levels and even a couple of nifty surprises (be sure to collect all the acorns you can). Considering the quality of the experience, you'd be mad not to give it a go.
TIC: Part 1 is polished to perfection, fun to play and jaw-droppingly, life-affirmingly beautiful. You have to buy it. Immediately.
Developer: Progpixel Games
Rainbow Runner is a strange mishmash of genres and mechanics that somehow manage to work together. On the face of things, it's a platformer that tasks players with leaping and jumping their pixelated marathon runner over wacky and dangerous obstacles. However, you can also shoot using the right thumbstick... and just to confuse things, each face button paints your character the corresponding colour (green for A, blue for X and so on). Enemies are colour-coordinated, and becoming the same hue allows you to shrug off their projectiles and shatter them effortlessly. The fact that you can't shoot and change colour at the same time seems awkward at first, but you'll soon realise that the decision forces you to make important split-second decisions about whether to dodge, destroy or shift your way past obstacles. Since massive bosses occasionally bar the way, there's a surprising amount of variation throughout the four lengthy levels - each of which is eminently replayable.
Once again, I also need to devote a paragraph to presentation. Rainbow Runner looks the business thanks to an eyecatching neon disco art style that pulses and dances along to the soundtrack, while remaining true to classic retro sprite games. Seriously fluid animations help add to the sense of polish. It's also worth noting that the electronica and trance soundtrack is similarly impressive, so if you want a sneak peek, the OST is available over at the official site. Well worth a listen while you're queuing up the download.
Rainbow Runner is a neat hybrid of platforming, shooting and colour-coordination that's fun in short bursts or marathon score attack sessions. Highly recommended.
Fluffy: Operation Overkill
Developer: So So Dev
Fluffy: Operation Overkill is outrageous. As a gun-toting, hazmat-suited squirrel, your sole objective is to slaughter your way through waves of undead forest critters in an anarchic and gory sidescroller. Assault rifles, lightning cannons, minguns and trusty shotguns are all equally viable options for punching holes through zombie bears, newts and wasps... all of which explode into ruddy showers of kibbles and gurgling guts. And naturally, limited slow-motion allows you to get the best view of the rampant gratuitous slaughter.
This may sound a wee bit puerile, and that's mainly because it is. But Fluffy: Operation Overkill also happens to be an absolute blast, with solid mechanics, massive amounts of satisfying carnage and a riff-heavy metal soundtrack to top it all off. A few silhouetted segments even help to make the action look stylish every once in a while. It's awesome, and a fantastically fun reminder of the days when all we needed were some 2D maps, a massive gun and some goons to point it at.
Fluffy: Operation Overkill isn't going to settle the "Games Are Art" Debate. It won't win industry recognition for pushing the boundaries of interactive storytelling. But it's brilliant, brutal fun - and frankly, that's why I got into gaming in the first place. Lock and load!