Another slow week leaves us with only one real contender for our Indie GOTW trophy; standing alone in a small and mediocre selection of also-rans and unbelievably-priced disasters. So without further ado, I bring you the best of a bad bunch... followed by the bunch itself.
Damn, but that's a horrible title. We've gotten absolutely sick of the zombie games infection on XBLIG and gaming in general, and UBERZOMBIE USA does its best to pretend to be "just another" cynical cash-in that attempts to milk an already-curdling cliché.
But don't browse away just yet. Despite what the name and MS Paint box art might have you believe, UBERZOMBIE is actually a great little action/tower defence hybrid; packed with value, longevity and surprising depth.
As always, the undead are on the march, and you (along with up to three friends) need to stem the tide with extreme prejudice. Ten characters (all of whom sport special abilities) can be lead into a hectic and satisfying shooting romp a la Smash TV, with all the bodacious boomsticks and gory slaughter you'd expect from the genre. A colourful and eyecatching visual style makes the action incredibly visceral and attractive to behold, blending personality-laden 2D sprites with competent 3D models and lighting.
However, UBERZOMBIE USA also gives a few nods to the tower defence genre. Waves are divided into Build and Action phases, so your two minutes of daytime will be spent erecting defences. The reliance on static obstacles such as barbed wire, claymores and frost spores means that you'll need to think very carefully about how to use your limited resources to create mazes, gauntlets and killzones - and delay the undead invaders long enough for you to mop them up with the business end of a shotgun. Planning ahead for later waves is incredibly important, and becomes a stressful yet compelling draw when other players get involved to create impregnable fortifications. Coordination is key and the result is immensely satisfying.
UBERZOMBIE USA is a seriously enjoyable shooter that rewards big brains as well as big guns. Just don't let the zombies eat them first.
Cro-Mag Rally Extreme!
"Hooray, another Cro-Mag Rally game," quoth Jon in a sarcastic and jaded manner while eating a coleslaw sandwich. The 'Extreme' monicker doesn't quite do justice to how tame and uninspired this forgettable series happens to be - no change there then - but it's undeniably functional, contains some half decent multiplayer and pleasing Wii-esque graphics.
So, if you really need another cheap and cheerful karting game in your life, definitely consider buying Avatar Grand Prix 2. Then buy this one. Or don't.
Little Strategy is a crude and somewhat ugly little strategy (ooh, hence the name) game, but for 80 Microsoft Points, it's surprisingly well-featured. Once you look past the visuals, you'll discover an aggressively streamlined canvas for some singleplayer and multiplayer turn-based shenanigans. It lacks the depth of similar - and more expensive, natch - games, but does manage to include a few neat features such as merging unit groups and a skirmish mode.
Denizen's Den could well be the worst roguelike I've ever played. It's staggeringly basic, sports horrendous art design and audio so poor that your eardrums will attempt to either leave your body or destroy your brain, leaving you blissfully vegetative.
And it costs 400 Microsoft Points.
Look. I don't usually try to tell developers how to do their jobs (apart from, erm, all the time), but 400 Points is a massive ask. 240 Points would have been hilariously ambitious. I don't know why the file size is so big, but I can only assume that the outrageously inappropriate soundtrack hasn't been compressed.
So don't buy Denizen's Den.