This week in Indie Games, Microsoft has drawn a line under the ratings manipulation scandal by limiting votes to Gold Members. It's a cumbersome and heavy-handed way of dealing with a complex problem, but hey, at least trolls will now have to pay £30-£40 for the privilege.
This week, the marketplace has provided us with three unique and interesting games to spend our hard-earned points on... and there isn't a twinstick shooter, zombie or avatar in sight.
We love it when Indie games eschew the usual twinstick shooter and avatar-based zombie fare to deliver a new and innovative experience, and this week's flagship title has done exactly that. Neonex Games, a British student outfit, worked on Ultraviolet as part of their final year project - and it deservedly won the Best Games Technology Group project 2010 award.
It's easy to see why.
Two players face off across a constantly-tilting game grid, and can move their ship along a single axis in the vein of Tempest and Space Giraffe. Gems continually appear in the middle of the grid and are affected by gravity, falling in the direction that the board happens to be facing. The objective is to fill your energy gauge by collecting these gems with your tractor beam before your opponent does, and you can squabble over the same prizes using an intuitive QTE.
The energy gauge takes damage if gems reach your side of the board without being collected, and this is where the competitive element comes in. Players can 'crush' gems with the X button, which triggers a powerful explosion that sends adjacent jewels flying. You can force your opponent to take massive damage by intelligently targeting this technique, and in a pinch, a limited supply of smart bombs can get you out of sticky situations.
A comprehensive tutorial explains all the basics in plain, simple English; and whilst the singleplayer mode is a handy way of brushing up on your skills, the real meat is to be found with a mate in competitive multiplayer. Ultraviolet is quite unlike anything else on the service, and as such, makes a perfect breath of fresh air in your beer & screens evenings. Attractive neon visuals and an impressive original soundtrack round out a seriously worthwhile package.
Ultraviolet is a capable, attractive and thoroughly excellent breath of fresh air from the usual gaming schedule. Grab the demo, drop the points and support our British student developers!
Udder Chaos plays like one of the classic lightgun games of yesteryear, evoking nostalgic memories of the likes of Point Blank and Duck Hunt. Players control an on-screen reticule from a first person perspective and use it to destroy incoming waves of aliens who are hell-bent on abducting your precious cows and using them for purposes best left unknown. The action is as fast, hectic and furious as you'd expect, and you'll need to pick your targets carefully to avoid your pre.
Four player local co-op makes for insane, old-school shenanigans, and though it's easy to lose sight of your retuicle, the extra firepower comes in handy during the more difficult levels. An upgrade system lets you trick out your firearm with better damage and scatter, providing a neat addictive draw.
The graphics stubbornly output in a SD resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio, but coupled with gloriously retro sprites and backdrops, it actually adds an air of authentic charm to what could have been a soulless and bland experience. Udder Chaos feels like an arcade classic - and as far as I'm concerned, that can only be a good thing.
Udder Chaos is good, honest, down-to-earth fun... which is why we got into gaming in the first place. Well worth the asking price, and guaranteed to lighten up any local multiplayer session.
Delta Energy 2.0
- Developer: Arithmancy
- Get Demo/Buy: 240 Microsoft Points
Egad! A vehicular combat sim? On the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace? Could it possibly be any good?!
Well, yes - to put it bluntly. Delta Energy 2.0 puts us in the driving seats of M1 Abrams tanks and challenges gamers to face off against enemy forces in a large number of scenarios. The gameplay is a nice blend of hardcore simulation and fast action, with nods to the more casual crowd with health pickups and powerups littering the arenas. The 3D graphics, whilst a little on the bland side, are seriously impressive for an XBLIG title. As are the awesome air support units.
Unfortunately we're separated from the action by finnicky controls and nuanced handling that requires a massive time investment to master. Since Delta Energy 2.0 is a simulation, this isn't necessarily a problem... but the learning curve is made much more aggravating than it ought to be due to completely hopeless tutorials and the inability to customise control layouts. Put simply: most players won't have any fun.
Finally, it's worth noting that the timed trial version doesn't do it any favours. Most of the juicy action is locked away and the only scenario on offer is as boring as it gets. You'll need to take a leap of faith on this one, and I'm afraid that only simulation fans need apply.
Delta Energy II succeeds at providing vehicular combat at a bargain price point, but its frustrating learning curve makes it a severely niche purchase.