There are no two ways about it: this has been a fairly slow week on the Xbox Live Indie scene. However, there are still a couple of titles that are worth your dosh even though they're having trouble breaking out into the mainstream.
Guys, please remember to rate any Indie games you play using the star system. You can do this on the dashboard or in your browser, but developers and consumers desperately need this feedback. Frankly, it's the least we all can do.
We all love playing RPGs where the lead character starts out as a scruffy peasant who eventually makes good as a knight in shining armour. In the case of Wizard's Keep, however, this is a perfect analogy for the game itself. This unassuming title does little to entice gamers with flashy advertising or shiny visuals, but it's a solid outing that delivers surprisingly impressive value.
Not that you'd know it from the screenshots.
Wizard's Keep is essentially a Zelda clone with a few extra bells and whistles. Heroes start down the path to riches and revenge with a wooden shield, small dagger and a pocket full of gold coins that can be spent on better equipment. Isometric maps and dungeons contain plenty of critters and light switch-based puzzles to beat; providing plenty of experience to gradually power up your character. It's basic stuff, but it's handled extremely well.
Okay. Right then. I can't put this off any longer. Wizard's Keep is a bit of a mess when it comes to presentation. The graphics sit firmly on the MS Paint side of basic and the music is a truly torturous piece of synth. I personally find the experience to be very endearing in a home-made Blue Peter kind of way, but most players simply won't be able to look past it. It's not their fault. It's the age we live in.
But hey, we're all about gameplay over graphics here at Dealspwn- and I'm delighted to report that the mechanics are rock solid. Rather than subscribing to the cheap and cynical 100 Rogues formula, Wizard's Keep uses a strong combat system with manual targeting, a selection of abilities and different attacks to choose from. Whilst it's easy to get mobbed (especially at lower levels), the action is undeniably capable. Two players can also engage in single-screen multiplayer- which is surprisingly good fun for a few hours.
Wizard's Keep is a plucky underdog that deserves its day in the sun. If you're willing to overlook the presentation, the experience will reward you with capable action, fun exploration and a heap of content for your 80 Microsoft Points. Highly recommended.