I truly believe that the Indie scene is the last remaining bastion of creativity in the games industry. Microsoft’s willingness to welcome bedroom developers onto the Xbox 360 dashboard provides one of the last unique selling points that the console has to offer… but there’s a catch. A vast selection of excellent games can be found on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace, but they’re usually difficult to find beneath a putrid heap of rushed, lazy and insultingly broken content. To this end, I’ll be diving headfirst into said heap every Wednesday in order to select three outstanding Indie titles that deserve your time and money.
Oh, and we’ll be picking a winner. There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition…
Developer: Virtual Dynamic Systems
True flight sims are extremely rare on consoles these days. The likes of Ace Combat and HAWX tend to hype up aerial combat, huge explosions and cinematic missions... but forget that simply getting into a plane and flying is a genuine thrill in its own right. Many of us dream about taking to the skies- and realising this, Flight Adventure is a straight-up, no-holds-barred sim that puts you in a light aircraft... and lets you fly.
Flight Adventure provides us with enormous, detailed islands to take off from, fly around and explore. Swooping through valleys, across the sea and over the treeline is a genuine thrill; and made extremely authentic by the control system. You'll need to manipulate both the aileron, flaps and velocity to steer the plane... and whilst it takes a while to get used to, it also feels very realistic according my (very) limited flying experience. Landing is by far the most difficult and rewarding aspect of the gameplay, and Flight Adventure actively challenges you to seek out and land on the most dangerous terrain you can. A handy replay viewer and tweakable weather/camera makes for a highly adjustable little title.
My one reservation about Flight Adventure is that it's extremely dry- both in terms of presentation and gameplay. Flying around and managing to land on dangerous terrain is engrossing, tense and enjoyable- but that's pretty much all that the game has to offer. It's a pure flight sim with no bells, whistles or combat to dilute the experience. Adrenaline junkies be warned: the term 'adventure' is very liberally applied in this case.
Flight Adventure provides an engaging and surprisingly authentic take on the genre. The serious presentation may deter immature thrillseekers, but flying fans will enjoy a challenging, stress-relieving and time-consuming experience. Ever wanted to go flying to blow off some steam? Now's your chance.
The No Button Game
Developer: Running Pixel
This week has ushered in a slew of "one-button" platformers: linear games where you only have to press a single button to circumvent obstacles as your character gormlessly travels along a predesignated track. The Impossible Avatar Getaway 2 and Crazy Ride both use this simple formula... but we're looking for something more to justify second place. Indie games have the freedom to experiment with new game experiences, art styles and control inputs- and with this in mind, I feel that I have to bring The No Button Game to your attention. It's a fast-paced platformer with a psychedelic neon theme... but it doesn't require any buttons at all. In fact, all you need is an Xbox controller and one other peripheral.
A cardboard box.
That's right, folks: a humdrum cardboard box has become a magical gateway to another gameplay dimension... well, a 2-dimensional platformer at least. Balancing the controller upon its triggers and bumpers on the top of the box, you'll slap the lid like a bongo drum to speed up and jump over obstacles (since the vibration causes tiny movement in the thumbsticks which is detected by the sensitive software). Rhythmically drumming to double jump and keep the character aloft using the wings powerup works surprisingly well- and repeating a variety of attractive levels at increasing speeds will keep you busy.
A little more variety and some more minigames would have been nice... but for being a brave, zany and decidedly gauche experience, The No Button Game is well worth checking out. Just bear in mind that it may take you a while to find the perfect box! A one-button mode's waiting in the wings just in case... as is a hidden bonus game for dedicated players.
Developer: Dragon Chess Interactive Inc.
Chess games have been around since the dawn of computing; providing us with yet another reason to stare at a screen instead of gainfully interacting with our peers. The advent of improved graphics and... actual games heralded the decline of the chess title- but Dragon Chess is here to kick the formula up a notch. As well as standard chess with a fantasy flair, Dragon Chess offers a new variant involving a powerful new dragon piece (which can move three spaces in any direction) and an expanded board for flanking manoeuvres. Multiplayer support and serviceable graphics make for a solid chess title.
The biggest disappointment with Dragon Chess is that the pieces don't interact in any significant way. When I first ordered my knight to take my opponent's bishop, I was expecting an epic fight between the two statuesque figures- with the clergyman bravely fending my brave warrior off with his stave but eventually falling to my knight's sword. No such luck. My knight just merrily hopped onto the square as the bishop disappeared... and I felt a little cheated that I hadn't been treated to a Star Wars-esque holographic death sequence. It's a shame that more wasn't made of the fantasy setting.
Still, Dragon Chess is a handy and capable chess game with a wallet-friendly price tag... so if you're in the market, I can highly recommend this one. It'll certainly save you some money compared to those ludicrously expensive fantasy-themed chess sets.