It has been quite the excellent week for indie games on the 360. The 2nd place winner from last year's Dream.Build.Play competition is now available, and is every bit as good as a winner should be. But there were also four other games that stood head and shoulders above the rest, ranging from doodles to cavemen, as well as the obligatory puzzle games and tower defense games.
Reviews that await you after the jump include Rotor'scope, Your Doodles Are Bugged!, Cavemen VS Aliens, Kollectiv360, and Invasion Defender.
Rotor'scope - 400 MS points. Rotor'scope took the 2nd place prize in the 2009 Dream.Build.Play competition, and it is easy to see why. It is an awesome game. The core of the gameplay is to rotate each puzzle to slide blocks into place so that they connect with same-colored blocks. You only have three controls, rotate right, rotate left, and flip the board upside down. From those three actions some ingenious puzzles emerge to challenge your wits. All of these puzzles are wrapped in a wonderfully told story and high production values that could have easily made Rotor'scope an 800 point Arcade game. Instead it's half that price, and worth every penny. Puzzle fans should not hesitate to download this Dream.Build.Play finalist.
Your Doodles Are Bugged! - 80 MS points. Last time we saw a game from Spyn Doctor Games it turned out to be one of my favorites on the 360 with Kuchibi. I dare say that the good Spyn Doctor has struck gold again with Your Doodles Are Bugged. In what can best be described as a combination of Lemmings and Crayon Physics, you draw lines on the doodle-art levels to guide a horde of bouncing bugs to the level's goal. On first glance, each level looks like a haphazard mess of squiggles and designs, befitting of the game's doodle title. But upon closer inspection there are carefully crafted pathways hidden in the level for you to find and utilize, assuming that you can draw the right lines to guide your bugs there. But the real winner in the game is the sound design, with each bug yelping with glee akin to the goo balls in World of Goo, making the completion of each level that much more satisfying and adorable.
Cavemen Vs Aliens - 400 MS points. I'm always up for a bizzare game premise, so when I heard there was a game pitting rock-throwing cavemen against laser-blasting aliens, my interest was piqued. It is a strategy game of sorts, tasking you with conquering several islands in each level with the limited cavemen at your disposal. The aliens are also trying to conquer these prehistoric islands, so keeping your islands well fortified with cavemen as well as ammo and health (all easily distributed by pterodactyls with the face buttons) is essential. After each mission you can take the points you earned and use them to buy upgrades to your cavemen to better suit your own strategy. It's not going to be quite as deep as a typical RTS without features like base building and unit construction, but as a console strategy title it certainly fits the bill.
Kollectiv360 - 80 MS points. Kollectiv360 is a puzzle game about sliding blocks and matching colors. Wait, where are you going? I know, that sounds like just about every other puzzle game out there, but Kollectiv360 takes a slightly different approach. When you slide a block you don't just slide one, but the entire row or column that the block is a part of. This both adds to the challenge as well as creates new combo possibilities and is a welcome addition to the game. Kollectiv360 is also set apart by the fact that new blocks are added to the level from all four directions. If not properly managed, these blocks can expand the entire playfield, making the game that much harder. If the playfield expands too much though, then it's game over. Multitasking is a big part of the game, as you are both clearing blocks and keeping the playfield size in check, but it never feels chaotic which is a true testament to the game. There are already a ton of great puzzle games on the Xbox 360, but Kollective360 is definitely worth a look.
Invasion Defender - 240 MS points. Tower defense games are a dime a dozen, which is really the only drawback to Invasion Defender. It's an excellent representation of the best parts of tower defense games, with an open level for you to build your own pathway across and a diverse selection of towers to fit any situation, but it's nothing that hasn't been seen many times before. One thing that will set Invasion Defender apart are the graphics, which are well rendered 3D models opposed to the 2D sprites found in many tower defense games. If you haven't yet gotten your fill of the genre, I can easily recommend Invasion Defender over many other tower defense games.
Hockey Fights - 80 MS points. This one took me completely by surprise, mostly because the developer, Silver Dollar Games, is best known for pushing out some truly terrible shovelware. Instead, this time they have created a fun, if simple, game based on the only part of hockey I ever found interesting: the fights. There are only four actions in the game - high punch, low punch, high block, and low block - to fight your opponent. Every punch drains your stamina bar, making your attacks deal less damage, while blocking regains your stamina. This balance is the key to winning some of the tougher fights in the game. Well, that and the ability to pull your opponent's shirt over their face if you land three successful hits in a row.
Hard 2 Morrow - 240 MS points. What do you get when you combine Pong and Mortal Kombat? Apparently Hard 2 Morrow. Aside from replacing the Pong paddles with half-dressed gladiators, there's some actual innovation to the Pong gameplay formula. By default, your gladiator will always catch the ball, which can them be thrown diagonally up, diagonally down, or straight head with one of three face buttons. This keeps both players more alert since you can no longer predict where a ball will bounce before your opponent even hits it. If you press a face button to relaunch the ball right as it gets to you, you are able to increase the ball's speed and power adding another nice strategic touch. It's still Pong at heart, but Hard 2 Morrow shows that there's still some new ideas to be had in one of gaming's oldest designs.
Samurai vs Zombie - 80 MS points. Finally, a zombie game that isn't a top-down twin stick shooter. Oh, it's a button-mashing hack and slash game instead? To the game's credit, each level gives you specific challenges to complete, like getting the highest combo without taking damage or trying to get as many one-hit kills as possible, so you at least have different goals in each level. Unfortunately, almost every goal can be accomplished the same way, by running straight at enemies and slamming on the X button. There are a number of characters and weapons to unlock if you score well enough in the challenges, which is a welcome addition, but it all breaks down to the same button-mashing gameplay. The only time the gameplay really changes is in multiplayer, since death in the game means returning as a zombie, allowing you to ravage your former allies.
Absorb - 80 MS points.
Glide - 80 MS points.
Fire Up - 80 MS points.
A Killer's Dream
Horn Swaggle Island