The Xbox indie games channel makes a nice recovery from the terror Old Spice week last week. In case you couldn't tell from the screenshot to the right, there's a Rez clone this week, and it's a pretty good one at that. But this isn't the Xbox Live Arcade, so there's more than just one game released at a time. Whether you want a Tetris/platformer hybrid, a trivia game, or just to get the ball rolling (figuratively and literally) there are some great games that came out in the past week. There was also a massive update to a certain zombie hack 'n slash game that was so massive that it required a whole new review. Check out all of the indie game reviews after the break.
Olu - 240 MS points. Olu really, really, really wants to be Rez. It's an on-rails music-based shooter that borrows everything from Q Entertainment's classic right down to the psychedelic wire-frame graphics. Of course, Rez is an absolutely amazing game, so this is hardly a bad thing, but it does present Olu with a bit of an identity crisis. To try and differentiate itself, Olu doesn't rely on music quite as much as its predecessor did. The music still evolves as you go through each stage, but defeating enemies doesn't have the same effect of creating a dynamic soundtrack as you play. There's also an Ikaruga-esque polarity system where enemies will come at you either as wire-frame or shaded polygons and you must alternate the right and left triggers to attack the proper type of enemy. If you defeat enough enemies with each polarity you can unlock special bomb and freezing abilities that will come in very handy when dealing with some of the more massive enemy waves. This polarity system becomes the driving force for Olu's gameplay, and differentiates Olu enough from it's inspiration to warrant it as it's own unique experience. For only $3, fans of Rez would be crazy not to download Olu. And if you've never played Rez before, then get ready for an awesome trip.
Blazin' Balls - 80 MS points. Generally, when balls are involved it's a good time, and that holds true with Blazin' Balls. The premise is simple: roll your ball to the end of the course while dodging pitfalls and collecting coins along the way. Of course, things are never as simple as they appear, and soon new gameplay elements are added like boost and jump tiles that seem helpful at first, but are placed in just the right spot to send you careening straight into a bottomless pit if you aren't careful. Fast reflexes and some trial and error are necessary, and that's what makes it so fun and addicting. Think of Blazin' Balls as a cross between Canabalt and Super Monkey Ball.
Pinky vs Blocks - 80 MS points. What if Tetris was a platformer? Sound crazy? Well that seems to be the driving concept behind Pinky vs Blocks. You control Pinky, a small pink blob, as it makes its way through various Tetris-style boards to reach the end of the level. The strange thing is though, at the same time you're also controlling falling tetrominoes to build paths and clear lines so Pinky can make its way to the exit. Tetrominoes are controlled with the left stick while Pinky is controlled with the right stick, making for a hectic experience as you move both while trying not to crush Pinky under the falling blocks. It is one of the most unique games I've played in a while, and I simply cannot recommend at least playing the trial enough. Pinky vs Blocks won't be for everyone, and Pinky's jumping controls could have been a little better, so really I should probably have ranked this game in the "Ay?" category. But the design is so original that it deserves to be played. No game more perfectly displays, or literally interprets, the genre "puzzle platformer" than Pinky vs Blocks.
Twin Blades - 400 MS points. Wait, Twin Blades isn't a new game, what's it doing here for review? Well, as it turns out, Twin Blades received quite an update recently. Normally I just list the updated games at the bottom of the weekly review, but in the case of Twin Blades the update pretty much makes it an entirely new game, and deserves a new review. The same hack 'n slash gameplay and fabulous animation that originally made Twin Blades so good still hold true. What has been added is a new story mode featuring a world map, several new levels, a ton of new enemy types, and three huge boss battles. The boss battles are the most exciting addition, and go a long way toward adding new variety to the game. The world map too is an exciting addition and brings with it an infection ranking for each level. If you leave a level alone for too long, the infection ranking will increase and the next time you replay that level the zombies will be that much stronger. There are also new combo attacks that you can unlock with the new update. Originally there was only one standard attack, but thanks to the update you gain more powerful combo attacks as you upgrade your weapon. The most game-changing update however is the new win conditions for each level. It used to be that you could run through the levels and theoretically just jump past all the zombie killing to reach the goal. As a result, the pacing of the game was inconsistent, with the possibility that your character could be underpowered when the zombies got stronger. That's been changed now with each level only ending once you've killed a certain number of zombies. It seems restricting at first, but makes the overall pace of the game much smoother as it better balances the upgrading of your character with the strength of the enemies. Twin Blades was already highly recommended in its original form, but now with this new update Twin Blades is essential gaming for anyone longing for a solid action game.
Avatar QuizCall - 80 MS points. Avatar QuizCall is a trivia game that does a good job of filling the void left by the lack of a 1 vs 100 season running right now. With over 1000 questions, there's certainly no shortage of content in the game. Questions fall into a nice mix of general knowledge and pop culture trivia. Avatar QuizCall also supports the Scene It big button controllers if you're already an established trivia buff. The biggest hurdle for Avatar QuizCall to overcome though is the fact that 1 vs 100, when the next season starts up, is already available for free to all Xbox Live Gold members. But, if you want your trivia to be at your fingertips and don't want to rely on Microsoft's schedule, then downloading Avatar QuizCall is an easy decision.
Baby Maker Extreme - 80 MS points. Honestly, I wanted to hate this game based on the title alone. My feelings toward the game didn't improve when I loaded it up and found out it was one of those "cannon" games where you launch something (in this case a baby, or your Avatar if you prefer) and passively watch as it bounces off of obstacles to give you a high score. But then I actually played it, and came away much more impressed than I have from any similar style game. The key here is that you don't actually just sit passively and watch the baby bounce through a hospital ward, you actually get a fair amount of control in this game. Certain obstacles, like doctors, will have a blue aura surrounding them, and when your baby bounces off of them you gain boost that can be activated with the X button. You can also hold the A button to make your baby take a steep dive, which is helpful in aiming for obstacles that will give you a boost. Who knew that by actually allowing you to control the game it would become more fun?
Massage Me - 240 MS points. Really? Really? I thought we were done with the massage apps. There is no part of your body that will feel good when pressing a 360 controller against it. It doesn't help that this massage app costs three times as much as the myriad of equally worthless massage apps already available.
Super Avatar - 80 MS points. Super Avatar is a reaction game. Your Avatar flies through the air, and the game prompts you to press buttons occasionally in order to dodge flying potatoes. Cheap? Yes. Easy? Yes. Fun? No.
Blackjack Strategy King
Full Contact Racing
Fight Monkey of Magic
Twin Blades - new review above
Pwn Age: 1337 AD