Apologies for the late turn around on this week's Xbox indie game reviews, there were a whopping 24 games to go through that have been released since last Wednesday. And thankfully, there were a few hidden gems amongst the lot. I mean, with 24 games at least some of them have to be good, right? Whether it be from beating up street gangs, re-imagined arcade games, or a fire-breathing dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary, there was plenty of indie game love to go around.
Follow after the break for reviews of each of the past week's Xbox indie games.
Burning Fist of Rage - 240 MS points. Why hasn't Sega done this yet? Burning Fist of Rage could just as easily be called Streets of Rage 4, as it brings back the classic beat-em-up feel with an 80's and early 90's fashion sense. Most importantly though, the controls are solid, with responsive attacks and a full range of movement throughout the environments. Of course, as any beat-em-up should, two player co-op is available so you and a friend can beat up street thugs and robo mech bosses together. If you have fond memories of Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, or Final Fight, then this is an easy game to recommend.
Retrofit - Overload - 80 MS points. Retrofit Overload is the perfect example of how to update a classic game. As can be best described as Galaga for the Geometry Wars generation, Retrofit takes the swirling enemy patterns of classic early arcade vertical shooters and pairs it with more modern neon particle explosions than you can shake a twin-stick shooter at (Retrofit Overload is not a twin-stick shooter by the way. It's kind of sad that Xbox indie games have gotten to the point where I need to make special note of that fact.). What makes Retrofit so addicting is it's dual power-up system. The only power-ups to collect are gun enhancements and shield recharges. Shield recharges are the more common of the two, and recharge your ship's temporary shield ability. Gun enhancements add an additional laser to your ship's firing capabilities. Each gun enhancement increases your firepower, but also makes your ship a larger target and easier for enemies to hit. Instead of killing you instantly, taking damage removes a gun enhancement from your ship, making the challenging game somewhat more forgiving. It's a delicate balance between trying to collect gun enhancements and effectively using your shields. In later stages of the game, when enemies can take 10 or more hits to defeat, gun enhancements are a precious commodity, and it isn't uncommon to use your shield simply to retrieve a power-up. Though the game gives you a limited number of lives, you have infinite continues to progress through the game's waves of enemies. Each continue resets your score, making it harder to get on the ever-elusive high score leaderboard, but in later stages enemies give you more points, making it possible to reach a higher score in less time if you choose to continue. Of course, this strategy is only viable for so long, as starting from a continue means no power-ups to defeat the more challenging enemies, but skilled players will surely make the online leaderboards a more challenging endeavor because of this. Retrofit Overload is true to its name: it feels like an overload of retro game design sensibilities, the long lost arcade game that would have stolen all of your lunch money. And here it is for $1.
Attack of the Verbose Dinosaur - 80 MS points. Word games typically are heavy on spelling, but low on action. Attack of the Verbose Dinosaur attempts to solve this problem by putting you in control of a giant, Godzilla-like T-Rex as it spells its way to destroying the city. You fire letters from the dinosaur's mouth which stick to the building and other letters to form words. Once a word is formed, the dinosaur shoots fireballs from its mouth to make the word explode, causing massive structural damage to the building. Larger words and words with rare letters causing more damage, though the time limit can make it a challenge to actually use those letters in a pinch. Occasionally helicopters will fly by with word banners in tow, giving you the chance to fire the correct first letter of the word to get power-ups and a score boost. The action approach works well for the game, making Attack of the Verbose Dinosaur a fun choice for word game fans.
Nomis: Legacy Islands - 240 MS points. At first it seemed odd for a side-scrolling action game like Nomis to include a "stealth" button, but it works surprisingly well in the gameplay. First, the core gameplay is running and shooting, using either a pistol or shotgun to blast away robots. Defeated robots drop ammo and parts, the latter of which can be used to upgrade your weapons to increase every attribute from accuracy to damage. As for the stealth button, it makes you temporarily invisible to either sneak up on or sneak past enemies, allowing you to do a quick melee attack to conserve ammunition. With 20 levels and several boss battles, Nomis offers quite a bit of content for your virtual dollar.
Gentlemacho - 80 MS points. Of all of the Old Spice games, Gentlemacho is easily the best. In large part that is because the game could actually pass for a game on its own without the Old Spice Branding, but it may be equally due to the titular character. Gentlemacho gets his name from being both a gentleman and "macho," which essentially means we get to control a beefy bear of a man with enough chest hair to make Zangeif jealous while wearing a dapper top hat and monocle. You control Gentlemacho in side-scrolling platformer fashion as he uses his enormous moustache to whip enemies across four levels. It's fun, if not particularly unique from a gameplay perspective.
Murky Horizon - 80 MS points. Murky Horizon combines two of the favorite genres of Xbox indie developers: twin-stick shooters and tower defense. Between waves of enemies you can place towers to help protect a bunker in the center of the map. Then once the enemies start crawling from the corners of the screen, you take control of a solder twin-stick style to blast enemies and aid your towers. The game supports up to four player co-op, and I highly suggest using more players if given the chance. The enemies can get pretty overwhelming quite quickly, so either expert wall-building skills or multiple players are required to get very far in the game.
Avatar Dash - 80 MS points. Avatar Dash isn't the first Canabalt clone on the Xbo 360, but it's probably the best yet. It's very simple: just jump from platform to platform as the level scrolls progressively faster. There are two environments to run in, which helps to add variety to the one-button platformer. If you're looking for this kind of simple and addicting game on your Xbox, Avatar Dash is your best bet.
Text Zedventure - 80 MS points. Text Zedventure is a collection of three text adventure games exploring a mysterious disaster. They're more like choose your own adventure stories than text adventures though, since they only let you choose preset options at specific points rather than allowing you to type in your own responses. The three stories aren't particularly long, but do each have multiple alternate endings for replay value. Not to mention that the stories themselves are quite good, though half the fun is exploring them so I won't go into much detail here. If you're a fan of choose your own adventure stories then it's well worth checking out.
Dust Devils - 80 MS points. Dust Devils is a twin-stick defense game where you must protect mining machinery from alien bugs. It's hard not to compare it to this week's other similar game, Murky Horizon. Unlike that game, Dust Devils doesn't have towers to build, instead allowing you many options for upgrading your own vehicle's weapons. It also has much more attractive art style. If you're more in a strategy mood, then Murky Horizon is the better pick, but for a more pure action fix, Dust Devils gets the job done.
MatchingPair - 80 MS points. To be honest, I'm not much of a fan of memory matching games. Flip two cards, see if they match, rinse and repeat. The formula just doesn't hold my interest most of the time. MatchingPair at least does something new to keep the game more interesting. At the start of the game it is incredibly easy, with only a few possible characters to match. But as you progress, new characters are added, causing the difficulty to get progressively harder as you play. If you are the type of person that enjoys memory matching games, then MatchingPair is definitely one to look out for.
Pushy - 240 MS points. Pushy is a moving-blocks puzzle game in the vein of Sokoban and similar games. In addition to the huge amount of levels already present in the game, there is a full level editor and ability to share your creations to give the game potentially an endless supply of levels.
ゆっくりの 迷宮 - 80 MS points. So, this is another one of those Japanese games in which I have no idea what is actually going on. As best as I can tell, you go around mazes and punch various colored smiley faces, which increases your stats. At the end of each level you receive a grade, with that grade removing some of the clutter that blocks an image of an anime girl. I'm assuming that you win when the full girl's image is cleared, which may or may not be much of reward for you. One interesting thing about the game is that people from your Xbox Live friends list will occasionally appear when you open treasure chests. I can't read Japanese, so I have no idea what purpose this serves in the game, but it's an interesting way of integrating your friends into the game.
Scatha - 400 MS points. RTS games aren't typically known to work well on consoles, and Scatha is a good example of that. Small levels, cumbersome controls, and some questionable AI hold Scatha back from satisfying the needs of strategy gamers.
Pallet Loader - 80 MS points. So, you control a forklift and deliver boxes to the proper shelf in a warehouse. I get that. But who decided it would be a good idea to use the Gears of War reloading timing-minigame as the method of setting boxes on a shelf?
Anger Management 2 - 80 MS points. If you suffered through the last Anger Management game, then perhaps you're willing to subject yourself to one of the worst Asteroids imitations around. To it's credit, there is a giant Abraham Lincoln head in the game...and I think with that I've run out of nice things to say about it.
AvatarFever: Capture the Spice - 80 MS points. A simple game of capture the flag using Old Spice deodorant instead of a flag. There's an option to play with up to four players, and the ability to steal the Old Spice from opponents by throwing snowballs/coconuts/other level theme appropriate objects at eachother. At least the developers only charged $1 for this advertisement as opposed to the finalists which had to charge $3.
Grabby Grabby Plushy Plushy - 80 MS points. Grabby Grabby Plushy Plushy takes the popular "Crane Game" prize game from arcades and bowling alleys, and pairs it with frustrating controls. Physics seem to have been applied to the game, but it's some form of bizzaro physics where momentum doesn't come into play, making it very difficult to aim your crane arm.
BattleWorms - 80 MS points. BattleWorms is essentially the same as the classic game Battleship, but with worms instead of ships. It also allows you to select multiple spaces on the opponent's grid to attack at once, which speeds up the pace of the game though it also takes away some of the tension and strategy inherent in the game.
Kapture - 80 MS points. Kapture is a jack of all trades, master of none. It offers missions with driving, twin-stick shooter, and horizontal scrolling shooter gameplay. The problem is that they all control pretty terribly, typically with whatever you're controlling moving too slowly to avoid the unfairly speedy enemy fire.
HaXor LooZ - 80 MS points. HaXor LooZ is a multiplayer puzzle game where you must choose nodes on a grid to connect as many nodes of your color as possible. The game allows up to four players at a time, though the best strategy seems to be waiting for others to go first since it is possible to overwrite your opponents' nodes. This means that when playing against human opponents, when the game should be at its best, everyone will just be waiting for others to go first, and the game won't really go anywhere.
The Perfect Pickup Line - 240 MS points. Wow. This is probably the biggest pile of misogynistic BS to grace the Xbox indie channel yet. It's a pretty close call between this and Don't Be Nervous Talking To Girls, which unsurprisingly is from the same developer.
Hot Potato HD - 80 MS points. Get together a group of friends and pass the controller around until the music stops. Or, take any music you already have, and do the exact same thing without spending a dollar.
BrainBox360 (Physics Edition) - 400 MS points. This is a physics quiz game, which probably would have been in the "Ay?" group if that's all it was. Unfortunately, some of the questions use the worst trivia game mechanic ever. Apparently four options just weren't enough, because some questions give you a grid of multiple choice answers to choose from. You must then input the correct face buttons for the X and Y coordinates of your answer on the grid, all while under the scrutiny of a time limit. Even by the time you find the right answer in the grid, your time to answer the question is almost up. The challenge of a trivia game should be from the questions, not from jumping through needless hoops just to input your answer.
MeetURMatch (Avatar Edition) - 240 MS points. Hey look, it's another memory matching game. And despite what the title may suggest, you aren't matching avatars, the avatars are just used on menus and to show whose turn it is. Other than that, it's a pretty basic memory matching game.
Iris 2.0 - Visualizer Studio
RC Racing 360
Flotilla - Highly recommended space strategy game featuring penguin pirates!
Avatar Bumper Cars