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Xbox Indie Video Review Roundup - 9/10/2010

This week we have a video roundup of six games: Radiangames Inferno, Treasure Treasure: Fortress Forage Extra Edition, Juggle, Jimbo Vs Legion of Darkness, Jewel Dervish, and it just wouldn't be complete without Techno Kitten Adventure. Yes, that's a game, and it's awful in all of the best ways. You can also find written reviews for the rest of this week's 20 new releases after the break.


Radiangames Inferno - 80 MS points. Radiangames has become synonymous with high quality shooters, and Inferno is no exception. This time around, Radiangames takes the twin-stick shooter formula from their first game JoyJoy, and puts it into a Gauntlet-style dungeon crawler. As you travel through the game's 30 stages, you'll collect keys, bombs, drones, and lots of money. Keys and bombs are pretty self-explanatory, but the drones add a nice new element to the gameplay. You can have up to three drones active at a time, and most of the time they'll simply act by helping to shoot whatever you're shooting at. But since you don't have direct control over the drones, they can also shoot independently, and many a time I've been saved by a drone shooting an enemy that was sneaking behind me. Finally, there's the money you collect, which can be used at shops in each level to buy more of the aforementioned items or upgrade your abilities. Watching as you go from a simple ship to a speedy ship with rapid fire homing bullets is exhilarating and gives a sense of RPG progression beyond simply moving on to the next level. You also have a shield at your disposal, which should be used liberally in order to survive some of the game's trickier levels. After completing the game, you have the option of starting a New Game+, which lets you start from the beginning with all of your upgrades, but also gives you fewer items and tougher enemies to compensate. Though Crossfire is still my favorite from Radiangames so far, Inferno is a very close second and shouldn't be missed by fans of shooters and dungeon crawlers alike.

Treasure Treasure: FFEE - 80 MS points. I was a little reluctant to recommend Treasure Treasure this week. After all, the game has been available as a free download on the PC for years, and I'm not in the habit of suggesting for people to spend money on things that are free. But after playing this new Xbox version, I have to say that it is definitely worth adding to your collection for any platformer fan. In the game you control a boy and a girl as they venture through a castle collecting treasures. The boy can push large objects, while the girl can jump higher, and you'll need to make use of both of their abilities to collect all of the treasures. You can play either solo or with a friend in co-op, with the latter infinitely more fun and the teamwork much easier to pull off. But even when playing solo, it's simple enough to swap between characters to take advantage of their respective abilities. All of that held true in the PC version too though. What makes the Xbox release far more enjoyable, for me at least, is how the dynamic between the characters is shown. As the two characters move apart, the screen will automatically transition to splitscreen, with the angle of the split depending on the orientation of each character to the other. It's a seamless process, and an elegant solution to a problem that has existed with co-op sidescrolling games since the genre began. It just works, perfectly, and that's really all you can ask for. It doesn't hurt either that the game has genuinely fun puzzles and hits you with a huge dose of nostalgia with its Game Boy style graphics. Grab a friend, and sit down for one of the best co-op games the 360 has to offer.


Vexis (Buckshot Games) - 80 MS points. One of the top puzzle games on the 360 is the former Dream Build Play finalist Rotorscope. This is not that game, though you might be fooled at first glance. Vexis has very similar gameplay to Rotorscope, which is hardly a bad thing. You twist and turn the level to navigate a black box to the goal. That isn't to say that Vexis is a complete copy, it has some new features of its own such as vanishing blocks and blocks that move on a timer. And though Vexis is missing the charming story that Rotorscope had, the solid gameplay and significantly lower price tag still make it a good choice for puzzle fans.

Juggle! - 240 MS points. Juggle is like Pong for one person, and was actually first available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. You use a paddle to hit the ball into the air, and try to keep hitting it into the air for points. It's not quite as simple as that though, with the ball shrinking with each hit and multiple balls added ever few seconds to keep the gameplay at a fast pace. Smaller balls earn more points with each hit, and the balls get faster as you progress through the levels. For a single player there are three minute, five minute, and endless modes, which are pretty self-explanatory. That single player game is what you can buy on the iPhone, and while I had no problem picking it up during a free promotion, I'm not sure if it's enough to justify a purchase on its own. However the 360 release gets 3 new multiplayer modes, which add a lot to the game if you have someone else to play it with. Especially the Volleyball mode, which follows the same mechanics as the single player game with two players passing the balls between each other. If one player lets a ball drop on their half of the screen, the other player gets the point, with more points awarded for smaller balls. It's a lot of fun, and highly recommended if you have someone else to play it with.

Jimbo Vs Legion of Darkness - 80 MS points. Jimbo Vs Legion of Darkness is a shooter that seems to take Contra as it's primary inspiration, right down to flying power-ups that you need to shoot down. It's not quite as unforgiving as Contra, though it can still get quite difficult at times. Interestingly, there are two control schemes to play with, either retro or modern. Retro controls should feel familiar to gamers of the 8 and 16-bit era, with aiming and movement both assigned to the left stick, with the downside being that you can only aim at 45 degree angles. The modern controls put aiming controls to the right stick, which allows for more precise aiming and makes the game much easier. It's an average shooter that should satisfy your action cravings, just don't expect it to top games like Weapon of Choice.

Evacuation - 240 MS points. Evacuation is an interesting strategy game where you must rescue civilians from hungry mutants. As you walk around the city from a bird's eye view you need to collect items that can be used for herding people where you want them to go. A bullhorn is used to get civilians to evacuation sites, police radios are used to send armed police to attack the mutants, barricades can be used to block off streets, and more. Since the camera is pulled back so far above the city, it can sometimes be difficult to tell what item you're going to pick up until it's already in your inventory, but eventually your able to tell what item you'll get from looking at the building. There's no game on the 360 quite like it, making it worth looking into for strategy fans.

That Orange Guy - 80 MS points. The Orange Guy is a simple action platformer where you play as a character that looks like an orange Mega Man rip-off. And just like Mega Man, you can switch between many different weapons which enemies will drop ammo for. Honestly though, I didn't notice any significant damage difference between most of the weapons, so it's really just a matter of using whichever one you have ammo for at the time. The gameplay is and controls are decent enough, and it's a fairly long game, so you're definitely getting your money's worth, but I found the experience rather bland and can't really see myself returning to it.

Ninja VS Zombie - 80 MS points. Ninja VS Zombie looks like it should be an action game or a platformer, but actually plays more like a puzzle game. In each level there are several zombies, and you must knock them into spikes on the walls and ceiling to clear the level. This can sometimes be quite frustrating, because the ninja's attack has pitifully short range, making it extremely easy to take damage from the zombies instead of knocking them back. But once you get the hang of it, and figure out that you can charge attacks by holding the attack button, it's actually a really fun game.

Jewel Dervish - 80 MS points. Jewel Dervish takes the classic game Bust a Move and spins it around. Literally. Gems attach to a node in the center of the stage, and every new gem you shoot at the pile causes the whole stack to spin around. It's based on accurate momentum too, so you can use the spinning to your advantage to time your shots, or simply shift the board to a better position. The only real downside is that Jewel Dervish's looks aren't that great, with simple geometry that produces jagged edges, and a camera angle that makes aiming a little harder than it probably should be. Overall though, Jewel Dervish is a great twist on a classic puzzle game.

Pure Carnage - 80 MS points. Pure Carnage puts you in control of a turret defending a space station from incoming alien crafts and missiles. There are actually four turrets, and the level of control you have depends on the number of players. Single player has you controlling two turrets with the right and left stick while the remaining turrets are controlled by AI. The game becomes increasingly more fun as more players are added, and is at its best when four players each have their own turret and can work together to fight back the waves of enemies. You also have two special abilities on your turret, armor piercing bullets and a spread shot, which can be activated for a temporary boost but need to recharge before they can be used again. If you have three friends to play with, Pure Carnage is a blast, but I wouldn't really recommend a purchase if you plan to play solo.

Holy Moley - 240 MS points. Holy Moley takes the lightcycle game from Tron and swaps out the neon lights for cartoon moles dressed as prominent religious figures (for example, one wears a Pope hat while another wears a turban). As your mole tunnels through the level, it will leave a trail of upturned soil in its wake that will defeat other moles if they run into it. There is a wide selection of levels, each with different hazards like rocks to run into or water where you won't leave a trail, and there are a number of power-ups to help keep the gameplay varied. It's really a game best played with other people though, so don't bother if you don't have some friends that want to play the game in local multiplayer.

360 Mega Pack HD Remix - 80 MS points. I almost completely wrote this game off as a collection of useless apps and button mashing minigames. After all, that's a majority of what 360 Mega Pack HD Remix has to offer. But there is one redeeming minigame that makes this collection worth a second look. Gravity Dash is a game like the ever-popular The Impossible Game, but with a gravity bending twist. In addition to jumping over obstacles, you now can also swap gravity so that you are running along the ceiling. It's actually quite fun, and with plenty of levels that one game redeems the whole package.


Techno Kitten Adventure - 80 MS points. Can a game be simultaneously terrible and amazing? After playing Techno Kitten Adventure, I would say yes. The gameplay itself is pretty awful, with flying a jetpack-wearing kitten through a tunnel with dodgy controls. But at the same time, the action going on around the kitten is so ridiculous, that I couldn't help but smile while playing. Unicorns? Check. Overbearing song about rainbows? Double check. Would I pay a dollar for it? Not a chance, but it's at least a fun quick diversion in the trial version.

Madam Zhen's Tent of MYSTERY! - 80 MS points. Madam Zhen's Tent of Mystery is primarily a Tarot card app. It's actually a fairly robust one, and though the visuals may be lacking it's clear that a lot of research went into representing accurate configurations and providing analysis for each card's meaning. I never put much stock in tarot cards, so I suppose digital shuffling has just as high a likelihood of predicting your future as physical cards. There's also a magic 8-ball, personality tester based on your birthday, and a love tester based on the numerology of names. Then there's an actual game hidden in the credits that plays like the classic shell game where you need to follow a specific card as it's swapped and shuffled among three others.

Avatar Bowman 2 - 80 MS points. Avatar Bowman 2 brings two avatars shooting arrows at each other to the third dimension, giving you an entirely new axis to screw up your aiming. Really, it's just two avatars standing still shooting at each other, so it's not like the extra dimension will help you aim in any way. Not to mention that you can steer your arrow in midair, taking all skill out of the equation. It also includes the full game of the original Avatar Bowman, which itself is a blatant rip-off of the dozens of free flash and iPhone bowman games.

Trapped - 80 MS points. Trapped puts your Avatar in a dark cave with a sword, throwing knives, and dynamite to defend against bats and trolls. The game is simply too dark though, often making it impossible to see what is going on onscreen. Combine that with controls that lag between when you press the button and an action actually happens, and Trapped is a game that's easy to pass up.

Avatar Crate Crusaders - 80 MS points. It really doesn't matter to me if this game is good or not (which it isn't by the way), because I'm going to give it a Nay on principle. In the trial version, pressing the A button at any time opens the purchase menu. This is basically tricking people into buying the game since most people will press A to select an option on the main menu. I know that it says on the bottom of the screen that A is for purchasing, which technically clears the developer of liability. But come on. Using the A button to select is a standard, assumed control in videogames, and it's clear that the developers did this to take advantage of people who would press A assuming it would select a menu option. I thought about not even including the game in this week's roundup, but figured instead it would be better to warn you about this shady, pathetic attempt to trick people into buying their crap.

Angry Robot Rampage - 80 MS points. Angry Robot Rampage has you fighting an endless stream of robots to try and survive for as long as you can. Your score is based on how far you travel, so really killing the robots is optional. They have a weak spot on the back of their heads that's a one hit kill, but the controls for jumping over the robots and aiming are cumbersome enough that this isn't really a viable strategy. Basically you just charge straight ahead and kill robots until you run out of ammo, then you die. Not fun.

Blockey - 80 MS points. Blocky is a game of hockey using block like characters. Isn't that a clever pun? Yeah, I didn't think so either. The gameplay is equally uninspired.

Neighborhood is GANG INFESTED - 80 MS points. Imagine Risk without any form of balance, and that's Neighborhood is Gang Infested. You automatically roll a number of die equal to how many gang members you have in a territory, which strips the game of the balance Risk originally had where attackers could only roll a maximum of three die. Here, it completely breaks the gameplay.

Updated Games

Mind's Eye of Jupiter - 02
Ice Crush 10.000 B.C.
Colony Defense
Sword of Rapier
Magnetic Wars


Mad Mage said:

Seems like a particularly good line up this week. Great video! Helps me check out good indie games I may have skipped over when browsing on my xbox. Also, even after just a couple vids you are showing drastic improvement. Best xbox indie reviews online (that I know of).

Aquariumfish said:

I have bookmarked your site and visit all the time, keep up the good work!

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Aquariumfish on Xbox Indie Video Review Roundup - 9/10/2010: I have bookmarked your site and visit all the time, keep up the good work!...

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