And finally we wrap things up with the top five titles you can get on Xbox Live Indie Games. Of course, you could buy the other twenty to go along with these. Check out the previous parts, starting with part one. Remember to click the name of each game to read my review.
Developed by Saturnine Games
Sort of like: Bionic Commando, only with better controls and God-like powers over gravity.
Why I liked it: Antipole takes a passé genre, the platform-shooter, and invigorates it with a clever hook: the ability to reverse gravitational pull. The result is a game that is steeped in tradition, but feels fresh and original. You’ll even encounter some homages to gaming’s past, like a boss fight that will be familiar to fans of Super Metroid. Antipole has some of the most clever platforming-level design on XBLIG.
How it could have been better: I don’t think Antipole ever reaches its fullest potential. For the most part, the gravity features never extend outside the most obvious uses. I don’t know if you could do more with it, but what is here is very basic (and very spectacular).
Who will like it: Manufacturers of red trench coats, would-be superheroes, Michael Jackson.
Who won’t like it: Galileo, Sir Issac Newton, the guys who have to clean ceilings.
Developed by Brilliant Blue-G
Concept: Take a basic platform-shooter and include the ability to alter the presentation in ways that affect the gameplay.
Sort of like: Mega Man mixed with Nicktoons.
Why I liked it: Chester had the potential to be one of those annoying collect-a-thons that grew old for me around the time Donkey Kong 64 came out. But Chester avoids that by providing one of the most original gameplay hooks I’ve seen in a while. The idea is that you collect various backgrounds as you make your way through the game. Using the bumpers, you can change the entire art style of a level on the fly. Doing so might also change the strength of your character, or the enemies, or the frequency of which special items are dropped. You also collect new forms for your character, all of which have different modes of attacks and special abilities. Combine all that with what is probably the most stylized and breathtaking art of any XBLIG, and the end result is Chester is a winner.
How it could have been better: The conditions for unlocking some of the cool stuff really requires too much time and effort. I’ve never looked at Xbox Live Indie Games as a source for games that can (or should) take ten or more hours to complete. With all the crap to find or buy that Chester has packed in it, it will probably take several multiples of that.
Who will like it: Schizophrenics, Ralph Bakshi, Stalwarts.
Who won’t like it: Unemployed Cheetos mascots, grammar teachers, Green Lantern.
#3: Dead Pixels
Developed by CSR Studios
Concept: Zombie apocalypse gone old-school.
Sort of like: River City Ransom (NES) with guns. And zombies.
Why I liked it: Having never been a huge fan of zombie games, I have to admit that I was pretty leery of Dead Pixels. Shooting zombies? Whoopee! 8-bit graphics? Wow, you don’t ever see that on XBLIG! But actually my snotty sarcasm was unjustified. Dead Pixels is amazing. It’s one of the few zombie survival games I’ve played that actually puts an emphasis on the whole “survival” part. Yea, you have guns, but they’re limited in ammunition, and you can only buy so much from stores. Sure, there is a huge variety of items and weapons, but the more you carry, the slower you get. Yes, you can engage a mob of the undead, but maybe sometimes it’s best to just leg it. These all combine to make a zombie game that doesn’t feel like a glorified gallery shooter, which has always been one of those things that bug me about zombie games. They’re more about the body count. Dead Pixels, on the other hand, is simply about making it out alive.
How it could have been better: A wider variety of settings and enemies would have been nice. It does have a tendency to feel a little samey after a while.
Who will like it: People unaware that The Zombie Survival Guide is not an actual zombie survival guide, that one stock character that has his shit together in every single fucking piece of zombie fiction ever created, barterers.
Who won’t like it: Hoarders, the Commerce Department, zombies.
#2: We Are Cubes
Developed by 1BK
Concept: You’re a cube and you shoot spheres, because fuck spheres, am I right?
Sort of like: Tempest crossed with Pang.
Why I liked it: I was born in 1989, so the Golden Age of Arcade Gaming was pushing up daisies long before I came around. I need games like this to make me ponder what I missed out on. Featuring absolutely lightning-fast gameplay with remarkable wire-frame style vector graphics, We Are Cubes is a neo-retro game that does it right, taking traditional mechanics and using them in original ways that retain a familiarity about them. It strips gaming down to its core: twitchy, reflexive, fast-paced fun in its purest form. If this had come out in 1982, it would be remembered as one of the all-time classics.
How it could have been better: The multiplayer modes are pretty weak.
Who will like it: L-7s, neon enthusiasts, teachers trying to find fun ways to explain cell division to students.
Who won’t like it: People who use the circle when they play Tic-Tac-Toe, things that don’t have corners, Kevin Flynn.
#1: Escape Goat
Developed by Magical Time Bean
Concept: Help a wrongly-convicted (or least I hope so) goat bust out of the clink.
Sort of like: Solomon’s Key.
Why I liked it: I’ve been playing XBLIGs for a year now. After 240 games, nothing has remotely touched Escape Goat for overall quality. The two most important factors to me in games are always play control and level design. Escape Goat is the best in both of those areas. Play control? Escape Goat is without peer on the platform. Level design? The puzzles are clever, whether they’re logic based or dexterity based, they are so smart and so intuitively constructed that you never feel lost. And they’re accessible to everyone, not just brainiacs. It never made it to #1 on my site, because sometimes you don’t know a good thing when it’s staring you right in the face. I realized that tonight. While Dead Pixels changed my perceptions on how conventional gameplay mechanics can be retooled for the modern era, and We Are Cubes made me regret that I didn’t grow up in an era where a quarter bought you a chance at glory on a high score table, the one game that will stick with me long after the Xbox 360 is put out to the pasture is Escape Goat. It is the greatest Xbox Live Indie Game ever made.
How it could have been better: Escape Goat features the Mega Man-ish ability to choose the levels in any order. Although this works fine, it means that the difficulty can never truly ramp up, and thus there really is never any true head-scratching stages.
Who will like it: Satyrs, Thor, the Sorting Hat.
Who won’t like it: The guy in this video, Steve Bartman, actually the Sorting Hat now that I think about it. Fucking thing doesn’t even have hands.