X S.E.E.D

Remember that scene in the movie “Big”? No, not the one with the giant keyboard. Nor the one where a 12-year-old-in-Tom-Hanks’-body knocks boots with a businesswoman and makes me wonder if the “I swear he was 30 last week” excuse would hold up in court for her. No, I’m talking about the scene where he’s sitting at a meeting with a bunch of suits, discussing a Transformers line, and just blurts out what the 12 year-old in him is thinking in that innocent kid sort of way. The “I don’t get it” line stuck with me more than anything else in that movie because it reminds me that, hey, kids have some awesome ideas, and many of those aren’t held back by the restrictions or reasoning that many of us adults place on what we think.  Which brings us to this short conversation about one of the more innovative takes on the side-scrolling shooter I’ve seen, X S.E.E.D.:

PUT THIS KID ON THE PAYROLL.

PUT THIS KID ON THE PAYROLL.

So, just in case that didn’t sink in. The only reason we got an original idea on XBLIG among the sea of sub-par voxel miners, first-person zombie shooters, one-button platformers, and puzzle games used as vehicles for displaying morally-bankrupt pictures of undressed anime teens is because someone listened to their kid. It’s the sort of “hey you got peanut butter on my chocolate” genius that keeps gamers digging through the XBLIG marketplace for innovation like this regardless of how much fly-infested sewage they have to wade through in the process.

And what is this original idea, you ask? Well, X S.E.E.D. is an old-school run-and-gun platformer, like Contra, but instead of using the normal arsenal of machine guns and grenade launchers you summon crazy-ass mutant plants that do things like shoot fire in various directions, act as a force-field, or spring up a platform for you to stand on. Summoning these plants is your character’s only defense, as he cannot harm anything himself and will die in only one hit. So essentially you’re constantly putting out temporary turrets and shields in an effort to both mount a forward-moving offense and put up a defense that will keep your goofy-looking scientist hero from dying. There’s a plot about plants taking over the island and you being the only scientist that can save everyone and blah blah blah. If you’ve ever played a game like Contra for the plot, I’m sure there’s a support group somewhere for that. What you expect out of a game like X S.E.E.D. is running and gunning (of sorts), and that’s what you’ll get.

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“This is not what I wanted you to feed me, Seymour.”

On the downside, when you innovate, you usually don’t get everything right the first time. And this is no exception. For just about everything X S.E.E.D. gets right, it misses on something else. For example, the pixel art is vibrant and well-animated in the most retro of ways, but the music and effects are forgettable at best. I went through entire stages without even noticing the music. Another miss is on the weapon selection. You’re given a large amount of plant types over the course of the game, which is nice, but with no way to rearrange them and with some of them being completely useless inventory padding there’s a bit of difficulty getting to the right one quickly via cycling through with LB and RB. And while the old school difficulty, unforgiving with only three lives and no continues, is necessary for such a short game and forces a nice balance between the risk of dying and the reward of more points and the better of two endings, there’s no reason for a death to stick you all the way back at the beginning of the stage. This last one didn’t really make me too angry until the later stages of the game where dying at a boss battle resulted in a solid 30 seconds of little more than holding right. The worst flaw of X S.E.E.D., however, is how slow the pace gets near the end when you try to play it safe with the shield vines. You’ll find yourself inching forward and tossing out barrier after barrier out of fear, and it’s made even worse with the knowledge that the enemy plants really don’t have much they can do about it. Even the bosses only have one attack that will ignore these, and those attacks always have the same pattern throughout that boss battle. It sucks a bit of the “run” out of the “run and gun” genre in which I’d throw this game.

But even with all the little quirks and flaws, X S.E.E.D. ended up being exactly the type of game I wanted right at that moment. It’s straight old-school, it’s speed run friendly with an in-game clock, it’s short enough that the limited lives and lack of continues don’t make me feel too frustrated and helpless, it controls well, and most importantly it’s fun and innovative. The only thing I’d ask for on the XBLIG version, a high score board, is present on the free-with-option-to-donate Ouya version, but without it I’d still say that X S.E.E.D. is worth both your time and the paltry dollar that it costs.

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X S.E.E.D. was developed by Wide Pixel Games.

$1 wants to believe that Little Shop of Horrors is the prequel to this game in the making of this review.

X S.E.E.D. has earned has been awarded the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval by Shin Hogosha. Leaderboards for Indie Game Team are coming soon.

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2 Responses to X S.E.E.D

  1. Jed Pressgrove says:

    Really enjoyed your review. I also had a problem with the game starting you back at the beginning of the stage after death and the banal music. But I have to disagree with part of the final point in your next-to-last paragraph. While I do think the game gets repetitive with the shield vine strategy, I don’t think it’s fair to compare this game to a run n’ gun game. X S.E.E.D game is intentionally more methodical and deliberate, kind of like Shinobi with plant growing. The problem is that it needs more than “shield vine then shoot” gameplay. (I trust that Tillander will do something even more special if he indeed makes a sequel.)

  2. Pingback: REVIEW: X S.E.E.D | theXBLIG

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