The Top 25 Xbox Live Indie Games of All-Time: Part 2

Continued from Part 1, here are the best Xbox Live Indie Games, #20 through #16.  Click the names to read the full reviews.

#20: Alien Jelly

Developed by Collective Mess

Concept: Sci-fi logic-puzzler where you move a group of gelatinous aliens around a maze.

Sort of like: Cuboid (PSN) as directed by Tim Burton.  Only it doesn’t suck, unlike everything Tim Burton has done over the last decade.

Why I like it: I know logic-puzzle games are not extraordinarily popular.   I would say they are an especially tough-sell on XBLIG, but Alien Jelly really shines brightly with great graphics to go along with some absolutely brilliant (and difficult) level design.

How it could have been better: The camera was terrible, leading to all kinds of problems with perspectives and depth-perception.

Who will like it: Puzzle fans, Sci-Fi fans, you know what?  Fuck it, let’s just save time and say “nerds.”

Who won’t like it: SETI personnel, Martians, Travis Walton.

#19: Flight Adventure 2

Developed by CAVOK Games

Concept: Pilot a P-51 Mustang across a beautiful landscape in this shockingly detailed flight simulator that is officially licensed by Boeing.

Sort of like: Take your pick of any flight sim out there.  It’s like that.

Why I like it: I’m not into this genre.  At all.  But Flight Adventure 2 absolutely hooked me.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s anything but newb friendly.  Yet the game has no actual “goals” in the strictest sense, freeing you to not feel any pressure to perform.  It’s just about flying around and enjoying the sights.  But it’s done in a very impressive way.  It was released before the file size limit for XBLIGs was increased to 400MB.  I’m actually scared what these guys could do with the extra space, considering that Flight Adventure 2 had incredible draw distance, mostly realistic physics, and even online multiplayer (with a tacked on and somewhat dull race mode).  It’s also worth mentioning that this is Brian’s favorite XBLIG by a vertical mile.

How it could have been better: More landscapes, planes, or modes.  I sure hope Flight Adventure 3 is on the way.

Who will like it: Amateur aviators, armchair pilots, people with pteromerhanophobia.

Who won’t like it: People with pteromerhanophobia, Germans, The Big Bopper.

#18: TIC Part 1

Developed by RedCandy Games

Concept: A mechanical robot man thingie tries to save the environment from evil oil drillers.

Sort of like: Any non-threatening, Nintendo-esq platformer.  For some reason it reminded me of Super Princess Peach (DS).

Why I like it: XBLIG is populated by platformers that want you to suffer, but TIC is a tender loving game that would rather you enjoy the experience instead of cursing the day the spike was invented.  The production values are nothing short of spectacular, but the smooth gameplay and excellent level design really put this one over the top as one of the best of its genre on the format.

How it could have been better: As the name implies, TIC: Part 1 an incomplete game.  It’s been a year since I played the original and there has been no word on when Part 2 can be expected, which does sour the experience.

Who will like it: People who try to live “green”, Greenpeace, The Jolly Green Giant.

Who will dislike it: Sarah Palin, Texans, Hoggish Greedly.

#17: Minigame Marathon

Developed by Battenberg Software

Concept: Fast-paced minigames that you try to complete in as minimal time as possible.

Sort of like: Nintendo’s WarioWare series done with old-school game concepts.

Why I liked it: WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ was undoubtedly my favorite Game Boy Advance game (and I would consider calling it the absolute best game I’ve ever played.  Feel free to ponder that for a while), and Minigame Marathon is as close as I’ve seen an XBLIG come to that.  But while WarioWare focuses on absurd themes and juvenile humor, Marathon looks to gaming’s distant past for inspiration.  Bite-sized versions of Pong, Frogger, Breakout, and their kin are sandwiched together in a game that’s potently addictive.

How it could have been better: In split-screen multiplayer, the graphics get too scrunched down, rendering some of the games nearly unplayable.  The game features online leaderboards, but not multiplayer, and that’s a shame.

Who will like it: People with short attention spans, speed-run enthusiasts, people with short attention spans.

Who won’t like it: Fans of the color blue, Pheidippides, Rosie Ruiz.

#16: Orbitron: Revolution

Developed by Firebase Industries

Concept: Try for combos as you shoot down enemies while under a huge time crunch.

Sort of like: Defender if it was remade today like Pac-Man Championship Edition.

Why I liked it: Orbitron: Revolution has professional-level graphics, a true rarity on XBLIG.  But that has nothing to do with why I like it.  The gameplay is pure white-knuckle, high-pressure, score-driven, golden-age era fun.  It really is like Defender, only with a time limit and without any little dudes to rescue.  I never liked those guys much anyway.  The constant rescuing of them really harshed my mojo.  Orbitron is currently priced at 80MSP, but the price goes up to 240MSP on July 9, so get it now.

How it could have been better: Each wave of enemies spawns in different positions on the board, and sometimes achieving a high score is dependent on having a wave spawn in a way that is just perfectly set up to string together a combo.  Success in Orbitron is not totally dependent on luck, but that unquestionably factors in, perhaps too much.

Who will like it: High-score fans, Eugene Jarvis, guys who have Buckner & Garcia’s “The Defender” on their iPod.

Who won’t like it: People who like the ability to reverse, guys waiting for Radarscope: Championship Edition, Darth Vader.

Continue to Part 3

The Top 25 Xbox Live Indie Games of All-Time: Part 1

As promised, I’ll close out my first anniversary celebration in style.  Here we go, the Top 25 Xbox Live Indie Games of All-Time.  According to me at least.  For the sake of this not taking up too much space, and because I’ve been having trouble finding time to write this out, I’m breaking this up into five parts  If you’re looking for the very best Xbox Live Indie Games has to offer, this is where you should start.  As a reminder, you can purchase all 25 games on this list for less than the price of one single disc-based release.  25 amazing games for the price of 1?  How can you say no to that?  You can click on the titles to read my reviews.  You can also visit the Leaderboard to see what the remaining twenty games are.  I really kind of did this in the wrong order.  I suck.  This list doesn’t.  Let’s roll!

#25: Crystal Hunters

Developed by DreamRoot Studios

Concept: Collect crystals while avoiding enemies in this top-down logic puzzler.

Sort of like: The Adventures of Lolo (NES)

Why I like it: Crystal Hunters is an intelligently designed game.  Puzzlers on XBLIG sometimes forget to properly scale the difficult level, dumping players off in the deep-end early on.  Crystal Hunters eases players into the mechanics of the game.  Make no mistake though, the difficulty scales up hugely towards the end.  If you like mind benders, this sucker will go all origami on your brain.

What could have made it better: The play control is pretty touchy.  The graphics are small in resolution.

Who will like it: Mensa types, eggheads, grizzled old prospectors.

Who won’t like it: Dummies, the recently lobotomized, girls named Crystal Hunter.

#24: Lair of the Evildoer

Developed by Going Loud Studios

Concept: Fight various undead enemies while trying to escape the lair of an evil genius in this twin-stick shooter.

Sort of like: Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES) if it was a rogue-like.

Why I like it: Lair of the Evildoer is an intense, though very clever shooter.  Games that feature randomly-generated levels tend to feel generic, but Lair of the Evildoer is overflowing with personality.  With a wide variety of enemies, weapons, and customizable stats, this is probably one of the most intelligent shooters on the platform.

What could have made it better: It was practically begging for co-op.

Who will like it: Shooting fans, zombiephiles, Austin Powers.

Who won’t like it: Shag carpet salesmen, actual evil geniuses, human resources managers.

#23: Wizorb

Developed by Tribute Games

Concept: Old-timey brick-breaker with some RPG elements peppered in.

Sort of Like: Arkanoid set in Middle Earth.

Why I liked it: In my original review, I absolutely scorched Wizorb.  And I regret that I wrote that review the way I did, because I failed to articulate that I really did like the game.  I’m not exactly a fan of the genre, so the fact that Wizorb held my interest until the end is kind of a miracle.  The only other brick-breaker that has done that for me is Shatter on PlayStation Network.  The charming 8-bit graphics that are without a tinge of a modern influence are among the best of their breed on XBLIG.  Wizorb is really special.

What could have made it better: The RPG stuff is mostly smoke and mirrors, so I wish they had gone further with the concept than they did.

Who will like it: Retro gamers, Breakout enthusiasts, demolitionists.

Who won’t like it: Bricklayers, union contractors, people who would rather be the Elforb instead of the Wizorb when they play Dungeons & Dragorbs.

#22: Johnny Platform Saves Christmas

Developed by Ishisoft Games

Concept: Yuletide puzzle-platforming.

Sort of like: The Game Boy version of Donkey Kong.

Why I liked it: The sequel to Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp (#36 on the Leaderboard at the time of this writing) combined fast-paced platforming with some clever level design and puzzles.  There should be more games like this on XBLIG.

What could have made it better: Both Johnny Platform games feature a useless lives system that halts progress and forces replaying previously beaten levels for no reason whatsoever.

Who will like it: Platforming fans, people who like puzzlers that don’t require an IQ north of Albert Einstein, Ralphie.

Who won’t like it: Children on the naughty list, the Grinch, people waiting for Johnny Platform’s Hanukkah Brouhaha.

#21: Lexiv

Developed by Andrew Gaubatz

Concept: Build cities using words and parts of speech.

Sort of like: Scrabble and Sim City had a beautiful baby that is potentially a genius and occasionally shits on you.

Why I liked it: Lexiv is probably an acquired taste that requires a love of word games mixed with a deep fondness for simplified Sim City-esq strategy and maintenance.  Despite being a very rough build (I would safely call it a beta), you can see the potential.  I could see Hasbro licensing this and branding it as Scrabble City.

What could have made it better: Every stage begins with “L-E-X-I-V” as the starting word that you have to build on.  This is incredibly stupid because X and V are not the most versatile letters.  I actually hate V more than X.  V’s are the wisdom teeth of Scrabble.  When they show up, they cause nothing but pain and are in dire need of extraction.

Who will like it: City planners who play crossword puzzles, crossword fans who aspire to be city planners, those little shits that make the Scripps finals.

Who won’t like it: Pepole hoo relie to munch un spel chek, the dude who was planning to make “Words of Warcraft”, Charlie Brown.

Continue to Part 2

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