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Xbox Live Indiefest, Day Four

Brad Gallaway's picture

So, this is the fourth day of my Xbox Live Indiefest.

Crossfire 2 Screenshot

Crossfire 2 by Radiangames, 80 MS Points ($1)

Kind of like a cross between Space Invaders and Geometry Wars, this game has the player controlling a small little ship that moves from left to right while shooting down waves of enemies. The graphics are clean, colorful and attractive, and it only takes a half-second to grasp how to play.

There's a nice little suite of options to power up and the production values are clearly higher than most of the competition, but the real hook is the ability to warp from the floor to the ceiling. Certain enemies are only vulnerable from one direction or the other, so tactical use of jumping between surfaces is key.

It's a great little title and a steal at such a low price, but to be perfectly honest, this isn't the sort of thing that I would play again. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not my kind of jam. However, if this formula looks like fun to you, it's a can't-miss.

Verdict: I Deleted It (although it's definitely a quality title.)

Oozi: Earth Adventure, Episode 1 Screenshot

Oozi: Earth Adventure, Episode 1 by AwesomeGames Studio, 80 MS Points ($1)

I like platformers and there are a fairly healthy number of them available on XBLI, but very few of them do enough or change up their formulas in order to be interesting past the first few minutes. That is the case here, as well.

The bug-eyed, frozen-smile main character doesn't exactly radiate charisma to me, and jumping through a simple series of platforms while collecting stars made my eyes start to glaze over. The physics of jumping feel little touchy, but the graphics are crisp and nice. I may revisit this one when my son comes back for the summer. It seems like it might be of more interest to kids or younger players, but it's not for me.

Verdict: I Deleted It

Curse of the Crescent Isle Screenshot

Curse of the Crescent Isle by AdamTheOtaku, 80 MS Points ($1)

Speaking of underwhelming platformers, here's another one, although its charm factor is initially high thanks to a visual style and music that hearken back to the early, very rough days of the NES. Anyone old enough to remember Nintendo's debut will likely recall the utterly random sorts of games we got back then, and this one would have very easily fit into that category.

Once my brief wave of faux-nostalgia wore off, I didn't see much to keep my interest. The player takes the main character and basically jumps a lot while picking up enemies and tossing them into other enemies. I didn't see more complexity than that during the free trial period, and none of it was engaging enough to convince me to pony up a dollar.

Verdict: I Deleted It

Streets of Fury Screenshot

Streets of Fury by Cyrille Lagarigue, 240 MS Points ($3)

Now this game... this game had my attention. Another mash-up like the first one I wrote about in today's post, Streets of Fury is like the low-budget love child of Final Fight and Mortal Kombat. The graphics are digitized pictures of real people and the animation is every bit as good as what Boon and Tobias gave us in the early days.

However, incredibly hilarious graphics aside (and I mean that in the best possible sense) there is an actual fighting engine here, and it's much more sophisticated than the vast majority of what you can find on the Indie channel. There are several planes of depth on the playfield, each character has different combo strings, and when a Rage meter fills up, the super-powered moves are both screen-clearing and LOL-inducing.

It's a little on the janky side, but the people behind this game clearly had the right idea about what they were doing and were going about it the right way. Shockingly, it even supports four-player co-op, and if you ask me, this game is the perfect recipe for an instant good time.

Verdict: I Bought It

Sleepwalker Screenshot

Sleepwalker by Debreuil Digital Works, 80 MS Points ($1)

A pleasant little puzzler, this game tasks the player with controlling a (wait for it...) sleepwalking man. Naturally, the object is to guide this snoozy wanderer back to his bed, but it's a little more complicated than figuring out where his house is, or phoning his wife. Levels are made up of all sorts of obstacles; things like moving construction girders, trampolines, warp gates and switches.

Look of the game is clean and simple, but that works in its favor. The control is similarly streamlined with the player only needing to use the left stick for movement and the A button to flip the sleepwalker from left to right or right to left. Timing is important since there is a fair bit of jumping (those trampolines, remember) and a very simple physics engine seems to be in place. I'm a sucker for these kinds of games.

Verdict: I Bought It

Abaddon: Retribution by Kellogg & team, 80 MS Points ($1)

While it's true that you never really know what you're going to get when loading up one of these indie demos, this is one that took me extra-hard by surprise. The premise of Abaddon: Retribution is that the player controls a small fighter-type spacecraft and must guard a large capital ship from incoming attack swarms. The overall level of polish and detail work stands above what a person can reasonably expect from an indie like this, and it's clear to see that the team really went the extra mile towards creating a quality product.

The art is great (although the character profiles could be better) the action is very fast, the controls are dialed-in, there are plenty of options and things to upgrade, and there's even a proper campaign and story to give the player more than enough reason to dive in and push forward. It's exciting stuff.

Note: This game is the sequel to Abaddon, and while they both share the same core, it's pretty clear to see that Retribution added tons of polish on top of everything. Having a choice between the two, I'll be starting with the sequel.

Verdict: I Bought It

Zombie Football Carnage Screenshot

Zombie Football Carnage by Milkstone Studios, 80 MS Points ($1)

Oddly, there is precious little football in this game. Instead of worrying about first downs or passing strategies, the player controls a zombie holding pigskin and runs around open levels dodging incoming hordes of monsters. Attacking is done by throwing the football rapid-fire at enemies. In addition, there are a few pickups to collect and a menu to increase the various statistics of the zombie such as defense, attacking power, and so on.

While I really liked the aesthetics of this game, I was a little put off by the lack of a proper intro explaining what I was supposed to do. Once I figured it out I warmed up to it a little, though I'll say that it seems as though this game is basically one long grind. The stat-ups available to buy all seemed really expensive and the zombie is too fragile at the game's start. With nothing to do but run around and throw a football at attacking monsters, I have serious doubts about this title's staying power.

Verdict: Needs Further Investigation

Vertigo Screenshot

Vertigo by Run Jump Duck Entertainment, 80 MS Points ($1)

I am a believer that if a game is only going to do one thing, then it had better do that one thing phenomenally well. In Vertigo, the player controls a parkour-ish sort of character and runs from left to right in urban settings. Movement is simply a matter of holding the left stick in a direction, but there are speed boosts and jump boosts that must be activated with a button as the player passes by.

I've got nothing against games that require fast reflexes, but Vertigo's camera sometimes leaves too much of the landscape out of view and it's no fun to have things come to a screeching halt just because you couldn't see an oncoming barrier. Hitting the various boosts takes fairly precise timing, and again, sometimes they're hard to see until it's too late. This game would have to have been nearly perfect if it expected players to sign aboard for action that's basically running in one direction and hitting a button, so having these sorts of concerns during the short trial told me I should pass this one by.

Verdict: I Deleted It

Kissy Poo Screenshot

Kissy Poo by The ZMan, 80 MS Points ($1)

I'll say up front that this was not a title I originally had my eye on. However, the next GameCritics podcast to be recorded will be focusing entirely on indie games, and this was one that was selected by another critic. I don't know why it was, but it was.

In all honesty, this isn't really a game so much as it is a virtual toy for small children to play with. Kids move a cartoonish face around the screen and "kiss" animals that float around. Kiss enough animals and then they all do a little dance routine with some music. That's pretty much all it is, and although I will say that my two-year-old did seem somewhat fascinated with all the moving images, I'd rather acclimate him to something that has more play value.

Verdict: I Deleted It

Protect Me Knight Screenshot

Protect Me Knight by Ancient, 240 MS Points ($3)

I've heard tons and tons about this title, but had never gotten around to it until today. The gist is that the player (or four, since multi is featured) has to protect a princess in the middle of a level. Swarms of monsters approach from the periphery, and taking them out is as simple as performing a straightforward attack. However, their numbers soon grow to be unmanageable, so players must erect barriers and man catapults to turn the tide.

I definitely appreciate the old-school vibe of this title, but I'm not a big fan of the Tower Defense genre, and although this isn't exactly it, it feels a little too similar. Defending has never really been my thing, so the gameplay didn't click with me. It's cute, it's definitely cool, and it's got music composed by game legend Yuzo Koshiro. For some people that last bit will be more than enough to justify the price of purchase, but as for me, I'm going to give it a pass until my wife's available to co-op.

(Note: Although it's called Protect Me Knight, this title is not listed alphabetically under P. Instead, you can find it in the area of XBLI where titles written in Japanese characters are collected.)

Verdict: Needs Further Investigation

Vampire Rage Screenshot

Vampire Rage by Tricktale, 80 MS Points ($1)

In general, I'm not the biggest fan of bullet-hell shooters, but I do play them when there's enough of a hook. Vampire Rage qualifies, I'd say. While the general design is a standard vertically-scrolling shmup, the main character is a flying vampire rather than a spaceship. That in itself isn't unique enough, but what was interesting to me was that the vampire's sword can repel ALL incoming shots and send them back as offensive fire. That's a powerful tool to give to a player, and in this genre, having that much ability to affect the play field is worth examination.

The production level is fairly low-end, but the general feeling of play came off as very tuned-in and sensible. I got as far as the first enormous boss (and promptly got my ass handed to me) but rather than feeling like I got cheaped or that it was bad design, I was ready to jump back in and try again. That's a very positive thing to say about a bullet-hell game, if you ask me.

Verdict: I Bought It

Bureau: Agent Kendall Screenshot

Bureau: Agent Kendall by GGaler, 400 MS Points ($5)

Bureau is a very unusual XBLI title for a few reasons. First, the asking price is one of the highest on the service. Second, it's got a surprising amount of rendered cutscenes. Third, it's a text-heavy investigation simulator. With all of these qualities, I think this was one of the only times when I genuinely didn't feel as though the brief free trial period was enough to get a solid sense of go/no-go.

To be fair, there was quite a bit of dialogue and most of the trial time was eaten up between those and the cutscenes. On the other hand, what I did see wasn't very well-written and starting a player off by having them do little more than click one button and read through a lot of text isn't the best way to begin, if you ask me.

While I'd still be open to checking Bureau out a little more, my gut feeling is that it's a showcase for the main character's gigantic breasts. Her 3D model is by far the most detailed thing in the game, and the frequent scenes featuring these assets skeeved me out a little bit. I've got no problem with attractive characters, but the tone bordered a little too closely to breast-fetish territory for my taste.

Verdict: I Deleted It

Aurelia Screenshot

Aurelia by Dualhaze, 80 MS Points ($1)

Speaking of breast-fetish territory, here's another one that could easily fit into that category. Ostensibly a side-scrolling platformer, Aurelia stars a top-heavy angel dressed in lingerie and heels. When the adventure began with God saying he'd like to "tap dat azz" I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended, but as soon as the gameplay started, I went with boredom instead.

The level design here is some of the most rudimentary I've seen on XBLI, offering nothing more than basic platforms scattered with little rhyme or reason. Only two basic enemies were encountered repeatedly, each dispatched with no effort. In fact, there didn't seem to be any hook or purpose to the game other than to have the main character walk sideways and display a laughably busty profile; the sort you'd expect to see on the inside cover of a sweaty teenager's algebra book. Pay a buck to look at someone's crudely-animated chesty-girl? No, thanks.

Verdict: I Deleted It

That's it for Day Four of my Indiefest. Check back again for the next round of games, and I'll also do a recap of my favorites (both old and new) at the end of the series.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360  

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A game called Kissy Poo actually made a list

Brad, if you had decided to keep Kissy Poo, no matter how cheap is is or who recommended it, I would never have let you hear the end of it. :)

300 demos?

In the Day One post you said this was a week long series. You also said you said you had over 300 game demos to go through. I've counted 26 games reviewed so far. Not that I doubt your abilities, but does this mean the last post will cover over 274 games?

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