XBLIG or Xbox Live Indie Games are downloadable games made for the Xbox by independent developers. Many of them are developed by a one person team. Currently XBLIG games have price tags of 80, 240 and 400 msp or $1, $3, and $5 US. The following articles ought to help you navigate the marketplace and find the games you would be interested in.
Have you ever tried to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? If not try it, we’ll wait. Okay now that we all know how hard it is to actually do that you can understand Dual Zone by Ninja Fever a little better. It is a lot like that combined with a bit of the tron bike mode.
Dual Zone is all about staying alive. In single player modes you control a blue ship and a red ship. You control the red ship with the left control stick and the blue ship with the right control stick. This is why I say it is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy. In co-op modes one player controls the red ship and the other controls the blue ship. Obviously this takes the confusing aspect right out of the game.
The game has 4 modes; Campaign Mode, Co-op Campaign Mode, Panic Mode, and Co-op Panic Mode. The game modes are all played in a circular arena where enemies appear and start heading towards the particular ship they can hurt. In campaign mode it eases you into it with instructions on what you need to do to complete the level. Your blue ship can destroy blue ships by running into them or by making them run into the small particle trail you leave behind as you move. This is where I get my tron reference, although the trail fades fast and doesn’t extend to far behind you. Your red ship does the same thing except to red enemies. pretty simple in concept. Hard to put in play when your controlling both ships. In panic mode you have three lives for each ship and you just keep going as the enemies come quickly. It gets intense pretty fast.
Now if your wondering what happens if you make your blue and red ship touch. Well one of them blows up. Its not good, try and keep them away from each other while also protecting them from the enemies that only the other ship can destroy. In multiplayer mode that is what you really need to worry about. This is where you start losing track of which ship your moving with each stick. Believe me you try not to, but it happens.
Overall Dual Zone is a unique experience and is equally as frustrating as it is alluring. It really is exercise for the brain. Hey and although indie games don’t have achievements this game does have awards you earn.
4 out of 5
Have you ever pictured your avatar as a ragdoll and just want to throw it? Well thanks to Running Pixel’s new game Avatar Ragdolls, you get to do just that. With the extra twist of throwing your avatar up versus to the side or downward. So grab your floppy headed avatar ragdoll and lets get throwing.
The concept of Avatar Ragdolls is very simple. You must throw your avatar up, onto higher crates and keep climbing as the floor below starts flooding. If your avatar goes under the water its all over. The objective is to be one of the few on the top 15 leaderboard for having the highest height. Once you begin you will keep throwing from one crate to the next to keep your height increasing. There are a few things that will slow and can halt your progress to the sky.
Boxes will fall from the sky as you climb sometimes knocking you right back down. There are also crates that once you land on them they will drop so you only have a few seconds once you land on of these to launch off it. Another crate is the exploding crate, when you hit one of these it will explode and send you flying back the direction you hit it from. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. There are also crates that when you touch them, the crate will begin to float up, the bigger the crate is seems to determine the speed it will rise at. No you can’t memorize any pattern to the stage, it is randomly built every time you play so you never know where the next crate you need to land on is until you’ve launched yourself upwards.
You have a few things that can help you though. When you are in the air you can launch again, but it doesn’t nearly have the same force as a launch from a solid surface. You can also control the direction your avatar flys and falls to help you to make those landings on a lower platform after you miss the higher one. You also have a little boost option that can actually knock some boxes out of the way as it pushes you up just a bit. You can also cartwheel your avatar while he’s flying though the sky.
Avatar Ragdolls does support local multiplayer. Which plays on split screen, but you can see each other. So it’s a little like a race and a who will mess up first. Just so you know though in multiplayer mode if you’re really good and they aren’t once they fall to their doom and you’re that last man standing it might be a considerate action to fall to your death. Otherwise they will have to sit and watch you keep climbing until you do. It does count your height in multiplayer towards your highest height though, so you can get a better height for the leaderboards while playing multiplayer.
Now don’t think I’ve told you everything about this game. There is a little something special waiting for you at 2000 ft. I remember fondly how I found it, as I yelled “oh crap!” at the screen. In the end I say the game is fun and the multiplayer option is a great thing for it to have, but it does get a little slow at times.
3 out of 5 definitely worth a trial run.
CuBlocks is a puzzle game by Stinky Badger Games. CuBlocks reminds me a little of Gyromancer in someways, but with the goal of creating blocks. A bit of a change of pace from the the many games where the goal is to match 3 blocks in a row. So let’s dive into the blocks and get to the nitty gritty.
CuBlocks has both a single player and a multiplayer mode. The single player mode is relatively simple. You start with 3 lives and you must beat the level before the time runs out or you lose a life and have to start the level over again. To beat a level you will rotate a block of 4 blocks clockwise or counter-clockwise in an attempt to create a 2 by 2 block or larger of a single color. You will repeat this process multiple times and after you make a block it will commit the block after a few seconds giving you time to make the block larger before it is committed. Once it is committed the blocks that were made will vanish and the little blocks above will fall down to fill the gap. The game is persistently keeping the screen full of blocks as you remove them. To beat a level you must remove a set number of blocks within a time. Once you beat a level it moves you right into the next level.
The multiplayer mode is called Block Brawl and it pits your avatar against a local players avatar. Your goal is still to make blocks that will be committed after a time. Once the blocks are committed the player who removed the most blocks will take the offensive and their avatar will start beating up the other players. The match will continue going like this trading off which avatar is attacking based on who committed the most blocks the last time. The match ends once one of the two avatars runs out of life.
Their are two extra features I thought were worth noting for there novelty factor. There is a screensaver mode which fills the screen with the pretty colored blocks getting turned and removed like they would if you were actually playing the game. The other feature is called the Gallery. The gallery feature displays pictures of scenic views like a slide show screensaver. Now I know this isn’t really a gameplay aspect or anything, but I thought it was a nice extra feature.
As I said the gameplay is really easy to get a handle on, so there really isn’t any learning curve. Just practice to see the best blocks to rotate and keep going without stopping. Now I will admit there is a couple of things I didn’t really like about the game. The first is that in single player mode it just keeps going between levels and your goal and time left is on the right of the screen and I found it difficult to glance over at it to find out what level I was on and how many blocks I needed to reach the next level. The speed of the game really pushes you to just keep making blocks because the timer is relentless. The other thing I wasn’t exactly fond of is in multiplayer. I really think it would be a bit more fun if you punch or kick your opponent every time you make a block instead of having to wait to see who made the most.
In the end I still loved the multiplayer option of the game. I think that is really where the game shines. The single player although fun, just wasn’t as enthralling as the multiplayer.
I rate CuBlocks a 3 out of 5.
Silver Dollar Games‘ created Try Not to Fart for the indie game marketplace. I’ll start by saying it is different. I honestly can’t think of another game like it. I know before I played it, the title always made me think of a flash game titled “Don’t Shit Your Pants”. A bizarre little game that was entertaining for about 3 whole minutes. So I avoided Try Not to Fart fearing a similar experience, but eventually I gave it a shot.
Well, it isn’t like that other game at all. This game is once again filled with South Park style characters like some other games by Silver Dollar Games. The premise is your going to meet a girl you met online in a bar and then from that point on you continue through the relationship with those pivotal moments like the first kiss and meeting the parents. These are the stages for you to hold it in.
Now the game has voice acting which allows for those typical questions you expect to be asked can be without text to read. What is said is sometimes humorous, but would be much better if the statements were in some form of order. For instance you may tell her parents where you work, then 30 seconds later they ask what do you do for a living. This does create a random conversation that also has unique statements after you do cut the cheese.
The gameplay is easy to understand, but painful to do. There is a tolerance bar that decreases every time you let one loose. A timer ticks down as you must make it for a specific amount of time to make it to the next stage. You will do this by playing a painful game of Twister with your fingers. The eight buttons; A, B, X, Y, LB, LT, RB, RT are the buttons you will be using. On the screen one or more buttons will light up, you must then press and hold those buttons and those buttons only. Once a button begins to flash it is time to release that button only. The order of the buttons lighting up and the order of releasing them is not the same. While you are holding one button another will light up and you need to get that button without releasing the ones you are already holding. Once you hit a certain point you will be dealing with so many buttons going on and turning off that you may find yourself holding the controller in some of the oddest ways. I know I did.
The game has no online scoreboard so you’re only competing with others in your house who may be interested in playing this with you. More likely it’ll just be you against yourself. It is single player anyways so you would just be switching off even if you do have someone else to play with. After a few rounds of this, it made my hands hurt and lose my desire to play any game for a bit to let my hands rest.
I have a feeling, I am far from their intended target audience. I found the disjointed conversation a more annoying than interesting. The humorous moments are quickly passing as the boring aspects of the conversation continues on. By the point of the marriage proposal you would think that any girl that stayed with him that long would have realized that he has to have some form of gastric disorder. I mean the amount of times he lets one rip is downright ludicrous, but that is the game. Maybe if I was 10 yrs younger I would have found it far funnier, instead it just did nothing for me. If you like games that really challenge your finger dexterity then this is definitely a good one. If you like toilet jokes or just the idea of playing a game that will make your girlfriend role her eyes at you, here you go. The unique concept and South Park art style just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.
I give this a 1 out of 5 honestly, go pick up headshot Z if you want to look at their art style. There are just too many far better games to spend your time with in the XBLIG marketplace.
Milkstone Studios‘ Avatar Ninja! is a constantly running platformer. Your Ninja training begins here. Amongst all the different XBLIG Avatar games out there, this one has stayed on top downloads for a while. Sadly there won’t be any ninja fighting in this game though.
Avatar Ninja starts you off running and you’ll need to do three things to make it as far as you can. Jump over the logs, Slide under the Spike balls held up in the air by parachute/balloons and finally break the boards with your throwing stars. You’re a ninja in training running on water and this is your test. Now to understand what makes this game good, well go into the gameplay.
The game sounds simple enough, but it is challenging. You have to keep your timing with the A button, you are running on water and you have to keep pressing it. Your X button is used to jump over the floating logs. You use your B button to slide under those floating Spike balls. You use your Y button to throw the throwing stars at the signs to break them. You have to keep running and not run into the obstacles, as you run you’ll be picking up those Asian coin things as well as scrolls that offer different effects. What makes it hard is you will continue to run faster and the obstacles will become more varied as you go.
One level flows right into the next level never stopping between them. So you just keep going and racking up points to put you higher on the leaderboard. The game is single player only, but that doesn’t really stop the fun. This is just one of those games you keep coming back to, just to prove you can do better. Although it isn’t one that you’ll probably play for hours, more like a couple run throughs now and a couple more in a day or two.
My complaints are the lack of variety to the type of obstacles and the sheer repetitiveness of the game. I’m hooked more by the aspect of beating my last score.
I liked this game and I give it a 4 out of 5. This game is not for everyone though, but it works for me. I recommend you try the trial first.
8 bit Fanatics creates platforming pain in Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES. I say this in the best of ways. 1000 SPIKES is retro gaming in a great way. If you miss those days of playing a game for hours only to still be struggling on the same stage. This game is like that. It starts you with 1000 lives and that isn’t to be nice, it’s because you’ll need them.
This platformer is for the true gamer. You play as Aban Hawkins a guy who looks a lot like Indiana Jones and you are a treasure hunter. The subtitle under the main title is “The Temple of the Dead mourns the living” and I think that says a lot. This game sets out to kill you, a lot. Every stage you beat is a testament to your gaming skill. The graphics are that of an old Nintendo game, and it really works to set the mood.
What you’ll find in the 1000 Spikes are a whole lot of traps. Obviously you have the spikes from the ceiling, floor and walls. You have darts that are shot at you. The always expected falling platforms and disintigrating platforms combined with flamethrowers, even fireballs from the lava floor. The game is broken out into worlds or sections as you start on 1-1. Every 5 levels lead to a satisfying 6 stage which is nothing more than grabbing the key to the next set of 5 challenging stages. After you beat a set of levels you will gain back a bunch of lives. 50 after the first set, then 100 after the second set and so on.
If you are easily agitated by a challenge then you might want to run from this game. Otherwise grab your controller, you have three basic moves; Jump, High Jump and shoot. The controls handle well and feel comfortable. Every stage is as much a platformer as a puzzle. Every time you get past one part of the stage you will find another trap lying in wait. You must grab the key on the stage then reach the exit. The game does provide the option to skip stages, but only a limited number of stages can be skipped. I don’t recommend this since each stage is a little harder than the last. So skipping a stage may get you past your current frustration, but takes away that satisfying feeling of accomplishment you get by completing the stage.
The game offers a save and exit or just exit without save feature. I have used this, after getting to a certain point I had to stop playing saved on exit. So you can always come back and if you accomplish nothing exit without saving. Aban Hawkins is a game that really sets out to challenge you, and does so completely in a completely enjoyable way. Yes you will get frustrated, but it stands out against modern games that have a tendency of being easier than its predecessors.
I give this game a 5 out of 5, but leave you with the warning that this is not an easy game and good luck getting to the final boss, even I haven’t gotten there.
Peanutgallery‘s Xbox Live Indie game “(Almost) Total Mayhem” was a enjoyable to review. This game is all about blowing up the other teams castle, before they blow up yours. It is a quick playing game that has you constantly running. Whether it is against the computer or another player there is no time to take it easy in the match.
The game has a simple concept. There are two castles, one is red teams the other is the blue teams. The object is to take a bomb that is randomly dropped on the map to the enemies castle and toss it on it. You can hit the bomb away from your opponents and they do the same to you. Once the bomb has been picked up if it touches the ground it will go off and will be dropped again somewhere. The battle ground consists of four screens, one has the red castle and one has the blue castle and on either side of the castle is the other screens. So you can go left or right to get to the other castle. Your character has a sword but can pick up a heavy shield or a big hatchet changing your attack style. Only one bomb is on the field at any given time and each team is made up of two characters. The game allows for you to play as blue or red and another local player can play as the other member of your team or on the opposing team. The computer controlled characters are relentless.
Artistically the game is great. The background reminds me of something out of Dr. Suess just a little darker. The music fits the scenery having a soft but haunting melody. They really put this together well. It really makes you want more, stages and music for the game. They took an artistic approach to the split screen that I can’t exactly say I liked. Instead of using the whole screen and just splitting it horizontally it offsets the screen making one screen on the top left and the other on the bottom right, making the screen much smaller than it needs to be.
I really enjoyed this game. I am frustrated by the fact that there is only one battlefield to play on and that multiplayer is so hard to see. I feel this really hurts this game.
3 out of 5 its a fun game, but is desperately in need of more stages.
Avatar Bump! by Milkstone Studios is a sort of a bumper car arena game. No actual cars though just tires, pumpkins, barrels and such. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of avatar games, although my kids are. This game reminded me a lot of mini games from games like Mario Party, but with more options to the one mini game. Here me out I’ll explain.
You have a single player mode, co-op mode and a multiplayer mode. That is pretty much it as far as the modes go. In single player its all about staying alive. longer your alive more points you earn. knock opponents out of the arena and they end up on a conveyor belt that circles the arena. After a time they will be let back in to the arena that goes for you too. That is unless you run out of lives/hearts. It seems like a pretty simple concept for single player, but its not as easy as it sounds. The longer you go the more opponents enter the arena. Not to mention the power-ups that appear in the arena that have many varying effects. Some freeze you making you an easy target, some make it hard to move you, another causes an earthquake and many others. All these little things actually make the single player game surprisingly difficult.
Co-op mode is pretty much the same thing as single player mode just with a partner. There isn’t really much to add to it than that. It’s fun but it doesn’t really change much of the game.
Now multiplayer is where it gets really fun in my opinion. There are a number of game types in multiplayer mode. You have your basic gain points for knocking others out. One mode is to be the first person to stay in the ring for the most time. One is all about collecting star coins, if you get knocked out of the arena you lose a bunch. So you have to get back in there and collect as many as you can and knock the new leader out of the arena. There are many modes one in which its like tag and after a certain amount of time it will blow up who ever is it. So you need to bump your opponents and then avoid them. All of the options make this a great local multiplayer game.
This game is a great family game and your young ones are sure to love it. Older gamers will probably grow tired of the single player option and wish the multiplayer option was not local only. It is a well built game and I didn’t find any flaws in its gameplay or controls. If you have people you play games with who like games that aren’t to serious and just want to knock you around a little, they would probably enjoy playing this with you. Just don’t expect to lose hours playing this game. It just doesn’t get you like that, it is definitely pick-up play for a bit then play it again in another week.
As that I do like this game and can’t see anything wrong with it or how it’s playability I give this game a 4 out of 5. Grab your kids or younger siblings and have some fun.
Zeboyd Games indie game Breath of Death VII: The Beginning has been reviewed by just about everyone who even looks at Xbox Live Indie games and even some who normally don’t. Because of those reviews this was my first XBLIG purchase. Now with Zeboyd Games recent release of Chuthlu Saves the World, it just seemed like the right time for me to put my thoughts down on this RPG.
Like most RPGs you have your star character, in this case it is a skeleton named “Dem”. If you are hearing that old diddy “Dem bones dem bones” in your head you not the only one. So your team in this little romp is made up of a very unique cast. You have Dem the skeleton, Sara the ghost, Lita the vampire and Eric the zombie. Not exactly the staple RPG cast to save the world and that is the point.
Everything in this game is typical of old school RPGs, with a humorous twist. One thing I found pretty funny was a tombstone I read. It read “Here Lies Molly the Werezompire may she rest in obscurity.” To those that don’t know this was another game made by Zeboyd Games. So he even pokes fun at his own game. BODVII does have a good storyline to it and a really good ending. With about a 5 hour playtime, it isn’t something you will feel is too long or two short.
The game has a great level up system where you choose between two options every level you reach, and this can greatly effect how that member of your party plays. Not to mention a great Unite system that allows two or more characters to act together to perform a special move. Every character has unique abilities all their own. Every area you enter has a number of random encounters once you have had that many encounters in the area you can start a fight or just walk through it. I loved this little feature, no more fighting every two steps in an area you’ve already leveled up in. Once you beat the game you have the option of playing Score Attack. In this mode you only have to fight the bosses, yeah you can still force fights but you don’t have to. I’m not sure how the points work out in this mode, I honestly never finished it. I played it a couple of times, but just didn’t have the desire to see how low a level I could beat certain bosses at.
Things I can’t stress enough about this game, is to talk to everyone and your party when you enter a new area. They always have something to say and a lot of little jokes are tossed in here. Check those tombstones for witty lines too. All together this was a great way to spend a dollar. I think the short nature of the story is good for even the casual gamer who fears they will forget what they were supposed to do next. So if you are one of the very few people who do not already own this game, I have to ask why? Why would you pass on something this good that is also so inexpensive.
5 out of 5 it tickled my RPG bug and left me with time to still have a life.
Star Dash is an avatar platformer by Rascal Haven. The goal of the game is to complete the stage picking up enough stars to rack up points. In Star Dash you are competing with 3 things; the clock, the vertical scrolling screen and your last previous score.
Star Dash has two modes, solo and multiplayer. In solo mode you start at level 1 and try to make it to level 100. You can also go to the high score menu and select any stage from 1 to 100, even if you haven’t beaten the stages before that level. This is a pretty cool feature for gamers like me. I don’t have the time or the skill to play from level 1 to 100. The ability to jump to whatever stage I want is great and you will also see the current global scores before you select the stage to play. So if you are big on beating other peoples scores this makes it easy to find the stages where someone has a higher score than you and just play those. Granted it would take a bit of time if you’re looking at the high scores of all 100 stages. This option is only available to single player though.
Now in multiplayer mode you and up to 3 other local players will go head to head against the clock to reach the finish line of the stage. In multiplayer mode you start on level 1 and work your way up. Sorry no picking the level in this mode. Hopefully they will put out an update that allows this. I know I got bored playing the first couple stages over and over again. In multiplayer mode all players share the same screen so what one player does effects all players. In multiplayer mode it is still all about the final score. So if your opponent is grabbing up all the stars even if you reach the finish line first they will probably still win the stage.
The way a level works is fairly simple. The screen begins scrolling up and if you fall below the screen you lose and have to start over, unless your playing multiplayer mode. In multiplayer mode you will just respawn a little higher on the stage. Your objective is to pick up stars, which are worth different points depending on the color of the star. Time increases which are worth points and increase the clock time. The clock time is another way you can lose, you run out of time and everyone loses. There are triangles you can pick up that will slowdown the screen advancement or even reverse it for a very short time. There are also green multipliers that fill a bar above your head. Once it is full you can activate it and it will double the point value of the stars collected while the bar is drained. Once someone reaches the end of the stage the stage ends for everyone and scores are tallied. Your score will not be counted for the global score board if you are playing multiplayer.
Like most platformers you have a few different things you’ll come across on the stages. There are platforms that are like solid brick and you can only jump on to them from the side. There are also the platforms that you can jump onto from directly below them. Some of platforms appear and disappear so timing is really important when crossing those platforms. There are springs to launch you to higher platforms as well as switches that open blocked paths to continue climbing and you can never forget the treadmill platforms. So all in all Star Dash is a platformer that has all the common themes of standard platformers.
Knowing all that there are some downsides to this game. The first of which in my opinion was that something just seemed so off with the controls. I felt like I was sliding on ice platforms at times because I would just press over a little and it seemed like I would move a lot, not to mention the jumps quickly get distant. This distance requires precise jumping from the edge and I just couldn’t seem to get timing correctly with this. Almost every really distant jump I would miss the first time, and it wasn’t just my sad gameplay. I had another person try the game and they also felt that these jumps required you to jump from the very edge of one platform to reach the other. With the movement being so fast you just end up falling off the platform jumping to late or jumping to early and falling to your doom.
Between all the good and the negative I give the game a 3 out of 5. Download the trial if you’re a platformer lover.