Home August’s Best Xbox LIVE Indie Games

August’s Best Xbox LIVE Indie Games

by GaryTun

August has been busy, especially the tail end of it. On August 25th and 26th a ridiculous 21 games came out. Great for gamers, but utterly useless for devs. With New Arrivals only carrying 15 games, some people made games that were visible for less than a day before being shunted off never to be seen again. You’d hope that no good games were caught in that but having seen the early sales of the number one game this month, it looks like it could have suffered. So go now and download it, because it’s worth your time and money!

You can buy any of these games via xbox.com by clicking the link associated with each game, or on the Games Marketplace on your Xbox 360. Simply enter the marketplace and scroll up to Indie Games, where you can check the top rated titles, the games that have just come out, or to find the games mentioned in this thread. Indie Game trials last eight minutes, which is often enough to establish what you think about it. Even if you don’t buy any of these games, at least trial them, tell people what you think, get more people trying them.

Go. Play. Enjoy. Tell us what you think! Tell all your friends! Get them to tell all their friends!

(Xbox LIVE Indie Games are available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. If you’re outside those countries you can still play these games by setting up a Gamertag for free for one of those countries. It’s worth doing.)

And so, the best game this month…

Gravitron360 is excellent. It’s a stylish, beautiful game which I guess most brings to mind memories of Thrust. You pilot a ship that feels perfect to control, with every boost with the right trigger making the ship react exactly how you’d expect. Rather than rotating the ship left and right with, well, left and right, the direction you press the analogue stick in is the direction in which the ship heads. Your mission is to destroy a number of targets and then escape the planet’s atmosphere. Choosing to save some engineers along the way, or not.

The engineers can repair your ship and are worth a few hundred points, but if you take too long to pick them up, or don’t have enough damage to make it worthwhile, it’s probably better to just leave them and pick up the time bonus. Unless you’ve got a conscience, or are excellent at the game and just don’t take that long to pick them up.

To help with getting excellent, your skills are forced to improve in a number of challenge modes. There’s one where you have to pick up engineers quickly, and another which forces you to race through checkpoints, and a couple more besides. These challenges are very, very difficult, and will take a lot of practice to beat but developing the skills in these challenges will lead to much improved scores over the main game’s 70 levels.

It’s 80 Microsoft Points, this one, which is an absolute pittance for the amount of quality gameplay you’re getting.

MILITARY SNIPER-SIM 3.18 was ridiculously close to getting my shout for best game of the month. It’s a sniping game, you’re given targets and you have to hit them. It doesn’t look great, but what makes this excellent is how in depth it is, and in particular its logbook.

First, you take a shot under normal conditions, but even then you have to take into account your breathing and trigger action. Then you can change stuff up, the wind, the temperature, the target distance. Each of these affect the path of the bullet. When you get a successful hit it’s noted in your logbook and you can then use the settings you found out to adjust your rifle and make sure next time you have a shot in those conditions, your shot is perfect. Practice practice practice and fill in the logbook, and you can take on a ten shot challenge under variable conditions and see how well you can score. The first sniping game on XBLIGs or even anywhere that’s been done really well, and genuinely feels like how I’d expect sniping to feel. Brilliant stuff.

Go rate this one high, because it’s got a fairly low score right now, and I can only assume it’s because people were expecting some depth-free sniping experience like their generic FPSs would give them.

Breeze is, I don’t know what genre, platformer? You have to blow a daisy through a level to a target by rotating a fan around it and then using the right trigger to adjust the speed of the fan, being careful not to hit the daisy, or blow the daisy into any obstacles or walls.

It controls perfectly and the gravity/fan physics are spot on. The best bit is the dev times, which are very difficult to beat but if you manage it, you get a gold star (and a round of applause). There are sixty levels, it looks lovely, it sounds beeeeautiful, and with the dev times to beat you’ll be playing for ages.

Star Crisis is from Excalibur Studios. You’re given missions to complete, the first being to board a ship. You then take part in a horizontal shmup type game to get there. You can fire straight forward with the right trigger. Left and right movement is on the analogue stick, and you thrust with the left trigger, which you need to do because the game takes gravity into account, if you don’t thrust you’ll just fall to the bottom of the level and won’t hit anything.

There are power-ups and stuff to collect, points to rack up and missions to complete. Much like the dev’s other game, Aesop’s Garden, it has an awesome style and brilliant music which is still buzzing round my head now, it’s fun stuff.

ちえりのドキ★ドキ湯煙ぶらり旅… or, that hot spring game. It’s nothing short of bizarre but it’s also a lot of fun. You simply have to stay out of the water at the bottom of the screen by swinging from the dots, bouncing on an old guy’s head and shooting rubber ducks. I’m reassured that the game is based on a true story.

It takes some getting used to, the controls are backwards and you have to press the right stick up to fire down, for example. It won’t be long before it’s second nature though and then you’re left with what is actually one of the most unique shooters you’ll ever play, both in sheer absurdity and gameplay mechanics.

Clover: A Curious Tale is one of the most ambitious games on the service. A huge, voice-acted 2D RPG with a massive script, loads to explore, and loads of puzzles to solve. Screenshots probably don’t do it justice but it has a lovely style, too.

There’s not much plot to speak of in the early stages and the gameplay is very much about finding the right item and giving it to the right person, but the style and charm kind of negate that problem, it’s fun hearing what the people have to say. Well, sometimes, it’s always fun reading it but the voice acting can be a bit strange with weird tone and emphasis. Check out the soldier at the very start for an example of that! It’s fun though, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

“The harder the stage, the less the clothes.” Oh yes, it’s 萌めくり. It’s one of those games where if you flip one tile, the surrounding tiles flip, and you have to have them all facing the same way to see a HOT GIRL NAKED!!!!picture of a girl. The presentation is nice, though, I like the bright and chunky logo/fonts and the music is quaint and Katamari Damacy-esque. There are some special blocks too. Grey ones can’t be flipped, blue ones flip twice if you click on them (the surrounding blocks only once) and green ones flip every block in that row/column. There’s a lot to consider and it’s really hard. The game I mean. The game is hard.

Unplugged is sort of infuriating, but not how you’d think. You’re in a sink and have to stop enemies getting to the plughole in the middle and avoid it yourself. It’s one of the ugliest games on the service, and you play the first level and it’s just a shit twin-stick. In my head I was typing “rubbish twin-stick” and leaving it at that. Then you get to the next level and the water rotates quicker, and all of a sudden your bullets start spraying around wildly taking the flow of water into account, and you really have to give some thought to where you’re shooting. The effect of the bullets is pretty excellent, yet the rest of the game is so horrible looking, and the first level is so plain, that most people won’t even get that far. Infuriating, because it’s better than it lets on.

I’ve played BioHack’s trial three times and still don’t get it. My gut is telling me that there’s an awesome puzzle game here but it’s so confusing and complex, I need to play all the tutorial levels at least twice more I think, just so that I can really work out what’s having an effect on what. At the moment, I have no idea why the things I do affect the game in the way they do. It’s here because I’ve seen enough to know that there’s a pretty good chance it’s excellent. The scoring system certainly has potential for beating your scores by a few points each time and getting better and better. Just be prepared to trial it in excess of five times!

Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess is a great game, but not really the most effort filled port from the PSP. Plays with huuuuuge borders. It’s still fun though, and if you don’t have it on PSP you absolutely should get it here. You have to chase monsters up a vertical level, double jumping into them three times to kill them. The twist is in the score/combo system. To get better combos you have to jump on each platform once, and jumping on a platform twice resets the counter. Lots of scope for perfect runs, etc. Controls excellently. It’s good, but if you’ve got a PSP maybe get it on that instead.

ADVENTURES of CAPTAIN Becky should really be terrible. It’s a 2D platform game over short levels staring a girl with very bouncy tits and very few clothes. It should be terrible. It’s actually surprisingly competent though, with enemies that you have to observe to get to know their patterns before taking them on. Of course, the true draw is in the edit mode. You can edit absolutely everything about Becky’s appearance. Everything. It’s ridiculously comprehensive. And pressing the random button is almost as fun as the game itself.

Codex is a pretty decent puzzle game. You have a 4×4 grid of tiles and you have to match a pattern by sliding them. Sliding a line knocks a tile off the end and you control that tile. It adds in blocks that can’t be moved and stuff to keep things interesting, and there are pretty harsh caps on the numbers of moves you can make so you really need to think about what you’re doing. Being rated fairly badly at the moment for some reason, I’ve no idea what people were expecting when they looked at the screenshots and downloaded it, it’s certainly good at what it does.

Avatar Grand Prix is nice, but comes with issues. The second track in particular looks fantastic and has all kind of IP theft going on. Anyway, just a racing game really but it lets you qualify, which is nice. The BIG problem is that the drift controls don’t work very well. The idea is to hold the brake button when you’ve got speed around corners and if you hold it, you get a boost. If you don’t have enough speed you don’t drift and you stop, and if you drift too long you slow down and also stop. Absolutely needed to be on a different button or require a tap to operate. Quite fun driving around otherwise but you probably won’t win without mastering the boost.

King Spray is, bizarrely, one of the best looking Indie Games available. It looks excellent. It’s not a game, though, it’s just a graffiti simulator (I guess.) I was all set to write it off as MSPaint with cumbersome controls but actually, the effects you can get from it are awesome, and if you put some effort in you’ll create some excellent stuff – I dunno what you’d do with it then though. And the controls are a bit cumbersome.

Fish Squid Time Machine is SYNSO mixed with Fishie Fishie. At first, you’ll think “what the hell is this?” and then it makes more and more sense. You constantly turn one way and pressing a button turns you the other, so you can use this mechanic to go forwards. You have to collect small fish and avoid big dark ones, as far as I can work out. People will enjoy this the same way people enjoy Space Giraffe. It looks mental and incomprehensible, but if you stick with it you’ll probably get into a zone and get some huge scores. At the same time, it feels like I’m falling for an elaborate practical joke in recommending this at all, because the whole package feels a bit like the devs are just taking the piss.

Magnetic Wars is great, but I found it really hard. You can attract and repel bullets (think a bit like Ikaruga) by switching the polarity of your ship. It’s a nice looking twin-stick, it’s fun, it’s hard, but I think it’d have been improved if the polarities were much better illustrated, it’s sometimes not clear what’s happening. There’s loads of scope for memorising enemy attack patterns though, so if that’s your kinda thing you’ll love this.

Some games are bad. Really bad. So bad that they don’t even deserve a functioning link to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. But if you’re in the mood for some punishment, or just want to be reminded how much better the games above are, check these out, last month’s most terrible games.

So Many Girls So Little Time would be the best game I’d ever played if it was the only game I’d ever played. It’s a time management game where you have to arrange dates with girls and make sure they don’t clash with other dates with other girls, etc. There’s no record of what’s going on so you have to remember about ten dates at once and how long they are. You then decide what to talk about to which they will say “maybe I should be more interested in <what you said>.” That’s the extent of the game’s script, there’s no humour, none of the girls have a personality, there’s literally nothing. I played it seriously for about three minutes before I was bored and just hit A to every choice until I died. Not in the game, I actually died.

Battle-SX. Right. I’ll throw this out there straight off – I’m terrible at beat-em-ups, can’t play them, never been able to, never shown any signs of improvement. I’m sure I’m better than this game makes me feel, though. I’ve played it four times, and am still yet to land a single hit, or at least a single hit that does much in the way of damage. First, I ran in and punched and kicked and the AI blocked literally everything, and the second I let up launched into a barrage of blows that killed me. I tried again and the AI attacked at the same time I did, my hits did nothing, AI – barrage of blows killed me. So, I tried blocking. In response to this, the AI attacked me so relentlessly that there was no opportunity whatsoever to let my guard down and counter, and the second I got bored and did so the AI continued to just rain down blows on me which I could do nothing about. And killed me. It’s beyond me.

Protect Zoey from the Zombies, you’ve read the title, so whaddya think? Is the game going to be good or bad? You went for bad, didn’t you? CORRECTAMUNDO! Horrendously animated zombies walk towards you at the top, middle or bottom of the screen and you shoot them really slowly, and upgrade weapons by spending the cash you earnt. The structure is nice, but there’s little in the way of actual gameplay.

Balloon Boy is based on that topical news event, the balloon boy thing that was in the news recently. No, wait, not recently, almost an entire year ago. You just float and avoid stuff while travelling as far as you can. Collision detection is awful which makes it unplayable. It’s impossible to tell whether you’re at a safe distance from a hazard. Their next game will be about the Pakistan cricket betting scandal, and will come out in 2013 when it’s not relevant any more.

Escapism is another ball dropping (shush) match-three game which has gimmicks but literally nothing that makes it feel different or in any way interesting. It pretends to be some kind of art statement but is astonishingly ugly.

Meep is Doodle Jump but sometimes it puts you in situations where it’s literally impossible to advance so is totally beyond having a point.

Little Green Men is Lemmings. The moves are all from Lemmings, the mechanics are all from Lemmings, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that the levels were just skinned Lemmings levels.

Sidewalk Sally is a game you know is going to be bad as soon as you see the box-art. You’re not quite prepared for how bad, though. You press A to skate and then X or Y to jump over cracks in the pavement, or small obstacles. That’s it. The timing is all weird so you’ll fall over most of the time anyway but even if you don’t, the game doesn’t track any kind of score at all so it’s a complete waste of time.

But to end on an awesome note!

Every month, we’ll revisit a couple of games that you may have missed from months gone by. These games are lost in the depths of the Games Marketplace, pull them out of there! Played a really awesome Indie Game in the past? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see about getting it in here in the future.

NINJA BROS. 忍者ブラザーズ or, well, Ninja Bros for short is an excellent puzzle-platformer. All you have to do is get your ninja to the exit in these tiny little levels. Except:

When one ninja moves, they all move. This means that while one of them might be safe, another might be heading straight to a trap and to his death. Luckily, they can all jump independently and this means that there’s some proper platforming to deal with as well as working out how to solve the level with all your ninja’s safe. It’s a brilliant concept, perfectly executed.

Globe Clicker is, well, it’s sort of a game and sort of a geography quiz. Cue some joke about how Americans don’t know about geography, or something. All you do is point to a globe at where you think a specific country, city, or landmark is located. That’s it.

You’re given a score based on how long it took you, and how far away from the target you were. If you get enough points, you can move onto the next level. Or, if you’d prefer, you can customise your game so you can just revise African cities or something, I imagine that continent is most people’s weakness! Well, I’m sure you’ve read all this and thought “nah, not for me” but don’t write it off without giving it a try – just because it’s educational doesn’t mean it’s rubbish.

And, well, it’s just awfully pretty. There’s something lovely about rotating a 3D view of the world like this, no idea what it is, but it’s there.

So, what did you think of these games? What do you think of what you’re playing this month?

Enjoy your Indie Games.