A quick look at ten Xbox marketplace games

For some time now I’ve been meaning to write articles about various indie & arcade games that I’ve played but never seem to get round to it. Instead here’s a quick round up of ten games that I’ve picked up from the Xbox Marketplace.

  • Avatar Ninja
  • Avatar Fighter
  • Avatar Hamster Panic
  • Beat Hazard
  • Geometry Wars
  • I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1
  • LaserCat
  • L’il Demons: Splatter
  • Square Off
  • Starzzle
  • A World of Keflings

Avatar Ninja

Simple gameplay, jumping in time to three objects and very reminiscent of The Most Addicting Sheep Game. Graphically it looks nice and is very well polished but I found its appeal rather limited. There was only one level and whilst it is random, every session has the exact same experience with no change of scenery or music. Providing high scores, both friends and world, does provide a motivation to get a further score but if you aren’t anywhere near, there’s not a great deal of replay motivation. Further levels, even different backgrounds & music with the same gameplay, would have much improved the game. Nonetheless for 80 points its still good fun and great value but if I had to choose between the two very similar games, The Most Addicting Sheep Game would get the nod.

Avatar Fighter

I didn’t expect much except a basic fighting game where you get to play as your avatar and I suppose that’s what you get. The moves are very limited leading to boring and unspectacular fights and the novelty wears off very quickly. It would have been nice if we had some silly finishing moves! I wouldn’t really recommend this unless you desperately want an avatar based fighting game and there’s nothing else.

Avatar Hamster Panic

Very similar to Avatar Drop which whilst being novel, was quite dull. The gameplay is a little more sophisticated with points to collect, a need to keep up and stay on the screen (otherwise you lose points) as well as having a few power ups, some of which are quite fun. However both myself and the second player found it to be a little clumsy when we got stuck and ultimately frustrated. The instructions for the game aren’t the best. Perhaps they do explain everything but the MASSIVE instructions just aren’t readable. Its mildy amusing when you have a clear path but otherwise, nah.

Beat Hazard

I’ve been meaning to write about this game for some time. Beat Hazard is a top down space shooter fighting off swarms of alien crafts and asteroids, nothing outstandingly, however it is an absolutely beautiful game… providing you don’t have epilepsy! Occasionally it can get a little too intense meaning that you have no idea what the hell is going on, but that adds to the experience. Everything fits in nicely with the music with an explosion of colour and light during the chorus, although it isn’t quite on par with Audiosurf with some occasional mismatches. However the game does work with a variety of music styles because, as with Audiosurf, you can play with your own music.

The controls, your usual top down shooter over two stick (one for movement, the other aims & shoots) work well and it is a smooth and exciting game to play. It is rather challenging at first but you can soon get used to it. There’s a progression curve as you unlock greater multipliers, powers and so forth in time, allowing you to then have a go at the more difficult levels. As a core game it is pretty good fun but the visuals do sell it so if you’re interested, check out some videos footage of playing Biffy Clyro or Pendulum.

Geometry Wars

Developed by Bizarre Creations (RIP), Geometry Wars is a very similar game to Beat Hazard in terms of basic gameplay setup. A top down swarm / horde shooter with the same controls, bombs and alike. The enemies are a lot more varied and exciting to play against than Beat Hazard but on the flip side you don’t get to pick your own music. There’s not a great deal of variety in the gameplay, choosing between Retro and Evolved seems to be just a visual thing, but the gameplay is very well polished. The visuals are very lush and have a distinct style and looks superb when the action becomes intense.

Its quite hard to pick a favourite between this and Beat Hazard. Geometry Wars has the slightly more developed gameplay, however I do like being able to use my own music. At the end of the day, they are both excellent games in their own right.

I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1

I imagine that anyone interested in Xbox Indie games has already played this so I’ll try to be brief. It is your usual top down horde shooters, unsurprisingly with zombies in it. What is unique is the background and music, all themed “I made a game with zombies in it”. I couldn’t help but laugh at the deliberately bad music and crazy flashing text background. Its cheesey, fun and has real character.

The game itself is pretty damn solid with a range of different baddies, from zombies to blobs to snake (as in the game Snake) along with a variety of weapons and power ups. The action is fast and importantly smooth and works very well as a local multiplayer game. If you don’t already have it, go buy it. I mean now. Why are you still reading? Go buy!

LaserCat

The name is a selling point in itself. A delightful throwback to retro gaming where the player explores a series of rooms in a bid to find various keys to save their owl friend. The writing is very humorous, especially with the implementation of quizzes. Once you’ve found a key there is a question to ask, usually with at least one amusingly obvious and daft answer. I think what impressed me the most was the controls and jumping. All too often I play a platform game and find myself cursing the game when I fail to make a jump but with LaserCat everything is just so smooth an natural. It may not be an epically long game but for 80 points you’ll get several hours of good fun out of it and is definitely worth getting.

L’il Demons: Splatter

L’il Demons is a FPS with the basis of you versus a small horde of strange critters. The controls didn’t feel the slickest although the simple and clean graphics made up for this. I’ve not fully explored it but found it to be a little samey and only got to play with one weapon which was a touch disappointing. A semi automatic weapon doesn’t really fit with horde games so I was looking for a nice pickup, alas none came. Hopefully this is something that I’ll find on my next play.

Square Off

Again we follow the horde theme but unlike the other few titles the one is side on and curiously doesn’t follow the usual controls convention with players using the right stick to aim, as per usual, but rather than auto firing you must press Right Trigger. Whilst hardly a big deal, it did surprise me a little. The game is nice and colourful with your character, a square like creature, fighting off aliens. There’s less enemies than the likes of I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 although to ensure that you are always able to get stuck in, there is a radar. They could however have made this a little larger and clearer.

The range of weapons is pretty good, perhaps not quite up to the level of IMAGWZII (I’m not typing out that name all the time…) but still pretty good and whilst you don’t get a massive diversity of aliens, at least up to where I’ve played, it is still fun. There are unique levels which is a real selling point as you have set objectives and something to work towards other than just a high score. The other thing that Square Off does differently to similar titles is the use of a health bar. Rather than lives, you have limited health. This provides more room for mistakes but don’t assume that makes the game easy as if you get completely cornered, you’re still done for!

Pretty good fun and would recommend. Its not as intense as IMAGWZII but not everyone wants that. Square Off is colourful, fun and worth getting.

Starzzle

An enjoyable puzzle game with a massive series of quick to complete levels. Moving only vertically and horizontally the player must navigate a map to collect all the stars. The challenge lies in finding a path as there is no stopping. Take the wrong route and you might find yourself stuck in a box! As things progress there is a second character (not 2 player) that you can move to provide a “portable wall” but simply getting them in position is puzzle enough! The game is perhaps more suited to a mobile phone game than a console due to the 2 minute nature of each puzzle but if you don’t have an Android / iPhone or simply want a fun puzzle game to play in your home then this is a great little game.

A World of Keflings

This charming little game puts your avatar in the world as a giant whilst you guide your minions, the Keflings, to harvest various resources and alike. From there you can build a range of buildings in a decent resource management game. There’s a bunch of quests as well to keep the game moving and provide some personality and plot to the game, however these have the issue of telling you what to do, not how to do it. This caused a bit of confusion and frustration. On the subject of frustration, targeting the correct object was a little awkward and I regularly found myself picking up Keflings instead or resources and visa versa… more annoying when it led to a short dialog.

However the real merit of the game was the co-op. Players, both locally and online, can play together and unlike 90% of co-op modes I’ve played of late, the gameplay genuinely had myself and the second player chatting and working together. This is disappointingly rare so I was very impressed with a game that to be honest, from the initial overview I was uncertain about trying. Not only is the coops gameplay pretty good but the camera is excellent and transitions from split screen to one screen as you wander apart. The issue of killing your team mate by wandering off is solved in a very simple and elegant way. If you have an Xbox and wish to play a nice fun coop game, I’d thoroughly recommend this.

Well there we go. In due time I’ll maybe update this with some pretty pictures or create individual articles with a bit more depth. If anyone has any games that I should check out, let me know on twitter (@develion). I’m especially interested in simple co-op / two player games!

Leave a Reply