Ten Xbox Marketplace titles in a nutshell

I rather enjoyed my brief flirtation with ten indie games the other week so tonight I decided to blast through ten more. Some of these I’ve played with quite a bit, some will be no more than a look at the trial period:

  • Avatar Battle Bees (trial)
  • Avatar Cannon (trial)
  • Avatar Golf
  • Avatar Wave: Snowball Fight
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Juggle (trial)
  • Minions (trial)
  • Space Ark
  • Worms 2: Armageddon
  • Zombie Sausage 2

Avatar Battle Bees

A combat flight simulator riding on the back of a bee might sound fun but this game certainly isn’t. Whilst I try not to be critical of graphics, the worlds are so plain and textures are dull. The game lacks pace with slow movement, too few enemies to fight and the music is too peaceful and melodic to engage you. Within the trial I had two weapons, an automatic machine gun that was a little bland and involved just holding the button down all the time as well as missiles that move slower than garden slug The single player is best avoided, which unfortunately is slightly better than the multiplayer, which is slower and even more empty.

Avatar Cannon

I’m sure we’ve all played the classic flash games where you have to get the angle & power right to throw yourself as far as possible, skidding along ice, avoiding obstacles and what not. Well Avatar Cannon is a more polished version of this where you fire your avatar out of a cannon and bounce your way along the savannah, rebounding off animals to keep going. There’s a few original touches such as flapping and it looks nicer than the many free flash games, but the gameplay is much the same. Unfortunately the high scores is only local (in the trial at least), unlike its free flash equivalents taking out half of the incentive to want to keep playing. Its good simple and mindless fun, but there’s free games on the net that are pretty much the same and have world rankings.

Avatar Golf

The name pretty much sums it up! It is a pretty solid casual golf game where of course you play as your avatar. Some nice and colourful environments and it feels simple and intuitive to play. Sometimes the physics seems a bit off and strangely you don’t get to pick your own clubs, which rather surprised me. However whilst it may not be the realistic golf game out there but it is good fun when playing with a friend or two and I’d certainly recommend getting it.

Avatar Wave: Snowball Fight

Tennis meets winter games in a polished avatar title. The GUI and general presentation is very well done, although unfortunately that doesn’t make up for lacking gameplay. Picking up snowballs and shooting is rather slow, leading to rather tedious fights. The single player arcade mode takes a bizarre twist in difficulty, going from piss easy 1v1s to 2v1 where the difficulty quadruples instantaneously. Not the worse game by any means but still not good fun.

Crazy Taxi

This was an old favourite of mine on the Dreamcast. Absurdly arcadey handling, great tunes and a colourful and fun title. The Xbox live version takes out the great tunes, throws in poorer streaming instead and feels weaker than the original. I’ll be dusting down my Dreamcast next time I fancy a game!

Juggle

This retro styled game is a little like the classic breakout but without the bricks in single player and a spin on pong in multiplayer. Players must juggle cubes that decrease in size when hit, with more cubes coming over time. Simple one note sound effects are used upon collision that form a nice melody when juggling several cubes at once.

I’ve played the 15-minute trial twice now, once multiplayer and once single player. Whilst the game has its merits, there isn’t enough content or sheer enjoyment to warrant me spending my points on this over other titles. It is however a game that I might get if I had an iPhone (unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available on Android).

Minions

I do have a fondness for the term and general concept of minions so I was quite keen to give this a go. From my short play during the trial it appears to be a cross between a top down and third person shooter with camera support for both styles of play, although the game isn’t fun in either and I never really saw much point in the option during my play session. It opens with a fly-by camera of the tutorial level, showing off the incredibly plain textures and blocky graphics. The character starts off armless and as you pick up weapons, you gain arms to carry them. Obviously you can only have two arms, ie two weapons. Quite a nice idea but it did feel a little odd to start without any arms at all!

The tutorial level that I played involved slicing then shooting a bunch of red characters, making my way through a plain and uninspiring environment with a few obstacles to clear along the way. At the end my minions came to help me out (after a mandatory GUI operation mid combat), which basically meant they did sweet fuck all. The trial ended mid boss fight and suffice to say, no I did not wish to purchase the full version.

Space Ark

Space Ark is a very colourful and rather cutesy game but it isn’t just for little kids. There is actually a pretty damn good game underneath the assault of colours that is not too dissimilar to breakout. The game involves bouncing your colourful critter (or avatar) around collecting DNA (ie blocks), however what really makes this different is the use of both sticks. As well as moving your bouncy platform down the bottom with the left stick, you can control the character with the right. At first it felt slow and sluggish but I soon got to grips with it and found the game quite compelling. The tutorial was pretty well done, despite being a little text heavy at the start and I eventually found myself really liking it. I originally sat down planning on just playing the trial but ended up purchasing the full game. No doubt this will be a game that I look at and cover once again.

Worms 2: Armageddon

Some very nice touches and attempts to expand the gameplay, however levels are often too complex with frustrating spawning and a need to “hold out” until a half decent weapon comes along. Not enough opportunity to have fun with sheep, banana bombs and alike unless you spend ages crafting your own rulesets. Still great fun though!

Zombie Sausage 2

The premise of the game is relatively simple and effective. Players are given a target sausage person that they most spot amongst a crowd of similar looking sausage folk, all of whom are moving across the screen in different directions. Slight nuances in the appearance call for a sharp eye making it a causes affair rather than a trigger happy one. It works quite well and is certainly enjoyable enough, however the scoring system is a big bag of fail. Players are heavily penalised despite it being hard to differentiate the correct type of sausage person to snipe and given the amount of movement, errors are to be expected. Whilst of course you want to be discouraged from shooting like a madman, penalising the players substantially more than they are rewarded for the tricky correct shots is harsh to say the least. The scoring system encourages a lot of patience and skill in what appears to be a fun, fast and frantic game.

If anyone has any recommendations for small games to have a look at, hit me up on Twitter (@develion). Xbox, PS3, PSP, Android and PC only (unless someone wants to buy me an iPhone?).

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