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Buried underneath about 20 layers of menus, tucked in a corner, and covered with a thin sheet lays the Microsoft LIVE Indy Games. Seemingly neglected by its owner, this segment includes a few notable games, several decent games, and a good helping of mediocre titles.
Indy Circuit will cover some of the recent releases of the Microsoft Indie Game Marketplace and help give you an informed decision for these cheep and potentially rewarding programs.
Pumpkin Chop – MatthewM (Matt Mitman and Kevin Macleod) - 80 points
Halloween looms as the containing wall still barely holding back the tide of overplayed Christmas songs, bright red suits, and coagulated desserts. Pumpkin Chop isn’t a game as much as it’s an application you can use if you host a Halloween party. The ‘game’ segment is simple – you use your controller to cut layers off a pumpkin. There are no alternative tools to use besides a straight line so making circles is damn near impossible. The real purpose of this application is the Showoff mode where you can present your pumpkin carving in 2 different and quite well rendered 3D settings. Tacked on it’s a particularly nice set of originally made music that ads to the feel of the program. If you’re the type who enjoys bringing some friends over for a Halloween party this could be a good audition to add a little more ambiance.
- Pleasant music. Enough variety that it the sound itself could be used for your party.
- Basic 2 layers – draw lines to remove and display lower layer.
- Angular – circles near impossible
- Once a cut has been made there is no going back and adjusting it. JUST LIKE A REAL PUMPKIN
- Showoff mode - Though simple the music is interesting enough to have running in the background on a TV for a Halloween part. I mean, who actually watches scarry movies on Halloween?
Halloween 360 – Unknown - 80 points
On the opposite side of the ‘too scared to watch Jason on Halloween’ line is the aply named Halloween 360. As of this wriritng, it seems to have been removed from the marketplace and probably for a good reason. The program includes 50 static images and gives the demo user a boring static screen of a graveyard. You can tab through all the other selections inside of the system and find an occasional decent picture intersperses with crappy choices. For the touted '50 HD images' there was no real consistancy in the images created and made it appear as if a good number that appeared to be straight off of a Google Image search for spider web. If for some terrible reason this application returns, even for 80 points this simply isn’t worth the time to download.
- 50 ‘HD’ images to display on your 360. Amazing how half the images look like clipart. The demo appears a static image of a graveyard. No music.
- Images are hit and miss. Some seem like they could be a good display and there are options for younger audiences, but then there are simply bad choices.
Crosstown – Studio Hunty - 400 points
For the fake nostalgia crowd – rejoice. Everyone else – move along. Part of the new retro syle games, a term that sounds like a terrible conradiction, it plays like a cross between Bomberman and Pacman with lasers. The game requires the user to grab 4 flashing orbs to be able to leave the level. If you or an enemy obtains an orb you are granted a shield that negates one potential life threatening attack bit also causes the orb to leave you and spawn somewhere on the map. Littered around the maps are various creatures and enemies that appear vaguely different from one another. The game also tries to tie in a bizarre plot that doesn’t seem to do anything but get in the way until you decide to keep hitting A to ignore. At first I was first put off by the game and how it controlled as being not very responsive and very basic. After a short period of time, I started to encounter some of the hidden startegy that appeared to surface and could see for the inquisative retro lover it can be a fine addition to their arsenal as the game play seems solid and should have enough strategy to keep you occupied in the later levels. For those who aren’t entirely on the retro train, it's probably worth a look at the demo for a potential 10-minutes of entertainment.
- Odd recorded opening of a 5 and ½ foppy.
- Simple gameplay – maze format ala bomberman with occasional destroyable walls. Also, like Pacman if you walk to one side of the screen you warp to the opposite side.
- The games story tries a bit off hard to mimic the stories from own games. It’s self aware that is stupid but its far too cognoscente to this fact so it comes off a little heavy handed.
- Options include: pause and exit.
- An interesting game for the retro chiche.
Astro Match3 – PinoEire (DFT Games) - 240 points
It’s a Bejeweled clone. If you are still interested in reading I can tell you it works on a 10x10 grid, uses greek symbols, and includes your avatar. Mary Mode, the main option for the game, requires you to switch the highlighted symbol with another anywhere on the board to make a match. The game supports in-game trophies, hints, repetitive music, and you can see your avatar stare longingly at the tile while you play. Still, it’s a nice relaxing game with many slightly different boards to play until you get bored and go back to Bejeweled.
- Puzzle game involving various greek symbols in a switch to match style on a 10x10 grid.
- Mary Mode switches the two tiles and you must make a correct match using the switched tiles to be able to complete the move.
- Traditional mode is very much Bejewled with a much larger board
- In game trophies
- Powerups to explode, obliderate vertical and horizontal, and shuffle
- Avatar support
- Music gets tiring after a short while
Echoes+ - Binary Zoo Studios and Hybrid Two - 240 points
Geometry Wars meets Asteroids is probably the best headline I can send for this game. Echoes plays very close to GW from the techno music to the bright visuals and crazy shapes that follow around the screen. Varying power-ups offer some variation and a power level system negates the die and restart habits from GWs. There are several different types of games you can play ranging from a timed game, survival, asteroid belt, meteor storm, and classic mode which plays homage to the Asteroids of old with retro graphics and controls. It’s not a bad price if you really want to get another dual stick shooter and you don’t mind some. It's a very fine game but in a service so washed out with similar titles it can very easily get lost in the shuffle.
- Dual stick shooter. A mixture of geometry wars and asteroids. Different modes and powerups and difficulty levels.
- Music is good but does seem like with little variation it will get under your skin unless you have a distinct appreciation for techno. But again, it is a dual stick shooter.
- Also, leave the title screen alone to enjoy a stampede of pixilated elephants, snakes, and camels.
Banana Split – Torturas (Flying Squirrel Games) – 240 points
In this lovable little platformer you play Ben Ana, as aspiring transsexual and fruit who is trying to save the princess. I might have made up that first part but with a name like Ben Ana I simply refuse to forgive. Its is very Mario based as you dispatch your enemies mostly by jumping on them with your banana legs or, occasionally, pushing an object on top of them. The actual detail put into the environment is not too bad. You won’t call it Braid anytime soon bit you can see that they didn’t just drop you into ‘land o bricks’. Still, it’s an okay game but nothing about it makes it stand out. You’re rescuing a Princess for god sakes. Next they will have a level where I need the hookshot to get through the water level.
- Platformer featuring a banana (Ben Ana) attempting to rescue the apple (Princess) from hordes of angry milk cartons and chocolate chip shooting cupcakes.
- Very Mario-esque. You jump on the most of the enemies to kill them sans some you will have you use the environment to overcome.
- You collect bananas (sans top hats and legs) throughout the level to, I assume, collect more hearts. Demo concluded before any heart redemption could occur.
- Game looks fine – a few drops down from the Braid scale but with an interesting enough palate to keep you moving along. Music is good with a soft piano and xylophone mix while you conquer the levels.
Boring Space Shooter – lefantome – 80 points
I would say that the game developer needs to take a course on how not to title a game but I really can’t knock them for being honest. Here we have another dual stick shooter that includes a rewind mechanic to go back several seconds in the game to negate your demise. This would be fine if the game wasn’t so stubborn hard that you are lucky to last 30 seconds. Also, adding ‘Death is a Lie’ is either a very vague way of telling you to hit the rewind button or a terribly overused Portal reference in 2009. The background is painfully generic and enemies can simply spawn in front of your ship without warning. Also, if you want a nice helping of spelling and grammar errors take a look through the instructions to learn to kills enemy. Still, if you live off of dual stick shooters this could be an enjoyable 5 minutes of your time before it get removed off your system for being… boring.
- Dual stick shooter
- Death is a Lie – Obviously refers to the fact you can rewind time to undead yourself but it also comes across in 2009 like a terribly overused Portal referance
- Enemies randomly spawn in with no warning
- Rush Mode discription: “Survive for 5 minutes and earn as much points as you can. To do this you must manipulate time, extend the time limit, and kills enemy in different ways.”