INDIESCAPE: Day 1

Day 1 of INDIESCAPE is finally here! Ready to game?

That’s right! INDIESCAPE is bringing you 25 Xbox Live Indie Games that DON’T suck. They exist. Promise. Due to the lack of a true quality control outline, the Xbox Live Indie Games arcade has become so saturated with “shovelware” it can, at times, be an act in futility to find any games worth playing. Yet, amidst the seas of massage games and dating simulators, there lay amazing gaming gems just below the surface that have sadly been lost in the mix. So, just in time for the cold weather and upcoming holidays, we decided to help you out by sifting through the junk to find the diamonds in the rough; being the great people that we are, of course.  We will be doling out the “awesome” five games at a time every weekday.  Now, put your tray tables in the up-right position, strap in, and get ready for INDIESCAPE.

One of the beauties of independent development are the unique concepts and ideas that developers create outside of the standard restrictions of major developers. New IPs are exceedingly rare within the professional design world due to monetary risks on the open market, but new IPs are the name of the game in the Indie world. It’s all about creating something new or unique or revolutionizing a previous gaming archetype.

Titles like Twin Blades from Press Start Studio are a great example. The premise is simple. You’re a kickass nun with a scythe and a gun who has to stop an encroaching zombie menace. Interested? We thought so. It plays similarly to Devil May Cry on a 2D control path, but visually it plays off of a simple anime-inspired art style.  The weapon upgrades are easy to understand and add incredible depth to the gameplay; definitely encouraging the exploration of previous areas in search of more dark denizens to fight.  Along your quest, you’ll face hardened and enhanced zombie threats as well as crazy bosses like the “Butcher.” With both upgrades to the base abilities and weapons as well as additional weaponry to unlock along the way, Twin Blades is all about the sweet, sweet zombie hunting.

Now, if zombies aren’t exactly your thing and you’re looking for something a bit “brighter,” look no further than the platforming adventure, Lumi by Kydos Studio. Lumi’s artistic style, done in the vane of Odinsphere and Loco Roco, alone is enough to make the game worth trying out. Yet, beyond the amazingly well animated characters and a beautifully designed world, the almost puzzle-like gameplay is where it really gets interesting. Slingshot the little ball of yellow fluff that is the hero around the lands using the polarity based physics mechanics and collect wisps of light in order to bring light and happiness back to a world that has fallen into complete darkness. The visuals are beautiful and the quirky charm really brings the game to life.  While it may not be the first time you’ve seen a game with the premise of bringing color or life back to a darkened or dead world, Lumi does it in a truly unique way.

Speaking of quirky charms; Sequence, by Iridium Studios is an unusual mix between classic adventure RPG and a rhythm-based music game. Ordinarily, these two genres would not come to mind when you think of gaming hybrids, but Sequence mixes the two beautifully.  The game’s story follows Ky, a comically sarcastic protagonist, who has awakened inside of a dark tower with no idea how he arrived there or why.  All he knows is he is part of some experiment and he wants out.  The player must fight monsters and powerful bosses in rhythm-based combat scenarios, remeniscent of Dance Dance Revolution, to ultimately reach the top of the tower and earn their freedom. Unusual? Absolutely. Fun? Most definitely.

The world of Indie gaming is constantly evolving and developers must learn from each other and adapt to succeed. This concept is beautifully shown in Blocks That Matter, by Swing Swing Submarine. The game take cues from titles like Tetris and Castle Crashers and truly makes something uniquely original. BTM has the player controlling Tetrabot, a tiny drilling robot, designed to free it’s masters who have been captured by an unknown evil organization and forced to make a videogame against their will.

The plot is goofy and fun, but the gameplay, the core focus of the game, is truly fantastic. The player can collect or drill blocks by jumping or running into them. They can then use these collected blocks to build platforms in order to reach the exit in each level. To make things a little more challenging, however, BTM uses the concept of “Pajitnovian” physics whereby the player can only create shapes that are tetrominoes (four blocks that branch off from one another as a whole) in order to complete each level. Mixed with differing types of block materials that react differently to each situation, BTM is a true platform puzzler.

Now, if you’re reading this and asking yourself why there are no good 3D games or super fast-paced ones listed yet, I say, “read on.” Very few games could be faster than the action you’ll find in TEC 3001 from Phoenix Game Studio. This slick 3D platform racer has the player blazing through stunning virtual raceways at blinding speeds attempting to collect enough power cells in order to complete each zone. Sounds easy doesn’t it? If you answered “Yes” then you could not be more wrong.

Not only is the player traveling at hundreds of miles per hour, but they must time their jumps, dodges, and dashes perfectly all while collecting power cells placed through out the zone before ultimately reaching their goal; creating a frenzied game that can get your heart pounding faster than a triple quarter-pounder with cheese. The game starts out easy enough in order to ease the player into the concept, but, by the end, they’ll be racing through virtual space at speeds they can hardly comprehend fast enough to react to. Definitely a game for anyone missing the days of Wipeout and Extreme G.

The truly amazing fact is how astonishingly varied the world of indie gaming actually is.  People from all walks of life and experience levels are able to step up to bring their imaginations to life for the rest of the gaming world to explore and enjoy in a way not possible only a few years ago.  And sometimes, amidst the teeming masses of titles, true gaming gems emerge.  Gems like these.

And so, we end Day 1 of the Mash Those Buttons INDIESCAPE event and we hope you’ll comeback tomorrow for more amazing indie titles hidden in the “plain sight” that is Microsoft Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace.  We have lots more on the way for all types of gamers so things are only just getting started.

 

(Titles Covered Today)

Twin Blades: Press Start Studios
Lumi: Kydos Studio
Sequence: Iridium Studios
Blocks That Matter: Swing Swing Submarine
TEC 3001: Phoenix Game Studio

[Images via respective developers]

Aaron Tomko
Aaron Tomko
Aaron Tomko

Guest Writer

Aaron has played games since before he could stand and has been doing so ever since. He is currently seeking a degree in game design and creates his own art.

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