Saturday, 8 December 2012

Xbox Live Indie Weekly Roundup (Nov 28th - Dec 4th)

In this new regular feature I will be rounding up the week's Xbox live indie games and reviewing them in one fell swoop. Since the majority of indie titles don't deserve a whole post dedicated to them, and many are too soul crushingly awful to spend more than 2 minutes on, I will be collectively reviewing one week's worth of games at a time.

The Xbox indie channel is home to some serious affronts to gaming, with seemingly zero quality control on display the floodgates have been opened and a torrent of gaming embarrassments have been unleashed upon the world. Since there are actually some enjoyable games on there, the recent Shark Attack being one, and the magnificent Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, Escape Goat, Little Racers Street and Qrth-Phyl, proving there are some very talented developers out there capable of bringing some quality games to the service. Unfortunately the indie channel is akin to sifting through a bucket of warm pig shit in the hope of finding a diamond or two. So I don my thickest gloves, take a deep breath, and dive in to discover what this week has to offer indie gamers.

This week:
  • Aah, Halloween Pie
  • Christmas Carnage
  • Cool Shapes
  • Red Tie Miner 3
  • Santa Xmas Dash 2
  • Space Cruesader
  • Space Egypt

First up, Ho Ho Ho, it's almost Christmas, and what festive period would be complete without some appalling games rushed out to make a quick buck. Now I am not knocking Christmas games as a whole genre, in fact I am currently writing a feature on my favourite Chrimbo games to get you in the holiday spirit, but the Xbox indie channel has so far proved incapable of offering up anything remotely worthy of your time and points, and the two on offer this week are no exception.

Santa Xmas Dash 2 puts you in the boots of the jolly old bastard himself, though only in the loosest sense. The screen shots led me to believe I was about to experience some seasonal platforming fun, however instead I was presented with an extremely basic and tedious QTE rhythm game. All you have to do is wait for the icon to scroll through the on-screen cursor and press the appropriate button, resulting in Santa moving across one of the clotheslines that connect all the house together. That's all folks. This basic non-gameplay could be excused (almost) if the Christmas music was good, but the feeble, generic midi offerings are as soulless as the game itself.

Next up is Christmas Carnage, an absolute bottom of the barrel effort that is about as enjoyable as finding a turd in your stocking on Christmas morning. A truly horrible twin stick shooter that has nothing going for it. You play as a crudely drawn fairy who must shoot at bells, Christmas trees, and presents. The graphics are so bad they look as if they were drawn by a 4 year old, and the in game voices are some of the worst I have ever heard. Seriously, it sounds like the developers dragged one of their mothers in to record the voices in a 5 minute window she had before going shopping. It is offensively poor and if this is a sign of what is to come over the holiday season then this would go some way in explaining the high suicide rates over the Christmas period. Bah Humbug!

Image from Christmas Carnage

Now onto something with nothing to do with jolly Saint Nick or baby Jesus, we have Space Egypt, a clone of Konami's 1982 arcade game Tutankham. Notice the fact that I refrained from using the word 'classic' before arcade, which tells you that the original inspiration for Space Egypt was a horrible effort best forgotten. In this game you play as some kind of robot vehicle tasked with exploring old ancient Egyptian tombs. The game is set in the future, but as all the levels are the same bland Egyptian tombs the time setting is utterly irrelevant. The game is a top down maze game which insists you find a set number of keys before you are allowed to open the exit situated at the far right of the level. Simple stuff for sure, but the difficulty lies in the fact that the levels are filled with spawn points that blurt out a never-ending stream of enemies. The worst part of the game is, much like Tutankham before it, you can only fire left or right, never up or down, which makes avoiding the foes a pain in the ass, especially as the infinitely spawning adversaries harass you constantly. It's not a total disaster, the retro arcade gameplay can be mildly entertaining for a few minutes, but overall it is a fairly dire effort and not really worth bothering with.

Red Tie Miner 3 is an incredibly tedious 'mine-em-up' totally devoid of charm. You wander around the sprawling, poorly designed levels, mining blocks and avoiding the now obligatory zombie enemies. It is an empty experience with little reward or sense of purpose and spending time in its world is as riveting as a 4 hour wait in a dentist's waiting room with only a 4 year old gardening magazine for entertainment. For a much more enjoyable example of mining indie gaming download Miner Dig Deep, which is not only fun, but actually pretty addictive too.

Cool Shapes is about as fun as the title suggests. A top down puzzler which tasks you with fitting Tetris shapes into a square area. It could be an average, fairly enjoyable time waster if it wasn't for the utterly generic and soulless presentation. This boils down to a dull dark blue and black screen with your poorly rendered avatar (just fuck off) mincing around on the right of the screen. The visuals also have a squashed look about them, as if the game is being displayed at the wrong aspect ratio, and the music is extremely snooze-worthy, being both repetitive and annoying to the ears. With some serious bells and whistles this could have been quite fun. I imagine if someone like Nintendo developed a game based on this same idea, with catchy tunes, colourful graphics, and their plethora of mascots involved, it would have been a worthwhile puzzler. As it stands it is a lifeless affair best avoided.

Space Cruesader (yup, that is spelt correctly) is, sigh, another twin stick shooter. But before you yawn your own face off, it is actually an acceptable offering, almost reaching the dizzying heights of 'above average'. Sure, it is no Geometry Wars, or even other indie titles like Score Rush, Echoes+, or Infinity Danger, but it offers some fun, explosive, visually pleasing action for short periods. Gameplay wise it is business as usual, but there are some new elements that give the game its own identity. During gameplay wrecked ships appear, floating stranded and awaiting rescue. To do so you must move over them and wait for the green bar to fill up, completing a successful evacuation. This can be tricky when you are being bombarded with asteroids and enemy missiles, and can lead to some tense blaster action. The explosions look cool, resembling a fireworks display when destroying multiple targets. Overall Space Cruesader is certainly worth a try, at the very least you can enjoy a cheap light show.

I have saved the best for last, and by best I mean by far the worst, most heinous game of the week.

Aah, Halloween Pie, a seasonal game that couldn't even be bothered to show up at the correct time of year. It's another one of those 'babe' games that plague the indie channel. This means plenty of barely dressed, ludicrously proportioned 3d models of dead eyed bimbos, clearly designed by boys who desperately need to get laid. "But wait, didn't you say you wouldn't review these types of games on this very blog?" I hear you cry. Well yes I did, and thanks for remembering, but as I am now having to get my hands dirty looking at every indie game released, it's only fair to include this type of game too. Besides, I simply had to download this for curiosity's sake alone. The screenshots resembled a nightmarish fusion of the classic arcade platformer Ghouls N Ghosts, as re-imagined by a sex offender. That is basically what the developers were going for (I think), they obviously enjoyed how in Capcom's much loved game, Arthur loses his armour when hit by an enemy, knocking him backwards and leaving him with only his undies for protection. This must have got their minds working.. Hey guys, why don't we do the same thing, only with a babe who is stripped down to her bra and panties.. you can even almost see her enormous tits.. hehe Boobs etc.
The game starts with a hilariously bad intro sequence that shows our heroine Tits McGee (I made that up, her name is utterly irrelevant.... BOOBS!!) crashing her car after being scared witless by a glow in the dark skeleton. You then assume control in the graveyard and must run to the right, avoiding enemies and throwing some unidentifiable projectiles at them, only this time your 'armour' is a T-shirt with Perfect Pussy emblazoned on it (yes, really), and a pair of bright pink hot pants. Upon being hit (which happens almost immediately) you are down to a tiny pair of panties, and a bra, clearly the wrong size. She also has a teddy under her arm the whole time.. oh, and did I mention she has massive BOOBS! Snigger.
The animation is appalling, especially when jumping, and the game is full of obligatory sexy groans and whistles every 10 seconds. The gameplay is as awful as any of the terrible NES games that the Angry Video Game Nerd has taken a look at, with stiff controls, enemies too large to avoid and projectiles that fly straight through them, and unavoidable deaths due to enemies appearing on you. After 2 minutes you will be ready to slit your own throat, but then you reach the first house and meet the witch. Upon entering her (hehe) house you find her dressed to fuck, wiggling her bum around in the air like a true pro. But she isn't here to perform sexual acts, oh no, she gives you the game's main objective, which is to find pumpkins so she can make a pie. So it's back out to the graveyard (where you are hit instantly by a skeleton), to repeat the same horrible shit over and over.
There's nothing more to say about the gameplay, as what is here is so poor it will make you want to pull out your own teeth. This is just another game aimed squarely at chronic masturbators and people without access to internet pornography, although abusing yourself to the lifeless wax-like characters in this game would make you a danger to society and a prime candidate for chemical castration. It is fitting that in a Halloween game, the scariest thing is the game over screen, where the camera zooms slowly in on the lobotomised, sex doll face of the games protagonist. It is like looking through the eyes of a serial rapist. Happy Halloween everybody!

Wow, what a week, I sure enjoyed those hours wasted on this detritus. Hours I can never have back. But at least I was able to clasp onto what little sanity I had left and jot down these findings so that future generations can avoid the same descent into madness that I have suffered at the hands of these shitty games.

See you next week!