The Indie games section of the Xbox LIVE service has gone through several iterations over the years to develop into the XNA powerhouse voting system that it is today. The unfortunate side effect of this community voting system is that anyone who has bought an XNA community membership can approve any game to get it onto the console. While the approach does serve to encourage creativity, in the same vein it has also brought a lot of crap to console.
Many people do not bother wading through the numerous releases on the XBLIG section of their console, simply because there are so many bad games. This is really one of the downfalls of the platform because a lot of great games go unnoticed, simply because they’re “shelved” with virtual shit. So allow me to be Virgil to your Dante, while I guide you through this hell that is the Xbox Indie Game section.
My first group of indie gold mined from the depths of the XBLIG section all have one thing in common: they’re shooters. That general description is where they leave their similarities behind however and I guarantee there is something for everyone who has ever guided a ship with an analog stick, so check out these three titles available in the indie section and perhaps give them a try. They all have demos, so you have nothing to lose.
Flotilla is an amazing combination of turn-based tactical strategy and off the wall humor. It’s like your weird Uncle Sal who always tells gopher jokes decided to journey through space and tell you about it, only his story changes every time he tells you and you aren’t sure whether you should wash your hands after he death-grips you into his story for 45 minutes.
In fact, that’s Flotilla exactly. The turn based aspect of the game is extremely well done and easy to grasp, since it doesn’t leave you feeling as though you should have thumbed through a 400 page manual before you installed it. It is one of the few turn based systems that I actually had no problem using, since it it straight forward and does not change once you learn the mechanics.
The game is played in adventures and offers a split-screen co-op mode, so you can take a buddy along for the weird ass ride with you. Since all adventures are dynamically generated the minute you hit the adventure button, no two plays will be exactly alike. It’s a combination that works well for the game and I find myself starting it up occasionally when I have nothing better to do, sailing through space murdering space hippos and rescuing toucan babes. Yep.
Developer: Blendo Games
Availability: Xbox 360, PC
2. Shoot 1Up
Mommy’s Best Games has created gamer crack with this one. Instant gratification has always been at the top of the list for pleasing gamers, which is why achievements and trophies are so popular. They’ve combined this concept into a shoot ‘em up that rewards you by letting you play all of your extra lives at once. Pretty bad ass, huh?
As you add ships to your flotilla (hon hon hon), you can change the formation so that you maximize your fire power, or focus it to defeat a few pretty badass challenges littered between the different levels. I’ve never really been a fan of this type of game myself, but the fact that it’s all or nothing as you play brings a certain level of challenge and reward to actually making your way through the game.
For it’s 80 point price tag, Shoot 1Up is definitely worth the price. I mean, you’d have to spend like $5 worth of quarters at an arcade to get this many lives on a play-through and, wait.. you don’t know what an arcade is? Damn whippersnappers! Get this game! Now!
Price: 80 MS Points
Developer: Mommy’s Best Games
Availability: Xbox 360
3. Beat Hazard
Audio Surf really hit on something with the ability to race to your music. It’s something I still load up and play every now and then, but of course, the strategy of collecting colored blocks while you listen to Celine Dion is only challenging for so long. This is where Beat Hazard comes in. It took the concept of Audio Surf and applied it to a thumb stick shooter like Geometry Wars and it blows both of those titles out of the water.
Imagine, if you will, Audio Surf and Geometry Wars getting really drunk at an indie games party and neither remembering anything afterward, but nine months later, out comes Beat Hazard. The entire game is trippy and as Mark Davis so candidly put it, it should be the new epilepsy test for anyone who is concerned, seriously.
If you loved either Audio Surf or Geometry Wars, you’re going to love Beat Hazard. The best part is that it is no longer just an Xbox indie title, as it recently saw release on Steam as well. Since this makes it a bit easier to play your own music instead of having to add your massive music collection to your dwindling hard drive space, I’d highly recommend getting it on PC over 360. It’s 360 controller compatible and it has achievements, so you aren’t really missing anything in that vein.
Price: 400 MS Points; $9.99
Availability: Xbox 360, PC