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Great Xbox Live Indie Games for 80MSP

If you’ve switched on your Xbox 360 since yesterday, you will have been prompted to download the latest dashboard update we previewed last week. Now out of beta and unleashed to the masses, part of the Fall update brought an ability to rate games and a newly relaunched Xbox Indie Games channel (replacing the previous rather awkward “Community Games” moniker). Unsurprisingly (given this was the one area really screaming out for a way of sorting the wheat from the chaff) it’s made an immediate impact. The “Top Rated” list now comprising of twenty of the better titles on the service so to celebrate, we’re going to recommend you five of the best games you can buy for the princely sum of 80 MSP. That’s the equivalent of 1$ / 75p! Upset with the “Games on Demand” pricing in your region? Stick it to the man and read on.

For those who haven’t come across it before, the Xbox Live Indie Games channel is where games created by independent developers can be uploaded and sold on Marketplace. So far, members of the XNA Creators Club community have uploaded nearly 400 games since November last year. Whilst you would expect a wide spread in terms of quality when the majority of games are developed by students or hobbyists with little to no money to spend; some of the games are true labours of love and hidden gems do exist. It’s a great place to find something different. In no particular order, here are a few that I liked at the lowest 80 MSP price point;-

Like Live Arcade games, every game has a demo (usually a timed one) so you can try all of these out without purchasing.

Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp

johnnyboxartOriginally a Nintendo DS homebrew release created in a spare week of student Craig Forrester’s free time,  Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp is a delightful 2D puzzle-platformer comprising of 55 increasingly challenging levels. Whilst the difficulty ramps up quite quickly, the game’s fundamental rules are never broken. Collect coffee mugs to garner extra lives, jump on enemies heads and open the door to the next level. As simple as it sounds, the consistent and well thought out design makes for fun platforming and the retro graphics lend it a unique charm. Bourbon’s (the king of all biscuits) which double as collapsing platforms, floating battenbourgs and rolling cookies around are combine to create some complex rooms that will require both thought to navigate as well as some pixel perfect jumping. Seasoned platform fans will find this a short but sweet experience. Recently reduced from 200 points, this is an absolute steal.

johnnyscreen

Download trial version (Xbox.com)

Ladybird Galaxy

ladybirdboxartEasily mistaken to be a twin stick shooter on first appearance, Ladybird Galaxy is more aptly described as a “collect ’em up”. The gameplay itself is pretty basic;  navigate your spaceship around the screen collecting gems whilst avoiding the ladybirds enemies. Picking up the stars dotted around provide a temporary speed boost (at the cost of harder steering) and increment a multiplier which can then be stacked by picking up another star. The idea being to plan your route accordingly to bag the most points.  Occasionally a killer ‘line’ will sweep the screen which needs avoiding or a shooting star allowing the player to fire bullets if picked up but in terms of gameplay that’s more or less it.

Perhaps lacking a bit of depth, the controls also take some getting used to  but for me the presentation and particle effects make it quite nice to look at whilst you do and I found myself playing it for a fair while. It’s easily one of the best games on the service for younger players. As it supports immediate drop in co-op/multiplayer for up to 4 people you get a really polished effort and a lot of bang for your buck in terms of a game to play with your family.  Another game recently reduced from the arguably harder sale 200 point level, it’s well worth checking out at 80.

ladybirdscreen

Download trial version (Xbox.com)

Totem

totemboxartTotem is another game with a high level of polish in terms of gameplay, graphics & presentation. Even rivaling that of similar puzzle titles on it’s big brother XBLA. For once not a “match-3″ puzzler, Totem simply has you swap round segments of totem poles in order to destroy the totem bases. Whilst a simple concept, it can get quite tricky when the number of stacks increases towards the maximum of seven. Though the woeful explanation of controls doesn’t make this clear, there are also special items to be earned to get you out of a sticky patch and as the game goes on, you will need them.  This minor quibble asides, the presentation is flawless and the core mechanics solid. A 28 level adventure mode together with boss battles to accompany the usual survival mode ensures you get a unique puzzle game and good value for your 80 MSP.

totemscreen

Download trial version (Xbox.com)

Hieronymus Bash

bashboxartThe best way to describe this would be Super Smash Bros meets dodgeball. What immediately grabs you about this game is the quirky and humorous line drawn graphics. Pledge your allegiance to either the Angels or Devils and prepare to do battle in arenas themed on Eden, Heaven or Hell. The dodgeballs you pick up are actually human souls(!) which are thrown & caught using the right trigger and left thumbstick. Hitting an opponent three times makes you “deadly” and able to take another player out if you hit them with your next shot though even if you do, they can still interfere with the game as a “ghost” and help your remaining team mate.

The wacky theme soon extends to the gameplay which quickly gets pretty riotous. Getting any good at hitting people will take some time but the action is entertaining once mastered and is a blast with four people. The developers excellent decision to go back and put in some very serviceable bots post release makes it worth while picking this up even to play on your own at the price.

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Download trial version (Xbox.com)

Zoomaroom

zoomboxartInspired by the likes of N+ and Marble Blast Ultra, Zoomaroom is a physics based platformer with some quite clever puzzles. That your character is actually a monkey with a sphere for a body belies it’s wacky charm and the driving force that momentum is to the gameplay. Compared to the other platformers in this article, the controls are floaty and imprecise so you can expect to be restarting a few times. The saving graces though are numerous. In most cases, the level design is excellent and the game comes with an inbuilt editor to create & share your own (though there is rarely another player on line to do with with admittedly.) More importantly for a game that features a lot of trial and error, the checkpoints are generous and restarting is very quick. Challenges have a high degree of variety involving several different types of pick ups which need to be used together in later levels.

Compared to another physics based platformer on the service, the acclaimed Carneyvale: Showtime this is certainly lacking in a couple of areas but it is also one fifth of the price and I was compelled to hit the purchase button after just a few levels. There is certainly plenty of challenge in the initial 70 rooms to keep a dedicated player occupied for a fair old time.

zoomscreen

Download trial version (Xbox.com)

Honourable Mentions

In the course of this review, there were several equally decent games available for 80 MSP which whilst I didn’t feel compelled to purchase are certainly solid enough to interest some people. Here’s a a brief selection;-

Bomb Disposal Expert – A very polished version of the popular child’s toy Simon. The mission based story mode still kept me amused for a while.

Being – Another platformer that is basic but has a certain charm to it and is certainly fun to play.

(sin)Surfing – A graduate of the TIGS Procedural generation competition, this is a fun little toy which can be consumed wholly within the trial period making a purchase hard to recommend. Well worth a look mind.

NextWar: The Quest for Earth – Whilst in my opinion, Xbox Live doesn’t have a tower defense game to rival Pixeljunk monsters this is a solid, if a little basic take on the popular genre well presented with neon vector graphics.

Shed – A great little card game I remember from my teens. Featuring AI bots and online multiplayer, this is a very well implemented variant which is both relaxing to play and compares well to XBLA’s Uno. The lack of a viable online pool of friends to play with was the only thing that held me back but it would be great if you can convince your friends.

bricks4ever – An excellent Arkanoid clone that compares especially well to the full release on XBLA. There’s a lot of bang for your buck at 80 points in comparison and I personally bought it for research. Occasionally has slightly odd ball physics but it’s the best of many similar clones on the service.

Want more?

The Xbox dashboard is a great place to start now it has a “Top Rated” section for Indie games but unfortunately, this does not allow selection by price point. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of Xbox MVP Nick Gravelyn’s XboxIndies.com which answered the XNA community’s cry for game ratings before Microsoft got round to it. In the coming weeks, we’ll post another five selections for the other price points but in the meantime, feel free to let us know in the comments any great 80 MSP titles we missed.


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9 comments
Xbox Live
Xbox Live

Someone who hasn't beaten any of those games, this is definitely a good deal.

Phaethon
Phaethon

Tim, I don't pay you enough to let you buy that lightsaber. Sorry.

deftangel
deftangel

I bought the Halo radio controlled warthog for 320. I'm part of the problem. You should have at least 80 points spare out of your 500 though :)

The Czar
The Czar

I'm more eying the Lightsaber Avatar prop... 400 points is a rip off... but I want.

Phaethon
Phaethon

Oh dear. You shouldn't really have told me that, Hornet. *goes to check it out*

XboxHornet
XboxHornet

There really are some fine games at $1 now, slot machine addicts should try Slottso Party

deftangel
deftangel

You know I just realised the logo is for Xbox Live Arcade. We should probably change it :D