Friday, April 8, 2011

Xbox Live indiefest - Day Six  

Games: So, tonight is the sixth night of my week-long XBL Indiefest. Before we get started, here's...

a recap for those that missed it:

I've got over three hundred XBLI demos saved up.

(cue dramatic music.)

To clear out my hard drive, I've decided to go through at least three games per night. I'll play the free trial period of each Indie that catches my eye, and at the end of that period, I'm going to give a quick one or two paragraph description of what I saw and then decide on one of three verdicts:

I Bought It, I Deleted It, or Needs Further Investigation.

Also, there are a number of really good games that I've already played, so I'm going to save up mention of those until the end of this Indiefest. The ones I will be covering daily will be titles I've never played before.

So, here's what was on tap for Day Six…


Kissy Poo by The ZMan – 80 MS Points ($1.00)

I'll say up front that this was not a title I originally had my eye on. However, the next GameCritics podcast to be recorded will be focusing entirely on indie games, and this was one that was selected by another critic. I don't know why it was, but it was.

In all honesty, this isn't really a game so much as it is a virtual toy for small children to play with. Kids move a cartoonish face around the screen and "kiss" animals that float around. Kiss enough animals and then they all do a little dance routine with some music. That's pretty much all it is, and although I will say that my two-year-old did seem somewhat fascinated with all the moving images, I'd rather acclimate him to something that has more play value.

Verdict: I Deleted It.


Protect Me Knight by Ancient – 240 MS Points ($3.00)

I've heard tons and tons about this title, but had never gotten around to it until today. The gist is that the player (or four, since multi is featured) has to protect a princess in the middle of a level. Swarms of monsters approach from the periphery, and taking them out is as simple as performing a straightforward attack. However, their numbers soon grow to be unmanageable, so players must erect barriers and man catapults to turn the tide.

I definitely appreciate the old-school vibe of this title, but I'm not a big fan of the Tower Defense genre, and although this isn't exactly it, it feels a little too similar. Defending has never really been my thing, so the gameplay didn't click with me. It's cute, it's definitely cool, and it's got music composed by game legend Yuzo Koshiro. For some people that last bit will be more than enough to justify the price of purchase, but as for me, I'm going to give it a pass until my wife's available to co-op.

(Note: Although it's called Protect Me Knight, this title is not listed alphabetically under P. Instead, you can find it in the area of XBLI where titles written in Japanese characters are collected.)

Verdict: Needs Further Investigation.


Vampire Rage by Tricktale – 80 MS Points ($1.00)

In general, I'm not the biggest fan of bullet-hell shooters, but I do play them when there’s enough of a hook. Vampire Rage qualifies, I'd say. While the general design is a standard vertically-scrolling shmup, the main character is a flying vampire rather than a spaceship. That in itself isn't unique enough, but what was interesting to me was that the vampire’s sword can repel ALL incoming shots and send them back as offensive fire. That's a powerful tool to give to a player, and in this genre, having that much ability to affect the play field is worth examination.

The production level is fairly low-end, but the general feeling of play came off as very tuned-in and sensible. I got as far as the first enormous boss (and promptly got my ass handed to me) but rather than feeling like I got cheaped or that it was bad design, I was ready to jump back in and try again. That's a very positive thing to say about a bullet-hell game, if you ask me.

Verdict: I Bought It.


Bureau: Agent Kendall by GGaler – 400 MS Points ($5.00)

Bureau is a very unusual XBLI title for a few reasons. First, the asking price is one of the highest on the service. Second, it's got a surprising amount of rendered cutscenes. Third, it's a text-heavy investigation simulator. With all of these qualities, I think this was one of the only times when I genuinely didn't feel as though the brief free trial period was enough to get a solid sense of go/no-go.

To be fair, there was quite a bit of dialogue and most of the trial time was eaten up between those and the cutscenes. On the other hand, what I did see wasn't very well-written and starting a player off by having them do little more than click one button and read through a lot of text isn't the best way to begin, if you ask me.

While I'd still be open to checking Bureau out a little more, my gut feeling is that it's a showcase for the main character’s gigantic breasts. Her 3D model is by far the most detailed thing in the game, and the frequent scenes featuring these assets skeeved me out a little bit. I've got no problem with attractive characters, but the tone bordered a little too closely to breast-fetish territory for my taste.

Verdict: I Deleted It.


Aurelia by Dualhaze – 80 MS Points ($1.00)

Speaking of breast-fetish territory, here's another one that could easily fit into that category. Ostensibly a side-scrolling platformer, Aurelia stars a top-heavy angel dressed in lingerie and heels. When the adventure began with God saying he’d like to “tap dat azz” I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be offended, but as soon as the gameplay started, I went with boredom instead.

The level design here is some of the most rudimentary I've seen on XBLI, offering nothing more than basic platforms scattered with little rhyme or reason. Only two basic enemies were encountered repeatedly, each dispatched with no effort. In fact, there didn't seem to be any hook or purpose to the game other than to have the main character walk sideways and display a laughably busty profile; the sort you'd expect to see on the inside cover of a sweaty teenager’s algebra book. Pay a buck to look at someone's crudely-animated chesty-girl? No, thanks.

Verdict: I Deleted it.


That's it for Day Six of my Indiefest. Check back tomorrow for the next round of games, and I’ll also do a recap of my favorites (both old and new) at the end of the series.


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