Level Zero ($1.00) is actually quite prophetic for a game title. A side-scrolling shooter in the most basic application of the term, it never quite starts, or goes anywhere meaningful. Instead, it feels like a demo, a ‘proof of concept’, full of placeholder art and text, scraped together and shoveled onto the marketplace like a discarded child.
Now before you accuse me of being unfair / dramatic, take a look at the screenshot above. Besides breaking the unwritten rule1 of indie game marketing (never use captures of your menu / title screen as part of your promotional screenshots), the proof is in the pudding… er… the screen grab. Level Zero was made in five days, the result of ‘messing’ around with XNA. To be fair, plenty of games have stewed for even less time in the developmental soup2. The amount of days spent working on something versus the end quality of that game doesn’t automatically equate to bad.
It doesn’t inspire any confidence, either. And for good reason. Level Zero IS a shooter, one that functions and has a definite objective: shoot everything that comes on-screen, and survive for as long as you can. Basic, yes, but it’s a viable foundation. Now, stop me if you’ve heard the rest. There’s powerups, like a temporary shield, or a temporary increase in firing speed, and ‘nukes’ that predictably clear the screen of enemies. Bullets can harm you, as can asteroids, and some kind of gaseous fog that occasionally drifts on-screen.
As exciting as it looks?
Sound familiar? Of course it does. We’ve all played this game a hundred times before, under a hundred different names. Sure, Texel Games has built a shooter. It’s a noble pursuit, and a great personal achievement. They should be proud. Yet minus a unique graphic style, an intriguing storyline, or some other interesting mechanic to tie the parts together, all they’ve got is a game that works. That’s hardly a good reason to ask others to buy into it.
Everyone has to start somewhere. XNA and XBLIG were made to be that ‘start’, but that doesn’t mean everything that is created in XNA and XBLIG is created equal. As I write this, there’s plenty of ‘side projects’ and ‘late night hobby’ games being made. Plenty that have came before, and just as many to come. Games that are totally going to be worth your time and money. Just not Level Zero. Not when it’s so basic, and so drab, and so damn uninspired.