All posts by Tim Hurley

Gamer. Helluva nice guy. Writer / Big Cheese at theXBLIG.com, review site dedicated to the advancement of indie games on consoles.

REVIEW: GERONEKO

We’ve all heard our share of apocalyptic and End of the World tales, the cool and the serious, the strange and the strange-yet-could-be-true, but GERONEKO ($1.00) features one of the most bizarre world-ending storylines I’ve yet come across. When the Earth is suddenly destroyed in some kind of cataclysmic event1, a cat riding a ‘Super Space Vacuum Cleaner’ comes along, needing to shave the fur off a whole bunch of space animals. You can then use that hair to build a new planet, and start life as we know it over again.2

So, okay, that’s that. GERONEKO started out life as a Japanese Game Jam title, made the move to PSM (PlayStation Mobile? Remember those games? RIP.), and now finds itself on XBLIG. Because why not. It plays loosely as a ‘shooter’, although there are no guns or bullets here, just a single-screen black hole slowly pulling you and said space animals slowly towards the center to meet your certain doom, no doubt. You ‘shave’ these critters by passing over them, and it’s game over if any of them are sucked into the black hole before they’ve been shaved. Bizarre, but simple enough.

The game’s ‘Original’ setting is bare-bones and almost pointless; it asks you to shave as many animals as you can before your fuel runs out, then just ends without tallying your score or offering up anything else. ‘Arranged’ mode is a little meatier. Here, your ship can be refueled (using floating tuna cans, natch) to give you additional time, and you’ll have to avoid flying dumbbells3 during your space barber shop duties. You must reach a handful of score plateaus, with the action picking up at each turn.

GERONEKO - Screen

Apt description; checks out.

Things can get a tad hairy4, but minus the J-Rock track that kicks in after you’ve scored a certain amount in ‘Arranged’ mode, the gameplay doesn’t evolve much beyond that. More animals to shave, more dumbbells to avoid, more fuel to collect. If you’re good enough, you can unlock a bonus game afterwards to pad your score, pitting you against a ‘space ninja’ that hurls yet even more dumbbells at you. The future is bleak, my friends. And loaded with dumbbells.

And so it goes. GERONEKO sure has a unique premise, but very little else going for it gameplay-wise. It’s just too basic, and while it might hold your interest for a minute or maybe two, it’s more likely going to join a short list of XBLIGs where you literally stand up after and ask ‘What the hell did I just play?’


  1. According to the story, God said ‘Enough,’ and it includes the lines, in order, ‘All of life to live in the earth despair / Who has abandoned the faith, / In addition, a person was vomiting.’ I realize this is probably a Google Translate gone awry (we’ve all been there), but it’s still pretty funny to read, so far as apocalyptic Earth stories go. 
  2. No, you’re not high and I’m not either (I think), that’s the premise. I warned you it was bizarre. 
  3. A space cat’s #1 sworn enemy, apparently. I mean, they are heavy bastards, and it would probably hurt pretty bad to be nailed by one in orbit around a black hole, so it makes a kind of sense. 
  4. Pun very much intended. 
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Year Four of theXBLIG

Today marks four years(!) that theXBLIG has been online. Things have been slow, with gaps in-between posts (mostly my fault, partly due to a lack of releases), but the site is still going. That has to count for something, and I am damn proud to be able to say that much. Unfortunately, these ‘birthday’ celebrations have taken on an air of solemnity the past two years, as the Xbox Live Indie Games service has wound down and been given its official ‘sunsetting’ countdown (fast approaching its September 9th sell-by deadline, by the way).

It’s a sad event to have on your calendar, but as I’m often told by people with smiles too big to be natural, ‘all good things must come to an end’. Just as XBLIG will soon reach its conclusion, so too must ‘theXBLIG’. Time marches on. It’s a natural progression. It’s not all going to end in tears, of course. Indie developers have multiple avenues for publishing their games now, and the pastures beyond XBLIG are undeniably greener. If nothing else, XBLIG can stand proud knowing that it was the ‘starting off point’ for dozens of indie game careers, and maybe even the first time any of us had heard of or played ‘indie games’. Its place in history is secure.

As for theXBLIG, I will finish out reviewing new games as they come. I promised you that much, and I promised myself the same. After that, I have plans to do a limited run of must-play XBLIG games, probably starting at the end of the year and running through the first part of 2017. I’m not sure of the format, but with no new games to write about, that will probably be my personal ‘send off’ to the service, and the site. This should give anyone looking for a few good games to play before the final shutdown a short list to go by.

Regardless of the inexorable future, I want to once again thank each and every one of you for visiting this site. Whether you’ve been coming here for years, or just once in a great while to check for free codes, whether you’ve left a comment or just lurked in the shadows, it’s been an absolute pleasure for me to play these videogames and write about them for you. So, Thank You.

With much love and much(er) appreciation,

Tim

REVIEW: Bubble Booster

Whatever name you ascribe it, working to align bubbles of a similar color and shooting them down is a pretty timeless recipe of the puzzle shooter genre. It was a guaranteed staple of the earliest game consoles (see Puzzle Bobble and the like), and it’s a damn near regular appearance on mobile devices of all kinds these days. Bubble Booster ($1.00) is yet another example of that tried-and-true formula.

Here, the setup retains the classic conundrum of bubble busting; orbs of various colors spread across the stage, some in noticeable, ‘easy to shoot’ patterns, others less so, and in harder to reach areas. You can control your shots and / or fine-tune your aim, sending your own orbs ricocheting off walls or stacking them aside for later use. You complete any given level by clearing out all of the bubbles on that stage, one way or another.

This gives the game its simple hook on the surface, with some strategy and mindfulness needed to actually increase your scores to a boastful level. While you can always just match the color (three or more) in a line of some sort to remove bubbles from the playing field, you gain more points for ‘dropping’ other bubbles in play around where your shot hits. In this regard, it makes more sense to ‘pick and choose’ your moves, placing your shots where they’ll do the most damage and clear out more of the board.

It’s a clever trick, one that’s made all the more tricky with the added complication of having a limited amount of time to take your shots, as well as the level ‘ceiling’ pushing the stack of bubbles closer to game over every few moves you make. To motivate you to do better, the game offers online leaderboards, tracking everything from practice scores to fastest level completions, overall high scores, and highest level reached. You can also earn new bubble skins (like individual country flags) and wallpaper backgrounds.

Bubble Booster - Screen

It’s all superficial stuff, mind you, but it’s a decent amount of unlockables to earn. With all that said, though, Bubble Booster is an also-ran, with plenty of better examples in the genre released well before it, or for free1, for that matter. There’s literally dozens of this game type out there, and that has to hurt its bottom line.

So while it’s far from original or unique in its execution, Bubble Booster is a fun enough puzzler to waste a few hours on. What worked ‘then’ still works ‘now’, albeit in smaller doses. The online leaderboards further extend that lifetime if you’re the competitive type, just be aware that there isn’t anything here that you haven’t already played in years (possibly decades!2) past.


  1. It’s arguably easier to aim and play these games with a mouse, too. Controllers are nice, but they’re not always the best option for all game styles and genres. 
  2. If so, congrats! You’re old (like me)! 

REVIEW: Global Warfare

With XBLIG fast approaching its ‘sell your new game by this date1‘ line in the sand drawn by Microsoft, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll start seeing more side projects and games-in-perpetual-development coming to the service over the next few months, eager to get listed before the sunsetting process kicks into high(er) gear. While it’s hardly unfinished, Svantech Studios’ Global Warfare ($1.00) probably picked as good a time as any to release.

Global Warfare is a first-person shooter that lets you battle against up to eight players (or less-intelligent AI bots) online in a free-for-all setting, with four-player split-screen even being an option, if you’re so inclined. While your ‘soldier’ is the usual generic, kill-everything type2, you can choose from three weapon classes (Tommy Gun = Assault, Bulldozer = Shotgun, and Sharp Shooter = Sniper) to adapt to the fight as need be.

As per the standard rule of online shooters, killing players and bots (and um… birds too— nothing is safe) gives you experience points, which go towards ranking up your character. There’s no current reward in the game for doing so, but hey, leveling up in life is its own reward, or so I’m told. You can tinker with the match settings beforehand, altering the number of kills needed to win, say, or how many bots you’ll face off against.

Global Warfare - Screen

All of the arenas in the game offer you plenty of terrain to take cover and shoot from (with sniping fools from close range or afar feeling particularly pleasant). Two of the four maps3 are highly-reminiscent of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare maps, which isn’t a bad thing in my book. Couple that brand of FPS nostalgia with a decent, if not exactly thrilling battle against mindless AI bots, and you’ve got a pretty also-decent recipe for an FPS that handles just as well.

Of course, you could probably do better with friends or some live human competition. It remains a crime that XBLIG is all but forgotten these days, and that fact especially hurts multiplayer-focused games. It’s the same story here. But even without a community to support it, Global Warfare offers enough content (and future content) to satisfy its small asking price.


EDIT: 9/9: Global Warfare made its promised update right before the XBLIG marketplace closed down, adding two new maps to the game. ‘Area 51’ is set on a— you guessed it— secret military base with alien technology, while ‘Donarium’ is a very pretty jungle map. You now have two more reasons to enjoy an already enjoyable FPS. Screens of the new environments below!


  1. That’d be September 9th, in case you’ve forgotten. 
  2. I mean, you can change the color of your shirt in the option menu, so maybe you’re not just a generic killing machine after all! 
  3. With more on the way. The developer plans to release an update in the next month or so, tweaking some elements and adding a couple of new maps to the game. You can’t argue with that. 

REVIEW: Wizard Rage

Way back when I started this thing, back when XBLIG was still drawing some interest from Xbox 360 owners, I used to lament the lack of multiplayer support in some games. I was convinced1 that if developers chose to implement online features in games where it made sense, that it might turn around the service and give fence-sitters a reason to take a second look at XBLIG. Now skip ahead four-plus years, and here I am playing Wizard Rage ($1.00), wishing the game had an offline option. How’s that for irony?

Wizard Rage is an FPS that drops bullets from the killing menu and adds spells (because you’re a wizard, Harry!), where Xbox avatars comprise the combatants, using three different character classes to wage war against up to eight others online. And only online. That part’s important. Minus the ability to move around the gorgeous map and test out your wizarding skills— ahem, on walls and floors and such— there is no option to skirmish against any A.I.

The trio of classes to choose from offers you a decent amount of variety; the Warlock’s fireball-based spells pack a punch (at the expense of slower reloads), a Sorcerer can teleport and find targets through walls, while the Necromancer summons copies of itself to act as decoys and launches lighting bolts. No one class has a clear advantage over another2, enabling you to swap between play styles and spell types as you wish.

Wizard Rage - Screen

The map itself amplifies that approach to spontaneity, with claustrophobic stairways opening up into wider foyers and rooms. You can set traps or wall off certain areas to play defense, or rush in for the kill and then quickly teleport out of trouble. Performance-wise, the game did stutter a little when too much action was taking place on-screen, but that’s minor compared to the difficulty of finding others online to play with.

Much like other multiplayer-only games before it, your mileage with Wizard Rage will vary. The game is fun when you manage to rope a friend or two into the mix, but without that (and XBLIG’s non-existent community), you’ll never be able to even play the game in a social setting, let alone appreciate it. Four years ago, things might have been very different for Wizard Rage. Now, you might have to skip it based solely on reality. And that is a shame.


  1. Then again, I was convinced of a lot of things four years ago. And I had higher hopes for XBLIG. I think a lot of people did. Sadly, we all know how that one turned out. 
  2. Although admittedly, the bit about shooting enemy-seeking skulls as the Necromancer is a pretty good win in my book.