Tag Archives: a five-year-old could think of this

REVIEW: Stop the XOID!

You know, there may be something to this whole ‘Let my five-year-old kid build my game’ concept. Sure, there’s the immediate D’aww! factor of pint-sized game development, but worse things have come from perfectly-capable adult types with millions of dollars. So, kids and indies, why not? I have to admit, it worked out pretty well for X S.E.E.D (also from a five-year-old). Now we come to Stop the XOID! ($1.00), and once again, a kid takes the reins of Designer.

Billed as a sort of ‘proactive Tower Defense’, the game has you (or up to four friends locally or online) defending the planet from an invading army of robots known as XOIDs (pronounced ‘Zoids’, if you’re curious), one blocky arena at a time. Well, it’s only three levels, to be exact, but you get the idea. It’s curiously labeled a ‘beta’, so maybe it’s a miniature invasion to start. Like Delaware, or something.

While the scope of the war may not be epic, the impending battle remains the same. With an albatross-sized robot waiting patiently at the top (it serves as a boss battle, technically) infinite waves of enemy foot soldiers descend on your base below, threatening the ball of energy known as ‘lifeforce’. Destroying those advance parties will earn you dropped cash, which you can then spend at the local armory, conveniently-located just next to this raging conflict.

You’ll have a number of weapons on hand, ranging from guns and upgrades for those guns, to grenades and the very helpful sentry bots that you can place to guard your fort while you make the arduous climb to the top of the level. Taking down the big boss will complete the stage …and that’s about it. No bits of story to move things along or any progress saved. Pick another level (each successive arena ups the challenge) and repeat the difficult hike.

Stop the XOID! - Screen

I say ‘arduous’ and ‘difficult’ not because the journey is long or terribly fraught with danger, but because your character is so inept at the platforming. Even jumping gives him trouble, and he slides to a stop like the ground is made of ice, causing further frustration on tinier ledges. Battles often went on longer than they had to simply because I couldn’t will my generic space marine to the top. So while you can complete the levels solo, the busy work and anti-climatic nature of finishing it just isn’t worth the hassle.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be entertaining in a group co-op setting (assuming you can find online matches; I couldn’t). Having others to divert enemy fire and / or make the climb in your stead makes it a much more manageable war. Stop the XOID! doesn’t offer a long-lasting campaign or a great deal of variety, but it plays like an adequate time-waster… so long as you have friends to roll with.

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REVIEW: X S.E.E.D

Allow me to preface this review by stating a couple of things. First, I am admittedly late to the X S.E.E.D ($1.00) party, as its release was during that nebulous time I had stepped away from the site. Two, and this part may come as a shock and slap to the face of other XBLIG developers that like to phone in generic platformers, shooters, and so on; X S.E.E.D‘s rather ingenious idea comes from the five-year-old kid of developer Wide Pixel Games. Yeah, what has your kid done lately?

The game’s plot is threadbare, concerning government conspiracies and cover-ups, aggressive plant life on a remote island, so on and so forth. The gist is a plant-based, side-scrolling shooter. Sure, you can reference a certain movie, or make the obvious joke of how you’re spreading your seed all over the place, but the concept is novel and deliciously green-thinking, which pacifists and hippies should latch onto. Throw down your guns and let Mother Nature take center-stage, they’d say, until the plant grows fangs and starts launching fireballs.

Luckily, the protagonist can wield those seeds in battle like they were guns, planting (pun very much intended) them as turrets and tower defense-style protective vines. Your vegetarian arsenal starts off modest and grows as you defeat new plants-gone-wild, giving you access to more varied forms of fire like diagonal and heat-seeking shots. Some upgrades prove more useful than others, but all will give you more options in fighting the increasingly tough / just-out-of-reach enemies.

Both the visuals and gameplay skew heavily retro, something that wouldn’t look out of place on a Genesis or NES, with the difficulty of an old platformer to match. You’re given three lives to finish the game, no more no less, and all hits you take are fatal. There are no continues either (that both adds to the challenge and masks X S.E.E.D’s brevity), which can be frustrating if you happen to die near the end. In its defense, that difficulty is more memory-based than due to any harsh design. Finding a good angle, swapping between seeds quickly, and knowing which type is needed for a given situation is generally enough for you to do well.

X S.E.E.D - Screen

In that vein, the game is ideal for speed runs, putting you on the clock and tallying high scores (for which two different endings are possible). Subsequent playthroughs will show you ‘shortcuts’ you may have missed. Even the boss fights can be exploited in this manner, enabling you to sometimes win without ever stepping foot in the ‘boss chamber’ proper. However, a few issues are present. Each time you perish, you’re whisked back to the entrance of the stage for no apparent reason. Enemies do not respawn when you do, so it makes for a potentially long walk back to the point you left off. It’s also easy to lose track of hostile fire in the middle of the action (due to similar colors), and unseen enemies can ‘pop up’ during boss fights, both leading to regrettable (and yeah, cheap) deaths.

Even with those minor annoyances, X S.E.E.D deserves a look for the classic style and clever angle to the gameplay (an expanded sequel is reportedly in the works). It also teaches us all an important life lesson: Parenthood can be profitable when you shake down your children for every original IP they can think of.

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Review on Fate of the Game

Review on Indie Gamer Chick