Tag Archives: Indie Games

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)! 
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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. 

REVIEW: Block Ops

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating; looks aren’t everything. Especially first looks. Coming across like the blocky, red-headed offspring of Loot or Die and listing its wares like any annual Call of Duty title (…without its third dimension), Block Ops ($1.00) nonetheless manages to merge those two very different games into a solid and fun (but at most times lonely1) experience.

Block Ops - Screen

It’s starts off timid. Where Loot or Die provided a lengthy campaign mode and new, constantly-dropping weapons and armor to satisfy your inner hoarder, Block Ops strips away everything but the visuals and interface of that game, replacing its innards with a (only occasionally compelling) zombie wave shooter2. You can shuffle your perks and loadouts (more on that later) to meet the challenge as needed, but most of it boils down to shooting a few zombies, retreating a few steps, shooting more, so on and so forth.

Enemies get tougher and more numerous as the waves go on, naturally, although you’re able to circumvent most of that trouble by following the instructions above in some form or variation. To judge it by that bit alone, Block Ops isn’t very deep or interesting. Thankfully, things perk up once you take it online. The game supports up to 16 players in a Deathmatch or Flag King mode, across a handful of stage types with mild platforming.

Here, you can pick your weapon class (shotgun, SMG, sniper) and choose from a wide range of perks, both passive abilities and those you can activate to get the drop on your opponents. That’s where the Call of Duty aspect (and fun) kicks in, allowing you to buff your play style as it suits you. Want double damage with your first shot? Pair it with a sniper rifle to one-hit fools. Landmines in mid-air? You bet. Leave a trail of fire behind you to burn your pursuers, then warp ahead to confuse them further? Even better. The mix-and-match possibilities are numerous, and the subsequent fights are awesome and definitely unpredictable.

Block Ops - Screen2

And therein lies the conundrum. If you’re going into this primarily as a solo player, the zombie stuff is meh at best, skippable otherwise. A glorified distraction to earn some experience points offline. On the other hand, Block Ops truly shines when playing with others in its chaotic deathmatch arenas, making the zombie wave shooter portion worth it to gain a few levels and unlockable currencies while waiting for your buddies. So then, the equation becomes quite simple; friends = yes, solo = no. Do your own math accordingly.


  1. Because XBLIG. Unless you’re organizing a game night yourself, or heading over to the developer’s page to add your name to a list of people looking to play, you’re not going to find anyone online. 
  2. That, like everything else, is better with friends. Speaking of which, a big thank you to Mr. Chris Antoni, andregurov, and nyan cat 543, for playing a few rounds of Deathmatch and Flag King with me. Some good games, guys (minus andregurov‘s cheap move at the end of the night; I’ll get you next time for that)! 

REVIEW: Avatar Laser Attack

Though they’ve since branched out to other consoles and ideas, Strange Games Studios has been at the ‘FPS XBLIG’ game for a long time. Running between paintball wars and zombies wave shooters, they’ve generally offered up basic but fun experiences, competent if ultimately same-y and rough around its gameplay edges. Avatar Laser Attack ($1.00) continues that trend unabated.

Avatar Laser Attack - Screen

Its setup comes with your standard FPS toppings; online deathmatches for up to 16 players1 on a single map, or offline play against the pathetically-easy AI2 for you solo artists. The arena itself— a ‘space station’— is passable but largely nondescript, a mix of interconnected hallways, kill rooms, and balconies. And crates. Lots and lots of crates. You’ll find the usual assortment of ammo boxes and health packs scattered around, as well as the occasional killstreak pickup in physical form.

Like previous Strange Games shooters (and a la Call of Duty), the killstreaks here run as a reward for netting a set number of kills without dying, starting with personal radar, then letting you dual-wield your current gun, and finally, making you temporarily invulnerable to enemy bullets. You can activate them at any time after earning them, giving you some control and strategy over how the battles play out.

Avatar Laser Attack - Screen2

The progression system wisely follows the FPS mold, gifting you XP for kills (and taunts, if you’re so inclined) to increase your level and gain access to additional weapons (think laserfied SMGs, assault rifles, and a rail gun) and perks (faster reloads, quicker weapon swaps, etc.). None of these guns or unlockable skills are particularly revolutionary or necessary to the end game, but they are a nice incentive to continue grinding. For a little while.

Avatar Laser Attack plays fine and controls well enough (switch your view from third-person to first-person in the options right away), though it’s nothing you haven’t seen and heard and played from this developer before. It’s fun for a few matches if you’ve got friends to invite, but alone (the way most people will probably play it), it just doesn’t have the staying power.


  1. Not gonna happen, because XBLIG. 
  2. Like ’75 kills and maybe one death’ type of pathetically-easy. That’s fine if you want to feel like a golden god, but not so much if you came looking for a challenging fight.