Tag Archives: Xbox Live Indie Games

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. 

REVIEW: Oft Horizon: Seascape

Oft Horizon: Seascape ($1.00) is a rare example of when ‘less is more’1 is applicable to my own personal videogame logic. Let me say up front: there’s not much to ‘do’ in this game, no goals or purpose driving it, no great evil to confront or enemies to fight. It’s more of a slightly-interactive tech demo, with very impressive ambient lighting and sounds. A fancy XBLIG screensaver, if you will.

Oft Horizon Seascape - Screen

Oh, but that’s only a partial truth. To be sure, Oft Horizon: Seascape is a marketing push. It’s subtle, but it’s there, meant to get more eyes on Oft Horizon: Precursor, a more traditional game experience about sailing the high seas, with trading, bartering, ship building, and combat. That latter title (released a few months earlier, and also by Gusuku Entertainment) I failed to get into, the game feeling slow-moving to start and the economy of it daunting.

Seascape ditches all of that videogame-y stuff and focuses instead on just being really pretty. It plops you (ahem, the camera) on a generated island in the middle of the sea, chimes and the sound of the wind whipping across said island. You can tinker with the weather, swapping in moody clouds, raging storms, or orchestrating the perfect sunrise, using the passage of time to move it forward or backward and forward again. Also, a poem by Kipling? And that’s it. You can zoom in and out to view your creation, but none of it means a thing in the usual definition of ‘playing a game’ and making any kind of tangible progress. There is none to be had.

Oft Horizon Seascape - Screen2

Yet I like to think of Oft Horizon: Seascape as a viable piece of art anyway, a ‘game’ in the sense that it can be interacted with and evoke a reaction. Or you can just sit back and watch. Your mileage (and opinion) with that may vary, but you have to feel for a developer releasing a project this late into XBLIG’s life cycle, even if it’s one part of a bigger whole which is part of an eventually bigger whole2. It’s still a beautiful but shallow experience when compared to its sibling. That doesn’t mean I appreciate it any less.


  1. Note, this does not apply to pizza, esoteric but still hilarious memes, Destiny, cheeseburgers, vacation time, cute cat videos, videos of people failing at something, videos of cats failing at something, kpop, Taco Bell, and a whole lot of other things. 
  2. Seascape is a small taste of Precursor, and Precursor is a small taste of a fuller game to release on PC. 

REVIEW: Sexy Flight

Of all the undesirable scenarios that have occurred due to Flappy Bird‘s existence as a thing1, the worst has to be the multitude of clones, knock-offs, and cheap imitations that the oft-maligned game has spawned. The better versions have expanded on the original idea and / or introduced new mechanics, while the most egregious copycats have used the Flappy Bird formula simply to advance their own nightmare of a concept, or worse, just to make an extra buck and do nothing different at all. XBLIG had its own influx of games looking to capitalize on the idea way back when, and now, in this wondrous, technologically-advanced civilized world of ours, in the year 2016, it doesn’t seem to be over yet. Cue Sexy Flight ($1.00).

Sexy Flight isn’t bad as a Flappy Bird clone, but it’s absolutely unnecessary and more than a little shitty for pushing skin over content. Not that you’d even know what kind of game Sexy Flight is, as the game’s lone screenshot (see above, and below) doesn’t give away much beyond the promise of not-even-nearly-nudity2, and the description mentions only a vague idea of flight. Then again, Snow-Capped Studios loves a good bait-and-switch (cough cough) something something awful awful Snowfall.

Sexy Flight - Screen... again

Something very familiar about this image, like I’ve seen it before.

Much like that game, the girls are meant to be the main attraction. Here, they cycle through as backgrounds as you fap—, sorry, flap away, and your high score is saved for the duration of your play session. You can watch the always-reliable Splazer suffer through the trial in five and ten second increments if you’re really that curious and / or never heard of Flappy Bird.

Which brings us back around to the central point of living in 2016 and still having to do this. What good can be said about Sexy Flight? Well, it’s just a passable Flappy Bird, and at least it’s not Snowfall. That’s not saying much, but it’s all I’ve got, with literally nothing else to redeem it. So save your money, friends. And your dignity. It is 2016, and we should all know better.


  1. For the record, I don’t mind Flappy Bird (or some of its clones). It’s a (potentially) addictive time-waster, a decent distraction when you have a few minutes… or hours. 
  2. Seriously, google ‘sexy flight’. You might find a listing for this review3, but you’re also going to find much more sexier flights than this one. Just make sure to lock your door first. 
  3. The site’s also under ‘tree masturbation’, if you’re so inclined. The strange things I’ve tagged in a post for the sake of XBLIG. 

REVIEW: Crawlers and Brawlers

As the old adage goes, if you’ve played one procedurally-generated dungeon crawler you’ve played all procedurally-generated dungeon crawlers1. You’d be tempted to think the same of Ugly Beard GamesCrawlers and Brawlers ($1.00). And you’d be right to, in a sense, yet also, not. The game reminds me— in a good way— of a handful other retro-ish hack n’ slash dungeon crawlers on the service, including games like Lootfest and the excellent Cursed Loot.

It’s certainly familiar in a lot of those usual, ‘bullet point on the back of the box’-y ways; archetypal heroes (think mage, knight, etc.), plenty of pixels, said procedurally-generated dungeons that task you with killing everything in sight and eventually toppling some big baddie end boss, all the while RNGeezus-ing you with new loot2 to build up your character and increase your base stats. Throw in a change of scenery and blocks of dialogue, rinse and repeat to the end, and hopefully you enjoy yourself along the way.

And you should, because the formula still works. Crawlers and Brawlers gets most of that right. There’s a decent range of attacks and magic tricks to use no matter what class you pick, tied to your character’s agility and an RPG-style leveling system that changes based on the gear and weapons you have equipped. The dungeons are linked together with a massive overworld that’s populated with NPCs (some that need your help, natch) and plenty of hidden nooks to explore by land and by sea. The game allows for local co-op, and there’s even an online multiplayer offering that lets you battle against others with your high-level characters (just don’t expect to find any matches, because XBLIG).

Sure, you’ve done the whole ‘land overrun by monsters and town held captive by evil-doers’ thing before, yet the mechanics here are solid. Though the trappings may be a tad unremarkable, the game’s story does its best to keep things fresh, including some unorthodox encounters and fights (there’s a ‘museum’ bit with the boss’s health tied to you breaking rare and precious artifacts that’s pretty funny).

Crawlers and Brawlers - Screen

Crawlers and Brawlers works best when it’s showing off that humor, and even better if you happen to have a buddy next to you for co-op dungeoneering. In fact, the lone mark I have against the game is the fact that the dungeons themselves can be a major slog to go through by yourself, punctuated by hundreds of dull fights and dead ends as you search for the next floor or exit.

That’s what you should logically expect with procedural levels, yes, but it’s still worth mentioning. So maybe don’t mind the repetitive battles (so much). Or maybe do, with the promise that there’s something better on the other side. It’s still a charming and well-crafted adventure from start to finish3, worth it for the unique boss fights and dialogue alone. And with XBLIG on its way out to pasture, you may not find another new game4 quite as good as Crawlers and Brawlers again. Buy it. Play it.


  1. Don’t bother googling that. It may or may not be an adage, and it may or may not go the way I say it does. Just go with it. 
  2. As a known Destiny addict, the game’s loot is even color-coded according to Destiny‘s rules; green for uncommon, blue for rare, and purple for legendary. Well-played, Ugly Beard Games, well-played. You know what’s good for me. 
  3. It’s a pretty lengthy game, by the way. About ten hours total in my playthrough; surprising for an XBLIG. 
  4. Well it was new, three months ago when I started writing this. Yeah, sorry about that. But hey, the game is still worth your while no matter what time you’re reading this.