Tag Archives: Xbox

Year Two of theXBLIG

Man, has it been another year already!? Time flies when you’re writing indie game reviews, I guess. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this one short. Don’t want to pat myself on the back too much, just enough to keep my ego properly inflated.

Two years online… Wow. I do remember last time I did this, I was worried the site might not even make it two years, between the rumblings of XBLIG’s demise (only somewhat exaggerated) and the looming releases of the next-gen consoles. Well, that worry was for naught; the site still stands! That said, we sure limped into this second birthday celebration, as the new releases have pretty much dried up. XBLIG seems destined for a slow, depressing death.

There’s no point in glossing over the reality of a situation. While Xbox One is picking up steam, and indie gaming has started taking hold there (with the ID@Xbox program), the Xbox 360 has not been as fortunate. New releases have slackened off on Xbox Live Indie Games in the past few months. It’s sad to see. I can’t write that the service still has its best days ahead of it, as that would be a lie even I can’t force myself to believe.

What I can say is that the community itself— people like You, reading this— is still going remarkably strong. Proof is in the numbers, really, as this site has had a fantastic run since last June. As of today, we’ve surpassed 214,000 views, posted 318 articles / reviews, and seen 3,500 comments on those posts. Granted, that’s not the most impressive showing for a website, but for one dedicated to a fading indie service, with games that are often criticized (yes, by me too) for being childish and loaded with boobs, it’s not too shabby.

I owe a great debt to this community, my fellow gaming journalists / writers, all the great XBLIG developers, and, of course, you guys. It may sound cheap, and more than a little cheesy, but it’s the honest truth. While I’d still be playing indie games otherwise, there’d be no point in running this website if it wasn’t for all of you. So thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being involved in this wonderful madness known as theXBLIG.

Year Three begins today!

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REVIEW: CastleMiner Warfare

One of XBLIG’s great, and unfortunately, rare, success stories, developer DigitalDNA Games is bidding farewell to the service with one final game, CastleMiner Warfare ($1.00). The first part of that title should sound familiar. I’m surprised it took this long for the Dev to make the no-brainer move of pairing its best-selling crafter (it made him a millionaire) with the developer’s penchant for building enjoyable first-person shooters (CastleMiner Z doesn’t quite count because it’s not inherently competitive). The resulting title sounds like a kind of mythical superhero, destined to bring peace to the galaxy, or something akin to it.

CastleMiner Warfare - Screen

It doesn’t, though. I want you to know it brings me no pleasure to say this, but, for a last hurrah, the game is a buggy mess. CastleMiner Warfare brings with it the typical Call of Duty trappings that DigitalDNA has sampled twice before; you kill guys and / or complete certain gameplay challenges, for which you earn experience to level up / unlock new items, and cash to purchase a host of building block goodies. Perks and killstreaks are back as well, featuring mostly returning favorites, like sleight of hand, temporary armor, and a rocket launcher for your secondary.

Four maps are available from the start, with varying environments (Forest, City, etc.) designed to showcase what the game can do with its blocks, while the CastleMiner hook naturally allows players to take and edit those pre-existing maps, or build their own to then share in online battle. You are automatically equipped with a mining pick to alter the landscape, but in a twist, you’ll have to first unlock, then buy, the various block styles on tap. Once you do, you’re free to place them in-match, presumably to build fortifications (not advisable, since people are jerks and will shoot you) or play the troll and drop water blocks everywhere, like me.

CastleMiner Warfare - Screen2

Of course, this ability to flex your artistic muscle while simultaneously gunning down fools is all dependent on the online aspect being solid, which it isn’t. Granted, most online games have their share of connectivity issues, but more often than I liked, I was unceremoniously dropped from matches, while other games returned in search didn’t even permit me to join. I was even met with a pair of game-ending error screens, forcing me to return to the dashboard and reboot the game. Respawning caused some issues as well, placing me in the dark(!), underground(!), with no easy way to determine a route back to the surface. There’s probably a good ‘Six Feet Under’ joke in there somewhere.

When all its parts are in working order (that’s currently about 60% of the time), CastleMiner Warfare is a fun (but definitely familiar) shooter that plays it a little loose for a farewell. The new creative licence is a welcome addition, though you’re fine to pass on this and stick to something more stable in the ‘crafter / shooter’ genre. The game may leave a somewhat sour taste behind, but it doesn’t diminish what DigitalDNA was able to do on XBLIG. Here’s to hoping the developer does great things for Indies on Xbox One and beyond.

 

REVIEW: Blue Beacon

Not to be confused with significantly-expired bacon that should be discarded (you know who you are), Blue Beacon ($1.00) should be a familiar romp for most: Mario‘s bread and butter platforming and mechanics, paired with sort of-Adventure Island‘s graphics. Actually, it’s ‘sort of’ on both counts, as though it borrows from popular and not-so popular titles alike, it doesn’t quite match up to them in its execution.

First, the setup. Our protagonist Sasha is on a mission to save the world. To do so, you’ll need to collect three ‘Discs of Power’, with each found at the end of a string of levels. That will entail the requisite running and jumping, plucking impossibly-suspended items in the sky, and using your head to bust through bricks to find crystals instead of coins (collecting 100 will earn you an extra life, of course).

Even the enemy foot soldiers are comfortable stand-ins / cheap knockoffs for the ‘goombas’ and hard-shelled ‘koopas’ from Mario‘s universe; you can stomp on one, and send the other careening into his friends for a tidy point combo. Taking on the abilities of animals (or insects, in this case) via powerups is also on loan from the plumber, granting you the innate skills of that particular bug. The Beetle suit allows you to burrow through enemies and bricks, accessing secret crystal caches, while the Butterfly and Grasshopper variants give you additional traversal options (flying short distances and jumping higher, respectively).

The suits are presented in sequence, with the levels generally well-designed to accentuating their strengths… and showcasing the game’s very slippery controls. Take note: Sasha will walk on a good four or five steps after you let go of the stick. Not the responsiveness you need in a platformer. If nothing else, the suits will come in handy as ‘extra health’, as taking damage from unintended mistakes will only return Sasha to default form, with the next hit proving fatal.

Blue Beacon - Screen

In that regard, Blue Beacon also goes a bit old school with its difficulty, giving you a limited number of lives to reach the end, with no continues or checkpoints for good behavior. The aforementioned crystal-collection is thus made all the more important, as is careful maneuvering and patience / restraint with the controls.

The end result is a short, potentially-frustrating, and pretty generic platformer; acceptable if you like those kinds of things, though it’s a pale copy when compared to its chief inspiration. Blue Beacon‘s challenge and hook of using ability suits might hold your interest at first, but if its parts don’t add up to much original fun in total, what’s the point of taking a sub-par journey? Play Mario instead.

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Review on Game Bias

REVIEW: Banana Bananza

Boob Games come in all different shapes and sizes, and not all of them are created equal. For years, I’ve been lambasting their developers to stop with all the superficial ploys and the money grabs, hoping that someday, someone would listen and release a product that could transcend the mediocrity the skin genre is known for. Well, friends, today is that sought-after day, and Banana Bananza ($1.00) is the fantastic answer to that plea. It is a boob game, yes, but one with heart and incredible depth of character, a serious achievement for the medium and an instant leaderboard add.

Banana Bananza - Screen

… No.

…  … No. Wait a minute.

That can’t be right. Hell no! No way! What I should say is April Fools! and OMG, you guys, Banana Bananza is terrible. Just awful, predatory stuff, and I wrote this review purely to stamp a ‘PLEASE KIDS, DO NOT BUY THIS’ all over it. See that screenshot above? Without hyperbole, you are paying one US dollar (or the equivalent in your local currency) to uncover the bottom half of that picture. Spoiler: It’s girls posing suggestively with bananas. Wow, who saw that coming?

Oh, I suppose I should say it’s not a total fraud. You do get a ‘banana’ counter mini-game of sorts, where you can jam on the ‘A’ button to earn bananas, or spend your accumulated fruits on other, banana-producing ‘machines’ …like a tree. …Or a farm. It’s hardly exhilarating, and honestly, you could get more fun out of playing with the calculator app on your iPhone. Worse? Partaking in this minigame nets you nothing. Nothing. You simply gain more bananas. That’s epic.

Even ‘Slime Girl’ below is sad to be a veteran of this travesty, having been used in the last three projects from Fusion Gaming (time for some new art, guys). Sure, she’s fictional, and makes questionable decisions (going naked in the swamp is not a good plan), but imagine this for your legacy: being attached to Banana Bananza. Girl, nobody is going to want to add you to their LinkedIn profile, save for the ladies from Snowfall, maybe.

Banana Bananza - Screen2

She looks like I feel after playing this game.

There’s bad games, there’s boob games, and then there’s games that should never have existed. Banana Bananza has a lifetime membership to that club. The next stranger you cross paths with, I want you to hand them a dollar. You should feel some disappointment with yourself at being a little more broke, but I’m doing you a favor. You’d be ‘paying it forward’ (thanks Haley Joel Osment), and anything is better than downloading this worthless bilge.

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EDIT 4/3: Banana Bananza has been taken off the marketplace. Not that I’ll shed a tear if it never returns, but, apparently, you can’t have cover art with a suggestive image of women with banana dicks. Also there was some glitch in the Matrix that allowed you to purchase it, but the game file was corrupted. Bottom line: You and I are much better off without it.

Banana Bananza - Box Art

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick 

REVIEW: Color 2

Color 2 ($1.00) is a rather apt title for the game, when you get down to it. It’s about colors, natch. Four to be exact, corresponding to the face buttons of the Xbox controller. Also natch. It’s a sequel as well, the original Color coming about three years ago from the same developer. That would account for the ‘2’. So, that about solves the mystery. And if you are finding this opening to be bland and entirely forgettable… well, you’ve just played Color 2 without actually playing it.

Color 2 - Screen

That’s not meant to read like I’m unfairly dumping on the game, just more the inevitable result of a very basic and tired idea. Color 2 is color-matching, through and through. It is advertised as five different modes of doing so, but that’s a very loose (and very generous) definition of five separate minigames. For starters, they all involve swapping / mashing the button to correctly match the color / letter appearing on-screen. Variety is not something the game does well.

Take a look at the screenshots used in this review. The only thing that really changes from game to game is your ‘form’; sometimes you’re a block at the bottom of the screen, other times you’re a block going around in a circle, and in one instance, you’re a cannon. A few of these ‘minigames’ seem to have been carried over from the first game, too, so it’s not as if entirely new ways to ‘color-match’ have been created for this reprise.

Color 2 - Screen2

The modes do come tinged with either an ‘arcade’  or ‘survival’ setting. Other than determining when your ‘health’ is replenished for missing / incorrectly matching the colors, though, it’s not much of a modifier. As a bonus, you can compare stats between the various modes, and earn medals for meeting certain criteria while playing. Neither does much for extending the life of the game. At most, you’ll sample each of the game types once and never feel the need to return to it.

Its intentions might be harmless, but Color 2 is an ideal example of a unneeded sequel. Three years on, we get the same idea with slightly spruced-up visuals, an added minigame or two, and the rest just carried over from the original. Pass.