Xbox Indie Games Spotlight
Recently the service formerly known as Xbox Community Games underwent a name change, along with a few other additions. The service will now be known as Xbox Indie Games, which Microsoft seems to like, though I’m not sure if that is really a change for the better. The name seems, to me at least, as if Microsoft is creating an even larger division between the games for this service and Xbox Live Arcade. After all, if the community developed games are independent, than the XBLA games must be the professional ones. I think this does a disservice to the community-developed games, as there are some on the service that are made by professional development teams.
However, the name change might also attract new attention to the service, which is a positive. Other changes include a new pricing structure that the developers can choose from: now developers can price games for as low as 80 MS points, or roughly a dollar. As I am a cheap bastard, I love this. One of the first games to make the price reduction to 80 MS points is a Breakout clone called bricks4ever. The title of the game and the fact that it is essentially a clone of another game might seem like a drawback, but after I was sent a notice about the price drop I checked the game out and it’s a good time. Slick neon visuals, several different game types and 50 single and another 50 co-op levels really give a lot of gameplay for just a buck. It may not knock your socks off, but if you are a fan of this style of game it’s a well-made version with a ton of content for the price. The same people are behind another Xbox Indie Game, Crystal Crush, an addictive little puzzle game that was also reduced to 80 MS points.
Another title that is easily worth the 80 point asking price, in my opinion, would be Zoomaroom. While the graphics are extremely simple, this physics based platform game is still pretty fun with some interesting level design, plus a full level editor to create levels and share with your friends.
The Indie games service has also expanded to include international games. So far, there are two Japanese Indie games available, one of which is a short visual novel in Japanese that I can’t make heads or tails of since I don’t speak the language. The other is called Crescendo Symphony, a Japanese SHMUP. The game has some interesting looking visuals and the side-scrolling shoot “Ëœem up action is something that hasn’t been done too well so far on the service. Initially it seems like this might be a decent shooter, but the longer you play you will realize that the game uses the same looping background with few variation of enemy types and little actual animation. The game also suddenly switches gears between extremely simple to full blown bullet hell. For those interested in this style of game this might be one to skip; now that the service is accepting games submitted from Japan, I’d assume this isn’t the last of this type of game we will see and it would be worth the wait for a better game.
Still missing from the service is user ratings, which will hopefully come with the late summer NXE update. With dubious entries in the service such as the LED Display, Game Trainer, and other variations of clocks, drinking games, and some fairly lackluster crap, it is essential that Xbox Indy games get user reviews sooner rather than later, as well as an option to search by user review. At least that way, people new to the service could look at the user ratings and see Weapon of Choice, CaryVale, and ZP2K9 first, instead of Fireplace, Aquarium, and LED Display. I wish they had waited to make the name transition until they were able to implement the user rating service. First impressions are important, and not that many of the newer releases inspire much confidence.