Well, we’ve started week three of this one week Indie Game Winter Uprising promotion (here’s a random link to last week’s article), and so far I’ve had a lot of fun with most of these games. I can’t get a good handle on how successful this has been or hasn’t been. There have been articles on Kotaku and Joystiq that would lead me to believe it’s sort of been a dud, but I have no idea what “success” is on the Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) service? I mean, if I spent a few months making a game, and maybe 200 people liked it, I’d consider that to be good. I think. I know that if I write 3000 words about the games on OMGJ and get 2 comments, I consider that successful—but maybe that’s more of a sign that I should set my standards a little bit higher. Actually, the indie games section on the marketplace was moved one slot forward to put them in front of demos, so I think that’s at least some sort of acknowledgement that someone is paying attention to these games and the developers.
This week, we’re treated to three more games, bringing our total games released to 11 out of the planned 14. Thankfully this week all these games are very different from each other, because I was really worried I’d be writing about 4 shooters again, and I was running out of ways to say “well, you shoot guys and get power-ups.” I was going to try Spanish.
On a side note, my amazing supercomputer here at the OMGJeremy East Coast HQ has decided that Christmas is the season to shit all over Jeremy, and my video card is dead. As a result, I’m doing most of this work on my office computer (shhhh, don’t tell nobody), and the images I’ll be using won’t have the box art. I’m sure absolutely none of you give two shits about those images, but I did. Just know that every time anyone reads the third part of this article series, a little piece of me will die inside.
Crossfire 2 – 80 MS Points ($1)
We start off this week’s offering with [insert fanfare] – another shooter. Wait! Don’t stop reading yet, because this and Decimation X3 are hands down the best shooters not only of this promotion, but possibly the best classic arcade style shooters I’ve played in 2010. Both of these games are of the Space Invaders / Galaga style, but with their own unique twists: Decimation offered turning yourself into a blazing wall of death, while Crossfire 2 instead offers a little bit more finesse than we’re used to with blast-a-thons.
That finesse is that you don’t just sit on the bottom firing up—you will also sit at the top firing down. You will be able to switch from top to bottom with the push of a button, allowing you to pick up the glowy blue remains of the enemies you just destroyed (for score). This mechanic makes all the difference to really stand-out, and the game controls are fluid and responsive. You’ll be flipping from top to bottom constantly, and it will become second nature in a matter of a few levels. Sure—the enemies you’re facing may not be the most original, but they have different weapons as well. Unlike Decimation where everything drops the same shots, the bad guys in Crossfire have several different styles of attack and those different attacks mean you’ll have to approach them with a little bit of thought instead of just holding down your fire button and strafing back and forth.
In between every few levels you’ll get a chance to upgrade your ship, allowing you a little bit of customization to think about. Do you find yourself needing more speed or stronger shots? Then put your upgrade points into the places you think will give you the edge you need. Unlike a lot of other shooters, there aren’t a whole lot of different shots for you to switch between, but instead you can fine-tune the few attacks you have. I actually prefer this sort of thing, because on a lot of other shooters you’ll accidentally grab the wrong power-up and your amazing spread attack of death has been replaced by a horrible flamethrower, leading to your death one screen later. I’m looking at you, Contra family.
I’ve also got to mention one more thing – Crossfire 2 may be the last game that radiangames puts out for the Xbox Live Indie Game service, unless it sells well enough. He mentions it in his blog. This is a shame, since from what I’ve tried, all the radiangames entries are solid and fun games. While I’m not a big fan of “buy my game or I’ll quit!,” I can certainly understand the frustration these developers must be feeling, when OMGJeremy.com might be one of 10 websites that even mentions your product. We’re not even on the radar for gaming sites, but I still think we have better game coverage than G4. How can one station play so many episodes of Cheaters? Anyway, if you try one shooter at all on XBLIG, you’d be a fool not to pick Crossfire 2.
ZP2KX : Zombies and Pterodactyls! – 80 MS Points ($1)
Ska Studios is the developer behind one of the few XBLIG games I had tried before, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1—a Robotron clone with one of the best soundtracks in the world. If somehow you don’t know what Robotron is, it’s the father to games like Loaded or Smash TV or any other overhead dual-stick shooter (move with one, aim with the other). Ska Studios is also the developer for the Dishwasher series of games, which are full-blown Xbox Live Arcade games. ZP2KX is their newest game, and it’s a 2d side-scrolling deathmatch game with online support.
Pretty much every word in that last sentence made me cum in my pants a little bit.
Imagine playing Contra where you fight against each other. It’s pretty much exactly that. It’s Quake on a flat playing field, with a solid assortment of different weapons like assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, and a giant representation of Cloud’s sword from FF7. It’s mayhem, and it’s absolutely marvelous.
Even if I only played the single player version with Bot-opponents, this might be the best use of $1 ever. The problem with any game like this is that you need a player base to make it work. Two of my favorite XBLA games are perfect examples of this concept—Monday Night Combat and Greed Corp. Both of these games are really designed for multiplayer, and without it both of these games fall off your playlists immediately. MNC has a loyal fanbase, and I’ve been playing it since it came out and can get a random match pretty much anytime still. Greed Corp on the other hand I bought on day 1, and I have never even managed to find one other person to play against, which is a shame.
Thankfully, Ska Studios is actually doing some self-promotion by having developer-sponsored playdates which they announce on their blog. The first one was last night (which doesn’t help you) so I logged in to try my hand at some deathmatch. Holy crap. There were loads of servers up, and although the demo I couldn’t really get into the settings too much, but along with free-for-all deathmatch, there are Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and other different styles of gameplay. This is now officially the most fun I’ve ever had with a dollar, and that includes the time I paid a hobo to give me a handjob. After playing on some of the other servers against other newbies, I played against the SKA Clan guys for about 20 minutes and got my ass handed right to me over and over.
Once you try it, I convinced Billy Holiday to buy it and after Christmas ends and Jeremy puts the gun down, I might get all 3 of us on to play some. You heard it here first– OMGJ threesome coming in 2011. I’m sure we’d be interested in getting some more people involved… although then it wouldn’t be a “threesome,” or something. It will be gross, regardless of the official name– bring a towel and join us.
Aphelion – Episode 2 : Wings of Omega – 240 MS Points ($3)
Aphelion Ep. 2 has a minor problem right out of the gate in that it’s a sequel to a game that you’ve probably never played, and as a result it feels like you’re just reading the last half of a book. This could have been rectified with a splash screen explaining why you were where you were, or even just including a plot summary on their website, but instead you are just thrust into the game with absolutely no idea what is going on. With some games, I realize story is sort of a secondary thing– a little bit of flavor to add to the action on-screen. But this is a role playing game, and story is pretty much all that will keep you going back to this sort of game.
So, let’s momentarily ignore that, and let’s go with the idea that story doesn’t matter in an RPG. Let’s say that someone exists who is totally happy just killing things in a turn based manner who can’t read and has no attention span… wait, I just described our entire staff. Ok, so let’s say Jeremy is playing this game and there was an amazing backstory that he skipped over because “he doesn’t have time for this shit.” How is the actual gameplay? Actually, it’s adequate.
Adequate seems that it’s a bit harsh of a qualifier, but it’s truly the best word to describe the experience. The game does what it advertises to do– it’s a turn-based combat RPG, with standard RPG elements like different stats, equipping different items, gaining experience, and having a party of people. It has random encounters, plus it has scripted encounters. It’s got everything you would need to call your game an RPG. What doesn’t it have? Any sort of instruction or an easy interface. Want to know what your powers do? Well, hopefully you found that out before the battle, because in combat your option is just the ability name with no description of what it does. How about what the stats actually mean– do you want to know that information? Well, I can’t help you… I have no idea. Maybe all this confusion would have been solved by playing the previous game, but that’s not the game that is being advertised for this promotion, and really — a basic instruction is all I’m asking for.
I’m not trying to be totally negative on this game, because while I might not have any idea what I’m doing or why it matters– I did like a lot of the feel of the game. If you’re willing to spend a lot of time fumbling through the menus before really getting into the game (which I finally did), this is a fairly sturdy $3 RPG. Each character has a unique skill tree, the party selection will become much more important once you really delve into those skill trees, and there appears to be a fairly nice crafting system that I never managed to really piece together. Really, if you’re willing to have a fair amount of trial and error, and want a cheap RPG for your Xbox, this really isn’t a bad choice. It’s just that there’s a lot of stuff you have to just figure out, and I don’t know that there are a lot of people who are willing to do that.
So this ends week three, and hopefully the last three games of this update will show up in time for next Wednesday. Well, here’s the next installment, anyway. Based on the blog for Cthulu Saves the World, that one should be out soon — possibly today. Alpha Squad is in peer review (so assuming there are no major errors, I would assume that will show up soon), and even though it’s the simplest looking game of the three, there was absolutely no information on the Rickenbacker vs. the Aliens page as to its progress. That’s probably not the best sign.
On a side note, I had my first XBLIG crash error while playing Aphelion. It was during a combat sequence, and during a basic attack. I couldn’t get it to replicate either. I know that these games aren’t approved by Microsoft, and I know it’s all peer review to find bugs, but it’s sort of jarring to get an error screen and then forcibly kicked from a game. Not a complaint (this is why I didn’t mention it in my Aphelion review), but more of a warning in case you’ve had little to no experience with the XBLIG games– sometimes things don’t work quite right. So in these games, save often when you can.
Author: Jeremy P
Jeremy P is a game-playing, film-watching workhorse from Baltimore. He wants to be left alone, but you can follow him on the Twitters. @DelishBoloney
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