Spending Your Leftover Microsoft Points: Tempura of the Dead

So I finally found a good way to spend that extra 240 Microsoft Points that keeps getting left over on people’s Live accounts. I never really investigated Xbox Live Indie games too much but I think I just struck one of the gems.

A common trait of attractive indie games is that they have intentionally 8-bit graphics. In my opinion it’s not just nostalgic – it also shows a kind of efficiency in design when someone can make a game that looks good and plays well with the most basic of components. I also tend to be a less-is-more person when it comes to aesthetics. I think Tempura of the Dead however is one game that really nails the whole 8-bit design thing, without feeling outdated.

Similar to FEZ, which I just completed (209%), Tempura feels like a genuine 8-bit game in HD. Yeah it’s got the pixilated graphics and oldschool audio, but I started to feel this thing was genuine when I watched the intro cinematic. It felt like watching an NES Ninja Gaiden cut scene as a fictional US president jumps down into a zombie-infested wasteland with a Tommy gun to back up a samurai, complete with uncomplicated dialogue. The way Xbox 360 buttons and their functions are displayed right where they need to be adds to the look and make Tempura feel just as intuitive as NES games were. In fact, I wish a lot more games handled their tutorials like this game does.

It puts you in a simple stage where you can try out all the buttons free from worry, with all instructions displayed within the stage itself. It tells you everything you need to know while also letting you get a handle of the game at your own pace. The game itself feels like a combination of tropes that made many high profile NES games.

Try to imagine if Bill from Contra and Ryu Hayabusa teamed up in a game together and you got to switch between them on the fly. That’s kinda what Tempura is. You swap between using machineguns and swords to take down zombies in 24 stages across the continental US.

What seals the package for me is how balanced Tempura feels given what the norm seems to be on XBLIG. You can tell they put care into making a complete game.

The samurai, Sugimoto, uses powerful sword attacks and is very agile. President Thompson on the other hand uses firearms at long range, but his attacks don’t do as much damage and he can’t jump as high. Playing the game, I’ve eventually realized how some enemies are better handled by one or the other based on their attack patterns.

The game isn’t NES-hard, but it is more difficult than most current generation games. It does require some real twitch reflex skill, especially on the higher levels and bosses. It maintains the feel of the challenge of old games without being as frustrating. In short, it feels kind of like an 8-bit game mad with today’s sensibilities, which is exactly what a lot of these nostalgic-style games should be. Tempura could seriously become my background game for a little while – probably some of the best $3 you could spend on Live.

BULLETS:

  • Another game from the same developer is Aban Hawkins $ the 1000 Spikes, also on XBLIG for only 80MSP ($1).
  • Their website has the rest of their work which is mainly Windows.
  • Glad to see The Witcher 2 doing well in the UK. It’d be great if this helped speed up the English translation of the rest of the books.
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