Tag Archives: Xbox Live Indie Games

The Nintendo Wii 10 Years On: What Was And Could Have Been

wii

The original Nintendo Wii turned 10 over the weekend, I haven’t seen many retrospective articles about it but I haven’t really been looking. Maybe they’ll be up this week. In any case I don’t think I’ve ever shared my thoughts here on what the Wii accomplished and why it failed to follow that up. Continue reading

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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 I think Tempura of the Dead however is one game that really nails the whole 8-bit design thing, without feeling outdated.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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Wizorb: Breakout + RPG

It’s been looked at and reviewed at a few places, but a nice bit-sized expansion of a venerable game formula that’s recently come out under the radar is Wizorb. Available on PC, Mac, and Linux, it’s also probably one of the more professional-looking games on Xbox Live Indie Games.

Basically, Wizorb is a Breakout clone with RPG elements and old school sprite-based graphics.  Breakout has always been one of my favorite time-wasters, and the addition of money to spend, spells to use, and bars to fill can’t hurt along with its attractive art style.

Even with the onset of downloadable gaming I still think it’s too seldom we get to see a game that makes 8-bit (roughtly)-style graphics look good on a 1080p screen, and Wizorb shows that off straight from the opening logos. It’s not just the characters and environments either. This goes right down to the menu screens, options, and plotline exposition which all display on the pixilated pages of a tome.

The RPG enhancements to the Breakout formula that make up the game basically amount to being able to use magic abilities while the ball is in play, as well as collecting items from the blocks.  Spells like gaining a measure of control over the ball really come in handy for getting around pesky corners on some of the more complex boards.  Bonuses like hidden shops and bonus boards feel really cool too.

The game is split up into worlds, the starting area being a town you must help rebuild with money earned in each level.  This adds a nice sort of Super Mario Bros. 3 structure to Wizorb, but I have to say that things can seriously drag on – the first world having 13 stages.

I bought the Windows version on Steam after trying out the Xbox Live demo (I think the official website has a PC demo) and I honestly prefer playing this game with a mouse.  Another rare thing about Wizorb is how playable it is with literally just the mouse.  Even the town exploration handles like a CRPG – clicking to move your character (regrettably not with the same quality of path finding).

I think that’s the final quality that makes Wizorb such a great timewaster.  I question the need for such a thing on a desktop or a console (many people don’t however), but I see this as the perfect game to install on a laptop.  An iOS version might be an even better fit.

BULLETS:

  • Yeah yeah yeah Hunger Games, but don’t forget about The Raid: Redemption also coming out today… if it’s showing anywhere near you.
  • I couple nights ago in Gears 3 I’m pretty sure I saw a mauler piggyback on top of another mauler to get over one of my barriers. It didn’t just happen, it was kind of like a glitch. Two of them were pushing up against the barrier in a single file, and one just appeared on top of the other, and then in front of it.
  • Even if BioWare hadn’t been planning epilogue DLC for Mass Effect 3, you gotta admit a market for it has emerged now.
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