Review: XBLIG: Dungeon Adventure

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
I played the game, having not played a game like this since the mid 1990’s. You know, that era when a huge number of Xbox Live Gamers weren’t even born.

I started up Dungeon Adventure, and a friend of mine (who was a huge fan of D&D, Bards Tale, and countless other Dungeon Crawling games) sat beside me. Together, we started to figure it out.

I have a chatpad attached to my Xbox 360 Controller, but did not quickly see any easy way to use it.

So I began to play, encountered my first enemy, realized I hadn’t done any reading on combat, and promptly ran away – Emu in hot pursuit. It then killed me. Evidently, to attack an enemy, even if you do not know whether or not you are equipped to kill it, you can simply move your avatar (in the game, not your Xbox Live Avatar) towards the enemy. Trying to run away will invariably kill you.

Navigating in the blind by holding down a particular direction, and stumbling upon an enemy such as a minotaur will kill you.

Not being able to find food… go ahead, guess. Write it down on paper. You’re right! It will kill you.

So after you get killed a good ten or fifteen times, you’ll start to get the hang of the game, realize that the randomly generated dungeouns have their fair share of doors that don’t go anywhere, and levels that only go up, never allowing you to travel back to a previously visited area.

Graphically the game isn’t the best looking thing out there, but that’s it’s shining point: it’s not intended to be. If this game had “better” graphics, I don’t think it would be genuine! The sound is quite lacking, but again, it’s intended to be quite simplistic.

One of my favorite (though embarassing) features is an in game leaderboard which shows user’s details (Gold, Level, how you died). These are fun to scroll through, though the developer could tune the columns, as there is a little bit of overlap (even when playing on an HDTV).

For those nostalgic for this specific type of game, I would think a $3 price point is more than fair. Others might want to wait for the inevitable price drop to 80MSPoints.

Review: XBLIG: Streets of Fury

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
In the early 90’s, digatized fighters was this amazing thing that nobody quite believed was possible. Then Mortal Kombat came out. It looked like you were controlling real people, on your TV. With that leap forward in video games, everyone thought the technology would last forever and it was the unrivaled future of video games. But as 3D models got better, photo-realistic sprites went by the way side.

Streets of Fury brings them back with a vengance. The developers knew exactly what they intended to do and they went for it. And gamers like myself who still reminisce about the days of photo-realistic sprites immediately have to get our hands on this game.

Take that, and the fact that the Beat’em Up / Brawler genre is one of my all time favorites, and also more of a “thing of the past” this game had me firing on all cylinders. After playing the demo for less than the entirety of the first level, I promptly turned around and purchased the full game.

The game has the classic bralwer like interface, individual characters with individual healthbars, the same sprites used over and over again with different palette-swaps. It was a receipe for a win in my book.

Some of the animations are extremely smooth, clearly video-captured. But unfortunately, some of the combat feels clunky and unimproved. I wanted it to feel like Batman Returns on the SNES, not play exactly the same. And the unfortunately small pool of ‘actors’ used in the game makes it a bit TOO repetative. Palette-swapped colors, darkened (ala Noob-Saibot) and enlarged sprites did not add enough variety to the game.

But where the characters lack, the levels swoop in to the rescue. After each level is a quick bonus round, where the simple goal is to rack up as many kills as possible in a very short amount of time. Literally dozens of baddies flood the screen at once, and the game never skips a beat. Some of the levels are completely abstract as well, taking place in the clouds, with no ground beneath you – but it is still just as fun to whoop up on ten or twenty thugs at once.

The game had all of the things that I was nostalgic for in video games, so despite the lack of variety (and some of the typographical errors that this English-Degree having nerd noticed) I have to rate this game very high. It brought back brawlers and digitized actors in a mashup I just can’t get enough of. Here’s looking forward to what these guys will do in the future!

Review: XBLIG: Colosseum

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
I have to admit, Colosseum was the first “Indie Game” I bought from Xbox Live – and for full disclosure: I bought it on accident. I intended to download the trial version and wasn’t paying attention to the dashboard when I magically bought the game at it’s original 800 Microsoft Points price point.

Still, after playing the game, I was absolutely hooked. The control system is unique, and works very well. You use your left analog stick to move your character around the screen and the right stick to attack. And yes, while this sounds like Robotron: 2084 or Geometry Wars, think of using that control scheme to play a game like Dynasty Warriors.

Graphically, the game is a treat. Using cell shaded effects like those you would see in Crackdown or the more recent Borderlands, the games art is crisp and stands out beautifully above many other Indie Games on Xbox Live. Cell-Shading, contrary to some people’s beliefs, is not a way to cover up bad graphics: it is merely an artistic and aesthetic choice which, in this case, pays off in spades.

The sounds in the game are also outstanding. I don’t know where the captured the sound effects from or if they bought the rights to a package of sounds, but they got a lot of them dead on. If I had to file one complaint, it’s probably just that there is a lot of reading to do, but a story unfolds as you play the game and it doesn’t often bore you to death with walls of text – but the game could benefit from some voice acting added in for effect. It seems like such a high quality production anyway, the guys at Shortfuse should be very proud.

Review: XBLIG: Neo Terra

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
When I saw the first screen shots of this game, and even as I loaded it up, I rolled my eyes and thought it was going to be a gigantic time waster. I am glad I actually spent time with the Neo Terra.

The game play is fairly straight forward – as time ticks up, each planet gains resources. The resources are translated in to ships that you can send out to try and take over other planets. If too many of your ships are out when your planet gets attacked, your planet can get taken over by an enemy.

Now imagine all of that, playing out in real time (turn based strategy is for the weak!), and it only taking a matter of seconds to win or lose a planet. A battle can last less than a minute, or several minutes. And that’s what I love about this game.

Every time you play it’s a new experience, even if the game looks and feels limited. It’s very straight forward, but it is a game of skill, not just who can hammer the X button faster. It’s about knowing if your planets need reinforcements, if the enemy has a planet that is weak and can be easily overtaken. It’s about looking at the entire screen at once and knowing where to send your troops.

Graphically the game has some nice backdrops, but the ship sprites are a little juvenile. The sound suffers a lot from a very repetitive selecting sound being about the only sound you hear, but can be easily blocked out if you have multiple people in your living room battling for galactic supremacy.

If you’re home alone, you may want to put on some music while you take on the five levels of artificial intelligence the game has to offer. From “Very Easy” to “Insane” the game offers a challenge for everyone. You can also take on the computer with different game modes, including a “capture the flag” like mode where the point is to overtake a planet at the centre of the map – all the while your opponent could be taking over your planets, thus having a larger fleet to send towards the “flag planet.”

While there isn’t much else going on in the game, it’s really all you need from Neo Terra. The game’s $1 price tag is a statement to that fact: this game is intended to be fast paced, hectic fun, and nothing more. And it achieves that in a way that is incredibly entertaining.

If the developers were to take this game and build a story line around it, it would be an instant buy for me. Battle it out in a “quick match” much like you have right now, then take a few moments to let a story unfold? A well deserved break from the frantic game play would be an absolutely perfect formula for Neo Terra 2. Here’s hoping!