With the [email protected] program poised to open the floodgates and introduce a slew of new indie titles to the Xbox One, it's easy to forget that there's still a wealth of games old and new available to download for mere pennies on the Xbox 360. I've been keeping an eye on the 360's Indie marketplace in search of games to feature in the mag's monthly Indie review round-up, and man, has it been an eye opener.
Below are ten games that, for better or worse, stood out. How many have you played?
Avalis Dungeon 3
You know the most impressive thing about Avalis Dungeon? The fact that there have been no less than three iterations. In this sequel, you're presented with a series of still images of corridors, and must press the corresponding face button to choose which still image of a corridor you'll find yourself next. Every so often, you'll come across a still image of an impossibly proportioned anime lady, who you can talk to via the face buttons or simply stare at for as long as you like. You can even go in for a closer look at their - ahem - jewels. At least hentai is under no pretension as to what it really is.
Project Zero/Fatal Frame is one of my favourite games of all time, so I was pleasantly surprised by Vital Force, which does a bang-up job of replicating Project Zero's tense atmosphere. Instead of an old camera, however, it's a smart phone, and instead of Miku Hinasaki you're controlling an eight-year old girl called Jessica as she attempts to escape from an abandoned train station. It's got that "NOPE" gameplay style down to a tee.
Sexy Island Adventure
Don't let the name fool you, I've had a sexier time watching paint dry. It's kind of like a top-down Legend of Zelda like adventure, in which you hunt down women to stalk, harass and take seedy anime pictures of. Which all sounds wonderful, of course, but the game is so poorly designed you'll be wandering around for upwards of half an hour with no sexy vulnerable women in sight. And dammit, that's not what I downloaded this game for.
Mount your Friends
Now this is how you do gratuitous nudity and improbable pectorals right. It's the ultimate test of manliness - grease yourself up, clamber up on top of your friends (plus a goat), and see how high you can go within the time limit. Not only is it sensual, but it's really quite hard. Difficult. Sorry, I got distracted by the trailer. Dem crotch physics - dong dangling is this year's breast jiggle.
Don't Die Dateless, Dummy!
You might have ascertained by now that I find myself morbidly drawn to these toxic little dating sims, or anything with a scantily-clad anime girl on its indie store cover. I'm a firm believer in knowing thy enemy, you see, but this particular game stands out to me as perhaps the most underhandedly sexist of all the ones I've encountered thus far. It goes like this - if you're a virgin by the time you turn 30, you'll turn into a wizard, so you're off to college on a quest to meet young ladies with impending lower back problems to see if you can't talk them into your bed.
Whilst a large part of me is still trying to fathom why becoming a wizard could ever be considered a bad thing, let's park that for a second. A more worrying concern is why the developer of this game thinks that women can and should be likened to Rubik's Cubes - with the right combination of words and actions unlocking their thighs regardless of minor inconveniences like their thoughts or feelings.
Download it here, for ironic purposes only though, right?
The Impossible Game
It's right there, taunting you in the title. It can't be impossible, surely? Perhaps not, but it is highly addictive. Jump over triangles and bounce off squares in time to music. Really quite moreish.
No Luca No
There's something really quite adorable about this game, which the developer has clearly modelled after the antics of their own household feline. You stand guard over your untouched bowl of cereal as Luca the cat tries to claim it as his own. Swipe the right stick to gently push the cat away, repeat ad finitum, spend eternity wondering why the guy wouldn't just put the cat outside so he could eat his soggy cereal in peace. Whilst it gets boring fast, it serves as quite a nice reminder that not all indie games are about pushing the T&A agenda.
How to get a Girlfriend
Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up. If you have trouble talking to or understanding that mythical creature 'woman,' try this multiple choice quiz, which will provide tips and feedback on how to trick girls into liking you. My favourite quote has got to be "girls love free drinks," and the best tidbit of advice is that if you've been friend-zoned you should start acting distant towards her as "it'll make you seem mysterious, and therefore desirable. Create distance, eliminate the friend zone, and plan your next move from there." I'd love to think this game was parody, I really would - but there's not a single trace of irony anywhere to be seen.
Try not to Fart
Now I don't know whether it was the crappy South Park-esque animation, the wonderfully inept voiceover or the undeniable truth that people farting when they shouldn't is always funny, but something about this game tickled me, despite the fact that it's really just a glorified QTE. They missed a trick by not adding layers of complexity/risk and reward. Is that a silent but deadly or a surprise trumper? How long can you hold off the encroaching IBS? There's everything to play for
Cthulhu Saves the World
Just trust me on this one and give this a try. Not only has it got a great sense of humour, but it's from Zeboyd Games, the same developer that's bringing Cosmic Star Heroine to the Xbox One via the [email protected] program. Plus it's kind of like an old school Final Fantasy, complete with random battles and an adorable 16 bit world map.
Mysterious Blue Valley
This is actually game number 11, but I just had to throw it in here to prove to myself I'm not going mad. I honestly can't understand what this is supposed to be about, though admittedly it might have been the sudden appearance of a fat topless man that threw me. Pick up blue blocks and very slowly and ineffectually move them to another location. Repeat until you literally can't take it any more.