"We constantly have to revisit 'Why would Donkey Kong do this?' or 'Why would this environment be like this?' And then we start thinking: 'We're making a game about a gorilla wearing a tie.'"
-Michael Kelbaugh of Retro Studios on Donkey Kong Country Returns
"I have to say it's kinda scary how much you know about this game."
-Nicolau Chaud creator of Marvel Brothel
Microsoft showcased a major advertising promotion this week for what they referred to as the "Best of 2011." The purpose of this event is to highlight the best and brightest of Microsoft's online catalog and boost a little revenue as well. The banner has taken over Xbox.com and has a fairly large advertisement on the dashboard itself.
It wouldn't be Microsoft however if they didn't somehow mess up their Indie Games portion of an event. What we have been given is a Top 10 list of games that consists of 2 Lacrosse titles, 4 Minecraft clones, and 2 avatar RPGs. At one point there was even an XBLA title from 2009 on the list, which thankfully was eventually taken down and replaced.
Now I'm not usually one to criticize a group's "Best of" list, but I'm a bit shocked at the fact that 4 Minecraft clones can make a top 10 list. One can only be left to assume that this list was compiled as a biggest sellers list instead of trying to prove what is the best content on the system. With the complete lack of diversity being offered, I figured that I would share 10 Xbox Indie games that were not considered as the "Best of 2011". These however do deserve recognition.
This is by far one of the best looking indie games on the marketplace. The visuals are great and the mechanics of the game are solid. It's essentially a futuristic take on an obstacle course and as your momentum continues to build the game gets harder and harder to control. T.E.C. 3001 is pretty and it's fun. What more do you want?
Game Description: T.E.C. (Tesla Energy Collector) 3001 is 3D action single player game. You are guiding a robot through a virtual space to collect leftovers of energy for human kind. There are 20 levels and each one of them brings unique challenge to the player. Player will master in guiding a robot (T.E.C.) on level through series of trials and repetitions.
I don't usually go out of my way to play violent games that are violent for no reason. Cute Things Dying Violently most certainly lives up to the name. It is however a very simple physics based sling shot style puzzler with a unique (albeit gruesome) take. If you haven't tried it out, the game is good enough to push past the pointless violence.
Game Description: Flick hapless Critters around to get them safely out of each level! Dodge all sorts of lethal goodies like spikes, buzzsaws, and fire, and use a variety of wacky items to pull it off. Play through 60 mind-bending, reflex-testing singleplayer levels, 6 bloodthirsty challenge levels, and 1 murderous bucket-headed robot! Want more? Try out the local multiplayer and the built-in level editor.
Astralia takes the standard top down shooter mechanic and adds minor RTS elements making for a truly unique game. You build ships and change weapons in real time to defend your base and fight off swarms of enemies. It takes a bit of getting used to, but is well worth a look.
Game Description: Astralia is "A Real-time Strategy Shooter Experiment", a top down space shooter with RTS elements; in addition to your own ship you control a squad of drone fighters with multiple formations and weapons. You also get to manage a couple of capital ships that can be moved around to attack the enemy and can build other things like weapon platforms and bombs.
Escape Goat is from the same creative developer that gave us the Soul Caster titles. The game offers the players a lot as a puzzle based platformer, especially once you create your own puzzle rooms. As a Goat, you have to escape your persecution with the help of a rat, a magical hat, and a lot of planning. It's shocking what one single developer can create and this is indeed a good game.
Game Description: Imprisoned for the crime of witchcraft, you must use your skill and intellect to overcome the Prison of Agnus. Fear not, Brave Goat, for you have a friend on this journey...
If I'm going to make a list about games that differentiate themselves from Minecraft, Blocks That Matter is the only one that truly uses one of the ideas Notch capitalized on in a creative new way. In the game, you drill through blocks of various qualities and utilize them to advance further in the level. The different properties of the blocks provides the game with some strategy needed in collection and positioning. It's a smart little platformer that many have overlooked on the indie games marketplace.
Game Description: Combine your platforming and puzzle-solving skills in this incredible mashup! Playing as the Tetrobot, you can collect blocks of matter, recycle them into new shapes and trigger chain reactions. Contains 100% natural Slime extract.
Sequence does so many smart things that it's hard to really fault the game in any form. The RPG based DDR style mechanics work wonderfully and the overall presentation this game has is shockingly good. If there is a highlight of the year from a creative standpoint, Sequence deserves that nod. All the work that was put in to Sequence paid off and you can see it throughout the game. It's one of the rare games fully voiced on the marketplace.
Game Description: Sequence is a rhythm/RPG hybrid, featuring full voice acting and a soundtrack by Ronald Jenkees. Ascend the Tower and uncover the mystery surrounding the girl tracking your every move.
If you are looking for a video game adaptation of Joe vs the Volcano, Volchaos is all you will ever need. The platformer controls much like Mario, but uses a high challenge system and level design similar to Super Meat Boy. This combination makes it as addicting as it is frustrating. For anybody that is looking for a cheap challenge, this game was made for you.
Game Description: Volchaos is a challenging old school platformer. Playing as a heroic explorer, you must navigate through dangerous volcanoes in search of precious gems you can use to pay off your mortgage, bad investments, and alimony. To further complicate matters, the lava is continuously rising and an array of enemies stands in your path. Will you become rich? Heck, you will be lucky to survive.
Hidden in Plain Sight is only good when a few friends have come over to play with you. The game is unplayable without a player 2. A local multiplayer only title has a high barrier of entry, but the game itself is worth it if you can fill the prerequisites. There are 5 distinct game modes that all play on the catch a thief concept the game creates. You and your opponents all are hidden among the multiple AI characters of the board and must find each other and accomplish the game task. If you have had any interest in games like Spy Party, this game is for you.
Game Description: This game is local-multiplayer ONLY! A tense game of subtlety and intrigue... try out what some are calling the best local multiplayer game to hit the Xbox Indie channel!
I've been jokingly running around Destructoid claiming that Wizorb is 2011's GotY. Well partially joking. I enjoy brick breaker games, but not much is usually done with them and they rarely come out on consoles these days. Wizorb is a fun, fantastic little game with actual RPG elements built in to really turn it in to something new. It looks gorgeous and you are missing out on one of the top games of the year by not playing it.
Game Description: The once peaceful Kingdom of Gorudo is threatened by an evil presence. The only hope for salvation is Cyrus, a wizard versed in a secret magic art called Wizorb! Explore many strange places from the derelict monster infested town of Clover to Gorudo Castle atop Cauldron Peak. Danger lurks around every corner so you'll need to keep your wits about you and have quick reflexes in order to survive.
Stealth, strategy and zombie rarely are paired together, but this game does it so well that I'm shocked I haven't played it before. You as a lone zombie must infect the humans on screen. Once infected they join your ranks and give you strength to overcome stronger enemies. It's a simple design style similar to an Angry Birds or other mobile game, but I found this to be much more satisfying. I, Zombie is one of the better Zombie games of the year.
Game Description: Quite a different zombie game - this time YOU are the zombie! Command your infested comrades, fight your way to freedom and let the zombie kind dominate the world!