Escape, Goat! To the New 360 Dashboard and the Final XBLIG Rundown!

final rundown

As this is the final installment of the Rundown, we’ll be doing it in reverse order just to change things up, y’know…like the new X-Box 360 Dashboard!  Which, by the way, for those of you who have had a spot of trouble discovering where the XBLIG is nested now: Games > Games Marketplace > Games (again) > Game Type (it’s the picture of the jumping chick) > Indie Games to find them in the marketplace.  You’re welcome.  Also, bleedin’ Christ, Microsoft, did anyone even look at the string it takes just to buy your fucking content?! The next version of the Dashboard will probably just download a version of the original Myst you have to complete before you can even access the stupid thing.

Anyway, we’ll be starting off with the bad this time and working our way up to the games worth your time, including our final Catch of the Week, Escape Goat, one of my favorite indie titles this year.  I’m glad we’re able to go out on such a high note, at least.

CONTEST! [ends Friday, 12/16]

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Rundown if we weren’t looking at giving something away.  This time, the gracious Ian Stocker (Magical Time Bean) has set us up with a code for his incredibly deserving retro platformer to give away and it is my pleasure to offer it up to you fine people.

The rules are (as always) simple: tell us your favorite indie title (XBLIG or otherwise) of the year, either in the comments or on twitter (mention @GearFish) and if you love us, give us a link.  We do this for you guys, so the more people know, the better options it gives us to give back!

That said, let’s kick this herse into gear.

Avoid_

StarBeam 80

It’s a side-scrolling shooter where you have to defend a colony.  There’s actually some decent graphic work here and varied environments but poor layout, random enemy placement and the shooting isn’t particularly enjoyable or deep.  More often than not, you’re just running around struggling to blast enemies that are coming from every direction.  It feels less like a stand against an overwhelming horde and more cheap than anything else.  It’s just a frustrating experience throughout.  There is absolutely no reason to play this unless you hate fun.

 

CatSaber 240

I know there are plenty of examples of games that are good in a handful of categories but weak in others.  While CatSaber doesn’t quite set a precedent for this, its strongest points are the box art and name.  It’s all downhill after that.

Ostensibly a twin-stick shooter with a laser sword instead of guns, this could be a good idea (or at least playable) if you weren’t artificially limited to only a handful of directions to extend your weapon.  The lack of enemy variety and wave format requiring that you manually start each time is tiresome and the whole thing is ultimately a train wreck.  Do not play this.

 

 

うらろじのすてねこ 240

There isn’t a scrap of this in English, so unless you can read Japanese, this is essentially a series of incomprehensible choices.  There’s some sort of battle system, but how this connects with anything else is as mysterious to me as anything else.  It appears to be based on random chance anyway and I’m not sure there’s any permanence in play so…yeah.  Good luck.

The art is adorable though.

RE: Get to Schol on Time 80

 

No, that is not a typo – the ghxyk2 goof troop fucking strikes again.  Don’t even bother.

 

Seriously, this picture is enough of a joke on its own.  No caption required.

Pumpkin Smasher 80

Angry Birds with no sound (seriously), and game graphics put together in during a drunken afternoon with MS Paint.  You know, intentionally biting someone else’s art style and ideas (ala Angry Fish / Fishcraft) isn’t cool, but comparatively speaking I have to give them credit for at least going to the effort of making ripoff art.

This should not exist…and once I get finished with my DeLorean and this coat hanger, neither will its creator.

Bub Block 80

There’s almost nothing to say about Bub Block.  It’s a local-only multiplayer game which is an almost universally stupid proposition anymore unless your game is spectacular enough on its own to make people WANT to tell their friends about it.

Bub Block is a game about fat guys moving blocks to screw each other over as magical sawblades that can phase through matter whizz around the map.  Unlike that old adage about fat chicks and Vespas though, this one isn’t fun alone either.

Congratulations on your first pirated copy of 3DS Max!  We’re all very proud, Jimmy.

JAWSOME 80

I can’t tell whether it’s this or Devilsong that destroyed my will to continue the Rundown.  Probably this, as DS at least makes an ATTEMPT to create the sort of things you would want to see from a game.  This just feels like controlling a shopping cart with a broken wheel in zero gravity.  There’s nothing “JAWSOME” about collecting food cans in textureless, poorly rendered environments.  This is a fucking joke to be sure, but less in the “Ha Ha!” manner of revelry and more of a “get stabbed by an angry group of Armenians” sort.

The vacuum of space isn’t conducive to sound anyway, unless…it’s silence?     Whoa, that’s deep guys.

Devilsong 240

Why the hell is this called Devilsong, other than because it sounds cool?  No story, no background, no tutorial even…just here’s a space shooter that you can play online which looks kind of okay and seems to work fine.  At least they didn’t call it AVATAR SPACE BATTLE.  Oh…wait, nevermind.  Three game-crashing bugs in the TRIAL PERIOD.

Nothing better than dying and then just sitting there, not respawning or having any control whatsoever.  How did this shit pass peer review?

I wonder where the base station is…

Moon Miner 80

What if Minecraft was in 2D, had no crafting, you could only run fifteen feet into a “mine” before you had to run back to “base”  and took place on the moon?

Yeah, it sounds like a terrible concept to me too.  Guess what?  It is.

 

It’s…functional_

 

Music Stop button, you are my only friend in this creepy foreign land.

Moe Mekuri 2.5 80

It is enough to say that it is a puzzle game and be done with it.  To be honest though: if you don’t mind the fact that you should feel like the creepiest person on earth for playing it, the challenge is actually worth it.  Just turn off the background music, for chrissakes.  It’s terrible.  I mean, painfully godawful nonsense.

Download the demo though, you might be surprised at how clever the puzzles can be.  However, if you’ve played Moe Mekuri 2, just be warned that this is exactly the same game and it kind of pisses me off a bit that this got cleared past peer review at all.  Are all you XNA guys fucking asleep at the wheel or what?

Horse armor guys, amirite?! 

DLC Quest 80

Would you pay a friend a dollar for a joke?  How about a stranger?  What if the joke is something you’ve heard or said hundreds of times before?

What if the WHOLE JOKE was that you paid a dollar for this?  Nope, wait…seen that as well.  DLC Quest isn’t horrendous and the satire is cute but too shallow to be really snappy or biting.  The whole game will last you an hour tops and it’s mostly just platforming tedium.  It’s not bad, really but it could be a lot better and ultimately if someone asked me if this was worth playing, I’d tell them to pass on it.

Bobby 80

Move a little robot thing around constantly changing stages while subject to gravity-bending obstacles.  You’re supposed to bounce all of these squishy balls lying around the stage into the vacuum-like power of the portals before entering them yourself.  That’s it.  While an accurate description of gameplay, I choose my words merely to stress how much it sucks. Like a vacuum.  Or a prostitute.

The controls are just way too loose and the core concept has nothing backing it up to make the experience charming or likable.  It works, but it isn’t worth playing.

Zombusters 80

Nice production values, but otherwise just another forgettable zombie wave shooter with nothing special or interesting to set it apart.  Well, that’s not entirely true: it’s exceedingly easy even with things like weapons inexplicably disappearing after every wave (which is frustrating, as it seems the zombies most likely to drop them are always the last two) and the fact that you only seem to be able to fire in four directions.

So, it’s actually a pretty bad zombie wave shooter.

I know it looks like something we ripped off DeviantArt, but seriously that’s a screenshot.

Sins of the Flesh 80 (Hurley)

Wherever you stand on Silver Dollar Games, you have to give them credit sometimes. They’re not hacks, but they play one on TV. They have talent, and the power to do good in the indie industry. Unfortunately, they often ‘choose’ to make shitty games in an effort to (I assume this is their master plan) fund more dedicated efforts.

Sins of the Flesh is not a great game by any means, but it does constitute some nice ideas. It’s a twin-sticker at its core, but it actually goes for and focuses on narrative first. You play as a lowlife womanizer caught in limbo after a car accident, with demons and angels fighting for your soul (the twin-stick part, where each analog stick controls a type of bullet). The dialogue and voice acting are cheesy at some points, yeah, and there’s the illusion of choice (if the screen starts to fade when a choice is given, take that option, regardless of what the characters might have said previously), not to mention the whole thing lasts about twenty minutes, but hey, credit for effort.

If you were surrounded by zombies, you’d be an anxious loader too.

Claustrophobia 80

I’ll be honest: I download most of these games anymore without even looking at the screenshots.  I usually don’t know what I’m in for until I load the thing up and Claustrophobia as a name gave me absolutely nothing to build expectations.  So, I can definitely say I was surprised at what it was.  Pleasantly?  Well…kinda.

I really need a clever acronym or derisive term for the zombie wave shooter other than…exactly what it is: the ZWS.  As far as this disgustingly saturated genre goes, Claustrophobia is one of its better entries from a base idea standpoint.  The thing that ultimately holds it back is that it just doesn’t go far enough.

Standard twin-stick shooter (TwickS) rules apply, with a handful of different guns to pick up.  Shoot zombies.  Get power-ups.  Win the game.  What makes it stand out is that you earn experience from killin’ those damn dirty undead and a handful of Fallout-styled perks each level (complete with humorous descriptions) to choose from.  Unfortunately, these reset every stage so it takes the fun of “building” a character right out.  Handled differently, this could have been an awesome title.

It’s definitely well-put together visually and for a $1, it’s a fun way to kill time.  There are just better options out there.

World Wars II 240

Boring for the most part, poorly designed on a number of a different areas (troop management being principle among them), but it’ll take you some time to realize that anyway considering there’s absolutely no tutorial whatsoever.  I feel like the soul of a good game is somewhere in this, but for the life of me I can’t find something to care about here.

StarCatcher 80 

Infinite jumping.  Dull theme, not committed enough, but if you’re just rabid about these games well…uh.  You need a new hobby.  Have you considered cross-stitching?

See my Chess! See my Chess!  Put your neurons to the test!

Avatar Chess 80

The only reason Avatar Chess lands under this particular category is because it is functional.  I cannot think of a reason to invest in this particular version when there are hundreds of chess games in existence on phones, PDAs, computers, even elsewhere on the indie market and Live Arcade.  It functions as promised, no more, no less.  There are a handful of viewing options to switch between, including the “classic” top-down chess mode, but otherwise the most remarkable aspect of this title is its lack of ambition.

What’s an art game without some phallic imagery?  Nothing at all, I say.

3D Pixel Art Studio 80

The concept is simple: put blocks together to make things.  Y’know, like you can do in Minecraft/Clones, only this lets you color them different shades, change the blocks so they look like legos, etc.  Calling a title like this “shallow” doesn’t really seem fair as an “art” game, but the problem is that it begs to be explored further.  Nothing about 3D Pixel Art Studio screams for recommendation or interest.  It feels utterly devoid of personality or reason.  On the other hand: it’s a dollar, and I made a giant three-dimensional pixel dick with it.

You decide.

 

Worth Playing_

 

Flowrider 80

Flowrider is a hard game to defend for this particular spot because I really want to just say “it’s functional” and call it there, but I’ve come back to it three, four times now.  I really want to play it more and I don’t really know quite why.  I’ll be delving more into it when I get more of a chance to give multiplayer a go but there’s definitely a strong sense of stylish polish throughout and a sense of fun that I can’t quite nail down.

Catch of the Week_

Escape Goat 240

Escape Goat is one of this year’s best indie titles, a rare gem that pulls off the retro feel of an old NES title in such a convincing manner that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a faded cartridge in some forgotten pawn shop.  The pixel art is spot-on and absolutely adorable to boot.  The soundtrack, a mere nine tracks, is truly excellent work: catchy, iconic and deserving of a listen (or purchase) on its own.

When it comes to gameplay, Escape Goat is a fairly straightforward platform/puzzle game, but it pulls both elements of that combination off with aplomb.  It keeps you thinking, reacting and pushing onward with stages that will challenge constantly but never seem to feel unfair.  Everything about the journey is well-paced and varied.

It’s a strong argument that certain things are timeless, regardless of technological advancement (or perhaps in spite of it), and it deserves to rest proudly alongside any classic platformer, not merely as an icon for independent development but as a truly great standalone experience.

The addition of stage editor is a more modern and certainly welcome touch to extend the game’s lifespan, but a stage-sharing option would be nice.  I’m hoping the PC version will alleviate this deficit, but I would recommend it regardless.

In short: If you love puzzles or platformers, or even just enjoy the occasional fling with them, there’s absolutely no reason you should let Escape Goat get away from you.

 

FIN_

I wanted to come up with a fitting send-off to the Rundown, but it’s a tough thing to do.  This segment has gone from being a fun, cavalier writing exercise to slogging drudgery that I would dread doing every week.  When I started this thing back in June, time was much more on my side and there were several factors at play in my life that made the commitment it took to play everything a pretty manageable task overall.  Things have changed a lot for everyone here at Gear Fish and continuing to keep up, along with enjoying the AAA titles that (let’s face it) we want to play in addition to the ones we already have has pretty much proven to be quite the strain.

Moreover, I feel like the quality of my writing has suffered as a result of trying to spread myself too thin.  I would rather be able to say something meaningful, in-depth or at the very least amusing about a game than struggle to spit out several short paragraphs about shovelware and tasteless idiot joke games.

Regardless, if I kind find a way to resurrect the feature in a more constructive way or if situations change, I certainly will.  Just because it isn’t fantastic in its current iteration doesn’t mean there isn’t a better option I haven’t considered yet.  The lack of XBLIG coverage in general makes the feature useful for people and other than the fine gents over at ArmlessOctopus, I don’t know anyone else who bothers to wade through it all to find the good stuff and warn folks off the crap.  And let’s face it, ultimately a variety of opinions is a good thing in this field.  A large part of reviews for any form of media is finding a voice who’s tastes you can respect, as enjoyment is in many ways subjective.

I’m proud and honored to have served in that capacity for those of you who came back every week, a sentiment I’m sure Hurley (and occasionally Zach) would echo.  We’ll continue to do our best to make sure our readers have something worth coming back to.

Thanks for playing.

-Nate Graves


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Author: Nate Graves View all posts by
Editor-in-Chief, Reviewer, Certified Indie Game Forager. Head Writer at Wasted Brilliance, developers of Aeternum. Must never fight the Fist of the North Star.
  • Anonymous

    Its sad to see it go, hopefully more reviews will be pumping down the pipeline because of this though. Also I should probably start thinking about my diabolical plan to incorporate ads so we aren’t working for free. Hopefully we could reel in the 5 dolla bills with our sub par viewership! Blah, enough pessimism, good going with a final indie run down, and I can only hope we pick back up to full speed.

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      I’m currently building up a collection of half-finished reviews, so I can strike at any time, and without prior warning. And I’ve been running on premium pessimism for the better part of the last five years.

  • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

    It’s a shame the rundown is stopping. It’s guided me through several XBLIG expeditions. Still, if you’re not enjoying doing it, there’s no point.

    One note: World Wars II does have a tutorial – a long and complicated one that probably needs a tutorial of its own.

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      Nate made some very good points. The time issue was center court, but as has been the issue of late, there’s so many new releases in such a short period, we just got overwhelmed by numbers. And as this Rundown shows, most of it was throwaway stuff (I do think DLC Quest is worth the journey for a $1 though). There’s only so many ways to say No to these games before even our writing becomes derivative.

      Good looking out on WWII. From the screenshots alone, I was like, ‘This doesn’t look pick up and play.’

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment about the Rundown. I would honestly rather continue it, but it’s honestly more of a time constraint problem than anything else. WWII is an excellent point in and of itself – I did end up playing through the tutorial and the game really deserved a more in-depth look than I gave it. With this group already several weeks behind though, I couldn’t justify holding off to go back and spend more time.

      My comment about troop management still stands at least.  For the most part, while you have a crew of guys, unless you’re right on top of them, they just serve as extra lives rather than offering any kind of strategic benefit.

      That, and vehicles are pretty much just rolling death traps.

      • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

        I admire WWII’s ambition. I can appreciate what it’s trying to do. Personally though, I think it overreaches itself, particularly for an XBLIG. Even without the messy control and confusing control scheme, it seems like it would take some time and effort to get the hang of even the basics.

        There aren’t that many people prepared to invest so much in learning the mechanics of a full retail game, and considering how much smaller the indie audience is, I think WWII’s inaccessibility does it some serious damage.

        I applaud the developer’s ambition, but it doesn’t work in this case.

  • http://twitter.com/Dcon6393 Daniel Conner

    Time always factors into writing articles. The reason I choose to basically cover games I like is because of the amount of time I have to write and post things. The Rundown is always a good read, but with all the crap being released it is almost easier just to do a bi-montly update with a short list of all the games that you guys happened to notice and enjoy a bit. If this means more reviews, I am all for it. 

    Best games of the year in order:
    1. BloodyCheckers
    2. Blocks That Matter
    3. Cursed Loot
    4. Dead Pixels
    5. Escape Goat

    There are so many more amazing indies, but those take the cake in my opinion. I think I have put more time into BloodyCheckers this year than I have pretty much all of my other games except Halo: Reach and Skyrim. Everyone has to play those 5 games I listed, all amazing games worthy of XBLA status in some way or another.

    R.I.P Rundown

    • Evearc

      I AGREE 100%, BloodyCheckers is such an amazing game out of nowhere…..such a pleasant surprise !!

  • http://twitter.com/manasteel88 Mana

    Good luck on the restructuring.  It’s usually good for writers to change their styles up and try something different. Hopefully this means more weeding out of the garbage indies for some that deserve the highlight.

    Game of the Year: Wizorb

  • Andrew

    Thanks for doing the Rundown!  It’s been a great service to the community.

    Of the new XBLIG that I’ve played this year, my favorite has been Infinity Danger.

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