PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain (XBLA Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I've got loads of games still unplayed, and yet I can't help buying more, whether it's a full-priced retail release in a sale, something reduced on Steam or GOG, or a 70p cheapie on XBLA's Indie Games. PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is one from the latter category, snapped up on a whim after a quick go of the demo. Yep, it's another 80 pointer.

I'll be honest, the main reason I tried this was because I thought the main character reminded me of a character from a Mastertronic game. Points awarded to anyone on the same wavelength that can tell me which game, but no prizes. Sorry.

Jesus! A ghost! And the reason the game is forced to be played as a speed run. The bastard.

PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is... drumroll... a platform game! Noooooo! Really? OK, so far, so obvious. It's a bit different to the norm, though. If you've trawled much of the internet for games-related stuff, you've probably seen sites devoted to speed runs on various games (Super Mario games being very popular for this). Well, PLATFORMANCE is a game that is designed to be played as a speed run. In fact, you have no choice in the matter.

As such, it's really good fun. It's hard, at least to me... in fact, there's a point I'm stuck at. The word "pain" in the title is quite apt, both for the player and the main character's many violent deaths. So I've never actually completed it yet. And it's not a long game... research has shown that you should be completing it in five minutes or less.

And that, right there, is the entire game. How quickly can you finish it?

Five minutes? So why should you buy it then? Well, I certainly can see it as being a game you'd play repeatedly after completion. With it being a speed run, you'll constantly be trying to shave seconds off your best time. And there are different difficulty levels to try, adding to the enjoyment/frustration. Yes, you'll get frustrated, but in that classic 8-bit "should have made that pixel-perfect jump" way.

PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain is a charming little game. It's got 1985 written all over it (even down to not having online leaderboards, sadly), but turning it into a speed run changes the dynamic into something approaching the present day, and fun is fun, whatever era it comes from. It might be a Mastertronic game at a sub-Mastertronic price, but it's no less worthy for it and will have you shouting abuse at the tell for many an hour.

Doppelganger (XBLA Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

Just a quick little post to tell you about something I picked up on a whim today. It's called Doppelganger, and it costs a mammoth 80 points on XBox Live Arcade's Indie Games.

Oh, alright... that would be a bit too quick. I'll go into a bit more detail.

Awww. Little cute alien versions of Defender's nasty ships. They're all still trying to kill you, though.

Doppelganger is basically a cross between Defender and Iridis Alpha. Everyone knows Defender. Most people that read this will know Iridis Alpha... for anyone that doesn't, it's a classic shoot 'em up from Jeff Minter, which splits the insanely fast shooting gameplay across two levels on a split screen.

What Doppelganger does is to remake Defender with really cute graphics, and then apply Iridis Alpha's split screen mechanic to it. So if you didn't think that Defender was hard enough as it is, try playing two games of it at the same time.

Top level... bottom level... top level... oh, hell, there's carnage everywhere!

It's not actually as bad, or should I say as hard as it sounds. The levels are kept fairly spacious, with not too many enemies flying around. At least, that's how it is for as far as I've managed to get in the game... doesn't mean it'll stay like that. And that also means in my few quick goes that I wasn't very good at it. Still, for 80 points I would say that Doppelganger is going to give me way more than my money's worth. It's a lot of fun and promises to be a real challenge for any old-school arcade shooter fan.

Number 7.

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

Shoot1Up (XBLA Indie Games)

Every once in a while , you come across something that is a very pleasant surprise. One of the nicest surprises of A Game A Day so far has been Shoot1Up, which cost me all of 80 Microsoft Points (60-odd pence) when I first bought and played it at the end of February 2010.

Shoot1Up is probably the simplest game in my top 10, so there's maybe not much I can say about it that I didn't say three months ago. It's a terrific piece of arcade fun, and although it's not tremendously difficult, the real fun lies in getting a high score. And that, my friends, is the essence of arcade gaming, and something I still love to play for after 30 years.

That's the stuff. Massive laser death all round.

I've played it a bit more lately, and I seem to have missed a couple of things in my initial euphoria. The first thing I missed was the Score Trek mode. This, as you might suspect, is a score attack mode, but you only get one ship to make it through as much of the game as usual. It's quite a clever way to incorporate a score attack mode into the game.

That fat purple thing is an end-level boss. It's huuuuuuuge!

Something else I missed, or at least I think I missed, concerns the scoring system. When you shoot anything, the score you receive appears in a box in big numbers on the screen. Naturally, I presumed these scores were just added to your total. But it appears, I think, that you have to collect them to add them to your score. That's pretty novel for a shooter, and adds another element of risk/reward to the game.

Shoot1Up seems to be doing very nicely on XBLA's Indie Games store. It's certainly planted itself in the Top Rated games section, and rightly so. It's a game that I expect to be playing for a long time yet, even if it's just to pick up and play for fifteen minutes. It's easily one of my ten most enjoyed games from the blog.

Atomhex (XBox 360 Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

Another day, another 360 indie shooter.

Atomhex is an indie game, and it's a twin-stick arena shooter. There's a lot of them about, so if you make one, it has to have enough worthwhile features of its own to make it stand out. I would say that Atomhex just about does.

A triple stream of laser death. Handy, with those big atomhexes around.

You control an Asteroids-style ship, and you whizz around the arena, using your other stick to shoot in whichever direction you choose. I'm not sure I like that in this game... because of the shape of the ship, that mode of firing looks wrong. It's the right choice of control method for the game, though... maybe a different design of player ship would have been a better fit.

Atoms and hexes of different colours roam the board. Your objective should be to shoot the shields from the hexes and collect them for points multipliers and different weapons. If hexes bond to an atom, the combination starts firing out harmful enemies of varying types. This is when things start to get hectic...

That's not my high score. That's just insane.

Although this is more dangerous, it's very good for your score, and massive bonuses can be had at this point. Also, it's just more fun when you're barely in control. That said, Atomhex never really clicked with me like I'd expected it to. Still, it's cheap, there's lots to shoot, and there are 100 Awards to unlock, which is nice for an Achievement-deprived indie game. It's certainly worth a punt if arena shooters are your thing.

Shoot1Up (XBox 360 Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

80 points.

80 Microsoft points.

How much is that, anyway? If you buy points from, that's 68 pence. Let's make it 70. Now let's convert it into the currency of the arcades... seven tens.

If Shoot1Up had been in the arcades when they were in their heyday, and if you could have got past the iffy name, you would have easily spent seven tens on it, and probably a fair bit more.

Shoot1Up is like a cross between TacScan, Terra Cresta and... oh, I don't know. Something else beginning with 'T'.  Truxton. That'll do. Something with a lot of bullets. You start the game with a fleet, nay, a phalanx of fighter planes. As you'd expect, alien hordes are in need of dispatching, and your boys are the ones given the task.

Here's the game mechanic. You start with a small fleet of ships. Holding the A button fires a stream of bullets. The trigger buttons will expand or contract your fleet of ships. If you contract, the ships fly "on top" of each other, so they only take up as much room as one ship. As a result, you only unleash a small stream of bullets. It also makes it easier to dodge enemy bullets and ships... but as a consequence, your scoring is reduced.

If, however, you expand the formation, then your ships' firepower links up to produce an awesome blast of laser death, far more destructive than when they're contracted. And as this is a riskier tactic and you're more prone to losing ships, you score more heavily.

You can't just stay expanded, though... at times it will be necessary to narrow your field just to stay alive. If you lose all your ships, it's game over. Luckily, though, you can obtain additional ships quite regularly, and they're instantly added to your fleet on the screen. Nothing is kept in reserve... it's all out, all of the time. The most ships I've had at a time is 18, but I think the maximum available is 30. Occasionally you can also pick up a Ghost, which puts a mirror of your fleet on screen for a limited time, for twice as much damage potential.

With only six levels, it's not hard to get to the end, although those six levels are bolstered by a choice of routes as you go. And although the graphics look charmingly old-school, the backgrounds repeat a bit too much, which is a wee bit of a shame but nowhere near a problem. I also hear talk of a problem where using the shield attack gives you an unbalanced multiplier, resulting in massively over-inflated scores. I wouldn't know, I've never used shield attack!

Even with those "issues", there's no way you can say this isn't worth the money, if you're an old-school arcade shmup fan. In fact, I'd happily pay more. I've played it a few times now, giving myself the good old claw hand from playing it a bit too intensely. And I certainly intend to go back to improve my score. Shoot1Up may not be as subtle as the likes of Leave Home, but it's a hell of a good time for your seven tens.

You Will Die (XBox 360 Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Just a quickie... although not as quick as my first game of the day! I thought I should make an effort to actually put some words down for the day.

You Will Die is a shoot 'em up, in which you will die. That much is inevitable. They're just letting you know in advance what's going to happen.

It won't be on the first level. It shouldn't be on the second level, unless you're rubbish. But at some point, the game will get you, pounded to death under a hail of gunfire.

That's not me. I haven't done as well as that, yet.

It's just you against an enemy gunship. On level one, it's a small thing you're up against, and it only fires one stream of bullets at you. But for every level you survive, the enemy ship has more parts bolted onto it, until it's a ludicrously huge, death-dealing monstrosity, filling the other half of the screen. And then, the other half of the screen is filled with bullets. It's almost funny, staring down something that size with almost no chance of surviving!

You Will Die boils down to being a test of reflexes, and it rewards you appropriately score-wise for your efforts. It's short, sharp and snappy, a great way to pass a few spare minutes when you don't want to get too involved in anything. I like the way the game appears to throw different enemies at you, depending on how well you've done on the previous level. It's not a game that you'd pay a lot of money for... that makes its 80 Microsoft Points price tag very appealing indeed.

Crayon Physics Deluxe (PC)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a game that I've been reading about for quite some time now. I've heard nothing but praise, but to be honest, it never really appealed to me, and I hadn't so much as downloaded the demo before today. So when I saw that they were offering the game on a "pay what you like" basis, I gave in to temptation.

I'm pretty glad that I did, too. For although Crayon Physics is basically a puzzle game (and I generally hate puzzle games), it's very enjoyable.

The basic premise is very simple. You have a ball on a landscape, and there's a star somewhere else on the landscape. You have to roll the ball across the landscape to collect the star.

How the heck am I going to get to that star, using only a crayon?

It's obviously not as easy as it sounds, though. There are gaps and obstacles in the way, and you have to figure out how to bridge these problems using only a crayon and your drawing skills. Unfortunately, I draw like a seven-year-old child. Fortunately, as you're using a crayon, that's almost an advantage.

There's not much more I can say about it, other than go and try it for yourself. The game encourages you to experiment and figure out solutions for yourself, and there can be several ways of getting to your goal, so each player should have a unique experience. As I said, it's being offered on a "pay what you like" basis until January 15th, so check it out.