With all the hype and excitement surrounding the next-gen hardware, and exclusive titles coming out of Redmond in November, you can be forgiven for missing the news that one of Microsoft’s brightest ideas will be rolling over come November. Xbox Live Indie Games will no longer have a dedicated home on the platform, and instead the program will be merged into the general entertainment section in the new console.
Xbox Live Indie Games are the product of hobby and folly, providing anyone with an idea and some programming skills with a chance to make and release a game. The platform went live in late 2008 when the first indie games were released. Since then the number of titles has surpassed 2,000, and despite all the terrible Minecraft clones and avatar games there are some quality titles to be found.
Unfortunately, Xbox Live Indie Games won’t be around forever, so here are my must-play titles before time runs out.
Note: You can download these titles as trials to sample them before you buy. If you login on Xbox.com using your Xbox Live credentials and “buy” the trials in your browser, the next time you turn on your console and sign-in, your downloads should auto-complete.
Hidden in Plain Sight (80 points, $1)
Without a doubt one of the best local multiplayer experiences you can have an an Xbox 360, Hidden in Plain Sight is a game all about deception and cunning. There are five separate game modes in total, providing quite a bit of variety for your 80 points.
For a detailed description of how each game mode works, you should watch the preview below in which developer Adam Spragg runs through the various rules in detail. Generally speaking, all of the games involve deceiving your fellow players and remaining undetected from a top-down perspective.
The best thing about this game is that up to 4 local players can get involved at once, which makes for an incredibly hectic session that is bound to result in hilarity. It is one of the simplest, most engaging party games on the platform, for a dollar!
I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 (80 points, $1)
As you might expect from that title, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 is an indie game that heavily features zombies. The game takes the form of a twin stick shooter, where the player moves their character using the left stick, and fires endlessly with the right stick.
Thanks to its satisfyingly addictive mechanics and that rather silly name, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 became one of the biggest hits on XBLIG, and for 80 points it’s easy to see why.
Featuring a soundtrack recorded by the programmer himself (which is literally him wailing “I made a game, with zombies in it” over a guitar track), this is one memorable shooter that’ll keep you and a friend busy for really cheap.
Escape Goat (80 points, $1)
Not just a brilliant pun, Escape Goat is a deliciously 8-bit platformer in which you play the role of a goat… who must escape from a series of rooms. This is typical puzzle platformer stuff, except it’s executed brilliantly and only costs 80 points.
There are certain full priced (800 points plus) games on Xbox Live Arcade that lack the thought and effort put into Escape Goat, making it a particularly compelling purchase.
A game such as this demands tight controls, and thankfully that’s exactly what the developers delivered. If you like block-pushing, button-triggering platformers laden with livestock puns this game’s for you.
Apple Jack & Apple Jack 2 (80 points each, $1)
The original Apple Jack was a brightly coloured platformer that made quite a name for itself in the Xbox Indie community. The game appears to have been inspired by Super Mario Bros 2, the Mario game that isn’t actually a Mario game at all.
In both titles you play the role of Apple Jack, a British chap whose head has been replaced with an Apple. You must collect coins, light up bulbs and throw pandas around in order to beat the many levels.
These are two sweet little platformers that enjoy a great sense of humour, acoustic soundtracks and satisfying level design that’ll keep you busy for hours.
Text Zedventure (80 points, $1)
It’s like a text adventure, but for your Xbox 360! How does that work, you might be asking? It’s a completely re-thought text adventure… one that requires no typing, but multiple-choice instead.
This game has no graphics at all, instead relying on on-screen text and audio accompaniments. The story loosely revolves around a disaster in which your city is overrun with the infected.
A text adventure on your console might not sound like a great idea, but for a dollar this is worth investigating. The idea alone deserves some recognition, and I was personally surprised at just how tense it can get.
The most expensive games on this list at 240 points each, this is an abnormally polished series of XBLIG games developed by full-time game developer Arkedo. They’ve embraced the low price point of the Indie Games platform, while providing a professional quality product you might expect from Xbox Live Arcade. Three times.
Each of their games have some variety for around $3 a go. 01 JUMP (above) is a very shiny and exacting 2D platformer that’s not too dissimilar to the original Mario in its style.
02 SWAP! (above) is a puzzler, and one you’ve probably played before. The idea is to make horizontal and vertical lines of tiles by matching colours. Finally 03 PIXEL! (below) fuses platforming and simple puzzle solving into one rather beautiful and enjoyable final product.
qrth-phyl (240 points, $3)
This is one Xbox Indie Game that’s given me flashbacks – both to the original, chunky Nokia mobile phones and to a time when the funky, trippy visuals of Rez were just hitting the Dreamcast.
qrth-phyl is the love child that Rez and Nokia’s Snake game never had. Not only is the visual style utterly striking and beautiful, the 90s-inspired gameplay means anyone can pick it up and instantly know what to do.
Radiangames have consistently produced Xbox Live Indie Games for a number of years, with a total of 7 games currently available for download. I’ve chosen to highlight three of my favourites, starting with twin-stick shooter Inferno (below).
All of Radiangames’ releases share a neon colour scheme and over the top special effects. Glowing enemies meet vector-like tracer fire resulting in beautiful explosions, though each game offers a slightly different challenge.
These games all take their cues from the arcades. While Inferno is a platform-like shooter, JoyJoy (above) has the most in common with Asteroids while Crossfire (below) takes its inspiration from Space Invaders. A feast for the eyes, and rather good value for 80 points a pop.
You can see the rest of Radiangames’ releases here.
White Noise: A Tale of Horror & White Noise Online (80 points each, $1)
Cashing in on the success of the Slender games, which themselves were based on a SomethingAwful forum meme, White Noise and its sequel White Noise Online are two scare ‘em up games that will scare you sideways.
The idea here is the same as the previous Slender games: wander round in the dark with a flashlight, collecting tapes (previously notes) only to scare yourself senseless when you spy something sinister.
White Noise Online is worth grabbing for its unifying terror – now you and a friend can team up for some co-op tape hunting and inevitable fear.
If you enjoyed this list of titles don’t forget to check out my recent round-up of freebies for your Xbox 360.
What are your favourite Xbox Live Indie Games? What should Microsoft do to preserve the community when the Xbox One arrives? Leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.