Are you so poor that you have to use both sides of the toilet paper? Are you finding that you need to put DLC on layaway? Are you finding that those knockoff titles like Space Dragons or Zombie Shooter 2 don’t have the knockoff prices you want? Then you’re in luck. For just 1600 MS points or just around twenty bucks, you can download some of the best titles on XBox Live. These indie games play like full titles without the full price.
Here's several games that you can pick up for just $20. Now maybe you can finally invest something you need ... like soap or a personality. At least, that's what I'm spending the forty bucks I saved on.
Zombie Estate – 80
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from sifting indie games, zombies are everywhere. Zombie Estate once again throws a shotgun in your hands and your body in harms way. Just like I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB13S 1NIT!!!1 (You have played this, right? Well, go download it now.), Zombie Estate lets you take on hordes of enemies with crazy weapons. From the downed foes, you’ll collect ammo and cash to spend at the shop for better weapons, ranging from machine guns to animal launchers.
Okay. I really haven’t made a case for why Zombie Estate stands out from the mad rush of zombie titles. It’s all in the look – 8-bit figures in a 3D world. Swarms of the 2D undead will rise from their flat world to feast on your little flat brains. Even firing on them causes them to lose little 8-bit pieces of themselves. It would be adorable if it weren’t so horrifying. Up to four players can tear around the field firing and fighting the undead with anything they can get their hands on. 80 MS points are a small price to pay to crush the living dead.
Epic Dungeon – 80
Hardcore dungeon crawler. If you just started to salivate over those three words, then this is the game for you. Released during the Winter Uprising, this 8-bit dungeon crawler pits you against an endless well of monsters, loot, and graves just waiting for your body. You pick one of four classes, each with their own special ability ranging from freezing enemies around you to creating a mechanical orb to fight for you. As you level up, you can start taking on the abilities of the other classes. That is, if you live that long.
Behind every corner of this title, there’s a really great idea just waiting for you to discover. When you die in Epic Dungeon, you’re dead. You start back from the beginning with nothing more than the sting of defeat. If you make it back down to your body, you can pick up one item from your inventory. The lamp you carry slowly runs out of oil so you’re forced to spend money to refill it. Shop scroll will take you to the next shop or to the previous one. A shop two floors down will have better items along with tougher foes. And the nifty quick save feature lets you take on as much dungeon crawling as you can handle in one sitting.
Soulcaster – 240
We’ve seen dungeon crawling. How about passive-aggressive dungeon crawling? No, your mother is not going to appear in this title. This is a game about attacking with creatures you summon instead of taking on the world all on your own. From the start of the game, you get to summon one of three men – an archer, a warrior, and a pyro. Molotov cocktails were medieval, right? You can place them around the board in any order or even multiples of the same type in order to fend off the waves of enemies. With creatures popping up from various locals, you’re often picking up your men and tossing them around to fit the situation.
Here’s Soulcaster’s dirty little secret – it’s not really a dungeon crawler. Sure, you are crawling through a dungeon but you’ll quickly find yourself face first in a pool of your own blood if you approach the game as such. It’s a puzzle game. It’s a strategy game. It’s a very small tower defense game where you’re just trying to save your own ass. Soulcaster takes a bit to get the hang of it but it’s an amazing twist to the old formula. If you happen to make it through this one, you can give the sequel a spin as well.
Solar – 80
Breathe. Relax. Now pick up the controller. You are a star drifting through space. Yeah, I know. I just blew your mind, but keep up with me. As a star drifting through space, you are trying to gather planets. These planets are trying to gather moons. As you gather more debris, you can compact that into a bigger and more hospitable planet. Eat your planets to make yourself a bigger star to collect bigger planets or evolve those worlds to create life, ships, and weapons to attack other wandering galaxies. Yeah, I know. It’s a lot to take in.
Solar reminds me of Flow in that it’s simple and complicated, relaxing and yet with a purpose. If you are someone who needs those pesky little goals, there’s a mode for that. The game times you on how long it takes for you to become a giant black hole or to absorb everything in the universe. Mostly, this is game about flying lost through the often inhospitable universe to find something that you’re not sure about until you see it. It’s a lot like life, but at least I think I can win this at one.
Beat Hazard – 400
More games should use your music as apart of the gameplay. Beat Hazard is a Geometry Wars-style shooter that takes your music and designs a level around it. Slower songs with longer notes produce slower enemies or long strings of smaller ships. Faster and bigger beats give you faster and bigger enemies. The game fills in the rest with asteroids and other hazards to keep the music going and your thumbs dancing. Simple ideas are often the best when you execute them with explosions, power-ups, and lots of bullets.
Break out the glowsticks. The music starts off low but volume power-up lets up pump up the jams. Your shots fire out like a string of roman candles, exploding against the black background. The louder the music gets the more firepower pours out of your ship. It quickly becomes clear why there’s a seizure warning every time you boot up the game. The lights and sound can get pretty intense. Being able to play with your own music is a great way to keep the player’s thumbs on the controller. At least, it's guaranteed that you'll like the soundtrack.
The TEMPURA of the DEAD – 240
JPN 8bit fanatics
Mr. President, we have a situation. Zombies are attacking America. Fortunately, there’s a lone samurai with the power to dispatch the wandering dead. It seems that the only way to really kill a zombie is to serve their head up tempura-style. Take off the head. Dice it up while it’s in the air. It releases the soul and creates a tasty treat. Do you have what it takes to travel the US, take out zombies, and to release their souls? Oh, yes you can.
Once you get over the fact that you can play as a character that bears more than a passing resemblance to Obama, you’ll dive right into this action-platformer. The main tactic that you need to work on is your head juggling. Both the samurai sword and the president’s gun can separate the head clean from the body. Once up in the air, you’ll need to time your hits. Do it enough and you’ll get Tempura Fever where every hit will cause the head to fly into the air. Not only does this give you more points, but you’ll earn special points to buy new and powerful weapons. There’s a learning curve but you’ll get the hang of it. You’re killing zombies, after all.
Arkedo Series – 03 Pixel! – 240
Arkedo has certainly made a name for itself in the world of Xbox indie games. Smart, solid, and retro; the games coming out of Arkedo have built up quite the following over the past couple of years. Pixel! follows the adventures of a spunky cat with the same name as he explores the world, kills sentient fruit, and leaps from floating platform to floating platform. Beyond jumping, stomping, and trying not to fall to your death; you can scan certain blocks in the area. These blocks let you leap into them and search each of their pixels for a switch that can give you a prize or change the world around you. It’s old-school mechanics for only a couple of bucks.
Even from the start, there’s something just fun about the look and feel of Pixel!. Like its namesake, big blocky pixels make up this monochromatic world. Spaces in between the blocks let the blue light of the background shine through. Even with such simple designs, the animations clearly show off the characters and other enemies of the game. Pressing down will cause Pixel to hunker down in preparation to pounce. Even a single jump has expresses more life than most Final Fantasy cutscenes.
Cthulhu Saves the World – 240
You had me at Lovecraft. Honestly, I’m a fan of the Deep One (insert your dirty joke here), but the boys over at Zyboyd Games have created an RPG that’s both unique and entertaining. As the aforementioned monster, you need to turn your world devourer into a world saver in order to reclaim his power – to be a world devourer yet again. The dialogue is snappy with its tongue placed firmly in its check. Cthulhu only cares about one thing – Cthulhu. Much like the rest of this game, bits of story and worn out JRPG conventions have been recycled for comedy fodder. Nothing is sacred when the great Elder God needs to save the world.
Much like their previous game Breath of Death VII, there’s both a love of the genre as well as an understanding of the problems plaguing it. Random battles, for example, can now be met at any time as you explore the dungeon. Each area has 25 random battles. You can wander around, waiting for enemies to attack, or you can get the virtual jump on them at the touch of a button. Now you can burn through your supply of enemies and explore the 8-bit bastion in peace. CSTW throws in combos, insanity, and a deeper level of strategy than just picking between attacking and magic. The end of the game is just the beginning with additional modes waiting for you to take them on.
The game has been so successful that the developers are making a director's edition – Cthulhu Saves the World: Super Hyper Enhanced Championship Edition Alpha Diamond DX Plus Alpha FES HD – Premium Enhanced Game of the Year Collector’s Edition (without Avatars!). So if you wait just a little longer, you get more modes and a small taste of Fez. If that’s a reason to buy this great RPG, then you might just be insane. And not the fun kind.
What indie games are you checking out on your Xbox?