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We’ve all been there. Microsoft points never manage to come out even; just like carnival tickets, you always have a few left over. But what to do with that extra change after you buy some big new Live Arcade game or DLC expansion? We’ve gathered together 10 of the best Xbox Live Indie games that cost between 80 points ($1) and 240 points ($3) for you to explore. For those not in the know, the Xbox Live Indie Games channel provides an outlet for small developers to release their games at a low price, where they are evaluated by the community and given a chance to rise to the top. Generally smaller and more modest in scope than Xbox Live Arcade games, most of them are also extremely inexpensive. Like Live Arcade games, you can always download a trial version to try before you buy.For the 10 choices that lie ahead, we’ve included links to their pages on xbox.com, so if you’d like, you can download either the trial or full versions while you’re at work, and have the game waiting for you when you get home. We’ve also included video links so you can get a taste of how the game looks in action. We’ve avoided listing any of the numerous “apps” that have cropped up on the Indie channel, like the fireplace and aquarium, or the dubiously named “massage” simulators that cause your controller (or someone else’s) to rumble at high intensities, though those products are all certainly available if that’s your thing. Instead, our choices focus on honest-to-goodness games, some of which rival much larger and more expensive games in depth and ingenuity. Enjoy the feature! And, as always, if you want more information on downloadable and independent games, make sure and check out our Impulse hub by clicking on the image below.
1. SoulcasterDeveloper: MagicalTimeBeanPrice: 240 Microsoft points ($3)Our favorite game on the Indie channel is Soulcaster, a remarkably original and enjoyable fantasy adventure that’s more than worth the price of a cup of coffee it’ll take to purchase it. The game clearly emulates the early days of the Gauntlet franchise in its look, with pixilated environments and characters shown from a top-down view. Don’t let the primitive graphics scare you away, as a great gameplay mechanic is waiting within. You play an old wizard with almost no powers of his own as he wanders into a lost and ruined ancient city. There, he begins to encounter statues that embody heroic spirits from a bygone era; these powerful warriors join the wizard on his journeys, and he can summon them to fight the evil monsters that lie ahead. In practice, the game becomes a mobile tower defense experience, where your position, and that of your towers, is constantly shifting. Each of the three warriors you can summon has unique abilities. One is an armored melee warrior who can hold the line against charging enemies, blockading doors and protecting your other heroes. The second hero shoots arrows over gaps at long distances, but has limited utility in tight spaces. The third hero flings explosive bombs that wreak havoc on the baddies, but only at short range. At any time, you can summon any combination of heroes, including all of the same type. And by the end of the game, you can have access to up to five heroes at once.The result is a game of strategy and planning that still has plenty of action along with the requisite fantasy trappings. It’s a great adventure that is unlike anything else you’ll find on the Xbox Live Indie channel, or anywhere else, for that matter. Try or buy it here
2. Breath of Death VII: The BeginningDeveloper: Zeboyd GamesPrice: 80 Microsoft points ($1)Old school RPG fans rejoice! Zeboyd Games (formerly RainbowDespair) has crafted an entire 8-bit adventure that parodies the classic role-playing games of yesteryear while simultaneously delivering everything you loved about them. In an epic storyline that should take around five hours to complete, you play as silent protagonist Dem the Skeleton, who lives in the undead world that has risen up after humanity wiped itself out in a massive nuclear holocaust. Zombies and ghosts roam freely about the world, just trying to make it by. Alas, as it always seems to go, evil finds its way into this idyllic undead wonderland. Dem and his buddies (including a vampire techie, ghost historian, and zombie prince) are all that stands in the path of devastation. For a parody game, the mechanics that lie behind the project are incredibly solid, with an engaging battle system that emulates the early Dragon Warrior games, but with the advantage of current-gen tech to make fights fly by and turn leveling from a chore into an enjoyable diversion from the story. The game is chock full of humor, most notably in the character of Dem. Though silent in speech, the player is privy to the thoughts of their hero, which usually turn to disbelief at the stupid behaviors that everyone around him seems to exhibit in this clichéd RPG world. Rarely will you find a game that gives you so much entertainment for so little money. Plus, if you like the game, you can look forward to the imminent release of Cthulhu Saves the World, the next project from Zeboyd. Try or buy it here
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.