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If you've never experienced the pleasure of browsing the cesspool that is the Xbox Live indie game marketplace, let me go ahead and fill you in on what you're missing.
Roughly 50 percent of all indie titles available are creepy dating sims featuring extremely busty women. These also come in the puzzle game variety, often simple match three games but with, you guessed it, scantily clad anime girls in the background. Around 30 percent of the market is comprised of games that use your Xbox Live Avatar, mostly niche sports titles or mining games in the vein of Minecraft. The other 19 percent games are a wonderful smorgasbord of piss poor visuals, strange music, and incomprehensible gameplay. This is mostly because the indie game marketplace serves as a training ground of sorts for novice programmers and game designers, and as such there is no real standard of quality in place. Then of course, this is also what makes the indie marketplace great.
If you've been doing the math (go you!) you will notice that the above only makes up 99 percent of indie games on Xbox Live. But what about the other one percent, you ask? That my friends, is reserved for a handful of games that are pure gold. The nice part about Xbox Live arcade and the indie game market is that every game comes with a free trial. If you are willing to do some digging and get your hands dirty, you will find that there are some real hidden gems hidden among the dirt. These games go unseen by most, but I figured I would use this blog post to highlight some of the titles that have brought me hours of entertainment, often times for as cheap as $1. These games are so good, I would at least pay $2.
This game has ADHD. No really. Shutshimi is a stylish side scrolling 2D shooter where you play as a goldfish with beefy muscle builder arms. "So what?" you say. "Half of the indie games on Xbox Live feature characters with beefy muscle arms." That's a big of an exaggeration, but I see your point. What makes Shutshimi truly special is its addictive and hyperactive gameplay loop. Shooting segments only last 10 seconds, after which you are brought to an item shop where item descriptions and icons are randomized. Hidden in the text description for each item is a small nugget of truth that (sometimes) gives you a better idea of what choosing the item will do to your character for the next 10 seconds. And you only have 8 seconds to choose. The game is so fast paced, so zany, and so ridiculously fun that I've played it for more than two hours and have yet to tire of it.
Mount Your Friends
You may have seen this game played in the first round of this year's GI Super Replay Showdown, where Andrew Reiner came out with a hard earned win. If you did, then you know that Mount Your Friends is one of the most hilarious and intense multiplayer games ever created. The game's name is pretty self explanatory. The object of the game is to build a tower of bodies, alternating between players. Each player must mount their friends and reach the top before time runs out. If they do, they add to the increasingly tall man mountain and increase the difficulty for the next player. If they don't they're out. It's great fun, as you must control each limb individually with the face buttons of the controller, resulting in some wacky poses and strategies. Also spinning man meat.
Every Game Made By Zeboyd Games
It started with Breath of Death VII, an old school fantasy RPG in the vein of classic Final Fantasy that featured great gameplay, music, and sense of humor as it poked fun of classic JRPG tropes. Next came Cthulhu Saves The World, starring everybody's favorite giant elder god in his mission to save the world so that he can later destroy it. These two games are so good in fact that Penny Arcade contacted Zeboyd to make the third and fourth entries in the Penny Arcade: On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness series, bringing the developer's signature old school RPG touch and humor to the franchise. All four games are well worth playing for RPG fans and be sure to keep Zeboyd's upcoming game, Cosmic Star Heroine, on your radar.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure
We all know and love Oregon Trail. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is Oregon Trail on LSD. It's the same basic concept of Oregon Trail, a party of pioneers is attempting to go west and along the way they encounter obstacles like disease, hunger, and wagon malfunctions. In Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, these mundane challenges are replaced with bullet hell hunting sequences, ninja attacks, and wagon jumps into space. It even has unlockable wagons with different abilities! This game is a blast to play with friends due to its fast pace and sheer randomness, so definitely check it out next time you are looking for a good laugh.
Satire isn't something you often see in video games, but DLC Quest does it brilliantly. Upon starting, your character is practically useless. To gain "additional" abilities like jumping you must farm coins to purchase in game DLC in order unlock basic game functionality and access to new areas. You can even buy some completely unnecessary but undeniably fancy horse armor. The game is annoying by design and requires tons of backtracking, but its humor makes it worth playing. Also worthy of note is DLC Quest's uhh, DLC, titled Live Fremium or Die.
Many of these games can be found on Steam for cheap if you can't give em of try on Xbox Live. While the indie game marketplace is definitely a strange beast, keep your eyes open. Every once in a while you'll find a game like some of the above that deserve some recognition and can bring you hours of entertainment. For only a few bucks, what's not love?