The Indie Zone – Episode 17

After a short break, the Indie Zone is back with reviews for VideoWars, Kick’n It, All the Bad Parts, Jellyfish MD.

VideoWars – 80 :MSPoints:- Marketplace

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VideoWars, sounds like something you’d hear from a rad 80’s movie, right? Well luckily for you (and me) that is not the case, instead we’re presented with a wonderful real-time strategy game that is both simple in style, yet rich in gameplay. Really, VideoWars is a real gem in the massive amount of mundane Xbox LIVE indie titles out on the marketplace right now. 

A few game modes come with VideoWars including Quick Start, Skirmish, and Challenge. The first game mode, Quick Start is rather self-explanatory, where you get dropped into a battle as a random faction  and it walks you through a simple one-match tutorial to get you started. Skirmish mode is where you choose your faction from Defenders, Bugs, Robots, Zombies, or Tanks with either one or two players locally to battle against your friends or AI at one, two, or three star difficulty on the map of your choice. Challenge mode predictably puts you straight on the battlefield with a preset faction and map, having you perform specific tasks or rack up as many points as you can within the constraints. All of the game modes are solid, easily fulfilling my taste for a pick-up-and-play strategy game (and one I plan on returning to) with incredibly simple, yet effective controls.

Onto the more technical side of things, where VideoWars easily excels. It was very obvious from the start of the game that the developers were looking to pay homage to the classic arcade games such as Robotron 2084, Galaga, and others with an overall 8-bit look to the game. Those visuals combined with chiptune music, and an ambient arcade track that plays from start to finish on loop (that actually works very well) makes this game a pleasure to see and hear. Further note on the ambient track, I thought that was an incredibly nice touch to an otherwise bland soundtrack, where the various arcade noises really immersed me in my one on one arcade experience. So if you’re a fan of the retro look on games, look no further than VideoWars to satisfy your every 8-bit want and desire. 

VideoWars is by no means the most in-depth RTS game I’ve ever seen, but for what it’s worth (especially compared to other games of the genre on the XBLIG marketplace) it is pretty high up there in terms of quality and overall fun with a more minimalistic approach to RTS games which I found to be a really great way of approaching the genre to make a game anyone could pick up and play, while still being incredibly hard with the right AI. Did I mention this isn’t like most other XBLIG titles that charge 240 :MSPoints:? The developer should be charging that or higher for this quality title, but instead it’s going for just 80 :MSPoints: or one dollar, and trust me, you’re not going to find a dollar better spent than on this game. So hop to it people!


Kick’n It – 240 :MSPoints: – Marketplace 

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Unsurprisingly, Kick’n It is a game about Hacky Sack (or Foot Bag in the UK) that works exactly how you think it would, but with an added bit of flair including your own avatars to use as players in-game, and it’s pretty entertaining seeing Robin from the Batman series play around with a Hacky Sack. I was a bit surprised with this title, as I never thought I could see a game about playing with a Hacky Sack being all that fun, but it’s a great little time-waster. 

The game features a few different game modes right off the bat for Single Player, the first of which is a series of challenges aptly named “Tutorial Challenges” that introduces you to the control scheme of the game and the various tricks you can perform. The second game-mode is “Freestyle” where you’re free to do whatever you wish, with no time limit or restrictions, it’s just you and your Hacky Sack free to do what you wish. The third (and fourth) game modes are the “Tournament” and “Pro Tournament” modes where you’re put to the test on a 90 second timer with 9 hacky sacks to rack up the highest score you can, in the “Pro Tournament” mode is similar to the regular tournament, but you have an unlimited amount of Hacky Sacks with sped-up gravity on a 90 second timer which I found to be incredibly difficult myself.  Aside from “Kick’n It” alone, there’s also an added multiplayer mode (local only) where you can go against another player in “Bomb Squad”, “Head 2 Head”, “Footbag Net”, or play in the only co-operative multiplayer mode “Team Freestyle” where the first three modes are various point challenges against the other player, the fourth being exactly like the single player “Freestyle” mode but with another person. As far as controls go for all of the game modes, they seem to be pretty solid and straightforward, except for the “Pro Tournament” mode where every movement is sped up making controlling your feet a real hassle. 

Hacky Sack doesn’t seem all that exciting, or at least it isn’t to most people. In order to make up for the bland nature of the foot-centric game the developer decided to throw in some ambient and upbeat electronic tracks to keep the player awake and alert through the various game modes, where the most intense tracks can be found in both of the “Tournament” modes, and the lighter tracks fittingly found in the “Freestyle” modes. What’s another way to make a boring concept exciting? Adding in familiar landmarks and places as backdrops for Hacky Sack arenas, and that’s exactly what the developer did. The premise seems a bit lazy on the developers part, adding in images I could probably find from a quick search of “Historical Landmarks” on Google images, but I’ll give the guy credit it’s better than no background. 

All in all, let’s be honest here, it’s Hacky Sack. I honestly can’t see a huge market for the game, but hey if you’re a big fan of Hacky Sack and have three bucks to spend on the XBLIG marketplace why not? Otherwise, I do not recommend buying this game unless you’re looking for a quick little time-waster, because that’s all you’ll get from this game besides a decent soundtrack and lazy visuals. 


All the Bad Parts – 80 :MSPoints:- Marketplace

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With a name like “All the Bad Parts” you wouldn’t be expecting much in terms of quality, but I can assure you the game is not nearly as Bad as it might sound at first. With a mix of voice acting straight out of The Sims’ Simlish language, side-scrolling beat-em-up combat, and plot twists right out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie All the Bad Parts makes for an incredibly interesting hour or two of solid and surprisingly tough gameplay. 

Throughout the story-line, you’ll be transported to your early, mid, and late cycles of life each replaying pivotal events from the “Bad Parts” of your memory which might be as simple as collecting papers for a late assignment in grade school, to something much more grim down the line. That said, while replaying through these memories you’ll be confronted with some very odd enemies of people, both young and old, short and tall with either a rat, mouse, or insect head trying to prevent you from replaying said past events, going as far as well, killing you. Besides the story-line, the gameplay mechanics are solid with the blocking, punching, and kicking all working well but all becoming incredibly repetitive by the time you reach stage three and you just keep smashing the punch to defeat whatever, or whoever crosses your path. For what it’s worth, gameplay isn’t bad considering it’s a beat-em-up, and provides some solid challenge even on the medium difficulty where I found myself getting my ass handed to me more than once on the third stage.

As you can see in the gallery above, All the Bad Parts sports some above-average graphics for an Indie title on the Xbox Marketplace, mixing together 3D scenery with a 2D playing mechanic. Even thought the graphics are indeed above average for what the XBLIG Marketplace has to offer, this game won’t blow anyone away graphically, sporting some polished vector graphics and 3D models to put it above most XBLIG with simple 2D graphics. While the graphics aren’t perfect, with some minor graphical bugs such as the floor seen flashing on the ground, the environments are varied and vast for what is offered, making sure no one area is similar to the others and that I can appreciate. On the musical side of things, each area of the game through your life will have different music, with upbeat simple music playing in the school, to some more variety seen in the dorms and third stage offering noticeable variety instead of keeping the track the same loop throughout the entire game. Even though variety is given, that variety in itself is very limited to only three, four or five tracks in all being played throughout the 2 hour or so long game. 

At first glance I thought All the Bad Parts was nothing more than your run of the mill horror game, walking through your past life and nothing more. Gladly I was surprised to see a decent story unfold through the levels, with a decent fighting mechanic to keep me interested, and kill me more than once. If you’re not the type of person that likes to read too much dialogue, or think you’ll get bored with the repetitive fighting mechanic of the game, you might want to pass, but for only a dollar there isn’t much to lose with the investment for a game that’s defiantly above the average seen on the marketplace today.  I’d strongly suggest checking out the demo for this title first before making any conclusions yourself, as text is a limited medium for expression. Marketplace link is above next to the title. 


Jellyfish MD – 80 :MSPoints: – Marketplace 

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Jellyfish MD is one of the most far-fetched games I’ve seen in a long, long time. So, you are a jellyfish who operates on other jellyfish via bejeweled-esque puzzles in the third dimension. Supposedly the colored bubbles in the jellyfish are the infected part you’re trying to destroy with your magic ability to manipulate jellyfish from the inside-out, killing whatever is infecting the victim by matching up the infected bacteria bubbles to rack up points and perform combos, but we’re not going to try to make sense of this take on jellyfish anatomy. 

Despite Jellyfish MD’s silly premise, the game does deliver on the puzzle aspect of the game, offering up three to four patients on the initial game modes, with twenty plus challenge levels to test out your doctorate degree in jellyfish anatomy. The emergency room mode of the game throws you into three levels ranging from easy to hard with an unlimited amount of moves and unconstrained play. The operating room game mode throws a similar three levels at you, but you have a set amount of moves to clear all of the infections out of the patient, requiring a good bit of thought (or more thought than I have). The final, and probably best game mode of the three presented are the challenges, providing the most game time with over twenty different scenarios of mind-bending puzzles. For what the game’s worth besides the incredibly odd premise, the puzzles work well with an intuitive control scheme taking full advantage of the 360 controller providing an above-average challenge. But one must ask, why jellyfish? I am contemplating asking him myself. 

Jellyfish aren’t known for their musical skills, which isn’t all that surprising considering they only have giant membrane-like bodies and tentacles to work with. Luckily, this jellyfish game has some surprisingly decent music with an upbeat, electronic feel to it all in the menu screen, and a calm and serene playlist for when you’re trying to focus on the varied puzzles. Great music for what it’s worth, it’s just not all that varied with only a handful of different tracks you’ll hear throughout the entire experience. Another thing games like this aren’t known for are their graphics, with puzzle games being very tame in the graphics department. As far as this game goes, besides the few different jellyfish you see at the start screen, you’re only going to be looking at the same bubbles inside of the fish to operate on. Not varied in the slightest, but it works well for a simple game such as this, I was not going in expecting the kind of graphics from AAA titles from a one dollar indie title. 

I said it once and I will say it again, despite being incredibly silly Jellyfish MD works well overall, but I couldn’t find myself or many other people being all that interested in the premise of operating on other jellyfish, but to each his own. My advice, if you’re looking for a quick puzzle fix this is the game for you, otherwise I’d just stay away or try the demo.


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