Xbox Live Indie Games Insider Volume 2

This week’s review batch consists of two new releases aimed at classic RPG and platforming afficionados, and an older gem from the days of the Community Games which has yet to receive its due.

Game of the Week:

Aphelion
Considering most Indie Games look like a five-year-old opened up a scripting program and banged the keyboard on the floor for a few minutes, whenever a truly quality game makes it way onto my screen I’m always pleasantly surprised. With that in mind, Aphelion is, by far, the most surprising Indie game yet. It’s a sci-fi turn-based RPG in the same vein as the PS1-era Final Fantasies, complete with top-down exploration and random enemy encounters, yet it’s the game’s visual design which best differentiates it from anything on the market today.

The 2-D, hand-drawn characters and environments remind me of the 16-bit Phantasy Stars, which I never fully got into but had always wanted to. Aphelion is also excellently paced, meaning you’ll never really be bored in the five plus hours it takes to finish the first story playthrough. A full suite of RPG mainstays are featured here, including combo attacks, crafting, leveling up, and cute female party members with completely unsafe battle attire. I was even surprised to find that the game’s dialogue (all by way of text windows) is quite well written.

Aphelion is not perfect as some of the animations look awkward and I found it particularly annoying that the main character always runs at the top of the screen when exploring. There should be a way to center him or at least look forward before running into an area, but overall the good far outweighs the bad and I’d actually prefer a short, quality game like Aphelion once every few months in place of overhyped mainstream rubbish like DeathSpank any day. BUY IT!

Platformance: Castle Pain
Technically, “Platformance” is supposed to be in ALL CAPS but I absolutely despise when companies do that. Every time I scroll through my library I consider deleting Scott Pilgrim and Sonic the Hedgehog on this very principle alone. Despite the unfortunate title, Platformance is a throwback to the oldest of the old school platformers. Not even NES old, but Amiga, or Commodore. There are almost more pixels in Simon Belmont’s hair than there are in all of Platformance, and the adventure is just as hard as the games of yonder.

You play a knight who, despite the nature of his character’s job, must avoid every danger he encounters, including but not limited to giant fireballs, ghosts, spikes, and bird droppings. Fans of N+ or Super Meat Boy will feel somewhat at home, though survival is just as much about puzzle-solving as it is twitch gameplay. Do you have what it takes to rescue the pixelated princess and get you some? DEMO IT and find out.

Prismatic
Although there are some great games in the Indie marketplace, they seem to be few and far between. Upon my random trial scowering many morn ago, I happened upon Prismatic. I’m not actually that huge of a puzzle fanatic outside of Bejeweled Blitz, but for one reason or another (probably my unhealthy obsession with rainbows) I downloaded Prismatic and was happy to find what I believe to be one of the better puzzle games on the 360, indie or otherwise. The story revolves around Sleeping Beauty being cursed again, but it’s all really just a poorly-executed annoyance keeping you from the 100 levels of puzzle goodness that awaits.

To reach the princess, you’ll need to use prisms and mirrors to reflect and split beams of light. You only have a set amount of pieces to achieve your goal, and some levels can even be completed with multiple solutions–though my ADHD and impulse to shoot my way through problems keeps me from doing anything more than the bare minimum required to move on in games like this.

I see that even after quite some time in the Indie market, Prismatic has not really received much attention and I hope that you all will at least DEMO IT. It’s 400MS, which is a tad high in terms of Indie pricing these days, but if you like puzzle games and cool chain reactions, this might just be worth it.