Here's a surprising little platformer that you might have missed. Some might incorrectly assume from afar that the graphics are really basic or amateur. But when you look closer and then actually play the game, it obvious that Jump! uses the pixelated look on purpose, but with an impressive amount of visual polish and care. I'd actually go out on a limb here and say this has some of the best art direction I've seen on XBLIG, and a good dose of effects that really add to the experience.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward and involves diffusing (or really just touching) bombs before the timer runs down then getting to the exit. The controls are tight/responsive and there are some additional gameplay elements that let you toss knives at enemies and so forth. And then it's the standard affair of avoid hazards and enemies.
There's not much to dislike here - it's just a good example of a game you can't judge to quickly because once you jump in you sort of realize that while it visually pays respect to the old arcade look, it's got a ton of extra power under the hood (I hate car analogies, but I was stumped). The only real issue I have is that the game is on the short side for the 240MP price and you don't really know how far the through the game you're getting. With no continues, it can be tough to budget your lives - and starting over from the beginning can be a little 'arrrrrggggg.' Have a go though.
A-maze!-ING (80 MP)
The overall gameplay has potential, but it lacks visual polish and needs some additional features to create some greater depth and satisfaction. You'll be able to judge this one quickly by trying the demo.
This is a basic game that sort of feels like a frantic open-level-style Frogger. You have to travel north quickly while navigating barriers (maze?) and avoid insta-kill from enemies that are traveling quickly left-to-right. That's about it - it's a little bare bones and the graphics aren't much to speak of honestly. You're also racing a clock which adds another level of intensity, but I couldn't decide if it was the good kind or bad kind of anxiety I was feeling.
Rad River Run (240 MP)
The first thing that struck me about this one one was the nice 3D graphics (see screenshot). The textures and models are rich and colorful and while the water performs a bit oddly (seems to flow in weird directions), it still looks impressive. It's nice to see a developer employ 3D on this platform, as it's quite rare.The goal of the game is to navigate 'down' the river collecting beach balls that are worth varying amounts of points. You also need to avoid obstacles and the walls, which tend to ricochet you around in an unpleasing "boi-inggg" manner.
The concept is simple enough to be fun, and I can imagine it can get pretty competitive if you have someone to face off with - but where the game let me down was the controls. Because the game is based heavily on navigation, the awkward controls were hard to overcome. While I can understand it's probably quite difficult to mimic the natural movement of a craft in water, I have a feeling that testing would have revealed that players would struggle with the controls. They don't have to be realistic, just more responsive and manageable. Because there is a point penalty for bouncing off walls/obstacles, it can be a bit frustrating too - a little more polish on navigating the craft would make a world of difference.