Friday, July 23, 2010

Switching Gears

With the release of Ophidian Wars: Opac's Journey recently, it came to my attention that I could do the XNA community a better service by playtesting and peer reviewing. It's like reviewing, but helps developers make their games better and get them online.

There are a ton of other indie review sites out there (check sidebar for some) and quite frankly they were doing a better job than I was staying up to date and offering more features.

This blog is going to become space for company and industry relevant news and updates (and the Ophidian Wars dev blog will stay devoted to Opac's Journey and the upcoming Legend of Kilflame development).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stop the Woodcutter! and Vampire Rage

And I'm back with a healthy Xbox. So back to highlighting some of the best games on XBLIG. This week we look at a notable tower defense game, and an enjoyable shmup.

Stop the Woodcutter! (240 MP)

If you like wood and furry animals, then have I got a game for you. That might not have come out correctly, but "Stop the Woodcutter!" (by Bidibidip) is a nicely done tower defense game where your small army of woodland critters takes down invading lumberjacks (and other anti-tree threats).

It's a lighthearted theme that works well for a tower defense style game. You use 'oxygen' (I might have used 'honey' if it were up to me) to summon animals such as bears, moles, bees, owls, and snails that offer different attacks and abilities. For example the skunk has a huge attack radius and launches stink bombs that can damage multiple enemies over time. The drawback is that they are bit inaccurate and come at a high oxygen cost.

One element I liked from the getgo was the easy control scheme. You can pull up radial menus that allow selection of the various critters (aka towers) - it's all quite intuitive - just rotate the joystick to select, then place them with the "A" button. There's also a ton of levels packed in, across several themes - so I'd estimate about 6-8 hours of fresh gameplay here easily.

The music is upbeat and the SFX get the job done. The levels are a fairly standard tile-based affair, while the cartoony characters and animations are fun.

One little critique I have is that some levels require trial and error to overcome. Until you see the pattern and types of enemies you're facing, you probably won't have a shot on the first try in some cases. Enemies that dig and fly can come in droves when you have essentially zero protection against them. That's a fairly standard element of the learning curve in tower defense games, but one I'd prefer to see a better, more creative solution to. Showing some sort of preview or hint of what the upcoming waves would consist of would be the obvious one.

So if you're looking to quench your latest thirst for tower defense, and don't mind hugging a tree or two, give this one a try. (240 MP)

Vampire Rage (80 MP)

Don't let the name fool you - Vampire Rage (by Tricktale) is a vertical-scrolling overhead shooter pew pew pew roar. Just picture a flying vampire instead of a ship, and you've got the basic idea. I appreciate the thematic twist though, and while not perfect, fans of the genre should agree that it's a nice addition to the XBLIG shmup collection.

So you know the dealio. Craploads of incoming enemies firing insane amounts of "bullets," creating a hellish weave-and-shoot gameplay core. The enemies are big and bold and the action is fast paced. My favorite gameplay element is that the character has a melee sword attack that can be used to deflect most bullets and damage nearby baddies. This creates some additional strategy because while using the sword you cannot fire your main attack - something you often can't afford.

Two other points worth mentioning - there's a light story that helps break up some of the bullet-dodging and there's a co-op mode that you can play with a friend. Nice. My only major gripe is one that I find with many shmups - it's sometimes really hard to see what's going on. There's so many large things on screen at one time that it can be aggravating when you seem to get killed by something you never saw because the bullet was nearly invisible among the other graphics. But maybe I am just getting old.

Anyhow - strong presentation and well-themed shooter - I'd suggest biting on it. Get it? Vampires...yeah.