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Quick Review: Game Type

Microsoft’s recent Metro UI update has come with its fair share of early problems. Chief among them is the displacement of actual videogames in favor of banal advertisements and a focus on multi-media branding. This is a real concern for some indie developers especially, as they’re so often left without proper advertising or representation on the Dashboard. Replacing functionality with superfluous adverts and further shrouding the indie scene simply isn’t doing developers any favors.

And so Weapon of Choice dev Mommy’s Best Games have created a sardonic send-up of Microsoft’s latest update, highlighting an issue that’s sure to affect the XNA community as a whole. Developed within the span of a week, Game Type replicates the frustrations inherent in the new UI update by mocking the process of searching out games.

Recent changes dictate that the player must slog their way through a variety of trivial adverts to reach the games marketplace. “I’ve been thrilled Microsoft created the special Dashboard tile just for our game. It’s such a terrible name which I created as a placeholder while starting the project,” explained designer Nathan Foust in a recent Press Release. “With the incongruous stock photo of a woman in a hoodie doing a jump-kick, and the forgettable ‘Game Type‘ title, it’s good to know Microsoft was advertising our poorly-named game, and not trying to label the console’s entire digital game storefront. Otherwise, it’d be a horrible match that would simply make no sense and generally lead fewer gamers to find the store and browse on their own terms.”

Game Type begins with a splash screen for the MediaBall console (a play on the Xbox 360’s generic re-branding as an all-purpose media device) and it is briefly followed by all kinds of banal frontloaded adverts. Some of them have extra content to click through while others are merely for show. There are plenty of distractions there but none further the user’s experience in the context of a videogame; they’re generally only beneficial for advertisers and confusing the consumer.

Also, once you’ve gotten past the artsy reactionary statement, Game Type happens to be a Shoot ‘em up starring the random jump-kicking gal from the Microsoft promotion. There’s nothing that says indie spirit quite like weaponizing a non-descript figure as a heroine in the fight against the proliferation of anti-functionality and adverts. The embodied adverts take form as the primary enemy, led by the evil MediaBall.

Given the confines of the week-long development timeframe, Mommy’s Best Games have probably done all they could with the formula but it doesn’t always come across as entirely polished or fully executed. There’s plenty of room for improvement but there’s no time or real necessity for it. Game Type makes a prodding statement against the new Metro UI and its way interesting seeing these indie devs fight so passionately for the space (especially if you’ve ever seen what generally fills the Indie channels).

In that it makes some kind of statement on behalf of indie devs, Game Type is a success. It’s mostly successful because it’s gotten us talking about the new interface and is well-executed enough as a kind of reaction statement to draw some concern for the future of Xbox Live Indie Games. It’s almost an impressive thing in itself that the devs have compiled what’s presented so quickly and that it still plays as a semi-competent shmup. It’s a cut above the general XBLIG fare but maybe a notch below the dev’s own work on the ageless Shoot1Up. Turns out, Mommy’s Best Games are pretty efficient when working in the genre.

Game Type seems like the most constructive and creative response, providing an entry that exemplifies the current system’s problems while also contributing something worthwhile to the community and opens things up for discussion.

So, how can you find Game Type? Well… You probably won’t. That’s the idea.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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