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Xbox Live Indie Games Nook: September 2011

The idea is, the best content always rises to the top. Looking past the further imitations of everyone’s favorite Facebook games, August was surprisingly inoffensive, mostly. A month featuring a service’s biggest promotions – in Summer Uprising and Build.Dream.Play. – tends to have that effect on a platform. This article has not been reviewed by Microsoft or a ratings board.

Top picks

Moon Cheese

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Quietly brilliant, Moon Cheese follows an arcade-like appeal in its simplicity. The mechanics are so deceptively simple, essentially based on gravity and timing the occasional boost you’re given for scraping close to the ground. Further waves mix things up just a little, but it falls short of going further, refusing anything so complicated as a second level. Despite being narrow in focus (and display), Moon Cheese makes economical use of what it’s got. It’s a compulsively playable, unpretentious little indie title and is well worth downloading.

VideoWars

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Strategy fans take note. VideoWars achieves that hard-to-find balance between real-time strategy and stripped down tower defense that keeps things fast and to the point. It also uses characters from ’80s arcade games as a motif for its factions, and between its variety in challenges and skirmishes, is hard to put down.

Honorable mentions

T.E.C. 3001

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What initially seemed like a banner release for the Summer Uprising, T.E.C. 3001‘s vivid look is admittedly less appealing matched with the stubborn gameplay and indifference to any concept beyond running for the hell of it. Still, running’s not really an interesting thing to convey in a videogame, and T.E.C. 3001 makes due with its well realized attempt at creating one of those stripped down running games, only in 3D. Any other month, this would be a top pick and is certainly well crafted enough to warrant a strong recommendation.

Ninja Sneaking

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A unique concept to be sure, Ninja Sneaking is only withheld from reaching its full potential by its inconsistent checkpointing. There’s still something delightful to be experienced, however, in the title’s nicely realized mixture of stealth-oriented platforming, occasional skewed perspectives, and even a bit of combat. It’s a fun, bite-sized indie title with a cute art style and concept, which should be enough. The game’s already quintessentially Japanese in all the best ways, it’s just too bad most of us will likely only experience a portion of that. Floors can be replayed in a training mode, but a person can only re-do the same section so many times…

Andromium

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By nature of being a vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up without shooting, Andromium doesn’t look like much. However, it’s got a single mechanical twist – passing a piece of heated rock back and forth with a friend who runs along a separate part of the screen, while trying not to hold on so long it kills you. That’s really not enough for any game, but it’s mechanically interesting enough for 80 MSP, far better than much of what passes for a one-buck fix and barely having to use the price as an excuse.

Cursed Loot

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Cursed Loot is Epic Dungeon by a new name, with an all new character class (a Goblin, with regenerating health), among other additions. Supplemental content only strengthens our recommendation. For genre fans, there are few better ways to spend a dollar. Yeah, the game’s only a buck, but that’s not reflected in the quality. One dollar. That said, it really should have been an update, so if you’ve played Epic Dungeon and don’t want to do so again – this time with a green avatar – we won’t hold that against you. Assholes.

Parasitus: Ninja Zero

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Bearing an uncanny resemblance to early Castlevania games, Parasitus nearly hits the mark. What throws it off is a distinct lack of polish. Enemies move too quickly, yet are easy to exploit. The platforming simply feels wrong. It’s a shame, because Parasitus has a lot of potential in its art style and general feel for the Castlevania formula. However, it still has the potential to be turned into something more worthy of its inspiration. It’ll just need a few smart patches to get there.

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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