16 Xbox Live Indie Games you should play before I die

by Darius Kazemi on August 24, 2012

in xblig

I play a lot of Xbox Live Indie Games. While the platform is full of shitty zombie games, shitty avatar games, shitty platformers, and shitty twin-stick shooters, there is also some interesting and/or fun stuff on there too. Here are 16 games that range from actually fun (Epic Dungeon) to jarringly strange (Wirral Railway).

Fish Listening to Radio

You are a fish. You’re listening to your radio. Suddenly, hooks arrive.

Made by Ziba Scott over at Popcannibal, this game injects much-needed twee into the Xbox repertoire. Best played in co-op mode with up to four players.

I have listened to the banjo loop (presumably emanating from the radio) for hours on end. The fish have great taste in music.

Fun fact: I severely freaked out Ziba Scott when I met him at GDC, noticed his badge said “Popcannibal”, and yelled “HOLY SHIT YOU’RE THE GUY WHO MADE FISH LISTENING TO RADIO!!!!”

The war of the end of the days

If you play one XBLIG game, make it this one. No joke: I have gotten more entertainment out of The war of the end of the days than I have out of almost any other game I own. And it’s not because it’s bad — the game is clearly Diego Salazar’s first release as a game dev, and it is poorly made — but the game is very interesting. I explain why here.

Rainbow Ball into Adventure

Totally delightful game. I’ll just quote my long review of the game:

My favorite moment from Katamari Damacy is when you roll up your first cat and you realize that the sound effect is just one of the developers saying, “Meow!” (He doesn’t even bother with a falsetto!) Rainbow Ball is that moment over and over and over again — and I can’t get enough of it.

Epic Dungeon / Cursed Loot

Originally released as Epic Dungeon, then re-released as Cursed Loot with more classes/skills/stuff, this is a solid, sorta-casual roguelike with a great pixel art style. It’s “casual” in that there aren’t a huge number of stats or items to manage, but it’s pretty difficult even on easy mode. I had a bunch of friends over at my house this last weekend and everyone got way into it — and as you can see here, it takes about 1.5 hours to beat on easy. Unlike most of the other games on this list, Epic Dungeon is likely to please someone looking for a traditional videogame experience.

Tears of Ashes

An adventure game where the central mechanic is looking at things and thinking about them, as you reveal what happened in the recent past. Very rough execution (even compared to other games in this list) but I like how short and atmospheric it is. Pretty sure this was a Global Game Jam entry under another name, though I’m unable to confirm right now.

All the Bad Parts

A beat-em-up starring a high school student. Great sense of humor and charming art style, with a surprisingly nonlinear structure. The actual beat-em-up mechanics are nothing to write home about, but it has heart and is great fun.

Herman

So the developer of this game had previously released a terrible game called Four Player Tangerine Fight, to little fanfare. As near as I can tell, he took the game and reskinned it to make fun of Braid. He added tons of over-the-top indie art-game introspection, turning what was once a pointless action game into an amusing parody of everything that’s wrong with indie games. Check out the trailer above to see what I mean.

Wirral Railway & Garden Plants

This is a slide deck containing information about railway stations on the Wirral line, as well as nine common garden plants around the UK. (There’s also a SECRET BONUS SET OF SLIDES but this post will remain spoiler-free on my watch!) This one is not actually worth playing except for ironic reasons and/or the delight in seeing a PowerPoint presentation sold on the Xbox Live Indie Games market.

Four Winds Fantasy

An EarthBound-inspired RPG where you… fight plants… I think. By QUIMDUNG, the maker of Bonkey Trek (Flash game, also worth playing). Important note: I almost  fell out of my chair just now because I discovered there is a fucking competition build of the game for Windows. It’s also available on iOS. Great music.

The Rise of Gaddafish

This is a rough but really funny point and click adventure game. In the first 30 seconds, you get turned into a fish, swim to Libya, jump out of Gaffadi’s toilet, meet Gaddafi — and then hijinks ensue. It’s a great game to play along with spectators watching. It also starts with an Xbox modal dialog warning you about swearing and drug use (pretty sure there’s no drug use).

Esoterica America

If you’re anything like me, you read The Illuminatus! Trilogy when you were 13 years old and then became completely lost in its world, spending hours at the library researching early 20th century hermetic orders, conspiracy theories dating back hundreds or thousands of years, Aleister Crowley, etc.

This game is exactly what 13-year-old me would have made at the time if I hadn’t been so busy figuring out if an off-handed reference in Rubén Darío’s turn-of-the-20th-century poem “Juventud” was in fact a shout-out to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

There is also a nice minigame where you meditate by avoiding pictures of scantily clad women, knives, and clocks. Probably my favorite thing about this game is the part where you use the powers of your transcendental illumination to help a guy get over his stammer. Yup.

RE: Get To Schol On Time

I once described this game as what would happen if you held @TPHD at gunpoint and forced him to remake the NES movie tie-in game for Home Alone 2. I stand by that description.

The wolf that inexplicably follows you around is my favorite part.

BloodyCheckers

This might be my new favorite game on XBLIG. It’s Oblivion crossed with Checkers, with some elements from the Silent Hill series. It’s kind of incredible. One of my favorite things about it is that the designer is obsessed with physically modeling small objects:

  • Open up a chest and 200 skulls come out, turning the hallway you’re standing in into one of those ball pits for kids. Except with skulls instead of balls.
  • Win a game of Checkers and you get money. But instead of your money counter incrementing, physically modeled gold pieces fall from the sky onto the board, at which point the game becomes a kind of disembodies Scrooge McDuck simulator where you can just play with throwing around your gold coins, cackling the whole time.
  • For whatever reason, if you open a chest that contains a key, it physically models the key getting shot out of the chest and clinking onto the floor. But then a copy of the key floats up and you’re supposed to grab it. But before you do the other key is still on the floor and you can kick it around? I dunno man.

Bureau – Shattered Slipper

There’s a whole sub-genre of games on XBLIG that are basically masturbation fodder for 13 year old boys: improbably busty heroines starring in shitty adventure games that are long on T&A and short on gameplay. Bureau – Shattered Slipper is basically like that, except the detective game is kind of interesting.

The best part about this is that the guy who made the game is clearly very talented when it comes to prerendered graphical effects. The cinematics and UI are incredibly technically well designed, but the art direction is terrible. Next time I try to explain the difference between graphics and art in games, I’m going to use this.

Kiss Kiss

Okay this game is terrible, but if you’ve ever wanted to play a game where correctly answering the question “What is the 10th letter of the English alphabet?” causes a woman to scream in orgasmic pleasure, this is for you.

Inexplicably, it comes with a 3D stereoscopic mode where you can wear red-blue glasses and get completely immersed in watching a poorly animated boob jiggle under the corporate mistletoe.

Beware of the Penguins

You kill a shitload of penguins.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Courtney Stanton August 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

It’s weird to see the last two years of our life together summed up in one blog post.

<3

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Andrew Doull August 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Ok. This is the thing on the Internet that has made me realise that I’ve reached a point where there are games I will just never ever get to play. These are 16 games that I’ve never heard of, if you hadn’t written about them (either here or elsewhere), on a platform I don’t own (I’ve been PC and OS/X only this entire generation), and my pile of shame is at a point from the recent Steam sale where I’m now not going to buy games released this year that I’m desperately excited about (Dark Souls, Borderlands 2, Dishonoured) because I’m too guilty about the games I own already which I haven’t touched.

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Darius Kazemi August 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

And that’s okay! The only game on the list you really ought to play, for obvious reasons (though I’m not sure how you’ll manage it), is Cursed Loot.

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Eben Howard December 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

That answer makes me very happy, since it’s the only game I did already know about/own. I will be playing with fishes and radios however :)

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CaveBo August 27, 2012 at 9:21 am

Great list! Thanks for posting.

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Rigo January 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm

meh…I’m just going to buy some avatar shoes

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Jeremy December 8, 2013 at 4:26 am

If you’re interested in abstract games like The war at the end of days you might be interested in a mod of Wolfenstein 3D called SOD made by the art duo Jodi. It replaces all of the textures with abstract geometrical figures.
Gameplay:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24KQiy0U_Uk
Further info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOD_(Wolfenstein_3D_mod)

Very interesting list you have here. A 50/50 mix of objectively terrible games and intriguing pieces of art.

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