I’ve been writing a column for GameCola called “Minus the Pudding: the Best of Xbox Live Indie Games” for about a year-and-a-half now. Despite the column’s name, though, I end up writing about a WHOLE lot of crappy games.Why? It’s the crappy games that are the interesting ones, while the “good” games tend to be just indie versions of popular genres that manage not to mess too much up. Which jumps out at you more: a generic space shooter, or a game where you have to hide in the bushes and take discreet photos of beautiful young models as they walk past you? Which has more potential for comedy? (Also, for getting me on a sex-offender registry?)
Still, in that time, I’ve also managed to come across several XBLIG titles that could be confused for ACTUAL videogames. If any games could make the jump to XBLA proper, it’s these ones:
Cthulhu Saves the World: A Super Nintendo-style RPG starring the be-tentacled elder god Cthulhu, who’s on a quest to save the world, so that he can regain his full powers and destroy it himself. The comedic dialogue and plot make this game a must-have for everyone, ever, and they make battling through all that turn-based combat practically worthwhile. This game (along with its spiritual predecessor, Breath of Death VII) was recently released on Steam with all-new characters and all-new modes, like developer’s commentary, which is the coolest videogame trend since Rumble Paks.
Light’s End: This one’s also an RPG, but without any combat whatsoever. Which is…really all I ask for in an RPG. Turn-based combat is invariably my least-favorite part of any RPG. I can enjoy it in small doses—for example, I usually enjoy big boss battles—but when you combine it with tedious random encounters, I end up tuning out everything but the fun story bits. The gameplay in Light’s End instead involves taking control of different characters until you come across the right one to progress the plot. I am utterly convinced that this game was the inspiration for Tim Schafer’s Stacking; the gameplay’s very similar, although Light’s End doesn’t have any fart buttons that I’m aware of.
Epic Dungeon: A classic roguelike wherein, at one point, you can chop off your toes and trade them in for XP. Possibly the best roguelike I’ve played since Castle of the Winds. Also possibly the only roguelike I’ve played since Castle of the Winds. (Other people have played Castle of the Winds too, right? Maybe my next blog post should be “Windows 3.1 Shareware Hall of Fame.”)
Swords & Monsters: A lot of people don’t get this game. That’s because, as I’ve found, a lot of people are kinda dumb. It’s a “minimalist” RPG that tries to boil the RPG genre down to its barest essentials—and it works! Sure, you can beat the game in only a manner of seconds, but that’s the point; it’s a big joke about the commonalities of all RPGs. Also, you can complete the game literally dozens of time before the free trial runs out, so what’s there to whine about? Some people.
Learn more about the best of the best of XBLIG in Part Two!