Every week, I'll slave over a hot 360 to bring you a list of what I consider worthwhile downloads, picked from the deluge of games that hit the XBLIG Marketplace during the previous seven days. On this first edition, we've got a platformer, a brawler, a physics puzzler, an RPG, and a twin-stick shooter; a decent variety and all worth at least a demo.
RPGs are a bit difficult to judge from an eight-minute demonstration. Some start with promise but run out of steam long before its conclusion while others, sadly, fail to grab your attention before your time is up regardless of if the rest of the game is more than worth your time. In the case of Bonded Realities, it was somewhat difficult to gauge how deep and enjoyable the game is beyond the obvious charm and humor of its presentation, both of which will get at least a smile out of you. The demo had you in control of a child at day care, walking into a sandbox to play with his three friends before all four of them get transported to some world where they are transformed into warriors. The visuals are cute, the jokes are alright, but you'll only fight about five one-on-one turn-based battles that involve hitting "Attack" a lot. I assume the combat gets deeper than that, and the game looks worth its asking price, but I can't help myself from wishing for more of a representation of the actual gameplay. Regardless, Bonded Realities is 80 MS Points, and fans of the old-school RPGs would do well to give it a try.
Maid-San's Caving Adventure
I took one look at the cover for this game and nearly dismissed the thing for being a shameless "sex sells" cash-grab. For which I owe the developer an apology. Maid-San's Caving Adventure is a sort of, oddly enough, puzzle/platformer in which you guide your housekeeping protagonist to the stage's exit while collecting stars and avoiding goblin-looking things. The catch? You can't do anything but run, jump, and cower. While cowering (did you think I wasn't serious?), enemies won't notice you and will walk right by, but your vision becomes so horrible that all you'll be able to do is see your maid quivering in fear. It's the sort of game I think would have fit better in the survival-horror genre but, regardless of the cutesy presentation and obvious pandering to anime-loving males, Maid-San is easily the most interesting game of this week and will probably see a review here sometime soon.
A no-brainer inclusion for this week is radiangames' twin-stick shooter Ballistic. Sadly, it's also Luke's final game from his monthly series of excellent titles, and because of that he seemed to take a little bit of everything from his previous titles and thrown it all into one last game. It's got the twin-stick arena style of JoyJoy, the upgrades we first saw in Inferno, the limited bursts of extra firepower from Crossfire, the bombs from Fireball, and the movement/attack trade-off of Fluid. (Alright, that last one was a stretch, but I really wanted to include each game.) A campaign of infinite (!!!) waves, five extra modes, balanced upgrades, and leaderboards for each different mode, Ballistic is a game for fans of pretty much anything twin-stick and is priced at 80 MS Points for your consideration. Expect a full review later this week as well as a giveaway for a free copy of the game, courtesy of radiangames.
Blocks was almost the first game this year to earn an impulse buy once the trial expired. The game idea is simple enough. You transport a crate onto a floating island using a rocket-propelled platform. And the controls are simple enough as well, with your left trigger raising the left side of the platform and the right trigger handling the other side. Pulling this off, however, is another story, and will probably start with you just flipping the platform over and dumping the box onto the ground or in a hole. Eventually, through trial and error, you'll learn how to carefully navigate up and down passageways and beyond obstacles all while trying to keep your profanity down to a minimum when you fail. It's frustrating, it's awkward, and you'll love every second of it. Fans of anything physics-related such as Gerbil Physics, Angry Birds, or even Marble Madness will probably find a fair amount of fun in this 240 MS Point title. Just don't play it around the kids if you have a potty mouth...we don't want them repeating what you say to their parents.
Incident of Dreamy Vale Church
Much like Maid-San above, Incident of Dreamy Vale Church has some presentation issues. Namely, the two main characters look like fan-service personified, and that can immediately turn some away (or bring others in, of course). If I didn't notice the game was a Final Fight-style brawler, I would have passed it up as well, but it ended up delivering a surprisingly solid beat-'em-up experience. Single player felt a little too unfair so, if you plan on picking this up, bring a friend with you, but as far as mashing buttons and smacking things around this is a good value for the 80 MS Points. On the downside...I really don't know what to tell you about playing this around your girlfriend. Honestly, it's like this week was meant for awkward gaming.
And there you have it. Five games, each worth a glance, all available on your friendly neighborhood XBox Live Indie Games Marketplace. As always, feel free to check out other games on the Indie Marketplace, rate the games you like, and support the developers that make that scene great. Tune in next Sunday for another helping of Weekly XBLIG Picks.