XBLIG New Release Roundup for the Weeks of February 26 & March 4

Two weeks of games and what do we wind up with? Three voxel-based crafting games and an assortment of shooters. Oh, and a game about a car wash. Well, at least the latter one is original, even if washing cars is right up there with the librarian simulator for the “most riveting game of the year” award. Enjoy the demos!

Armless Octopus Bloody Tentacle Award of the Week

Astral – Mike

Astral is kind of like a real-time version of Risk except with a cosmic backdrop. Each of the planets have glowing satellites that orbit around it, and you have to send the satellites toward other planets to take them over. It has a simple presentation, but the stars and planets really pop out from the stark black background, and the level of strategy involved increased as more planets were thrown into the mix. It does feel a bit slow, at least during the demo, but the fantastic dynamic soundtrack kept me engaged the whole time.

We Recommend

Avatar Deathmatch – Dan

This first-person shooter only features a “roaming mode” in the trial, but I’m still going to recommend it. Why?  Mainly because the game looks really nice. A cartoonish presentation and a smooth framerate make running around in the game world an impressive experience. Whether the actual multiplayer combat is worth the price of admission is yet to be seen.

Redshift – Mike

This one should be a no-brainer for fans of shmups. The controls are really solid, and it puts a slight spin on the typical formula by letting you use a slow-mo ability that is reminiscent of the bullet-time effect in Max Payne. Jumping in and out of slow-mo to weave through webs of bullets is actually quite exciting, but it’s a shame the entire game looks like it was made for Virtual Boy. The ruby twist doesn’t ruin the game, but I don’t really see how it’s to its advantage, and it causes a jarring effect where it’s hard to differentiate between your shots and the enemies’ when coming out of slow-mo.

Birth Order – Mike

Birth Order is kind of a side-scrolling shooter by numbers, or rather, colors. You play as this giant metallic purple ship with pointy wings, and as enemies appear on the screen they have a color over their head that corresponds to one of the face buttons. If you hit the proper button, your attack will home in on them and they’ll erupt into a massive explosion of stars. You’d think that might make the game overly easy, but you also die in one hit. It’s a bit different, but it was pretty fun.

Zombie Crossing – Dan

The game has some real potential but is marred in poorly designed controls and interface. The audio can be rather repetitive and annoying as well. So why did we give this trial a “try?” Because it has a real chance at being a lot of fun…you’ll just have to wade through the crap to find it


Cataboom – Taylor

Cataboom is a well executed action platformer. It can be a bit bland, both in visuals and sound, but the gameplay is solid and worth a try.

Other Releases

Escape Hell Prison – Dan – Cancer! This game was so bad, it gave me cancer! AVOID!! It’s….It’s just bad…oh GOD!

Flycatcher – Taylor – A good concept with mostly working controls, but the problems with movement are a bit too glaring. If you’re looking for something different, though, check it out.

Startfighter 2-9 – Dan – The game doesn’t really do anything wrong, but it doesn’t exactly swing for the fences either. It’s a basic dual-stick shooter that moves at a slow enough pace to be considered boring. If you’re looking for a good dual-stick shooter, there are plenty of other quality offerings on the service.

Argh Aliens – Dave – More of a one level prototype than a game, you control a UFO and must land on rooftops to collect humans. Unfortunately it handles quite poorly.

Brittle – Mike – You have to move a guy around a maze while being chased by a plus sign that will kill you in one hit. It’s kind of a puzzle game, but a rather bland one.

Craftimals: Build to the Sun – Mike – This game had a lot going for it with its super cute atmosphere, but all of that evaporated when I started playing. All you do for the entire demo is place blocks progressively higher as you build into the sky like you’re trying to craft a ladder to the heavens. The pics have you crafting a rocket ship, so it’s possible this gets better…

Paper RPG – Taylor – I was hopeful in thinking I might get a pseudo low(er) tech Paper Mario-like game out of Paper RPG. I was wrong. The flow of the game is jarring and unrewarding.

Bit Digger – Dan – Yet another voxel-based game hoping to crash the Minecraft party. The key differences are that Bit Digger features difficult controls and the game world is devoid of anything resembling fun…that’s about it.

Mine4Ever – Dave – The game takes about 90 seconds to load. In addition, it has horrible performance and a lackluster framerate. Other than that, it’s you’re standard voxel-based mining game.

Attanck!3 – Mike – Attanck!3 is the return of the premiere dot-matrix printer-based tank game, replete with confusing, but authentic tank controls.

Car Washer Summer of the Ninja – Mike – I spent this demo spraying a car with water and almost washing it with a sponge. Sadly, I just wasn’t able to figure out how to make that sponge contact the auto. It’s kind of a shame, because the developer clearly spent a lot of time on the art and music, but washing cars just isn’t fun, assuming I could even figure out how to do it.

TuboRocket 4 – Taylor – This is pretty similar to other TurboRocket installments. The controls leave much to be desired and I always felt that II couldn’t see the environments well enough.

CyberDeck – Dave – This is some sort of hacking-based game, and it seems to be on a Windows 95 device.  It looks like there is a lot going on here, despite the simple interface, but I just couldn’t figure it out.

Fortress Wars – Mike – I’m probably the last person who should be evaluating voxel-based building games, but with that being said, this demo doesn’t let you actually build anything, and you can only shoot lifeless targets. There are far better crafting games.

Solar Annihilation– Dan – Another game this week with lots of “potential,” but this one ultimately fails to impress. With lackluster mission design, no narrative and frustrating controls this is another title for the “pass” pile.

Rectangle Battle – Taylor – The demo is for 2 players only, but even if it wasn’t, this unnecessarily reductionist combination of shooter and Pong is not worth it.

Jigsaw Jumble – Mike – Hey kids, have you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle? Have you ever played a video game? I think you can figure this one out then.

Transgression – Mike – This is a really simplistic arcade-style game where you ride around on a space hover bike and try and bounce into other bikes to gain chips.

IC4 – Mike – IC4 is a reasonably competent 4-player shmup, but it’s pretty bland to look at and shooting teeny tiny spaceships gets pretty repetitive after only a few minutes.

Posted on by Mike Wall in Features

About Mike Wall

Mike grew up and lives near Philadelphia and has been intrigued with games ever since his parents preached that they rotted his brain. He studied journalism at Penn State and got his master's degree in secondary education before realizing that not even summers off would make that job palatable. He now works in marketing and is trying to find time to continue writing a book about zombies, aliens, vampires, the end of the world, and a talking cat.

  • Lee Funk

    So, wait. Faults with the demo aside, you’re recommending Avatar Deathmatch, a multiplayer shooter, without actually playing the multiplayer? Just because it looks nice? Does that sound a bit off to anyone else?

    What’s even stranger is that you rag on Fortress Wars for lacking crafting despite the fact that it’s clearly the same type of game as Avatar Deathmatch. I mean it’s bad, sure! but critique it for faults it actually has.I think I’m done with this website. The news is hardly unique or exclusive and these roundups have been making less and less sense as time’s gone on.

  • http://twitter.com/plezfiction Bill Blake

    I’ve always looked at the weekly “recommendations” as just quick summaries to let me know if I should even bother trying the demos or not, so no, it doesn’t seem off to me.

    And being quick summaries of demos, I wouldn’t expect a review of the multiplayer aspects since that’s likely not available in the demo.

    I pretty much agree re: the summary of Fortress Wars, though … it’s not really being promoted as a crafting game.

  • DaveVoyles

    Exactly. We put in the trial length (7 minute) for each game, and have to base our opinions on that.

    Obviously it is a bit more fair towards games you can pick up and understand in a short time (EX. a 2D platformer), and doesn’t work out so well for larger, in-depth games. I don’t doubt that many of them are good, but I’ve only got a few moments to make a judgement.

    The purpose of this is to offer a better understanding of how the consumers feel when playing these games. The trial to purchase ratio are important for a of these developers, so if your game doesn’t stand out in the trial, then it is difficult to expect a lot of sales.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/colachief/ Paul Franzen

    To be fair, the Fortress Wars and Avatar Deathmatch blurbs were written by two different people, so it’s not so weird that they’d have discrepant opinions.

  • http://www.armlessoctopus.com/ Mike Wall

    It’s not being promoted as a crafting game, but there is a crafting button in the game. Hitting it just told me I couldn’t do that. 

  • http://www.armlessoctopus.com/ Mike Wall

    As someone else pointed out, the impressions were from different people. The system is specifically set up to point out what we really liked and then mention what we thought of the others. Sometimes we have positive things to say about the games we don’t “recommend,” too. I explained my experience with Fortress Wars. I didn’t say it was awful, just that I couldn’t do a whole lot. 

  • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

    You can craft only in the ‘explore’ mode as far as I can tell, and to do so you have to shoot blocks to liberate them from the landscape so you can pick them up.

  • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

    Zombie Crossing also has at least one bug that crashes the game without fail. Woo hoo.

  • http://www.armlessoctopus.com/ Mike Wall

    Hah, wow. How far in?