April 2011s Best Xbox LIVE Indie Games

Pathetic update is pathetic. Sorry. It’s been a fairly rubbish month for XBLIGs and that’s reflected in the low quality in this round-up. I mite make it atchally a lo kwality pOst wiv typos n stuf. Or not. Of course, it’s still worth playing the pitifully small number of good games from this month, because they’re still fantastic, LaserCat in particular.

You can buy any of these games via xbox.com by clicking the link associated with each game, or on the Games Marketplace on your Xbox 360. Simply enter the marketplace and scroll up to Indie Games, where you can check the top rated titles, the games that have just come out, or “browse” to find the games mentioned in this thread. Indie Game trials last eight minutes, which is often enough to establish what you think about it. Even if you don’t buy any of these games, at least trial them, tell people what you think, get more people trying them.

Go. Play. Enjoy. Tell us what you think! Tell all your friends! Get them to tell all their friends…

(Xbox LIVE Indie Games are available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. If you’re outside those countries you can still play these games by setting up a Gamertag for free for one of those countries. It’s worth doing.)

For a round up of previous months, click here.

LaserCat is the best game this month by a country mile. Or a normal mile. I don’t know what a country mile actually is, so whatever’s longer, that’s how much better than everything else this month LaserCat is.

If you’ve ever played Jet Set Willy, you’ll feel at home here, but in a less having to shout at the screen kind of way, because LaserCat is lovelier to control than Miner Willy ever was. If you’ve never played Jet Set Willy, well, never mind. You’ll still love this.

You take LaserCat through 225 adjoining rooms, looking for keys so that you can save your friend who’s imprisoned at the top of the tower. The keys are just lying around the place, and when you grab one you’re warped to a trivia question which you need to answer correctly to get the key. Otherwise, lava.

These trivia questions are full of laugh out loud moments, as are some of the funny names of rooms, or the messages you get when you die. When they’re not funny, they’re full of references to games and other things, and it’s just a joy to read them all.

It looks great as well, with rooms changing colour as you go through the castle to find the keys, so that you never feel like you’re looking at the same things over and over even though the world is blocky. It feels like so much care has gone in to the construction of it.

And it’s only 80 Microsoft Points. Go and buy it, would you?

Shield the Beat is a music game most notable for its music, which includes DJ Champion and Franz Ferdinand amongst others. I don’t think there’s any doubt that as far as ambitious titles go, this one is right up there with what it tries to do.

It’s rhythm action like you’ve never played before, entirely with the analogue sticks. You control a shield around the ship in the centre of the screen, and rotate it to absorb bullets as they’re fired at you in time to the music. It starts of simple but can get frantic, especially when you’re using both analogue sticks to absorb different coloured bullets, Ikaruga style.

It’s really fun, but importantly, the music is great and if you don’t play the trial and instantly want to hear more of that first band, there’s something wrong with your ears. Yeah. I went there.

Starzzle is a puzzle game, and while not unique in its gameplay, it’s presented so well and there’s so much content that it’s a worthy purchase at 80 Microsoft Points.

You can move the characters in four directions and when you do, they keep sliding until they hit a wall. The aim is to collect 60% of the stars and this unlocks the next level. You’ll unlock things quicker though if you collect all the stars, and there’s bonuses for doing that, for finishing the level in the minimum amount of moves, and for doing it quickly.

A twist comes later when you control the blue guy as well. Only the red guy can collect stars and the blue guy is just there as a mobile wall. Position him to enable the red guy to reach otherwise unreachable areas. It sounds like a simple gimmick because it is, but the extra possibilities it gives to the puzzles are endless.

Oh, and the story will really appeal to your typical Xbox LIVE Indie Games fan.

The Bronze Award, not the best games out this month, but every one of these is still either great, or has a really unique aspect to it that more than makes it worth trying.

Cell is a kind of puzzle game. Youre a cell, and you press A to move around, which makes you slightly smaller. You then absorb smaller cells than yourself to get bigger again, and keep going until youve consumed everything or met the levels target. Three different modes to keep it interesting. Some people might say its a rip-off of Osmos. They might be right.

PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is a short-lived experience but one that it’s worth trying. You and a friend, armed with microphones or headsets, make silly noises and look generally stupid as you control the game with your mouths. Unique.

Shifters is an awesome looking drag racing game, with customisable cars. You control the acceleration and clutch, and when to change gears and use your boost. You bet on races, and can use your winnings to buy new parts and go faster. I never quite got the hang of it, but did go faster and faster each time so was getting there. Its fairly unique as racers on XBLIGs go.

The Most Addicting Sheep Game an Impossible Game clone done well. You go left to right through short courses, jumping, rolling and scoring your way through obstacles until you get to the end. It tells you what the top score is and that’s what you’re aiming for, perfect runs. It’s tempting to hate this game for its horrendous use of the word “addicting,” but I’ll forgive it. It’s cute.

鉄鋼歩兵 is a decent if a little slow over the shoulder shooter. Hugely customisable mech things to control so if that’s your bag, you’ll like this a lot.

Hack This Game is an interesting puzzle game, in which you have to identify a button combo from a series of clues that you’re given, hacking deeper and deeper into a network until you’ve stolen all of Sony’s customers’ credit card details.

Decay Part 4 (Final) is the final part in the Decay series, so you’ll already know if you want this and to be honest, if you don’t know whether you want this the answer is probably “no, you don’t,” because you’ve clearly not played the first three parts yet.

Some games are bad. Really bad. So bad that they don’t even deserve a functioning link to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. But if you’re in the mood for some punishment, or just want to be reminded how much better the games above are, check these out, last month’s most terrible games.

Delta Energy 2.0 is not playable, at all. The crosshair points one way and you look that way but the guns pointing somewhere else and you have literally no idea where you’re aiming because theres almost zero visible feedback. Then the other tank runs around like its Vettels Red Bull or something. Unplayable.

NLL 11 is just awful. Its hard, the grass is so bright that you might go blind if you look at it too long, and if you press Y it turns in to a beat em up for literally no reason at all. Nothing I pressed had an outcome on the fight and when it was over the ball just went back to the centre. I know nothing about Lacrosse, still, but I could appreciate College Lacrosse as something that was a decent sports game. But this? No. I was three nil down in three attacks because the opponent was relentless, and didnt have any fun with it at all. Teams arent rated either, so theres no way of telling whether or not youre playing as a good team, or against a good team. Theres just so much basic stuff that this gets wrong.

Oh hi, Bombies. Welcome to my table. So, I see youre a twin stick shooter, what is it that youre bringing to the table today? Oh, the same old shit?

Kinetic Kube S. Wow. What an absolute mess this trial of this game is. If you try to play a mode youre not allowed to play (and how would you know?) you have to sit through a 30 second video until you can do anything again. This video also plays when you exit the game. Thanks for the waste of my time. The game itself is every single kind of game in history, all at the same time. Seriously. The tutorial makes it seem like theres four different games, but then when it starts you realise that actually, youre playing them all at once. You need as many hands as that suggests youd need. I had literally no fun with this at all. You just cant keep track of everything you need to keep track of without being three different people at the same time.

We Come In Peace is Hypership Out of Control, if that game was horizontal, bad, slow, had stuff to collect that looks the same as stuff that killed you, and had utterly horrendous collision detection.

Modern Hunt doesn’t steal the assets from Duck Hunt, but copies them so closely that they may as well have. When you go in to “aim” mode, you literally cannot see half of the screen.

And to end on an awesome note…

Every month, we’ll revisit a couple of games that you may have missed from months gone by. These games are lost in the depths of the Games Marketplace, pull them out of there! Played a really awesome Indie Game in the past? Leave a comment and we’ll see about getting it in here in the future.

Fishing Girl is just adorable. You get separated from your boyfriend when a river forms between you, and to get him back you have to cast a fishing rod to the other side of the river and reel him in.

Your fishing rod is so rubbish though, so you have to catch fish to earn money and get better rods and better lures so you can catch better fish and get more money, until you get a rod that’s good enough that you can cast it that far.

It’s pretty simple to play, but it’s mainly so nice just because it’s so relaxing. There’s a time limit of ten minutes, but it’s not stress or anything, it’s just pleasant. Then there are awardments to get, one of which being “complete the game in two minutes.” So if you want a real challenge, it’s there for you, because that isn’t easy!

80 Microsoft Points for this.

Colosseum: Hammerball is something to try if you were looking forward to NLL 11 but were disappointed by how awful it is. It’s kind of a cross between hockey and lacrosse and DESTROYING YOUR OPPONENTS.

A bit.

It’s just a sports game, then, basically. There aren’t many rules, just that you have to hit your opponents goal with the ball to score a point. Aside from that, anything goes. Games are either 2vs2 or 3vs3, so there’s always a lot of space to be found which is nice. I had a lot of fun with it, and the art style reminds me a lot of Borderlands. Better in multiplayer, obviously, but even against the AI there’s fun to be had. Another cheap’un.

So, what did you think of these games? What do you think of what you’re playing this month?

Enjoy your Indie Games.