Ev­ery month OXM’s In­die ‘ex­pert’ Tom Stone rounds up the ac­tion from the more, um, ‘ar­tisi­nal’ cor­ners of the xbox store

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENT -

For a glo­ri­ous stretch of time, Alex reigned supreme over Xbox One’s in­die scene with his scald­ing hot takes and with­er­ing hip­ster put-downs. Now he’s gone and I have some mighty shoes to fill, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing his gift for segues, but all I’m ask­ing is you give me one chance. Or as our friends in Mex­ico say, uno chance.

Uno (Ubisoft, £7.99) is the clas­sic card game we all know and tol­er­ate. Each player has a hand of coloured num­ber cards and takes turns plac­ing them one at a time in a pile in the mid­dle, so long as the card they play shares the same colour or num­ber. The aim is to get rid of your en­tire hand, but good luck manag­ing that be­fore ut­ter te­dium sets in. Play­ing against the com­puter is sad­der than most fu­ner­als and play­ing on­line has me spit­ting at my mo­dem, hop­ing against hope that my saliva would de­stroy the cir­cu­ity and force me out of the game. Also, this isn’t re­ally an in­die ti­tle, so just one game in and I’ve al­ready ru­ined In­die Digest. Sorry, Alex’s other­wise spot­less rep­u­ta­tion.

Clearly I need some­thing more out­ra­geous, a ti­tle so in­die it an­swers to no one, man. Some­thing with a name like Dun­geon Punks (Hy­per Awe­some En­ter­tain­ment, £11.99), a hack-and-slasher in the vein of Golden Axe and other 2.5D clas­sics I’m too young to find any­thing but ir­ri­tat­ing. What’s ‘punk’ about mak­ing such a tra­di­tional throw­back? A weird script can’t dis­guise how over­fa­mil­iar this all is. Still, it’s fast paced, the spe­cial moves aren’t bad and, bar some odd de­sign de­ci­sions (why can’t we use the ana­logue sticks to move?), it’s fairly in­of­fen­sive stuff. By the way, if you fancy liven­ing up the lo­cal co-op, don’t tell your com­pan­ion about the friendly fire un­til you’re bury­ing a broadsword in their back.

But save a stab for King Odd­ball (10tons Ltd, £3.99) who could def­i­nitely use a good usurp­ing. Odd­ball is a float­ing head who flicks rocks with his tongue to de­stroy tanks and he­li­copters. You have to time the ideal mo­ment to re­lease each rock for the max­i­mum de­struc­tion. It’s a oneb­ut­ton game that starts sim­ple but over the course of time… stays sim­ple. This would be light­weight on iOS, and there’s no place for such a throw­away monar­chy on Xbox One.

I much pre­ferred the reign of the Mad King in Armello (League of Geeks, £15.99), a strat­egy card/board game. Play­ing as a va­ri­ety of talk­ing an­i­mals, you have to move around the King­dom fight­ing mon­sters with weapon and ar­mour cards, col­lect­ing magic stones, avoid­ing traps and

over­throw­ing the king – a crazy lion in a crown who’s al­ready our favourite gam­ing vil­lain of 2016. The pre­sen­ta­tion is top notch, and once you’ve worked your way through the long tu­to­rial there are plenty of card vari­a­tions and strate­gies to en­joy. Though brain usu­ally wins over brawn, the com­bat can be a lit­tle too re­liant on ran­dom chance, your suc­cess de­pend­ing not just on the cards you pos­sess but a mix of dice rolls and coin flips. That makes sense for a board game, but surely the joy of videogames is that we can ac­tu­ally recre­ate sword fights with­out re­ly­ing on lit­tle num­bered cubes? That’s just per­sonal taste, mind, and fans of the genre are pre­sum­ably shuf­fling their decks of hate mail at my blas­phemy. The best el­e­ments come from the whims of the king, who’ll es­tab­lish rules at ran­dom like ‘ev­ery­one dis­cards their cards’ just to make the game more in­ter­est­ing – the kind of gid­dy­ish mad­ness more games should be in­jected with. He’d prob­a­bly whip out a flamethrow­er if he ever caught you play­ing Uno, mind.

Colour us im­pressed with Armello then, and also with de­light­ful puz­zle plat­former Hue (Curve Dig­i­tal, £11.99). At first, Hue’s car­toony world is in stark black and white, look­ing like a sort of My First Limbo (which could have an au­di­ence – moody par­ents de­ter­mined to raise a goth?) But the game soon grants the power to change the colour of the world and thereby find hid­den plat­forms and re­move ob­sta­cles – for ex­am­ple, change to a green back­drop and green ob­sta­cles will fade into it. Hue has some re­ally finicky plat­form­ing, but its colour-chang­ing gim­mick shines in clever puz­zles. Best of all are the kalei­do­scopic chase se­quences where you make more havoc for your­self ev­ery time you spin the colour wheel but have no choice if you want to open up the ex­its. Nice to see proof that you can be an (ini­tially) mono­chrome plat­former with­out also be­ing a bleak fes­ti­val of mis­ery.

But if a bleak fes­ti­val of mis­ery sounds like your ideal stop, hop aboard the fright train for The Fi­nal Sta­tion (tinyBuild, £10.99). An en­gine driver gets caught in a deadly pan­demic, and has to drive from sta­tion to sta­tion, keep­ing as many pas­sen­gers alive as pos­si­ble. Half the game is spent aboard the train, keep­ing pas­sen­gers fed and healthy, and mak­ing sure its var­i­ous mech­a­nisms keep run­ning smoothly. Then at sta­tions you’re left on your lone­some to scav­enge for re­sources from mon­ster-rav­aged towns. Ammo is scarce and death is ev­ery­where, so these se­quences play like a 2D take on early Res­i­dent Evil games. Af­ter a quiet, de­lib­er­ately mun­dane open­ing, The Last Sta­tion shifts tracks into a tense, tough take on sur­vival man­age­ment. Shift­ing be­tween the train driv­ing and scav­eng­ing se­quences stops ei­ther ac­tiv­ity from out­stay­ing its wel­come, and this can get sur­pris­ingly nasty for a game that looks as though it’d run on a Game Boy Ad­vance – there’s a par­tic­u­larly good scare in­volv­ing two un­lucky mil­i­tary types on your train.

Well, it looks like I kept In­die Digest on the rails. Can I go back to play­ing real games with ac­tual bud­gets?

“Hue grants the power to change the colours of the world and re­veal hid­den plat­forms”

be­low King Odd­ball is a weird hov­er­ing head who hates he­li­copters. Of course. 03



06 LEFT Ex­pect an ex­pe­ri­ence slightly more un­pleas­ant than your morn­ing com­mute.


01 Uno 02 Dun­geon Punks 03 King Odd­ball 04 Armello 05 Hue 06 The Fi­nal Sta­tion 05

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