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