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Posted by XNA-Game-Freak on Dec 31, 2011

The Real Top 20 Best XBOX Live Indie Games of 2011

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Twas a great year for micro independent game developers on the XBLIG (XBOX Live Indie Game Marketplace). Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to feature those games that sold the most for their deference to more pronounced indie titles (we’re looking at you, Minecraft) rather than focus on some truly outstanding efforts.

After weeding through much drivel and sub-par exploits, here is XBLIGR’s meritocrous (yes we just made that word up) list of the best games in the XBOX indie marketplace:

solar 2 box art large

1. Solar 2

RELEASE DATE: 6/19/2011
DEVELOPER: Murudai
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Solar 2 is the ambitious and sizeable upgrade to a game wherein rather than race among the stars firing at hostile objects, you ARE the celestial bodies, trying to absorb others into your gravity field with the motivation to become a cosmic force of nature. Your little star becomes a sun which develops a solar system whose planets develop life and then those various life forms go to war with each other all the while you dash through the universe hungry for more influence over matter.

Backed by a meditative ambient soundtrack, this unusual setup is both contemplative and challenging and it merits top marks for both its ambition and deployment.

sequence game -  xbox box art

2. Sequence

RELEASE DATE: 5/5/2011
DEVELOPER: Iridium Studios
GENRE: Role Playing
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Iridium lists this as an RPG, but really, it is more like a music-driven beat-matching version of Tetris on three different layers with spell casting thrown in for good measure (yes, that’s a mana bar alongside your hp meter). Or, maybe a better description is it is like Lumines Live in that the aim is to knock out your opponent, while doing it to the beat.

Add some very slick title and cut sequences and this rounds out as a very smart package indeed. You may never know it, were it not for all the critical acclaim, as its rather conventional cover art and title slid past in the indie marketplace, but this is one heck of a clever spin on the various genres it encompasses.

alien jelly box-art

3. Alien Jelly

RELEASE DATE: 12/21/2011
DEVELOPER: Collective Mass
GENRE: Puzzle & Trivia
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 4
Offline co-op 2 – 4
Dolby Digital

An amazingly well designed puzzle platformer that could easily fit into the top of the XBLA catalog. It’s no wonder it was a two-time finalist in the Dream Build Play competition. In Alien Jelly, you command a brain-shaped alien lodged inside a cube of Jell-O. Use the B button to rewind time in order to solve many puzzles, most of which involve dropping to and returning from otherwise impossible drops as you strive to collect all jewels before returning to your spaceship and moving on to increasingly elaborate challenges. With full 3D cameras and a great Danny Elfman-esque score, Theremin and all, though this is at the upper price strata of XBLIGs at 240 MSPs, it is still a ridiculous value.

Oh almost forgot to mention that after you have jiggled your way through forty odd levels that include all manner of spooky sci-fi obstacles, you get to build your own levels! We bought and then gifted a copy to our neighbor.

tec 3001 -  xbox box art

4. T.E.C. 3001

RELEASE DATE: 8/24/2011
DEVELOPER: Phoenix
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

This amazing-looking title from indie developers “Phoenix” is pure adrenaline in the spirit of Sonic the Hedgehog meets Mirror’s Edge but reskinned as the Terminator in the world of Rez HD. Running through an RGB portal changes up the color scheme so you don’t burnout on the look as you learn the course via trial by fire.

Speed boosts, power bursts, double jumps all come at you at lightning speed and the ultimate effect of success is one of pure exhilaration.

blocks that matter - xbox box art

5. Blocks That Matter

RELEASE DATE: 5/12/2011
DEVELOPER: Swing Swing Submarine
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Blocks That Matter made quite an impact in the indie game market in 2011, and we were lucky enough to have it show up in the XBLIG market too. A comedic context wraps around an amazing puzzle platformer that requires you to use and recycle a variety of block types to get to any given level’s exit while attempting to collect any bonuses. Hours of gameplay for a paltry sum of MSPs.

wizorb -  xbox box art

6. Wizorb

RELEASE DATE: 9/28/2011
DEVELOPER: Tribute Games
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Honestly, there were only two things that kept running through my mind as I played this: the first was “Happy happy joy joy” (and not because I was playing Ren & Stimpy reruns in my mind either) and second that I couldn’t wait to build a standup arcade housing just so I could host this game in my den and charge my friends quarters to play it, because they would. In fact, they’d probably go change whole ten dollar bills for rolls of coins they would want to toss in.

From the “why didn’t anyone think of this before” files comes a mashup of Arkanoid and puzzle quest, or in other words, a JRPG version of Breakout. You are a wizard who travels from village to village surveying the wreckage left in the wake of a series of cataclysmic monster attack and, in hopes of raising funds to make donations so as to repair the villages (a little like Bastion) you must clear ten levels per village by using your trusty wand (or paddle as it were) to knock out bad guys, clear out bricks, boxes and other sundry items, occasionally tripping switches and sneaking into secret passageways to bonus levels and shops, AND you can cast magic spells to manipulate the field in various ways.

Everything, down to the score font is a perfect tribute to classic arcade games of yore. One of the best finds on XBLIG in 2011.

oozi earth adventure - xbox box art

7. Oozi: Earth Adventure Ep. 1 & 2

RELEASE DATE: 11/25/2011
DEVELOPER: AwesomeGamesStudio
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Though there is nothing overtly groundbreaking about Oozi, it may be the best looking title on this list. With great control response, beautiful set pieces with nicely implemented parallax and solid sound design, this Super Mario Bros. side scroller is a complete steal at 80 MSP.

oozi earth adventure episode 2 screenshot

DLC Quest - xbox box art

8. DLC Quest

RELEASE DATE: 11/2/2011
DEVELOPER: Going Loud Studios
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

This is what happens when someone who has played way too many games, and knows all the tropes far too well, gets sick of the BS and decides to take their proverbial revenge on Seattle. As one might expect, in hindsight, such a person endeavoring to make a game that rallies against the pitiful habit of AAA companies releasing downloadable content at a cost to the consumer for the most asinine additions (and in many cases for things that should be included in the first place) their own game would have a hard time at sucking. And DLC Quest, though on the surface, a joke, is in fact an excellent platformer filled with clever, self-referential puzzles and commendable game design.

In a nutshell, by using the very cliches that it is criticizing, DLC Quest becomes, in itself, an excellent addition to the platforming gamespace.

cursed loot -  xbox box art

9. Cursed Loot

RELEASE DATE: 8/22/2011
DEVELOPER: Eyehook Games LLC
GENRE: Role Playing
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

In a way, we are cheating by including this remake / official release of Epic Dungeon, a title we already voted for in our Best XBLIGs of 2010 list, in our 2011 list. But Eyehook’s bigger, badder, better version which now includes a slot machine mini game, two new playable classes (the goblin and the peasant) and dozes of new weapons and “awardments” under a new name still makes for the best Roguelike in the XBOX Indie marketplace (until Gaslamp decides to release Dungeons of Dredmor on XBLIG of course).

With an added content patch that came out two months after its release, this is a developer and a title that just keeps on giving. Just don’t die, it’s a ROGUElike for heaven’s sake!

Astroman - xbox box art

10. Astroman

RELEASE DATE: 12/23/2010
DEVELOPER: StarQuail
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

With a soundtrack that sounds like it was made by Moby, and early-Saturday morning cartoon-style graphics, this groovy little 2d platformer actually delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Although it was technically released December 23rd, 2010, we included it on this year’s list becuase there was no way it could have made it on last years lists, and it does deserve its moment in the solar system.

platformance temple death game - xbox box art

11.Platformance: Temple Death

RELEASE DATE: 6/20/2011
DEVELOPER: Magiko Gaming
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

With their follow up title to 2010′s Platformance: Castle Pain, Magiko has demonstrated that they aren’t kidding around when it comes to bringing the best of the Castlevania style to the XBOX Indie Game world.

With Platformance: Temple Death, the devs have on offer a challenging, and amazingly detailed Castlevania type platformer with an Indiana Jones theme. We played it, and died, a lot, but what with all the zooming in an out of the action, it was a hell of an adventure.

platformance temple death

hidden in plain sight - xbox box art

12. Hidden In Plain Sight

RELEASE DATE: 11/18/2011
DEVELOPER: Adam Spragg Games
GENRE: Other
FEATURES
Offline players 2 – 4
Dolby Digital

Hrm. OK. So imagine a game where you and three friends are all sitting in a room together staring at your HDTV and wondering which of you is controlling what character on the screen but you don’t want to give it away in the process of figuring it out, so that you can gank one another. A brand new take on the stealth genre, or better yet that game we used to play as kids that involved no pixels whatsoever called Murder.

Does the title start to make more sense now?

production panic game - xbox box art

13. Production Panic

RELEASE DATE: 7/13/2011
DEVELOPER: MikeE
GENRE: Puzzle & Trivia
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Fans of popular indie breakout SpaceChem or Lazy 8 Sstudio’s steampunk puzzle game Cogs may actually love this challenging puzzle game that involves routing goods down the correct conveyor belts in increasingly complex sequences. Various shapes of conveyor belt are picked up and placed so as to guide various products through their process and ultimately out the delivery exit. Action can be sped up with the X key on your controller making this feel a little more like a tower defense. With tidy design, solid implementation and crafty puzzles that work, this is a sure standout in the 2011 slate deserving of more attention. A groovy instrumental J-Pop soundtrack accompanies the action.

Doom & Destiny xbox box art

14. Doom & Destiny

RELEASE DATE: 8/25/2011
DEVELOPER: HeartBit Interactive
GENRE: Role Playing
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Kicking off with a group of four D&D enthusiasts who walk through a door into an alternate dimension, reminscent of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits Doom and Destiny brings to XBLIG another 8-bit styled JRPG: Check. Manga-influenced chat illustrations: Check. 15 hours plus of engaging story and gameplay: Check. Monthly DLCs: Check.

Doom & Destiny fills the void in 2011 left by Zeboyd Games and the fact that Unepic isn’t available for the XBLIG marketplace.

Get your 2D Final Fantasy on!

cute things dying violently - xbox box art

15. Cute Things Dying Violently

RELEASE DATE: 8/24/2011
DEVELOPER: ApathyWorks
GENRE: Platformer
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 2
Dolby Digital

A decidely sadistic take on Pachinko, this puzzle game is full of personality and the physics are pretty good too. The object is to fling as many critters as possible towards and into an escape elevator. Drawing down on the right thumbstick controls the strength with which they are flung. We actually started to feel remorse sending these poor innocent balls of expression to their gruesome and untimely demise.

rainbow runner - xbox box art

16. Rainbow Runner

RELEASE DATE: 6/28/2011
DEVELOPER: Progpixel Games
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Taking cues from bit.trip Runner, Rainbow Runner is a side-scrolling twin-stick shmup with color-matching a la Simon, a Euro trance soundtrack and neon outline renderings wherein animal bosses look like something out of a fairytale written by TRON. Interestingly enough, it all works and we had a great time with it.

dead pixels game - xbox box art

17. Dead Pixels

RELEASE DATE: 9/15/2011
DEVELOPER: CantStrafeRight
GENRE: Role Playing
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 2
Offline co-op 2
Dolby Digital

In the event you are burned-out on zombie-driven 8-bit tributes with an overlay of TV static, how about a Walking Dead rendition of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for XBLIG? Somehow, this one was more satisfying than all other comers in its style. We just couldn’t stop.

jellyfish MD - xbox box art

18. Jellyfish MD

RELEASE DATE: 9/2/2011
DEVELOPER: Kevin Costello
GENRE: Puzzle & Trivia
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

This odd pairing of a children’s book 2D illustration with a mesmerizing 3-dimensional Rubik’s Cube puzzle is a bit of a garage sale in design, at first blush, but that should not detract from the fact that it is an advanced and excellent puzzle game that deserves every Microsoft point for which it asks.

jellyfish md game  - screenshot

battle high san bruno - xbox box art

19. Battle High: San Bruno

RELEASE DATE: 2/8/2011
DEVELOPER: Mattrified
GENRE: Fighting
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 2
Dolby Digital

In the Fighting category that draws on the legacy of Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, comes this witty “meet me after school” KO fest with a wide variety of interesting characters that include nerds, freaks, geeks and cybrids, worthy of some playtime with that buddy with whom you have a vendetta.

homeless - game - xbox box art

20. Homeless

RELEASE DATE: 12/18/2011
DEVELOPER: Silver Dollar Games
GENRE: Other
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Silver Dollar Games, who are the team behind Homeless, seem to be the type that throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. With dozens of titles released on XBLIG by this crew alone, from titles like “Try Not To Fart” to “Blow”, one might consider them to be the purveyors of bargain basement fire sale material, but every once in a while the “try anything” experiment actually works and Homeless, while simple in execution, is fascinating, moving and makes you think.

The simple gameplay consists of little more than pressing the A button when the most, or best passersby enter within range of a pair of red vertical lines reaching out either side of your static homeless avatar. Collect the amount of money in your goal before your energy runs out for the day. What makes it so compelling, however, is the heartbreakingly earnest audio recording of a real homeless person talking about life on the streets while a series of images depicting life on the streets cycles on a billboard above you. It might not represent the height of game mechanics, but it takes a chance, and it leaves an impression; Homeless puts you in the shoes of someone who you may never have considered being and maybe gives you a new impression on things; that is a LOT for a game to accomplish.

Honorable Mentions:

monsters probably stole my princess - xbox box art

Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess

RELEASE DATE: 8/24/2010
DEVELOPER: Mediatonic
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

Think of it as Super Meat Boy except in the land of the undead. Wall jumping, big baddies, a time limit all add to the tension, but that “look up” action on the left stick got to be inexplicably un-useful. Otherwise a fun title to bounce around with.

Recommended for post SMB burnouts.

rotor - xbox box art

Rotor

RELEASE DATE: 2/10/2011
DEVELOPER: Pocket Starship
GENRE: Racing & Flying
FEATURES
Offline players 1
Dolby Digital

A lovely thing to behold, with its muted, plastic-looking Truman Show cityscape, this 3D helicopter racer is a bit hard to control, but, did we mention it looks amazing?

rotor game screenshot

the sugar killerz - xbox box art

The Sugar Killerz

RELEASE DATE: 3/8/2011
DEVELOPER: Fun Hazard
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 4
Offline co-op 2 – 4
Dolby Digital

With smooth cartoony graphics and all manner of enemy, including those that stick to you with their tongues, waiting to be shot off by you or one of your peers with a variety of bullet-based weaponry, Sugar Killerz is a great time to be had in a local group. We really mean that.

Rare stuff you may have missed (released prior to 2011)

protect me knight xbox box art

Protect Me Knight aka まもって騎士

RELEASE DATE: 5/14/2010
DEVELOPER: ANCxna
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 4
Offline co-op 2 – 4
Dolby Digital

You may want to click the title of this game above to actually find this at the XBOX Marketplace because it is listed by its Katakana title and not its English translation.

More tower defense and action than it is Ultima or Zelda, PMK is a glorious romp of flying 8-bit mayhem as you erect defenses and smackdown creeps with your arsenal of power attacks. Strong recommend.

Explosionade - xbox box art

Explosionade

RELEASE DATE: 10/7/2010
DEVELOPER: Mommy’s Best Games
GENRE: Action & Adventure
FEATURES
Offline players 1 – 2
Dolby Digital

How’d about some over-the-top Metroid by one of the best devs for the indie game marketplace?

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