The little guy finally gets a chance to shine on the Xbox 360, thanks to the Indie Games service.

After years of success with its Xbox Live Arcade service, Microsoft took a bold step and let ordinary gamers in on the action, offering them the XNA development kit.  Like the Net Yaroze and Bally BASIC that preceeded it, this software package turned ordinary joystick jockeys into game designers.  After paying a yearly fee, the newly minted developers can sell the fruits of their labor on the Xbox 360, in a special section of Xbox Live called Community Games.

Community Games was largely ignored at first, thanks to a low-quality software library and a title with all the flair of a damp sponge.  However, Microsoft eventually kicked things in gear with support from seasoned publishers (Arika of Street Fighter EX and Endless Ocean fame, to name one) and a brand new name.  Now that it's put some distance between itself and its lackluster premiere, Xbox Indie Games is on its way to becoming the best bridge between homebrew developers and a console manufacturer in video game history!

Here are just a few of the noteworthy (although not always in the best ways!) games currently available on the service.  Hungry for even more coverage?  You'll find hundreds of other reviews on Retro Remakes' XNPlay, and Juice's Xbox Indie Games web sites.


Oh the pain, the pain, the pain of it all! This is the kind of crapware that gives Indie Games a bad name. "Iffy" is the most charitable way to describe this one, but it's not entirely without its charms.  Think about it. Designed with the best of intentions but also some flaws.  Worth your time, if not your Microsoft points. On the precipice of excellence, with its toes dangling from the edge.  This game easily justifies your cash.  The brass ring, the gold standard, the platinum credit card.  This is the best Indie Games has to offer.

DK Alpha
80 MSP

There's nothing like a good Cameltry clone... and this is nothing like one!  Sure, you'll rotate the screen to guide your heroine through each stage, but each twist comes in 90 degree angles, and you have full control over Pipi the Fairy (oh Japan, you make it too easy) as she gathers the ingredients for her mood-elevating desserts. 

Kaiten Patissier is essentially a puzzle game, although for the first three-quarters of the adventure, it's more of a cakewalk.  There's no challenge in finishing each stage, and only a minor inconvenience in collecting the golden hearts that reveal themselves when each dessert is almost complete.  The game doesn't bare its fangs until near the end, when carelessly rotating the screen could bury Pipi under a stack of boxes... or just crash your Xbox.

Despite some distressing bugs, Kaiten Patissier is one of the better Xbox Indie games; a charming throwback to the Super NES days with its cheery atmosphere, Mode 7 effects, and a color palette so packed with pastels, it makes Hello Kitty look like one of the hunchbacks from Gears of War.  If you're into that sort of thing, you can either buy it for a dollar on Xbox Live, or download it to your computer free of charge.

Studio Hunty
80 MSP

Crosstown combines the fugly, monocolored graphics of early home computers, the "chess pieces gone mad" gameplay of early arcade hits like Robotron: 2084, and the sheer mindfuckery of Portal for an experience that's well worth the dollar you'll pay, along with any hair you'll tear out while trying to finish it.

After a brief video clip of an anonymous nerd feeding a floppy disc into his ancient "Commissar 6000," the action begins with the player being carelessly dropped into the center of Crosstown, a mysterious city teeming with mutants.  It's your mission to collect the four "Qreds" in each stage, often competing with the denizens of each labyrinthine city block for the glowing discs.  Succeed and you'll be granted passage to the next level, but not before being taunted by Piggy, the game's sadistic artificial intelligence.

The tiny characters that jerk forward in half-steps were meant to satirize the low performance hardware of the Sinclair Spectrum ZX, but players who weren't in on the joke (read: anyone who didn't grow up in Great Britain during the 1980s) were reluctant to spend five dollars on a game this unpolished.  However, now that the price of Crosstown has dropped to a buck, no self-respecting retro game fan should be without it.  The gameplay is every bit as intense as a twitch shooter should be, but also more nuanced.  You'll have to choose your shots carefully and even bait enemies into killing each other if you hope to make much progress in the later stages.

Milkstone Studios
240 MSP

Forget about the slick polygonal graphics for a second... they might give you the impression that this is a Dreamcast-quality driving sim like Metropolis Street Racer or Tokyo Xtreme Racer, but the old school gameplay has more in common with Sega's crusty arcade hit Turbo.  The car ignores the laws of centrifugal force as it effortlessly slides between lanes, and forget about a stick shift... you're not even getting a gas pedal for this risky ride!

Like Turbo and other arcade racing games from the 1980s, MotorHEAT is all about reaching the next checkpoint before a timer on the top of the screen expires.  However, the developers have spiced up the action with a tank of nitrous oxide, filled by close calls with other drivers.  Hit the turbo button after the tank is full and you'll streak past traffic on your way to the next checkpoint.  Get too close to another car, however, and your sleek street racer is lost in a fiery explosion, along with precious seconds and any nitrous you've collected up to that point.

Aside from bonus features reserved for paying customers, MotorHEAT doesn't get much more complicated that that.  Frankly, it doesn't need to be.  If you wanted a realistic racing simulation you'd already own Forza Motorsports.  This one's meant for the twitch gamers who can remember when every driving game was like this, and who long for a return to those simpler times.

Cyrille Lagarigue
240 MSP

With its endlessly recycled digitized graphics and acting so hammy it deserves a honey glaze, Streets of Fury is a tribute to an era of gaming most players are eager to leave behind.  However, if you're one of the oddballs who fondly remembers the glory days of Mortal Kombat, you're going to want this fast-paced fighting game on your hard drive.

While it may borrow its visual style from Midway's bloody brawler, Streets of Fury is most inspired by side-scrolling beat 'em ups, especially the Streets of Rage series and Treasure's Guardian Heroes.  The action takes place on three planes, with a tap of the right trigger sliding your hero toward or away from the screen.  When France's most dangerous thugs surround you, you'll drive them back with punches, kicks, and a special strong attack.  Charge a meter at the bottom of the screen and you'll be given access to the heavy duty crowd control, devastating rage attacks that sweep the screen clear of foes.

There are only five distinct characters, but like the best beat 'em ups from the early 1990s, they're stretched into a cast of thousands.  When you're not playing as an Xzibit look-alike with acne, you'll beat the ever-loving crap out of him, along with dozens of hooded thugs and scrawny NASCAR fans.  Fortunately, four player action and the ability to save your progress after every stage soothes the sting of the game's repetition.  Invite some Gen X friends over and stop by the liquor store for a keg of beer, and you'll get more than your money's worth out of this one.

400 MSP

The twin stick shooter.  You know it, you loved it after Geometry Wars, but you love it a little less after dozens of increasingly lackluster clones were released on the Xbox Live Indie Games service.  Biology Battle was the first of these, making its debut when the service had the less flashy title Community Games, and from a visual standpoint it's arguably the most advanced of the bunch.  Rather than the glowing abstract shapes of Geometry Wars, you're swarmed by organic foes ranging from timid red blood cells to roving tapeworms and the world's tiniest jellyfish.

The inner space motif looks good enough to push the game straight to Xbox Live Arcade, but numerous flaws leave Biology Battle looking pretty small next to the king of this genre.  Neither the player's wimpy laser cannon nor the somewhat dim enemies make the impact that Geometry Wars had, and the player is overburdened with auxillary weapons... rather than a simple, screen-clearing bomb, you're given sweeping bolts of lightning that won't always save you in a tight situation, along with a handful of largely ignored and occasionally suicidal abilities.  What's a dash doing in a game where you're surrounded from all sides and killed with a single touch, anyway?

If you're nutty for the Robotron style of gameplay and three Geometry Wars games weren't enough to satisfy that craving, Biology Battle will scratch the itch better than most of its competitors.  Just don't expect to be impressed by the few new ideas Biology Battle brings to the table.  Do expect to be annoyed by the constant stream of nerdy pop culture references that flash on the screen while you're playing.

240 MSP

There's every indication from the screenshots that Shooting Chicken Revenge is a masterpiece, head and shoulders above the rest of the Indie Games library.  Ignore those first impressions.  Despite gorgeous, hand-drawn artwork, this game stinks on ice.  Imagine this incredibly implausible scenario... you're trapped in the kitchen of a Chick Fil-A, surrounded by hens and roosters which take your career choice personally.  The frenzied fowl cling to you the way cholestoral clings to the arteries of your most obese customer, and their ceaseless shrieking hangs in the air like a dense fog, threatening your sanity.  Despite your best efforts and a shotgun that never runs out of ammo, the birds will soon have their bloody revenge... and the developers will have to send the estate of Alfred Hitchcock another royalty check.

Kohei's got a lot of nerve charging three dollars for this.  It may not be the worst Xbox Indie Games release available, but it's sure as hell the most obnoxious.  The gameplay is obscenely shallow, the default weapon is worthless against the constant onslaught of chickens, and the game is so miserly with its currency that you'd have to play for hours, days, even weeks just to afford the upgrades.  Weeks, playing this?!  I'd rather stick my hand in a deep fryer.