Friday, 23 April 2010

Indie Games Reviews: Pixel & Avatar Boogie

The indie games section of the 360 is a brilliant idea, although one that seems to often be overlooked. Anyone with some programming knowledge can use Microsoft's XNA tools to develop a game for the Xbox 360 or PC, the ease of use of these tools means that the number of games is growing at an amazing pace, currently there are over nine hundred game available for download. With such a large catalogue available there will understandably be quite a variation in the quality of titles available. Here at S&N we will be playing through as many of these games as possible and reviewing them to help you pick out the best bargains the indie games section has to offer.

Arkedo series 03: Pixel – Arkedo
240 Points

Aww, he's so cute... I mean... 'Grrr when's Gears of War 3 out?'
There are few better ways to spend your money than on Pixel, it is without a doubt one of the best indie games available on the 360 and rivals a lot of the full Xbox Live Arcade titles. Arkedo are a French developer responsible for developing a couple of full retail releases for the Nintendo DS, including Nervous Brickdown, an innovative take on Breakout. It doesn't come as much of a surprise then that Pixel feels like a professional product, from the quality of the visuals through to the precision of the controls every element of the game is so perfectly refined. The first thing you'll notice when you jump into a game and take control of the titular cat Pixel is how how fantastic everything looks. The graphics are presented in a faux retro style reminiscent of the original Gameboy , with everything made up of large glowing pixels consisting mainly of shades of blue. The graphics are simple but endearing, Pixel the cat is one of the cutest videogame characters I've ever seen, no mean feat when you consider that he is only about 10 pixels tall, and his crouch animation alone is almost worth the cost of the game.

While simplicity is the biggest strength of Pixel, it's not without a a few unique ideas, at certain points progress will be blocked by an obstacle that seemingly can't be passed, at these times it is possible to bring up a magnifying glass and zoom into objects on screen, when zoomed if you play a small maze mini-game based around the pixels that make up the object, these are quick and extremely straight forward but bring some variety, when you take into account that there are various treasures throughout the game world to be found in this fashion as well, it adds a great deal of replayability.

Given the low cost of the game it's inexcusable not to pick this little gem up and give it a go, I imagine even the most hardened of gamers will find their hearts melted by the charm this game oozes.

Avatar Boogie – Highbrow Games
80 Points

50 Avatars dancing at once looks pretty cool
Avatar Boogie is sadly not a Dance Dance Revolution clone featuring giant blue aliens and glitterballs made of unobtanium, but is in fact a screensaver style application featuring dancing characters. The primary appeal of this application (game isn't the right term) is the ability to use your own user created avatars, at least it would be the appeal if you were actually able to do so. Due to the restrictions set by Microsoft relating to the use of avatars it is not possible to use your own characters in this application at all, which unfortunately diminishes the appeal almost straight away. But lets not focus on what can't be done and instead on what can be done, up to 50 randomly generated Avatars can be taken to one of 3 environments, and will perform either a selection of randomised dance moves or can be organised by the user. There's no denying that 50 little avatars doing individual dances is entertaining, but it's not something you'll want to sit and look at for an extended period of time. There are five built in songs included with the download and each song has a unique dance routine that goes along with it, again while entertaining these songs are only intended as brief distractions, as the game supports playing music direct from the consoles hard drive. There doesn't seem to be any automatic recognition of the beat of the songs that you choose to play, but the BMP can be set manually to sync up with your tunes.

There's no denying that Avatar Boogie makes for a good screensaver or replacement to the usual swirly light visualiser at a party, and it certainly creates a talking point. However it is these talking points that also highlight the aforementioned shortcoming of the application, how much more would be garnered from actually having representations of the party goers up on the screen? Sadly until there is some change to the Avatar restrictions Avatar Boogie will be held back from its true potential.

If you are an indie developer and would like your game featured, or if you have a tip for an indie game for us to look at, please contact us at

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