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XBLA 3: Indie edition

I realize the timing of this is down right awful, what with us on the cusp of another Holiday season game release frenzy, but after you’ve woken from your New Year’s Eve (unless you’re in China. Is WordPress blocked in China?) haze stumble back to your computer and remember this article. Here you will find a few simple games that bring me sweet addictive joy. Tophat has some deep-seated hatred for indie games. Secretly I think he’s afraid they’re all games that either turn your controller into something naughty or they resemble some creepiness found under the mature tab on Newgrounds. And while those games certainly do exist, the former in abundance, personally I find the indie games section of Xbox Live Arcade to be an exciting forum for creative talent with no money and no interest in Flash. I admit, the games I selected for this post are not shining examples of shoestring budget masterpieces but I like them and I want to let other people know. I hope to bring you more of my favorite and some that make me wish there was a return policy, but for now here are two I play too often.

Miner Dig Deep

Who uses this many ladders? I mean really.

OK, so remember how I mentioned Newgrounds? Well Miner Dig Deep plays like a flash game. Or more accurately, an arcade game. It’s very simple to get into, you just swing your axe at the ground and away you go. But as the game progresses it becomes more and more about strategy.

Should I spend my resources on a grappling hook or a lantern, or maybe a bigger bag? The limited number of options at the store end up giving you a lot of options down in the mine. You can get a better axe to dig faster, a better lantern to dig longer, a bigger bag to haul more resources out at once, an elevator to get down the good stuff faster, ladders or grappling hooks to get out of your hole. Heck, you can even get a gas-powered drill to make the job go faster.

Personally I  found the drill to be a waste of resources, after all I have enough trouble keeping my stupid lantern lit. It always seems to run out of fuel to fast no matter how many giant elevators I use. The game mechanics are well polished and intuitive and I was very surprised how quickly I was drawn into the game. This is the first game I have ever bought immediately after one play through of the demo. Those 200 MS points were out of my pocket so fast it made my head spin. There are few simulators that really capture the emotion of the activity they portray, but with this game I got the gold bug and four hours later I was trying to figure out what I was doing in a small Alaskan village surrounded by a bunch of drunks and some of the ugliest women I had ever seen.

I think part of it has to do with my love of infrastructure. It’s one of the reasons I loved Sim City, especially before I understood the inner workings of small government. Building efficient mine shafts that allow me to quickly retrieve every last bit of ore and precious gems down below is strangely rewarding. But whatever you do don’t look for a plot. The plot revolves around a nameless miner who lives in a shack halfway between his claim and the general store. Also, there are some trees. The leaves in these trees blow in the wind, making me nauseous when I’m above ground.

The game does a nice job progressing in difficulty, especially when you get below 500 feet and find little else but giant cracks in the earth that will surely lead you to a swift death. That’s something else I should mention, death does little more than lose you all the resources you collected since your last time on the surface. You don’t die according to the “story.” You’re just trapped under a boulder or at the bottom of a shaft with broken limbs until some other miner tries to jump your claim and finds you. Of course you never actually see these other miners, but whatever.

There are hints flowing through the tubes that there is an ending to the game. I haven’t dug deep enough apparently. But at 250 feet you find something cool.


An F-15 slices through the air.

Negative Ghostrider the pattern is full.

When it comes to games Tophat hates, and makes fun of me for owning, nothing is further up his list than RC-AirSim. There’s no plot, no objectives, and only a handful of objects to crash into, most of them trees. It’s just the remote control and the planes. Pure relaxation. When I get frustrated with platformers or games with tons of enemies and limited ammunition I quicklaunch this little sucker and start buzzing around my simulated backyard.

As a kid I loved airplanes. And cars. And anything that was capable of traveling faster than 25 miles an hour. Except motorcycles, but that’s a story for another time. My best friend and distant cousin loved planes more than I did to the extent that he bought and built his own RC planes. I thought these things were the coolest thing in the world but he never let me fly them. He was 100 percent certain I would crash them on the first flight. And after playing this game I’d have to say he was probably right. Luckily crashing the Super Dee into the shed for the hundredth time cost me exactly nil. Fixing the real things after a bad flight is quite expensive.

The problem is, every flight simulator I’ve ever played you’re always behind the plane through the course of the flight. In RC-AirSim you’re right where one would expect to be while flying a remote-controlled plane. Standing in one spot. That means thinking about the controls a little differently, especially while inverted. For example, let’s say your plane takes off heading away from you. You pull a few quick maneuvers that would have anybody on board the plane vomiting all over the cockpit or at least passing out and now the plane is headed right for you. The control that used to make the plane bank left now makes it bank right. Your perspective has changed. This resulted in a lot of crashes for me.

The graphics are very basic; the planes are just polygonal enough to make me think I’m playing a DOS game on Windows 95.  The flight controls are the redeeming factor here. Having never flown a real remote control airplane I can’t say their real-world accurate. But they feel spot on.

Unlike Miner Dig Deep I played the demo for this game for a very long time. And really, I think I would have continued playing it for brief moment of time in perpetuity if it weren’t for the F-15 “Regal Eagle.” The opportunity to fly Maverick and Goose’s plane right past my simulated head, spilling my simulated coffee, was too tempting. The other planes are fun to, and add a nice variety to the game with the exception of the glider. It reminds me of these styrofoam gliders I did have as a kid. They did great in a straight line but didn’t have quite enough power to do many tricks.

Eventually I broke down and spent the 240 MS points. I still maintain that 240 points is way too much for a game with no scenery changes and really nothing but a variety of planes to speak for, but darn it, I really like it. This is an 80 point game and that’s all there is to it.


5 Responses

  1. It’s not that I hate the games, Enosh, it’s that I hate YOU. There’s a difference.

    Though to be fair, that flight sim is pretty awful. Maybe if they had some, I dunno, clouds in the sky or hot air balloons or friggin birds or something, anything to actually make it look like the plane is moving once you get it above the ONE tree and shed you can wreck into the game would be worth playing. Maybe.
    I’d still hate you regardless though. It’s good to keep that in perspective.

    • There’s more than one tree, though I admit some clouds would be a nice touch.
      And as far your deep seated hatred, if I had any consideration for your feelings we would have stopped working together long ago. As it turns out, I enjoy torturing too much to simply end this relationship.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim the Coder, RC-AirSim. RC-AirSim said: "That's a negative, GhostRider, the pattern is full. " Faceplant! review of RC-AirSim. http://bit.ly/bSd2md #xblig #xbox […]

  3. So, I feel I should mention this, Maverick and Goose actually flew Navy F-14 Tomcats, not the Air Force F-15 Eagle. It has apparently been too long since I was obsessed with fighter jets.

  4. […] I fall down to Top Dog instead of Omnipotent Dealer of Death. I mentioned this in my XBLA review of RC-Air Sim, I find soaring through the air very relaxing. If I happen to be gunning down a few planes while […]

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