December 15, 2012 12:00 PM | Danny Cowan
[IndieGames begins its extended year in review across all platforms, starting with its top 10 XBLIG titles of 2012.] This year was perhaps the best year the Xbox Live Indie Games service has ever seen. It was packed so full of surprises, in fact, that I had to make major revisions to this list just a few days before it was set to be published.
To date, no other console platform can compete with the Xbox Live Indie Games service in terms of providing a steady stream of weird and wonderful creations from a pool of talented indie developers. Here are my picks for the top 10 XBLIG titles released this year.
10. Quiet, Please! (Nostatic Software)
Nostatic Software's retro-styled, side-scrolling adventure game Quiet, Please! has a narrow scope, simple objectives, and it can be beaten in less than an hour. It's also a real charmer, and it'll win you over in no time.
The quest sees a grade-schooler seeking peace and quiet after a rough day at school. During the adventure, you'll distract your noisy brother, sabotage your dad's satellite dish, and pacify a rowdy gang of kittens... and you'll love every minute of it.
9. Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 (Zeboyd Games)
Fans had all but given up hope of seeing the concluding chapters in the Rain-Slick saga after creator Hothead Games abandoned the franchise in 2010, but in swept Cthulhu Saves the World developer Zeboyd Games with a sequel that took the series in a dramatic new direction, both in terms of graphics and in gameplay.
It's definitely a change for the better, and fans of the 16-bit entries in Square Enix's Final Fantasy series will especially find a lot to like here. Even if you loathe the comic or didn't care for the first two entries in the series, you'll love Zeboyd's inspired, well-written sequel.
8. Vidiot Game (GZ Storm)
I love it when video games surprise me. Luckily for me, if there's one word that could best describe Vidiot Game, it's "surprising."
Other words I'd use to describe it include "bizarre," "inscrutable," "nonsensical," and "brilliant." Created by Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden collaborator GZ Storm, this is every bit as strange as you might hope. Just don't hurt yourself trying to make sense of it all.
7. EvilQuest (Chaosoft Games)
Frankly, I'm just glad that someone else remembers SNK's overlooked NES action-RPG classic Crystalis.
More than that, though, EvilQuest gives players a chance to play as an evil jerk, with satisfying results. Aside from providing a humorous narrative, the gameplay mechanics -- many of which were heavily inspired by Crystalis -- are also quite solid. I really need to go back to this one, as the hours I spent with it earlier this year were some of the most fun I've ever had with an Xbox Live Indie Game.
6. qrth-phyl (hermitgames)
The sequence during which qrth-phyl shifts from 2D to 3D at its outset is one of my favorite moments in a video game released this year.
Your initial surprise soon turns to delight/horror as you realize that you're in for much more than what you'd expect from a Snake variant. qrth-phyl is simple in concept, but the execution could scarcely be better.
5. Snops Attack! Zombie Defense (Snops)
The title might make you think this is just another generic zombie game, or maybe some kind of tower-defendy nonsense. Instead, Snops Attack: Zombie Defense is a vertically scrolling bullet hell shoot-'em-up -- and a damn fine one, too!
Inspired by the chain-based scoring systems in games created by respected arcade shooter developer Cave, Snops Attack stands among the best in its crowd, easily rivaling top XBLIG shmups like Score Rush and Shoot 1UP.
4. Apple Jack 2 (My Owl Software)
Apple Jack 2 has a great intro. It certainly gave me the single biggest laugh I've had with an Xbox Live Indie Game this year. Well played, My Owl Software.
I also really enjoyed Apple Jack 2's clever take on Super Mario Bros. 2's enemy-throwing mechanics. Nintendo's odd-man-out Mario sequel has always been one of my personal favorites, and the skillful way in which Apple Jack 2 builds on its gameplay is quite an achievement.
3. Gateways (Smudged Cat Games)
Smudged Cat Games' previous title The Adventures of Shuggy is one of the unsung greats in Xbox Live Arcade's catalog, and Gateways is a worthy follow-up.
Gateways easily tops Shuggy's inventive puzzles with an array of environmental challenges that see players reversing gravity, shifting time, and teleporting through solid walls -- sometimes simultaneously. Its well-designed hint system also deserves mention, as it makes the game a much friendlier and better-paced experience than it would be otherwise.
2. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (sparsevector)
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure takes the best and most memorable elements from the edutainment classic The Oregon Trail and adds in a healthy dose of surrealism to create a roguelike / visual novel / shoot-'em-up that defies easy explanation.
Sometimes difficult, other times surprisingly grisly, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a delight from start to finish, and you'll replay the game dozens of times as you pursue its wide variety of unlockables. If you've ever used an Apple II, you'll love this.
1. Bleed (Bootdisk Revolution)
Bleed had the good fortune to be released one day before I started compiling this list. By that point, my picks were pretty much finalized, and I was convinced that nothing released in the final weeks of December could top my favorites for the year.
I like Bleed a lot, in other words.
Let's put it this way: do you remember how great it felt when you found out that you could propel yourself skyward by firing the machine gun in Cave Story? Bleed gives that same feeling of exhilaration from start to finish. Bleed's acrobatic, duel pistol-wielding, air-dashing, quadruple-jumping gameplay is instantly gratifying, and though the story mode is short, you'll find yourself replaying levels over and over simply because they're just so much fun to speed through.
Bleed is everything I love about run-and-gun platformers squeezed into a tightly designed package, and it's my favorite Xbox Live Indie Game released this year.