(Images courtesy Big Pixel Studios)

The current generation console experience is generally perceived to be mostly limited to the AAA industry. Big budget blockbuster games with ever-increasing demands for both video and audio tend to leave the player worn out as companies play things safer and safer seemingly with each iteration of a major franchise. However there are still some fun smaller titles to be found. The [email protected] program in particular focuses on bringing independent titles to the platform and giving them a chance to be discovered among all the other bigger, flashier experiences. Recently, Big Pixel Studios released their first console title, Mega Coin Squad, on the Xbox One thanks to [email protected]

Mega Coin Squad is a fun 2D coin-collecting action game with large, stylish sprites and bright, colourful backgrounds. It combines fast-paced, skillful platforming with precision shooting and air dashing about in order to collect a target number of coins as quickly as possible in its levels while avoiding getting hit. Getting hit will result in a major loss of coins, and if you get hit three times, you have to restart the level. To offset the risk of getting hit and losing your coin collection progress, you can return to a large piggy bank in the centre of the level and bank away what you've collected so far. This takes time to do, so you need to balance safety concerns with completion speed. It's a fun mechanic and it works to help adapt the game's difficulty to the player's needs.

In addition to simply meeting target coin goals, there are three sub-goals which reward you with gems if you meet them. These are a target completion time, completing the level by only banking once, and completing the level without getting hit. Interestingly, they all work together quite well, because if you're confident you can get the level done without getting hit, then you'll be willing to risk not banking. By not banking, you save time. A skilled player can likely do all three in most levels. The gems are used to unlock upgrades for your character in a slot-machine timing minigame, and these allow you to improve your weapons, your dash moves, or get abilities like double-jumping. These are all useful but I'd only say a few are necessary. The double-jump and the abilities that limit the number of coins you can lose upon getting hit make the game significantly easier and give you more freedom of movement, and as such feel essential compared to the other upgrade options.

Each of the four worlds in the game are unique and distinct, though they are the sort of environments you would innately expect from any platformer. Starting in the grassy hills and moving on to a desert, then an ice world (complete with ice physics which everyone enjoys) and finally a fiery volcano land. They have their own mostly unique enemies which are mostly thematically appropriate with the infrequent oddball, and they have their own theme music, which helps to keep the game fresh as you work your way through the game.

The five characters all have saved progress, so you can go through the single player mode with any character and if you feel like playing another character, you can do so from the beginning without having to worry about losing your progress on others. The characters all have their own stats and reasons for being on the island looking for money, but they don't quite feel too different except for speed, and only the fastest and slowest characters feel particularly different.

This doesn't mean it's not fun, it definitely is. The levels randomly generate elements to them as time progresses, and each section fades away after being around a little while, so there is lots of variety to experience even within a couple minutes' play, and so each replay within a level isn't quite the same. It keeps the game challenging while allowing you to choose what you want to attempt and what you don't feel confident going for. It's very approachable to players of different skill levels, and it's welcome to see.

In addition to the single-player mode, it has co-op play and a variety of different multiplayer modes. These are all local, so it may be hard to try out for some folks, but the game conceptually seems like the kind that would be really fun with a living room full of friends. Dashing and jumping about competing for the highest cash totals seems like it would be a blast, and while the combat isn't deep, the smooth controls make the deathmatch mode seem appealing.

Mega Coin Squad is a fun game that can be played for any few minutes you have to spare. It's something that the Xbox One really lacks, and it's a very welcome niche for this game to fill out. If you find yourself looking for something you can sit down and play a little while at a time on your Xbox, Mega Coin Squad is definitely the direction you want to be looking, and if you have a group of friends and enough controllers to support some fun local multiplayer you also should consider this offering from Big Pixel Studios.