Every couple of weeks, we recommend some of the best games on the Xbox Live Indie channel. These are the games on the fringe of the Xbox 360 platform, made by average Joes and indie dreamers. They're peer-reviewed, not Microsoft-approved and thankfully they're not all about posing your Xbox Avatar or giving dating advice.
Our favorites—a mix of new and established Indies, all of them cheap—are listed here and listed in the Kotaku's Favorites channel in the Indie Game section of Xbox Live's Games Marketplace.
We'll have new recommendations, here and on Xbox Live, in two weeks. Enjoy!
Pixelbit Helicopter Challenge (80 MS Points): Flight simulators aren't the most abundant genre in modern gaming. It can be difficult to create controls that are challenging to master, but not so frustrating that the game becomes unplayable. Helicopter Challenge 's controls have been fine tuned perfectly. The controls feels uneasy to begin with, but the patience it takes to master them gives you a great sense of accomplishment and skill.
Levels consist of challenges such as flying through hoops, shooting targets and landing on helicopter pads. Each challenge has bonus goals, extra landing goals, and enough time incentives to make them highly replayable. Unlocking new and faster helicopters only adds to the replay value. The graphics are bright and beautiful, far beyond the simple visuals usually found in the indie channel. Even the music delivers—relaxing jazzy tunes make sure those long play sessions stay calm. -Max Abrams
Infinity Danger (80 MS Points): Unlike flight simulators, Twin-stick space shooters are a dime a dozen on indie channel, most of them inducing more yawns than excitement. Infinity Danger bucks the trend by getting rid of all those pesky small enemies and sticking with boss fights. The game opens with a boss that grows larger and more dangerous each time it's defeated. What starts out as a tiny boss core becomes a giant multipart spacecraft with missiles and lasers coming from all directions.
There is no life counter; dying takes time off the clock and decreases your score for that round. But your world ranking sits in the right corner, taunting you to do better. The graphics are beautifully rendered and the controls are precise and tight, making this is a great take on an often overdone genre. -Max Abrams
Pixel Blocked! (80 MS Points): In this retro-feel puzzle game, the goal is to fill in the missing blocks to complete an image. The player must rotate the image to shoot blocks into their proper place, using other blocks to stop their path. The game slowly introduces other gameplay mechanics, such as destructible and magnet blocks.
These additions never feel forced and add new dimensions to the challenges without changing the nature of the puzzles. The 3D pixel style is comforting and the overall atmosphere is clever. The game requires the kind of spatial logic that is both brain bending and satisfying. -Max Abrams
Laser Cat (80 MS Points): Have you beat Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and are craving more metroidvania exploring? Fear not, Laser Cat is here to quell your adventuring lust. You control a pixelated cat as he searches the castle of the evil Wizzord for his lost companion Owlfriend. The main goal is to collect all the keys in the castle, with a comedic trivia question after every key discovered.
While there are no upgrades, there are 225 rooms to play through—and the first 50 have each been memorable and unique, with challenges ranging from puzzles to precise platforming. The developers included fun details, too, such as the little ghost cat you leave behind every time you die. Non-linear platforming with well made controls and a silly sense of humor is something worth celebrating. -Max Abrams
Who is God (80 MS Points): Since the beginning of time humanity has looked to the sky and asked, "Who is the higher power? Who is God?" Developer Magiko has answered that question simply: whoever has the highest score in their game at the moment. Sounds fair to me. The player chooses between four deities to take to the top of the leaderboard. The gameplay is almost identical to Doodle Jump as you use platforms to bounce to higher levels.
However, Who is God has more left and right movements to mix up the constant upward trajectory and the graphics are more appealing, using some 8-bit style with colorful and eye catching modern effects. Like Magiko's last title, Platformance, Who is God gets by on its presentation and execution instead of original ideas. -Max Abrams
Gerbil Physics 2 (80 MS Points): The physics-based fun in Gerbil Physics 2 should be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in casual games. Angry Birds may rule the physics puzzle roost, but the Gerbil Physics series should not be passed over. Ranging from slingshots to bombs to pull strings, the game features a dizzying amount of tools and weapons with which to fling gerbils.
The goal is to get all the gerbils below a yellow line, but watching them fly through the air can be just as enjoyable. The puzzles require both complex thinking and fast reflexes to get through. Some puzzles will test your endurance level, but they are balanced out by challenges full of satisfying destruction. The game also has enough colorful and cutesy visuals to keep anyone positive during gerbil-induced mayhem. -Max Abrams