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 your Xbox Avatar dancing or how to flirt with girls.
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!
Zombies Ruined My Day (80 MS Points): Ok we hear you, another indie game where you have to shoot all the zombies on the screen? While it's true that practically one in every two indie games involve zombie genocide, Zombies Ruined My Day at least has the decency to do it right. As the game progresses, the player gains access to new weapons and items. Using barriers and grenades, among other tools, at the right moments is imperative to get through all the different types of zombies you'll encounter. In this way the game becomes more of a puzzler than an action game. It's more important to know how to use different weapons and items correctly than to have a good trigger finger. The graphic style is bright but still gory and the gameplay is changed up enough with the occasional boss fight to make this not your typical indie zombie murder simulator. –Max Abrams
Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie (80 MS Points): In what seems like a tossed out movie script, the player controls French stunt woman/secret agent Julie Cevoir as she tries to take down the super villain Dr. Kreutzer. At least the gameplay is more convincing. As Julie, the player must keep the motorcycle at the right speed while shooting mines, tanks and planes. Jumps are everywhere, so making sure Julie lands flat becomes a big part of the game. Add in a the use of nitro, and the player has a lot to think about at any given second. If Julie isn't going fast enough, or using nitro during the right jump, enemies might escape or become unavoidable as they attack. Motorbike Stunt Agent Julie may seem silly, but it's actually a tense and fast combination of driving and twin stick shooting. –Max Abrams
Raventhorne (240 MS Points): Raventhorne is the launch title in Xbox's "Summer Indie Uprising," a program designed to promote the best the Xbox Indie world has to offer. The game is a relatively simple beat em up, complete with light, heavy and magic attacks. There is a roll button, but a stamina bar limits the amount of jumping and blocking in battle. Most fights devolve into jumping around to avoid getting hurt, as most enemies are much more powerful than our hero. But while Raventhorne is only an adequate fighter, the style and myths of the game are fantastic. The story is set in norse mythology (no not like this). In the opening sequence Raventhorne meets the Norns, three women who decide the destinies of men, similar to the three Fates in Greek mythology. There are beautiful detailed backgrounds and each characters is has a unique style, as though each one is a cut out paper puppet. What Raventhorne lacks in original gameplay, it makes up for in atmosphere and appearance. –Max Abrams
Inferno! (240 MS Points): Before you ask, no this is not Radiangames' indie twin stick shooter Inferno. In the lesser known Inferno! the player takes control of a single ship tasked with cooling down an entire nuclear power plant before a meltdown occurs. The player must pilot the craft through overheated areas to cool them down. Using power ups and weapons along the way, there are an array of enemies stopping the little ship. Everything in the game plays like a love ballad to '80s gaming. The levels are square grids with pixilated graphics. The music and sound effects (including the word "ammo" repeated robotically after every ammo pickup) are the right amount of low grade funky techno to put the player in old school bliss. The player is given a score at the end of each level, with tons of bonuses for things like time and laser use. The online leaderboards give the game great replay value. In short, this is not the evolution of retro games, this is a just a great classic game that happened to come out in 2011.
Akane the Kunoichi (80 MS Points): A game that definitely takes some pointers from classic 8 and 16-bit platformers Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, Akane the Kunoichi follows a female ninja on her quest to save her master. Like its gaming inspirations, Akane uses the traditional jumping and dagger throwing gameplay to get through its colorful 15 levels. Of course there is some ninja magic to activate if you get overwhelmed. The controls handle properly for a ninja game, as Akane can stick to the wall to get to higher areas or approach a battle with more strategy. The levels are bright and varied. The game's cartoon style is utilized well for things like water and giant bosses. With Shinobi 3DS maybe not looking as sharp as we hoped, Akane is a up to the challenge of continuing the retro ninja platformer genre. –Max Abrams
Nyan-Tech (80 MS Points): Cute graphics can only take a game so far. In the case of Nyan-Tech, an adorable style can take you pretty far. The music and retro graphics are as cute as a button, which makes sense considering the gameplay. The player controls a cat girl as she tries to get from point A to point B, sometimes needing to unlock point B before getting there. The cat girl has a double jump and crouch, but most of the puzzles involve the game's button mechanic. There are blocks that can be turned on or off depending on the buttoned held down. Seemingly simple, think about holding X and left bumper while jumping and changing your X finger to B in midair. The game quickly becomes a round of finger twister. With the timer running down whenever the player moves, the rush forces the player into button mistakes, and into a subsequent spiky death. Anyone looking for something a little different with their puzzle/platformer should give this finger exercise a shot. –Max Abrams