The Xbox One Indie Investigation: Vol. 1

Recently, Microsoft launched The Creator’s Collection for Xbox One.


Remember the Xbox 360 Indie Store? Yeah, it’s back baby, but with a new set of teeth. The 360’s Indie Store was a legendary gold mine for terribly hilarious and hilariously terrible games, with the negatives outweighing the positives by a few billion tonnes. For every BLEED, Cthulhu Saves The World and DLC Quest, you’d get a hundred Minecraft clones, hentai puzzle games and awfully drawn cheesecake that small-time developers would put on the box art to con kids. It was the Wild Wild West of Video Game Marketplaces.


But now, it’s back, with a slightly stronger focus on what gets released and how it comes around. You can’t just slap together a PowerPoint Presentation and call it a VN, oh no sir. You’ve got to at least make a game here. And that’s what these bi-weekly features will focus on, putting the spotlight on a few titles to see if they make the grade and deserve to get paid, or to see if they should be left alone in the dark corner they were produced in.


A quick point I would like to bring up before we continue. It’s clear that at times these developers, while passionate for the games they create, are limited with what they can make. Not everyone can afford Unreal Engine 4 and Troy Baker for a weekend, they work with what they can. So the standards will be lowered more so than usual, as comparing Arcade Hysteria to Slender: The Arrival is like comparing a toast sandwich to Masayoshi Takayamas’ legendary Sushi dishes.


So without further ado, lets gallop into the gaping gauntlet of games.



ERMO- Everything In Its’ Right Place


First on the chopping block is ERMO, a puzzle game designed for Windows 10, and possibly mobile devices, developed by Nonostante, who I assume are Italian since Nonostante means “Despite”. This title sees you sliding blocks around in order for them to fit into the columns designated for them. After a while, extra restrictions are placed upon the player, which leaves you to figure out the precise pattern in which to proceed. It’s okay, the game shows a well-made difficulty curve, it’s peaceful and it’s a great time killer. Not a bad waste of 100 MegaBytes.

Score: Sick- 5.5/10



GalactiMAX- The Bigger They Are..


Shoot ’em ups are a good source of reflex training, and GalactiMAX puts you in the hot seat with a twist. Developed by AJ Ryan (ONLYUSEmeFEET), a disabled gamer working to make video games more accessible to people in similar situations, you control a ship that must eat his victims in order to grow in size after a set amount of kills.


After a while, you’ll be a juggernaut of steel, bombarding enemies with enough firepower to reduce them to atoms, which is quite a blast to play. The game was originally made for a 12-hour game jam, which would explain its lack of anything but the premise, but otherwise, it shows promise from a developer looking to make strides in the industry. Kudos to him and this title.

Score: Sick- 6.0/10



Space Cat! – Feline McCloud


Space Cat! probably shows the biggest promise out of all the titles on display here. Developer Gersh Games has created a game which feels more like the real deal than most titles showcased here. There’s voice acting, a bright aesthetic and a story with layers. It’s impressive and shows just how ambitious these developers can be.


Okay, the voice acting may be awfully amateur and it may look like a Commodore 64 title, but it’s admirable of Gersh Games to show people just how far you can go. It might be a Starfox 64 clone but they did more justice to the franchise than Nintendo did with Starfox Wii U. Give this one a try, it gives you a lot of bang for your free buck.

Score: ILL- 7.0/10



Jump, Step, Step- The Robot Time Warp


Admittedly, I’m cheating with this one a bit. This was actually released on the Xbox Marketplace for a price tag larger than the cost of an espresso, but it’s on par with everything else highlighted here. That may sound like a bad thing but I mean no ill will, as Thunder Cloud Studio have created a competent game here.


You’re a robot looking to find his way home, and you have to plan where your robot goes in order to complete the puzzle on display. You input directions and commands in order to avoid death and find the missing parts of a rocket ship. It’s different and kills time, but it’s forgettable and shows very little polish. Cute robot though.


Score: Sick- 5.0/10



Whispers In The Dark- “BE QUIET, HE’LL HEAR US!”


Nothing like a Myst clone to calm the waters. Whispers In The Dark comes to us from Voszcura, and the origin of the developer is a bigger mystery than the one in-game. You are a brother to a woman who’s body vanished after her death. As you assume you share the same fate, you task yourself with finding out where she went and what your meaning in life actually was.


This game wears the word “mystery” like a fancy suit and it’s a product of a time long gone. It’s paced well, there’s an unsettling air to it all, but it looks awfully cheap and the soundtracks plinky-plonky synths ruin all atmosphere. Nostalgia feels like the objective, and it’s an okay exercise in it, even if you kind of wish the game was in a frame rate higher than 10.


Score: Sick- 5.0/10



Stereo Aereo- Sci-Fi Hero: Legends of Frock


Awww yeah, I’ve saved the best for last. Stereo Aereo comes to us from The Stonebot Studio, a developer based in El Salvador who has bought a stylish plate to the table, filled with personality and charm. It crafts its’ own identity in a rhythm-action game and it was a neon-tinted experience I won’t forget for a long time.


You play as one of three characters, all of which are in a band and are looking for a get-rich-quick gig. You travel the galaxy, blasting asteroids, droids and avoiding traffic, err.. oids, set to a bombastic synth soundtrack. The game has cut-scenes, the world is alive and teeming with beauty and the gameplay is a solid mix of Guitar Hero and a old-school shoot ’em up.


Out of all the games here, Stereo Aereo feels the most like an ID@Xbox release and I genuinely hope that more attention is paid to these guys, because they show unequalled passion and skill in their craft. Watch The Stone Studio from here on out, as I expect great things for these guys in the future.


Score: Viral- 9.0/10


And there’s the first batch of Indie titles for the general public to get their hands on. All games mentioned, aside from Stereo Aereo and Jump, Step, Step were free, with Stereo costing approx. $4 and Jump, Step, Step costing approx. $8. Overall, it was a nice dive into the deep end and it almost reminds me of the olden days of the 360 store.


Here’s to the future, where asset flips may be eliminated and indie ideas are laid bare for the world to see.

Sam Taylor
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters' biggest fanboy.

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PAX South 2018