Murder Miners

Minecraft with Zombies?


Remember Minecraft? That often talked about (to death) sandbox game that everyone and their mother has tried and either got so immersed in it that they aren’t heard from for weeks (mining forever), or are like meh (like I) and just kind of brushed it off as okay? You know – that game that is now mercilessly being ripped off by everyone under the sun?
Well here’s another reiteration, but yet is not. It is more Minecraft was tossed into a blender with Halo, then poured onto a zombie soufflé.  It is an up to 20 player experience where you can create custom maps where you shoot each other. Various settings like death match, zombie survival and even on aptly named ‘infection’ will keep you on your toes. Also fully destroyable environments. 
The Miner Gun – build shelter with it and attack with it. What a strange duality.
It’s like getting the fun of multiplayer shootouts AND building things without paying the $60 price tag. The community that has built up around this game is a testament to how received it is. Also the people behind the game, JForce Games seem to have the customer service thing down pat as well. 

Murder Miners XBLIG Gameplay

Despite my meh attitude about Minecraft, I’m rather digging this game. The blocky style may take a big of getting used to but the fact that you can build your own safe house while you fight the zombies hordes (and enemy players) is just right up my zombie hunter alley. 
You can get Murder Miners off of XBLiG for 80 Microsoft Points


A game where you master lava, electricity and even time.

When I first saw this game, I went "is this Portal?" This game looks and feels like that game, except that you don’t have one-sided conversations with murderous yet snarky AI or murderous yet stupid AI.  

The world is large and beautiful yet abandoned. You wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of everything, trapped within. Again, there are no murderous AIs giving you questionable advice. No gun to open portals anywhere. Nothing but a good grasp of physics. 

In Entropy, a whole world of puzzles are set in your way. All obstacles work within the realm of physics. But, you do have one thing: the creature that woke you up in this place. It seems to know the way out. As you follow it, you acquire the power to control the elements.
These elements are controllable in unusual ways. If Portal was a brain teaser on where holes should go, Entropy is a brain teaser on how things are used, combined (yes you can combine elements) and moved around. Not just moved, but used based on their elemental properties and gravity.

Entropy PC/XBLIG Trailer

And whenever something goes wrong – and it will – you can rewind time back to where you can try a different tack at things. This is great because I’m pretty sure you get one life and one life only. Entropy is a 25-level game full of puzzles that will keep you hooked. No talking AI though. In this game’s case, it’s forgivable. 
Entropy can be purchased from XBLiG for 80 Microsoft Points.

City Tuesday

A nod to real-life terrorism.

I tend to not gravitate toward games with too much realism. Real life is full of realism already: some good, some demoralizing bad. So many like myself turn to gaming to escape reality and find something positive in our day.

But some games bridge that in such a way that you are left having to figure the puzzle out, having to live it out because it is that engrossing. And best yet, it tackles such a topic with tact.

City Tuesday is a sort of part story, part simulation. It has you tasked with trying to find bombs hidden by terrorists through a sprawling city. You are tasked to find these bombs or pandemonium will break out and people will get hurt. 

City Tuesday Trailer #2

Mind you, you are gifted (or cursed) with reliving this five-minute stretch of time to figure out this puzzle. In this Groundhog Day-ish scenario you have only your wits and bystanders around you to glean info off of. Asking around and poking around every inch of this city will gain you clues as to finding these bombs.
This sort of parallels the attacks at the 2008 Olympics with the threat of placed around bombs through the host city. The feel of not knowing where the danger is yet being alerted to it. No knowing if that civilian is involved in it or not…it can be seen as an interesting nod to that event.
You can get City Tuesday from XBLiG for only 80 Microsoft Live bucks.


Minecraft in space.

Heard of Minecraft? I’d be very surprised if you haven’t by now. The exceedingly popular sand box game where you can craft to your heart’s content has captivated many a gamer. Realistic renderings of other universes and real life buildings showcase the amount of time and artistic skill a very dedicated Minecraft player can get up to.

But Minecraft and its many, many clones all have one thing in common: they all take place on normal land with generally medieval tools. Pick axes, shovels, swords, touches; things that you can see someone kind of figuring out while lost in a lush jungle or wooded area. 
But this clone I found is not a true clone.

XenoMiner Release Trailer

It is on its face Minecraft. But Minecraft lands you in a familiar and if generally non-assuming, forest-like land. XenoMiner goes one step further. It has you in a space craft; you and your crew crash land onto a new planet with you the lone survivor. But you have limited oxygen supply in your reserve tank. From the get-go, you are forced to not  just explore for exploring sake or to find shelter, but to allow yourself breathable air.
At your disposal are found alien techs; robotic-like builders that replace the standard pick and shovel. You also directly program them to do certain routines, allowing for the study creatures to build in your stead. The game itself has a spacey loner feel as space generally is seen as an empty place. You aren’t adventuring to adventure, or building to build – you are doing these things for survival. 
You can buy XenoMiner from Xbox Live for only 80 Microsoft points.


I have no idea how to pronouce that.

This game is simple yet not. Strange yet not. The name made no sense to me like some computer cracking code generated the title and named said file. At first I thought this was simply a 3D version of that Centipede game that came on older PCS with minesweeper. I mean the whole changing things on a screen while avoiding colliding into your body is there.

But the visuals and constant use of 3D areas made this game pop out at me. Qrth-phyl by Hermitgames doesn’t claim a pithy plot, but it throws your light snake thing in to various environments: space, inside a boxed in area, crawling around the outside of the box – you even see in the short clip how you can dodge hitting yourself by diving up under and loops in your snake.


It seriously makes me think of if that old PC game had a love child with Rez but with minimal to no music but the blips and squalls of your box light snake thing crawling around. It’s both minimal yet colorful, simply looking yet complex especially when you are trying to avoid being destroyed by your own self. 
Let’s just say that despite myself, I indeed spent many hours trying to figure out and play this game. I have watched my light snake explode from running into itself and yet found it a time well spent.
Qrth-phyl (whatever it means) can be found on PC for $3 and on Xbox Live for 80 Microsoft points.


Defend your ideas.

I enjoy quirky games. I love games that have an engaging plot. I even enjoy the simple mindless fun or other games. But I have a special place for those games that try to give a message, that propose some ideas that can cause one to think long after the game is over. Xenosaga made you think on what constitutes life. Morality, kinship. Metal Gear Solid made you reflect on the truer costs of war. So many games try to put in a message even if that message is troubling or subversive.

But Sententia is a bit loftier than even that. Its whole premise is of one defending their very ideas from destruction. Ideas. Ideas are what everything is made up of. In order for that house to have gotten built, there had to be a plan. To have that plan, you had to have a set of ideas to help conceptualize said plan. Ideas are the backbone of creation. But ideas can easily die. Doubt, no encouragement and even having others cut it down can cause ideas to disappear.
This game literally represents that process as your avatar, or an idea. This character in a platformer with rather intricate special effects dodges contrary ideas and assaults against its person, trying to grow and become reality. The representations of naysayers and divisive thoughts was a cute yet a tad depressing look at how one must defend their ideas if they want them to flourish. Good ideas are worth defending – this is the message I get from it. 
This game is an indie title and can be found on Xbox Live for 80 Microsoft Points.




More than just Portal 2D

I am normally an RPG geek. I tend to like games that aren’t but so liner, yet that give a decent story to mix things up a bit. But I also do like a random puzzle-style game. You know, something to tickle the large slab of meat between my ears. Portal comes to mind. Something fun, smart and with a story that intrigues to boot!

So yeah, I’m not averse to branching out of my comfort zone. But I found a sort of spiritual cousin to Portal – Gateways. 

Gateways Trailer (Sep 2012)

Gateways is both a puzzle game and a plat former. You are a scientist trapped in a large sprawling lab with only your wits and your trusty gateway gun. You gun has the power to make portals through walls, giving the game a 2D portal feel.
The ability to run and jump through portals to gain speed and land in new areas is something it also shares with Portal. But it expands on that, letting the gun create multiple portals causing the world to shrink and enlarge relative to your size, making multiple copies of you due to its capabilities to ‘go back in time’ so that you in effect are helping yourself, walk (or grapple) the surrounding walls and basically do physics defying stunts. 
And considering how absurdly large and challenging the lab you are in is, you will need every trick in the book to escape. You can purchase Gateways from Xbox Live for only 245 Microsoft points

Smooth Operators

Call centers made cool

Have you ever worked at a call center? I bet most of you raised your hands. I am sorry. So sorry. As a former call center employee, I can attest to how unsatisfying that line of work is, especially if you do outbound calls. Well, you’d think that one of most frustrating jobs ever would stay that way but an indie developer has made it into a rather true and accurate version of a call center. Reality, watch out, we have simulated jobs now.

This Sims game (aside from the generally too happy employees) simulates how a call center is built from the ground up and how it is run – down to the daily quotas, interactions with customers, to management of employees, hiring process, the works. And despite how boring that sounds, it actually isn’t. It, if anything, gives you a level of appreciation to the guys that run such places. It also made me realize that I’m glad I didn’t have that kind of responsibility. 


Smooth Operators: Call Center Chaos Trailer

It never occurred to me how much micro-management of every single employee occurred. Schedules, to paychecks, to performance all are simulated in this game. You can even budget building expansions with additional cubicles and elevators. The only thing I found a little silly is the player character trying to cheer up workers by doing a cheerleader dance. Depending on my old bosses, this might have ranged from being too cheesy to a bit horrifying.
This call center Sims game is available on Xbox Live for only 80 points

Diehard Dungeon

Hardcore dungeon crawler fans take notice.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the pull of a dungeon crawler. Usually a hack and slash game gets boring to me, as you can farm areas for experience if it gets too hard and if you die, you’ll respawn with some of your gear a bit farther back. But Diehard Dungeon challenges that. 

Diehard Dungeon Release Trailer

It is a sprite based rogue-like game. IE: It has randomly generated dungeons (so no cheating on for directions!), lots of enemies gunning at you and while it is not turn based but instead real time based it features permadeath. Yep, you heard that right. No extra lives nor save spots that you can return to. Nope, just that one life. Other than the pause button and saving your progress – as soon as you die that save is wiped and you’ll have to start all over. 
And considering it is just you, your cannon, your sword and your trusty treasure chest,  it’s just you versus a deep, dangerous dungeon filled to the brim with baddies crawling out of the wood work. The developer Tricktale went for a retro aesthetic and full filled that in spades as the top down view and detailed sprites set the mood wonderfully for a lone guy’s decent into a dangerous dungeon.
They even included multiple endings for those willing to travail the dungeon multiple times. So shore up your protective gear, get over your fear of dark places with dangerous murderous things because there’s treasure to be found! This rather hardcore dungeon crawl is available for 80 Xbox LIVE points.

Arkedo Series - 03 PIXEL!

TI-83 gaming on the Xbox

I loved my TI-83 calculator in high school. It was required for people taking high math classes. It made math easier but hell, no one but the dorkiest of dorks had their calculator for just math. Everyone’s calculator was filled with games. I recall having Drug Wars, Super Mario Bros. and Tetris on mine. But as I finally did enough math courses to never take math again (ugh), I put my calculator away, then gave it away to a family member that needed it. I mean, the things were expensive (and still are)!

So it is very neat to see a game do sort of a throw back and or shout out to us math geeks. Arkedo Series – 03 PIXEL looks like a game found on a TI-83 with some rather lush backgrounds tossed in. The art style is cute but so is the plot. You are Pixel the Cat who is out just having fun in this dangerous plat former world.  In this world, Pixel encounters armed ducks, evil cherries, and tree trucks. Why is all plant life (and apparently tree trunks) out to get Pixel? No one knows. 
Pixel isn’t completely helpless though. Pixel can blast things with a fearsome roar, powered up by stomping things. Pixel can also inspect things with a magnifying glass that can unveil (though a mazelike mini game) relics, hidden paths, and change the environment. Add in the fun chip tune music and you have a charming game.
You can get Arkedo Series - 03 PIXEL!  for 240 Xbox Live points. A bit higher than most Xbox Live games, but very worth it.