The ever long debate I see over indie games being “as good as” or “better than” AAA content is a bit silly because at the end of the day, both types of games are welcome and necessary for a few reasons some folks would figure out rather quickly if they kind of shut up and played stuff more than they do rolling around in the internet alley fighting about. Me, I just love seeing what a dev team (or single developer in some cases) can whip up because hell, playing a well-made game created with passion that can be seen on screen is a good way to get anyone who loves a wide range of visual and gameplay styles to go spend some of that hard-earned cash on some really fun titles like the ones below.
Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Fabrice Breton (dba COWCAT) has worked on some pretty hardcore pixel art game ports that provide a hefty amount of challenge for the money. Xenon Valkyrie, originally created by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds for PC, was improved and ported to consoles by Breton, is dripping with retro charm and packs in a mix of rogue-like, light role-playing, platforming, and fast-paced combat action that’s somewhat addictive even after multiple deaths. Part of the thrill comes from surviving the levels and their randomness, part comes from earning new gear as you go and using it to beat maps that seem impossible and impassable until you get that gear.
The cool thing here is you learn as you go what works and what doesn’t and runs will be, thanks to the randomness, a mix of small and large victories against enemies and the destructible maps. You’ll be using every skill and tool in a growing arsenal here, and the way each character plays will make some areas tricky to complete, but you’ll get better with skill and practice. There’s a lot of game here if it hooks you in and you don’t mind the learning process. As with the COWCAT ported game below, there’s some serious replay value here if you’re brave and willing.
Score: B (80%)
Riddled Corpses EX (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Hoo boy, this one’s a hard as hell game at the start. Sure experts will blast through those chibi looking cute but deadly zombies with relative ease, but for us non-experts, Riddled Corpses EX is going to be a phenomenally tough nut to crack. The game is a pore arcade-like experience with influences from the Contra series, Metal Slug and many more, but dialed way up with death that comes quickly at first because in true old-school fashion, the game needs to be learned in order to get better at it. Originally created as a PC title by Daniel Fernandez Chavez and published by Diabolical Minds, Once again, COWCAT has stepped in with a few welcome improvements for consoles that help make a good game much better.
This pays off big time in longer runs, better weapons and some really fantastic maps as things go on and your arsenal and score increases. A neat level-up system, six characters to choose from and the ability to start from any stage you’ve completed, plus a couch co-up mode all make this one a go-to game you’ll hop to even after it’s mastered. It has both that old-school visual and aural aesthetic going for it and that somewhat brutally difficult thing happening where you’ll be dialed in and exhausted when you complete a level, yet coming back for more every time.
Score B: (80%)
Iron Snout (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy. $4.99) Dirt simple and fun brawler from indie developer SnoutUp Games and Ratalaika Games and yes, it may look like a one-screen per stage puncher that’s straight out of Flash game territory, it’s also a pretty amusing time killer while it lasts and both the art and music will get you smiling instantly. For those who want those Trophies for their purchase, the game does require both super-easy and more complex means of getting them, so there’s definitely replay value here.
While short as can be (the game doesn’t wear out its welcome at all), you may find yourself beating up on the assorted enemies here just to kill time and get a chuckle or three from the mayhem you cause. This one is endless fun for a good reason and enough to make you re-think how those little pigs of lore would have with a good bodyguard on their side. “Hey Wolf? Huff and puff on that, pal… POW!” Oh, that Teen rating is for some cartoon blood and other violence, which is pretty hilarious stuff, by the way.
Score: C+ (75%)
My Big Sister (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $5.99): This one’s a pretty neat horror themed adventure game done up in a sort of 8-bit chibi style and presented by indie developer Stranga Games, with aid from Grab The Games and Ratalaika Games, It’s a top-down adventure game that plays like the classics of old where you combine item, discover clues and figure out a mystery. Here, it’s the dark tale of two sisters that needs unraveling and there are a few interesting themes here that elevate it a bit beyond its budget price point. You’ll see, of you pick this up.
In other words, you nay be one who buys this for those mostly easy Trophies and relatively brief play time, but don’t be surprised if it takes you extra time to play because you’re hooked into the story and want to play through at your own pace. This is one of those surprises Ratalaika has cooked up and published that’s turned out to be more that a mere trophy hunt and for that, they have my thanks. I liked this one a lot for it being so unexpected and having a creepy and amusing, but familiar vibe.
Score: B (80%)
Devious Dungeon 2 (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $7.99): Like the first game, developer Woblyware and Ratalaika Games have a fast-paced, addictive side-scroller that’s quite thrilling and while short, demands to be replayed because it’s so enjoyable. This sequel ups the players types to three, and each has skills that make playing with them really awesome. Level up. collect gold, take on mini-bosses and more with a huge grin because what’s here just works so well that even when your chosen character dies, you’ll be back for more pain and punishment, perhaps with even better weapons this time.
This one has a nice modern retro vibe throughout, the tunes are catchy and yes, you can earn a Platinum and other trophies somewhat quickly most of the time. that said, part of the greatness here is the basic and yes, repetitive nature of the whole thing, and that price point is reasonable enough to make the game a must-buy. No ground is broken in a game like this, but that’s certainly not a complaint here. DD2 is just as pure fun as it gets for a game like this and that’s always a welcome thing.
Score: A (90%)
Back with more in a day or so, probably “so”, as there are a lot of games to cover and I might pop in with some movie reviews tomorrow to mix things up. So, let’s say two days, then, but I may change my mind if it’s a less busy day.
-Review codes provided by the publishers