One Finger Death Punch
A bit like: Being Jet Li as drawn by a four-year-old
If you Google Silver Dollar Games, youre going to see a hell of an output. And most of it is nonsense of the kind that has blighted XBLIG since its inception. Yet among a sea of dross floats one shining beacon.
If youve ever seen that classic gif of the stickman beating up waves of enemies, this is essentially the game of that. A stickman encounters enemies on either side of the screen, and you press one of two buttons to take them out. Its simple, but the complexity soon ramps up as combos come into play and the games ceaseless pace cranks up to near-unmanageable levels. It feels like the lovechild of a Harmonix rhythm action game and a classic fighter.
Protect Me Knight
A bit like: retro Dynasty Warriors
Let me start by pointing out that, because the game's name is listed in Japanese, it's all but impossible to find it on Xbox Live. Let me save you the trouble by pointing out you can add the game to your account directly from Xbox.com. It's a bit of a hassel, I know, but it's absolutely worth the effort.
Up to four players can team up in this single-screen, cooperative beat-'em-up in which waves of enemies attempt to overrun the princess. Each of the four heroes play a bit differently, and level up as each wave is conquered. Think Dynasty Warriors-style action, but on an 8-bit scale. It's button-masher friendly and perfect to bust out when friends are over.
A bit like: One Foot in the Grave
When most games do their utmost to scream at you with all their might, what a pleasant change of pace Quiet, Please! is. You play as a little girl who just wants a bit of peace and tranquillity in her family home, and will go to great lengths to achieve it.
Visually, its extremely basic, but drawn in a bold and engaging style. Characters look like tiny human versions of the Pac-Man ghosts, and the primary-colour palette stands out beautifully on an HD screen. This sets up a series of clever puzzles where you bounce between the various members of your family, looking for quiet. Its short, sweet and different.
A bit like: a DDR role-playing game
Imagine this: you're home, alone, tapping out the intro theme to your favorite anime on StepMania and thinking to yourself 'Why even bother?' Now imagine you're home, alone, doing the same thing only this time you're playing Sequence which is a mashup of the RPG and rhythm genres. All that anxiety just melts away when leveling and loot are involved.
Nowadays, Sequence goes by another name - Before the Echo - on Steam, but the basics are the same. Instead of swinging swords you're tapping out multiple rhythm sequences in time with the music, alternating between offense and defense. It still has a kickin' soundtrack by the talented Ronald Jenkees and an extremely witty script that doesn't get bogged down in the overwrought RPG flair.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure
A bit like: how you remember Oregon Trail
If you were a kid growing up in the late-80s and early-90s, chances are you and your family decided at some point to pack up the old covered wagon, hitch up the oxen, and brave the Oregon Trail. Dysentery, snake bites, and a diet consisting entirely of squirrel meat wasn't far behind. But if you go back and actually play Oregon Trail today, it's not nearly as exciting as you remember it.
That means it's time to rewrite history. Enter Super Amazing Wagon Adventure: essentially every outlandish (and wholly implausible) Oregon Trail story ever told given video game form. You still deal with the workaday issues of hunting game and crossing rivers, but sometimes your wagon will be assaulted by unicorns, or your wagon may take a wrong turn and end up in the stratosphere. It's basically everything fun you remember hearing about the journey West.
Techno Kitten Adventure
A bit like: eating seven bowls of Fruity Pebbles
The title - Techno Kitten Adventure - is both inexplicable and wholly accurate. You do control a cat who goes on an adventure and - by god - there is techno, so much techno. But as the pounding, electronic baseline scrambles your brain and an army of visual doodads assaults your eye sockets, you realize Techno Kitten Adventure is less of a game and more of a euphoria simulator.
There are two types of people who play this happy hardcore remix of Jetpack Joyride. Some achieve a Zenlike-level of oneness with the game, able to shut out all distractions and focus completely on guiding their cat to ever-higher scores. Others... well... they crack under the sensual onslaught, unable to process everything they're witnessing.
Tempura of the Dead
A bit like: Mega Man in the zombie apocalypse
Today, independant Japanese developer 8-Bit Fanatics is best known of its work on Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes. But they also worked on a lesser-known platformer called Tempura of the Dead, in which the President of the United States and a Japanese samurai team up to liberate the souls of the walking dead. And you can switch between the two at will.
Only by juggling the disembodied zombie heads can you initiate TEMPURA FEVER and liberate its soul from the undead husk - the President using his trusty machine gun and the Samurai his blade. There's a satisfying sense of repetition to it, though if you're having trouble you can always just hack-and-slash your way through the hoards.
The Useful Dead
A bit like: Portal
With a name like The Useful Dead, you might be expecting yet another zombie game, but this is a far more literal title than that. You have to use the corpses of the cutesy animals laying about the levels to solve an increasingly taxing series of logic and physics puzzles. Its joyously sadistic but, more importantly, extremely clever and consistently surprising.
Theres never a repeated idea, just concepts that are expanded, pushed in new directions, then thrown out for something better. Its over before you know it, but doesnt put a foot wrong along the way. Its never too tricky, either the solutions always make sense, and you get a feel for how the games internal logic is going to react to your every move.
A bit like: Tim and Eric meet Dungeons & Dragons
Absurdism isn't an oft explored topic in video games. Yet if you try and apply such a feeble concept as logic to this role-playing roguelike you'll only end up dead. Better to throw your hands up, laugh into the abyss, and play on instinct. You may not get any further, but you'll have a lot more fun.
As ridiculous and ultimately pointless as it is, Vidiot Game is what makes Xbox Indies such a special place. I mean, what other Xbox game presents you with a swarm of bees and asks whether you'd like to join them or face the swarm head on; or one that pushes you off a cliff demanding you triumph over gravity once and for all? It's a singular game with a singular style of humor that you rarely see outside the PC.
A bit like: Breakout... but with a wizard
So you're playing some Breakout, knocking the little ball around and busting bricks with impunity. But then you arrive at that very last brick and the freaking ball simply refuses to touch it. You try hitting the ball off the edge of the paddle, hoping to get the perfect trajectory, but it's no good. Clearly, you're going to be here awhile.
Wizorb doesn't put up with that. If there's a lone block that's giving you fits, just blast that sucker with a fireball, or command the winds to push the ball in the direction it needs to go. This game smartly builds upon the timeless design of this late-70s Atari classic with all sorts of different abilities and stages to give some fun, high-fantasy flair.