Day 100: radiangames Ballistic

Posted: 2011/02/17 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #100, and today’s game is “radiangames Ballistic”.

Today marks 100 indie game reviews over as many days. When I started this I set out a couple of simple rules: the games must be of high quality (not necessarily something with universal appeal, but of high quality) and must not be well represented in the top-50 lists on the dashboard. That meant hunting out classic games that are past their sales prime but are still tremendously good, games that had got lost in the shuffle of a busy week for game releases, or anything else that deserved the limelight but currently wasn’t receiving it. I also said I would keep going until I ran out of good games. Now despite buying 100 games over 100 days, I’m nowhere near finished as around 400 games have been released during that time, and the quality of XBL Indie Games continues to rise.

Each country where the XBL Indie Games channel is available has its own set of top-50 lists for that region, so I have occasionally bought a game that was in the top 50 downloaded games in a few countries, but not in most of them. Tonight’s game meets that definition, as 2/3 countries I checked tonight didn’t have Ballistic in their top 50. I wanted to cap off the first hundred games with the seventh and (for the time being) final release from Luke Schneider’s radiangames series. Each of the games he’s released so far has displayed outstanding production values and are great showcases for how robust Microsoft’s design tools are and how good XBL Indie Games are getting. Reviewing Ballistic was not a disappointment.

Ballistic is a shooter, as most of Luke Schneider’s games have been. Specifically it’s a dual-stick arena shooter, a genre that was re-popularised by Geometry Wars starting with its hidden appearance in Project Gotham Racing 2. Ballistic takes the fantastic presentation and tight controls present in all the radiangames titles, and innovates on several fronts. You now have an upgrade system that lets you power-up your main weapon in the ways that best suit your play style; upgrading them in different ways in different playthroughs varies the challenge the game offers. Ballistic additionally lets you modify and upgrade the bombs that periodically appear on screen as well (that destroy large numbers of enemies when triggered), a unique and out-of-the-box idea.

I’m good at these kinds of games, so I liked the difficulty ramp up in this game. No longer do you have to play for minutes on end just to start getting some kind of challenge. The difficulty level might intimidate people who aren’t experienced players in this genre, to whom I’d point them to radiangames Joy Joy as a game to play to get into the swing of things.

Another innovation in radiangames Ballistic is its eponymous “Ballistic Mode”, which trades increased firepower for decreased mobility. This can be useful if you find yourself boxed in on all sides, but you’ll have to be extra wary of the fast-moving enemies. Watch out in this mode though, the longer you’re in it the closer to overheating your weapons systems get, eventually forcing you to enter a cool down mode where you cannot fire at all.

Ultimately it’s the ability to choose your weapons upgrades for each wave that sets this game apart the most, and it adds a welcome element of strategy to the mix. Much like that first play through Halo: Combat Evolved where you had to choose what weapons to leave and what to take with you, not knowing what you’d be up against around the corner, trial and error is required here to figure out what upgrades are most suited to what waves throughout the game. Before Halo, it was common in first-person shooters for the game to allow you to carry with you every weapon you could get your hands on like some kind of paramilitary pack mule. Halo was actually strengthened by the limitation because it forced you to make on the fly tactical decisions about what you kept and what you left behind, and Ballistic is as well; you can’t take every upgrade with you, and the decisions about what to equip and what not to equip adds appreciated depth to a genre that generally doesn’t have (or necessarily need) much. You only get to change your decisions every five levels or so, but the number of upgrades you can equip do increase slowly as you progress through the game.

A final point that sets Ballistic apart is when you earn an extra life, or an extra bomb, it gets dropped into the playfield and you actually have to collect it before it disappears. This adds an interesting level of challenge to something (earning extra lives and weapons) that is not normally any challenge at all.

With plenty of game modes, and a series of challenges that encourage you to play the game a given way for a two minute period, and unique weapons upgrading, this games is ridiculously easy to recommend given it costs a mere 80 Microsoft Points ($1, give or take, depending on where you live).

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  1. Picking this one up, also.. I know of radiangames, but I´ve not paid attention when browsing their game-library (or whatever you call it, it´s been a while since I used my english properly) so I´ve overlooked this one.

    You are awsm, sir.

    Peace and Pestilence from Sweeden.

    • “Game library” is certainly something you could call that. This is sadly their 7th, and for the moment final, indie game. I now own all 7.

      One of the interesting things about my format is I am limiting myself to buying only one game per day, no more, no less. I’ve wanted to buy this game since it came out, but had to wait for the right day. :)

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