Day 130: Proximity 2

Posted: 2011/03/19 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 are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #130, and today’s game is “Proximity 2”.

I didn’t think it was possible to improve upon Othello, but Proximity 2 proves to me it is. I’m not even sure if the developer consider Othello part of his inspiration, perhaps he looks to Go (aka Wei Chi), or even checkers, but whatever the inspiration Proximity 2 delivers those two key ingredients that a game like this desperately needs: easy to learn, but challenging to master. This game has been in development since long before the XBL Indie Games service even launched, and has finally been released. Thankfully, it has not suffered due to the long gestation.

First, from the developer (Brian Cable):

“Proximity 2 is an simple, quick, yet deep strategy game where you score points by placing and capturing tiles! Challenge your friends with 4 player local multiplayer or team up against the computer on many different maps and modes!”

Why this game is only coming out now is not quite clear to me. This game surfaced in February 2008 at the Game Developer Conference that year, nearly a year before the late 2008 launch of Xbox Live Community Games, long before their rebranding as XBL Indie Games. At the time the game was called “Proximity HD” (the Xbox Forums entry is still there for Proximity HD, full of people wondering where it was as it was a nearly complete title back in the XBL Community Games beta and was considered one of the very best games on the service at that time). Brian has unfortunately not apparently put up a video on YouTube in all the time since, but I was able to find a video on Gamespot that demonstrates the gameplay.

Like with Othello, careful placement of your pieces can convert your opponents’ pieces to your collection. Like with Go (as it’s called in Japan) or Wei Chi (as it’s called in China), you can place anywhere you want on the board allowing you to cede an unwinnable section of the board to start gaining ground elsewhere. But unlike those games, where every piece is worth the exact same amount, in Proximity 2 each piece has a numerical value, with higher numbers being stronger. Place a higher number beside opponent pieces worth less than it and you’ll be able to convert them to your side. Place a piece beside an already placed tile of your own and you actually increase it’s value somewhat (and the increase is proportional to how strong the newly placed piece is). Your opponent(s) (the game supports up to four players, competitively or co-operatively) are doing the same as well.

The order that the tiles come up are random, with only a few of them available to you at any time similar to Scrabble or other random tile selection games. This randomness helps with the addictive quality of the game, as it plays out differently every time. Also helping is that, rather than a sea of hexes, you have boards of varying size and shape, sometimes with non-contiguous sections that allow you to roll out strategies such as conquering the smaller “islands” to get guaranteed and untouchable points, or responding to your opponent trying to do so. The main action happens in the centre of the board though, and you ignore it for too long at your peril, and sometimes the best strategy is to cede the smaller sections in favour of owning the bulk of the board.

The varying strategies really add to what might otherwise have been a simple title, and I’m quite thrilled with the amount of gameplay I’ve already got out of my 240 Microsoft Points. I know I’ll be coming back for more, this title is very solid with tonnes of replay value.

Click here to download “Proximity 2”, and please come back afterward to rate it.



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