Day 187: Square Off

Posted: 2011/05/15 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) 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 #187, and today’s game is “Square Off”.

Twitter’s @thecapedgamer dropped me this game review suggestion in response to this request for suggestions on what game to review for Day 188 (come back tomorrow to see what game I selected)

I had no idea what to expect from the game, I wasn’t familiar with it and the name and screenshots didn’t offer a lot of help. What I found pleasantly surprised me.

First, from the developer (Gnomic Studios):

“Blast, dodge and disintegrate your alien enemies in a desparate bid to save humanity. Wield shotguns, bombs and missiles going it solo or in a 2-4 player co-op frenzy. Better yet, destroy your friends in hilariously epic deathmatch action. Features beautiful sound and graphics, LIVE online highscores, hordes of vicious aliens and absolutely loads of addictive fun.”

This game has a lot going for it, including an inimitable sense of style: it doesn’t visually remind me of any other game. It’s a dual-stick shooter, but not a space-based one; rather, it’s all about 2D side-view arena combat with jetpacks (sort of like the classic PC game Tribes, but in 2D and with the characters all looking rather square). The first think you’ll likely notice is that the menus are slick and the entire package very professional. The characters you play as change their expression frequently and amusingly depending on how well or poorly you’re doing. A nice (and underused) element of the presentation is to both significantly change the arenas, and at the same time change up the music to match them. The cave scene has quieter, moodier music, whereas the other stages (jungle, laboratory, mountainside, the interior of a flying saucer, and many more) have music that’s classically-inspired, filled with funk, etc.

Gameplay has you fighting through hordes of aliens in singleplayer or co-op modes, working your way to a boss fight, or going into local deathmatch if multiplayer co-op isn’t your thing. Online leaderboards add to the replay incentive. As you fight off the alien invasion and shoot down their flying saucers, power-ups will drop from the wreckage periodically including speed boost, invincibility, jetpack upgrades, health, and even a helmet (which reduces how much damage you take). Three of the four face buttons initiate a variety of taunts for deathmatch mode, which was an unexpected feature. Weapons variety is quite decent offering you a shotgun, a three-way shot, a sidearm pistol, bombs, and a rocket launcher.

The campaign is not tremendously long, but after each completed level you have the option to continue in a survival mode where enemies keep coming until you get overwhelmed or you choose to quit. So for those who aren’t into the multiplayer modes, once you’ve beaten the campaign you can select a favourite level and play it in survival mode as an additional replay option (and one that works well with the online scoreboards).

Readers of this site know that I love games that present you with difficult risk/reward decisions, and Square Off has one. You seem to move more slowly when you’re aiming than when you’re not, which occasionally has you having to lay off the attack just to escape (though it seems to be specifically re-aiming that slows you down, not shooting in the direction you last directed your aim to).

This game was originally 240 Microsoft Points, but it’s now available for the insanely good price of only 80 MSP. This makes it a no-brainer purchase in my opinion, kind of like tomorrow’s Day 188 purchase.

Click here to download, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Later today there’ll be a special re-review of a game I purchased early in this project but, due to suffering a bad flu at the time, wasn’t able to give the kind of review it deserved.

  1. Apteis says:

    Thx for quoting me !
    Square Off is one of my favourite XBLIG game, and i can spend hours on it with friends in versus mode.
    And still congrats for your site !

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