Day 193: Sidehill Gouger

Posted: 2011/05/21 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 #193, and today’s game is “Sidehill Gouger”.

The (up to) 5-star ratings applied to XBLIGs are different in every country. Sidehill Gouger is rated 3 stars or fewer in most countries, but is a 4 star rated game in Canada. It turns out Canadians have great taste, as Sidehill Gouger is a great game. While this would be considered part of the same family of puzzle games as Minesweeper, this is anything but a clone with some really tremendous gameplay elements that are unique to this game such as asymmetrical play areas, playfields that wrap around themselves, enemies that hide information revealed in previously uncovered areas, and so much more. Sidehill Gouger also has a neat theme that lovingly permeates every aspect of the game. This is 80 Microsoft Points of goodness that is much, much better than a 3-star game in my opinion.

First, from the developer (Canned Games):

“Enter a world of a young boy’s imagination, filled with the mythical creatures of his Grampy’s stories. A unique puzzle game with 36 randomly generated puzzle stages of increasing challenge for unlimited replayability. Master the slingshot and earn up to 12 Trophies! Are you an Extreme Gouger Hunter?”

Like “Rainbow Ball into Adventure” this game was made by a family. Sidehill Gouger was developed by a group of older siblings and their father in memory of their grandfather, and they appear to have approached the project with a lot of passion and respect because of that. You get the real sense that these siblings sat around their grandfather when they were younger, hearing tall tales from him of the deadly Sidehill Gouger, and it really adds to the game’s atmosphere.

Gameplay has you, inspired by your grandfather’s stories, seeking out the sidehill gouger with your trusty slingshot. As you walk you explore the ground around you: find blood and you know that a gouger is as close as two spaces away. The gouger doesn’t want to be found, though: find leaves and you know a hole in the ground, left there to trap those who might hunt the it, has been left by the gouger.

The forests actually wrap around, so you must consider that when deciding where the likeliest spot for the gouger to be is. Once you think you’ve got it figured out, you aim your slingshot and fire at it: hit it and proceed through more of the game’s 36 randomnly generated levels; miss and the game is over. The game also ends should you fall into one of the traps the sidehill gouger leaves for you.

Asymmetrical playfields probably do more than anything to differentiate this game from Minesweeper. Curved paths don’t count as a space, so blood on a space adjoining a curved path could mean the gouger is on the other side.

Gameplay is further complicated by two more mythical forest creatures: the Treesqueak, who will move you to a random spot if you step on its space twice, and the Hidebehind which sometimes removes critical information from areas you’ve already been. Finally, some maps have fog which restricts how far you can see at any one time.

This game is an absolute steal at 80 Microsoft Points. It takes a timeworn classic, ups the ante in numerous ways, has great down-home presentation, and is never the same game twice. Minesweeper was fun when I first discovered it, but hundreds of plays later and its sapper simulation gameplay no longer brings me back. Sidehill Gouger offers so many updates that the core gameplay of the two is almost unrecognisable and creates a game that is simultaneously familiar and fresh. That’s a difficult challenge, but this team has pulled it off.

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.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree, this is a great game! =)
    Shannon B – Canned Games

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