Day 730: Null Battles

Posted: 2012/11/08 in Indie Games

365 x2 is 730. Doing the math, that means this blog is two years old. I started it with a simple goal: show that the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) catalogue is more than its (at the time, at least) reputation of all avatar, zombie, and massage titles. My intent was to profile games daily, with a focus on games that were not well represented in the lists on the dashboard; the hidden gems of the XBLIG channel, if you will. I certainly didn’t plan on featuring 730 games in 730 days. I didn’t think there were even 730 good XBLIG games at the time, and there weren’t when you consider that the quality of XBLIG offerings has gotten better and better as its matured. Despite my pledge to only review good games, this has kept me going much longer than I planned. Many XBLIG sites have come and gone in that time, making WMD one of the oldest, and almost certainly the oldest continually updated XBLIG site.

I’ve gone through periods where my reviews were longer, periods where they were shorter, the length often dictated by whether it was the slow season or the busy season at work. I’ve gone through periods of sickness where getting any kind of game recommendation up was a struggle, and technical glitches that threatened me not getting up a review I had completed but not yet posted. I’ve settled into a rhythm of small-ish, but not tiny, reviews; my rationale is that if you’re spending as little as 80 Microsoft Points, or even as much as 400, that the burden of proof in a recommendation is simply lower than if the consumer has to spend 40-60 Dollars/Euros/Pounds/etc. All in all, it’s been quite a ride, and it’s not over yet.

So today I find myself reviewing “Null Battles”. I was inspired to try it after reading a great review by Alan Charlesworth (who has also graced WMD as a frequent commenter in the past, including an epic run where he discovered the site when I was hundreds of reviews in and painstakingly went through them all) on his “The Indie Ocean” site. Hey, you try to come up with 730 consecutive game recommendations without looking for inspiration from trusted sources! “Alan C. With Tea”, and other similar names he went by in his heavy commenting days, doesn’t comment as often as he used to, probably because he’s focused on his own XBLIG site, but his contribution to WMD is very much appreciated and his comments are missed (you can start again any time, BTW, Alan).

“Null Battles” is a truly three-dimensional, third-person shooter; you defy gravity as you move around a playfield full of different geometric objects, with perspective shifting moments as you adhere to them that put The Matrix to shame and will bring back flashbacks of people saying “We have to go deeper”.

No complex weapon load-outs here, you have two guns: one a ranged weapon, one for in-close combat. In true Battletech style, the main limit on spraying the battlefield with destruction is overheating weapons. But unlike the slow-motion precision and strategy of a MechWarrior game, here the fun comes from fast and frantic combat over randomnly-generated levels. And randomly-generated is good, if you ask me, but there is a level editor here for someone who has a specific playfield in mind (and level editors are a great addition for any game).

If this all sounds like a game based around multiplayer, you’d be right. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that the computer opponents are actually reasonably competent, so your memories of playing against bots in GoldenEye or Perfect Dark on the N64 may come flooding back here. But for those who like human opposition, everything you’d expect is on offer: 1-4 players offline, 2-16 players online, and 2-16 system link (a feature that was popular on the original Xbox, but has been all but forgotten by boxed retail Xbox 360 games).

With gameplay that nicely doesn’t beg comparison to most anything else out there, and costing only 80 Microsoft Points, this is well worth 80 Microsoft Points.

So thanks to David Loves Sandy, Mike, and many of the other frequent readers and commenters. I’m still not sure how far I’ll go with consecutive daily reviews (before ending it, and switching to feature stories, and occasional reviews), but I appreciate you all being along for the ride.

Here’s what the developer (Techno Hermit Games) has to say about the game:

“Null Battles features online multiplayer with up to 16 players on 2 to 4 teams, zero gravity combat, procedurally generated levels, and retro style art and sound.”

  1. Well done for keeping up the reviews for two years! It’s great that you’ve found so many good games to share with us, and with the variety that exists on XBLIG it’s always interesting to see what you find next!

  2. David Loves Sandy says:

    I was wondering what game was going to be your 2 year game and here it is. Null Battle. Nuff Said!

    Great Job and can’t believe your commitment. I am super impressed with your fortitude!

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