Adventures of Sid
- Price: 240 Microsoft Points
A satisfying platformer in the style of those not-quite-Mario games that populated the Amiga, the disarmingly loopy Adventures of Sid harks back to a time when tomatoes were acceptable gaming heroes, and bees, penguins and teddy bears could be deadly foes.
In terms of gameplay it's much as you'd expect - double-jump around the scenery, picking up coins and gems, then find the exit. It's never entirely clear why you're collecting these things, and since the game doesn't seem to mind if you don't find them all, it falls to the exploration to provide the entertainment.
Thankfully, Sid inhabits a remarkably well-designed game world. The early levels are a little bland, but as you progress through the 16 enormous stages - divided into themed sections of four, with a boss battle in the final chapter of each - you begin to realise that there's been real thought and attention to detail in the structure of this game. There are dozens of nooks and crannies to dig around in, and finding everything in the game will be a serious undertaking.
It's perhaps lacking the drive that compels you to complete a truly great platformer, and the double-jump is just a little too twitchy for comfort, but those are small quibbles considering how much the game gets fantastically right. In proper Monty Mole fashion, there's also a Christmas special available, should you fancy it.
Brethren of the Coast
- Price: 240 Microsoft Points
One of the many great things about indie development is that it allows for minority tastes to be catered for. One such underserved audience is the maritime enthusiast, the methodical pace and strategically unique challenges of nautical combat proving too obscure for most commercial developers to bother with.
It's appropriate, then, that two seafaring games have arrived on the Indie channel in the past month. Marauder Madness is the lesser of the two, a slick but simplistic shoot-'em-up with galleons. Brethren of the Coast, on the other hand, is much more interesting.
It's a proper strategy game, for one thing, and it has no interest in dumbing down its naval niche. Your fleet of ships is slow, changing course takes time, and getting back up to speed from a dead stop takes even longer. Then there's the importance of the broadside assault, the distinctive problem of placing your vessels in the perfect place to take down enemy ships.
Despite some subdued Olde Worlde presentation, it's not a particularly attractive game to look at, but the ability to zoom up into the sky or right down to sea level is impressive and useful. There are also some clever scenarios designed to test more than just your skill at sailing around islands and lobbing cannonballs at the bad guys. You really do need to think on your feet, and the game offers little room for error.
Obviously, such a narrowly focused game won't be for everyone, but beneath the functional exterior lurks a game that will please anybody who ever spent a Sunday afternoon gluing a poop deck on a scale model of the HMS Victory.