Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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Mod Spotlight – ‘Crossfire’ For Freelancer

Freelancer was one of those cult hits that never really went anywhere. Released in 2003, it was loved by critics, by fans and by a still-enduring modding scene, but it didn’t sell well enough to keep the studio afloat. For those who never played the original game, it billed itself as a space-combat sandbox with a hefty single-player campaign. At first glance, it looks more like Elite than anything, but any in-depth play reveals that it had more than a little in common with action-RPGs such as Diablo, with simple mouse-friendly combat, plentiful loot and shield/hull restoration ‘potions’ to chug your way through in every fight. Addictive stuff for many.

Crossfire is almost certainly the largest Freelancer mod to date. Unpacked, it weighs in at over 4gb of new content. Considering that the game itself is only around 800mb when fully installed, that’s a rather mindboggling figure. Currently at Version 1.9, there’s a looming ‘V2.0′ release planned which will conclude the new storyline, and officially change the title to ‘Freelancer 2: Crossfire‘. Yep, it’s a full-blown fan-sequel in the making. While that final, massive release is still a while off, version 1.9 contains no shortage of stuff to get your teeth into, and it’s almost certain that the handily included auto-updater should patch up the mod once the final build lands.

At first, it’s not hard to see where all that data went. The game has been given a serious lick of paint. In addition to native widescreen support, the rendering engine has been given a pretty major overhaul. The game now boasts full dynamic lighting and various shader effects such as HDR lighting, bloom effects and all those other things that we take for granted now, but the game would look rather flat and lifeless without. Almost every single texture in the game has been replaced with much higher-resolution equivalents. Our luckless protagonist now has clothes so detailed, you can count the individual cracks in his long-worn leather jacket. In short, it just looks nicer. Still not quite modern, but it could pass for a higher-budget indie title these days.

All the original content of the game is still intact and functioning the same as ever, although slightly smarter enemy AI and better equipment on enemy craft means that there’s a bit more challenge to be found. There’s also a lot more activity in the universe in general, and more randomly generated side-missions to undertake in search of cash for more gear. Still, there’s a lot of new stuff added on top of the original game. The universe itself has greatly expanded, and there’s over 160 new stations and planets to visit, owned by various new factions and races. There’s over 290 new ship types, and I believe all of them can be earned, bought and flown by you, including massive cruisers bristling with turrets.

There’s a lot of new story content, although I’ve not had a chance to dig into it, due to the sheer amount of updated older missions I’ve yet to complete. It sounds like there’s a massive amount of it already, though, with it picking up where the original campaign’s story ends. The V2.0 update is apparently bringing a final 10 missions which will conclude the story via one of several possible endings, likely depending on which factions and races you end up backing. It sounds like they’re going all-in, and trying to earn that ‘unofficial sequel’ title by whatever means necessary. I wish them all the luck in the world. It’s not often we see a mod of this scale of both quality and quantity.

It’s not just single-player content either. Far from it. As with most other major Freelancer mods, there’s a fairly active persistent world multiplayer server attached. While it isn’t as popular as online stalwart Discovery (which usually has at least a hundred players online in the same universe at any given time), it does seem to be consistently active, and capable of supporting a good 100+ players at peak hours. Online play naturally ditches the story focus, but has a more dynamic, malleable world and more opportunities to fight, trade or backstab your way to riches and bigger ships.

While the difficulty is a bit higher than ‘vanilla’, this is one of those mods that I can recommend to even newcomers to the game, as the graphical overhaul and widescreen support really go a long way to making the game feel more modern, and the smarter enemies help keep the dogfighting fresh. You can pick a copy of Freelancer up off Amazon or Ebay these days for a handfull of your Earth-dollars, and nab Crossfire off of ModDB now.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Mod Spotlight – ‘Crossfire’ For Freelancer


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Everything Is On Sale: Radian Games Celebrates Two Years Of Games

Radian Games Sale

As it’s been two years since Radian Games first released JoyJoy on the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace, they have announced a celebratory sale which applies to all 15 of their released games across iOS, PC, Mac and XBLIG.

If you’re on the lookout for a bargain today, then you really should consider purchasing one of Radian Games’ titles. Radian is known mostly for their arcade shooters of varying types, you can recognise a Radian game for the exquisitely simple but glowing visuals and pulsing soundtracks. They’re not all the best thing ever made, but they’re still good and well polished games and for free free or just a dollar or two, you’d be foolish not to grab them.

If you’re after an iOS bargain, then you should certainly give Ballistic SE, Fireball SE and Super Crossfire HD a look over for just $0.99. Or, if you’re really broke, Super Crossfire (iPhone-only, non HD) is completely free.

Moving on to the PC and Mac games; these are on sale for just $1.99 each as opposed to $4.99 and include Inferno+, Super Crossfire, Ballistic, Slydris and Fireball.

Back to where it all started then, the XBLIG titles are just a dollar for this sale as they used to be on release, but have since bumped up to $5. So, for just a dollar each you can pick up JoyJoy, Crossfire, Inferno, Fluid, Fireball, Crossfire 2 and Ballistic.

Let’s not forget that Radian has put their soundtracks on sale at half price making them just $0.99. These include Super Crossfire, Ballistic, Fireball, Fluid, Inferno and JoyJoy.

You can see a few of the PC and Mac games in action in the trailer for the Quadtastic Launch Collection below, it’s the best we could do:

More information on Radian Games and their library of titles can be found over on the official website.


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Crossfire 2 Joins the Uprising

Crossfire 2Well, it joined the Indie Winter Uprising weeks ago,but now it’s available for purchase and download.

Radiangames sequel to the first game in their monthly release calendar is now in the Xbox Live marketplace for 80 Microsoft Points, a mere pittance for what the game is actually worth.

Luke Schneider, the face behind Radiangames, has released one game every month for the past six months. And they’re all good. And worth more than a dollar.

Here’s the official marketplace link.

And here’s the launch trailer to get you excited:


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Out of the Frying Pan… Radiangames Inferno [Review]

inferno1Radiangames continues its beautiful shooter series on Xbox Live Indie Games with the third release in the series, Inferno. We loved the first release JoyJoy, but weren’t too keen on the follow-up Crossfire… so the great news is that Inferno is pretty much a maze-orientated version of JoyJoy.

With some great level design, gorgeous visuals and powerful blasting action, Radiangames is back on top form. You should buy this game, and here is why.

GAMEPLAY

Players take control of a craft which is very familiar to the hero in JoyJoy. On each of the 30 available levels, you need to navigate a maze full of bubble-like baddies, blasting them out of the way and reaching the goal. Along the way there are keys to collect to open up certain areas, and special bonus levels to be found.

Drones can be collected, which float alongside you and help fire at the bad guys. Gold is dotted around, and can be used to upgrade your ship at the shop. There are tons of different upgrades and powers to obtain, and buying enough of these will make you feel amazingly powerful. This is where Inferno‘s core excitement comes from – taking down hordes of baddies with incredible laser blasts.

inferno2The word ‘horde’ is an understatement – the later levels see you getting engulfed in bad guys, having to dodge and fend for your life. Fortunately, your ship has a handy shield which keeps you safe from harm, although you can’t fire your guns while it’s activated. The shield really gives the game a great tactical edge.

It’s all brilliant fun, and for the whole 2 hours of gameplay you’ll be completely hooked. Level design is solid, and the number of enemies coming at you never feels overwhelming thanks to your trusty blasters. Once you’ve completed the main game, there is also an extra Story+ mode to battle your way through.

If that doesn’t sound good enough for you, check this – four players can blast their way through the campaign together. ‘Hectic’ doesn’t even begin to describe how crazy the action can get, with laser fire flying all over the place. Truly one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences I’ve had with an XBLIG game.

STYLE

As with both JoyJoy and Crossfire, Inferno looks gorgeous. Radiangames has a very unique neon-lights style of visual, and coupled with the abstract circular enemies and epic explosions, it all looks pretty incredible.

inferno3Radiangames’ usual technobeats and dance-style soundtrack is back with a vengeance. Honestly, it’s all starting to sound a little too generic for my tastes – all three games have sounded the very same up to now, and some variation would have done nicely. Still, the music at least partially feels the mood, so you could argue it’s a case of ‘not broken, don’t fix’.

STORY

As we’ve learnt from their previous releases, Radiangames doesn’t do storylines. Feel free to make up your own story, however – maybe the abstract circle blob thingy is on his/her way to save another circle? Yeah, let’s go with that.

OTHER

Radiangames Inferno is wonderful. There’s non-stop blasting fun to be had, and you should definitely partake in the action.

How much does this outrageous enjoyment cost, you ask? A single dollar. That’s right, 80 MS points will bag you this wonderment. Don’t even consider it – just go and grab the damn thing.


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Burning From Both Ends… Crossfire [Review]

crossfire1Radiangames’ first Xbox Live Indie Games release, Joy Joy, had a rather appropriate name, providing joyous arena blasting action. The second is the shooter series, Crossfire, hoped to continue this trigger-happy trend.

While Crossfire feels unique and looks incredible, the concept eventually falls flat due to frustrating game mechanics. It looks like a great idea on paper, but in execution many flaws rear their ugly heads.

GAMEPLAY

Players blast their way through 50 waves of increasingly powerful enemies, while confined to a fixed horizontal plane. Baddie ships drop purple ammo as they die, which can then be collected and used to launch much more deadly lazer fire.

The big twist comes in the ability to jump from the bottom of the screen to the top, and vice-versa. Tapping the left or right trigger allows the hero ship to swap sides and attack the enemy from behind. Of course, the baddies aren’t going to take that lying down, and they’ll flip on the spot and continue to fire in your general direction.

This concept is taken a step further with some really interesting enemy design. Certain baddies won’t spin and will only focus on one side of the arena, allowing you to mop them up first, then concentrate on the spinny ones. Others spread their fire over both sides, provide support to other enemy ships, or can only be destroyed from one direction.

crossfire2As you kill enemies consecutively, your combo multiplier will increase, leading to much more pleasing scores. Unfortunately there are no global leaderboards, but some players will still get a kick of trying to beat their own highscores.

Initial levels are great fun, giving the player a wonderful sense of power while still providing a decent challenge. Round about the halfway mark, however, it all gets rather silly.

If you’ve played a bullet-hell shmup, you’ll know how crazy it can get, and only with complete concentration (and a little bit of luck) can you prevail. Now imagine a shump in which you not only have to dodge for your life, but also need to be constantly watching the other side of the screen to make sure it’s safe to warp over there.

Once the hordes of bullets start flying, Crossfire simply becomes much too difficult to enjoy. On later levels – especially the last ten – I found myself losing all three lives over and over again on a single wave. Any fun that can possibly be pulled from this experience is undermined by a deep sense of frustration.

This feeling is magnified due to ridiculous respawn settings. Whereas in a regular shump you’d flash a couple of times on respawn, indicating a short period of invincibility to allow you to prepare your positioning, Crossfire doesn’t even give you a second. You’re plonked down exactly where you died – usually right in the path of oncoming fire – and more often than not end up dying again instantly.

The flurry of lazer fire becomes so intense that eventually you’ll take to picking the bad guys off from the edge, bit by bit. Enemy ships move left and right, but generally stay on one side of the screen. Hence, if you can quickly take out half of the horde, it’s then possible to chip away at the rest of them. Note that while this is pretty much the only decent method for completing the final waves, it’s really not much fun at all.

Two player blasting proves to be a lot more fun
, as having a second source of fire power obviously takes the pressure off. Grab a friend and you’ll find thirty minutes of worthy game time. Play on your own, however, and you may just find yourself having to purchase a new Xbox controller after slamming the last one against a wall.

crossfire3STYLE

As with Joy Joy before it, Crossfire really is a gorgeous little thing. Lazer fire glows in fluorescent streaks, while extravagant explosions constantly light up the arena. The player ship becomes a glowstick blur as it bounds up and down the screen, giving a real sense of speed and urgency.

It’s all a little less abstract than Joy Joy was, with both the player and enemy ships actually looking like ships this time around – I found this gave the overall experience a lot more personality.

The soundtrack is also in the same vein as Joy Joy‘s, although it isn’t implemented as well here. The same style of technobeats accompany proceedings, but where Joy Joy‘s bass faded in and out as damage was taken, Crossfire‘s music isn’t so interesting. Still, there’s nothing technically wrong with it, so I’ll stop sounding moany.

STORY

Surprise surprise – there is no story involved. This is an out-and-out blaster, and your job is to reach the end and score lots of lovely points along the way.

OTHER

I was really looking forward to experiencing Crossfire, especially after enjoying Joy Joy so much, so this has come as a bit of a disappointment. It’s not a bad game – it’s simply that the concept is so much better as a thought than it is in motion.

Still, if you’re into your shmups in a big way, or you’re looking for a decent co-op shooter for you and a friend to play through, I would recommend at least giving the demo a try.


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XBLIG Thursday: Step Aside Galaga it’s Crossfire’s Turn

Crossfire000The shoot em up. Some love it, other don’t. Regardless of where your loyalties lie, however, you can’t argue that the venerable shmup genre has become home to some of the most iconic games in history. Games like Space Invaders and Galaga pioneered the genre back in the 80s. Since then the genre has come and gone in waves.

Well, this week, a new one came out called Crossfire, the second XBLIG title from Radiangames. While it might not do anything terribly different, or innovate the genre in any meaningful way, the game is not without it’s own sort of charm.

Crossfire, as stated above, is a shmup. In fact, unlike most modern smhups out there today, I’d actually say the Crossfire hearkens back to the original Galaga/Space Invaders formula most, with a special emphasis on the Space Invaders type gameplay.

The concept is pretty simple. There are waves of enemies attempting to kill you, you simply have to kill them first. Of course, the caveat is that you are able to warp between the top and the bottom of the screen in order to shoot them from behind if you’re finding it’s just getting a little too hot on one side.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy by any stretch. The warping ability is simply a mechanic to liven up the gameplay of this well worn genre. In no way does it actually make things easier. In fact, I’d say it might make things more challenging. Which is a good thing, mind you. Challenges are why we play games in the first place.

Finally, I can’t help but comment on Crossfire‘s amazing style. Like Radiangames’ previous title, JoyJoy, Crossfire looks beautiful. With all sorts of neon colors, and bright lights swooshing around, you’d have a hard time finding another XBLIG title that is as graphically pleasing. My one complaint is that, during my trial, most of the enemies were only a couple of colors, which could get a little bland.

Still though, Crossfire is only 240 MS points ($3) which means it’s a far better proposition than, say, buying Galaga Legions which is currently 800 MS points ($10). And, honestly, it’s a better game too.

[Buy/Try]

[My impressions are based off the trial and do not necessarily reflect the full game.]

Screenshots

Crossfire001Crossfire002Crossfire003


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Give Me Joy in My Heart… JoyJoy [Review]

joyjoy-1Arena shooters are two a penny on the Xbox Live Indie Games service, with only a small number really deserving your attention. JoyJoy is definitely in the ‘must play’ category, with its polished look, multitude of weaponry and challenging gameplay.

It may all get a little too hectic as the later levels utterly destroy you, but that doesn’t stop Joy Joy from feeling as revolutionary to dual-stick arena shooters as the classic Geometry Wars did.

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve played dual-stick blasters before, you’ll know what to expect here. The left stick moves your ambiguous-looking craft around the screen, while the right stick lets fly a variety of different lasers in whichever direction you point.

Similarly abstract enemies spawn around the playing field, honing in on your position. Collide with a baddie and lose a health point – run out of health and watch your ship explode into light. It’s game over, bud.

Starting with a single bog-standard laser, your ship can grab other weapons which can then be upgraded along the way. Each gun is completely different to every other, although the usefulness of each varies. For example, the Hunter’s bullets lock onto nearby enemies and make a beeline, while the Lancer fires off a small but powerful spread.

joyjoy-2Besides your regular blasting, the left trigger can also be used to charge a weapon up. During this time, your guns cease firing and your ship will store power – the longer you hold, the bigger the effect. Again, each weapon has a different effect – the aforementioned Hunter simply fires off a shed-load of enemy-seeking missiles, while the Lancer powers out a spread of lasers through a whole 360 degree radius of your ship.

While the selection of blasters is very much appreciated, it becomes apparent after a short while that certain weapons are much more useful than others, and you eventually end up using only one or two of those on offer – suggesting that maybe the available weapons need balancing a little. Still, the majority of arena shooters only offer one or two types of weapon, so you can’t really complain.

As well as the regular story mode (which features very slick boss battles at the end of each world), there are challenges to complete which force you to survive for a set amount of time with specific weapons. These are great fun, although the XBLIG restriction on not allowing online leaderboards is a shame, as this mode would really have benefitted from a bit of online competition.

It’s worth noting that after trawling through a couple of worlds, JoyJoy becomes rather difficult. Whole screen’s worth of enemies will regularly spawn, and completely obliterate your ship if you don’t have a charge laser ready. Later enemies will throw a whole bunch of laser fire your way, and it all gets very bullet-hell.

Fortunately, there are modifiers which can be added to your craft to make the game easier, at the expense of points, so gamers of any skill level can play comfortably.

A two-player mode is also included in the package, and proves to be great fun for a short while. As with the likes of I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1, it’s a nice little distraction for when you and a friend are looking to casually blast bad guys together.

joyjoy-3STYLE

JoyJoy’s general aesthetics are incredibly pleasing, with a mixture of polished, sharp visuals and incredible musical infusion helping the game achieve levels of brilliance that would otherwise have been elusive.

As mentioned previously, everything about JoyJoy’s graphical style is very abstract, yet beautifully so – both your own ship and the enemies are simply solid shapes with the slightest bit of detail, but rather than hindering the experience, it actually gives the whole thing a rather sinister atmosphere. In short, it looks simple yet stunning.

The soundtrack is just as beautiful, with fluid technobeats fading in and out as your ship takes damage. It’s this attention to detail which makes JoyJoy really stand out on the whole.

STORY

This is an arena shooter, so it comes as no surprise that JoyJoy features no story whatsoever. You’re here to blast hundreds and thousands of random enemy ships, not ponder the meaning of it all.

joyjoy-4OTHER

Compared to the majority of shooters on Xbox Live Indie Games, JoyJoy really stands out from the crowd, providing one of the most smooth and visually stunning experiences you’ll find on the service. A new standard has been set, and future XBLIG blasters are bound to be compared to this ultimate looker.

This is only the first in a series of shooters from radiangames too, as the developer releases Crossfire later this month, which looks just as polished and playable as its predecessor, albeit with a slightly different spin.

JoyJoy costs a single dollar, so if you own an Xbox, there is simply no reason not to grab this powerful piece of indie gaming.


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Radiangames announces Crossfire, a Beautiful Space Invaders-type Game with a Twist

Crossfire001Radiangames, the XBLIG developer who brought us the brilliantly made twin stick shooter, JoyJoy, a few weeks ago, has announced its second XBLIG game in Crossfire, a beautiful take on the classic formula set by Galaga and Space Invaders, but with a unique twist to give the retro gameplay a modern feel.

We don’t know too much about the game yet, aside from what’s revealed in the trailer, but Crossfire looks to be an ambitious take on the formula set by Galaga and other games like it in the past few decades. The only difference is that you aren’t stuck on one side of the game map. The hook appears to be that you can warp from shooting from the bottom to shooting from the top of the screen at whim to add a new layer of gameplay not seen in games passed.

Of course, unique gameplay isn’t the only thing that makes you take notice of Crossfire. Like JoyJoy before it, Crossfire is a gorgeous game that really takes advantage of HDTVs filled with neon colored guns and firework-like displays. It really does look to be one of the best looking games on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel.

The game is set for release this month, for the Xbox Live Indie Games. It is the second game in the Radiangames series. No price has been announced.

Trailer