BulletAsylum is a new spin on the classic defend-the-city-from-meteors genre. Simply touch the screen on a WP7 device, or push the thumbstick on the Xbox 360 to create a literal fireworks show out of your enemies with an impenetrable wall of firepower. Instantly purchase new towers and cities without breaking up the action. Split your fire in two directions by touching the screen in two places or using the right thumbstick. Unleash the screen-clearing Overdrive when you’re in a tight spot.
I’ve been spending summer playing a couple of Xbox 360 games situated in dark nightmare worlds. One is Microsoft Studios’ and Remedy’s Alan Wake, which could be described as an homage to Stephen King (so much so that they name-drop him in the opening credits); the other is Limbo, an Xbox Live Arcade game:
Calling Limbo a “2-D side-scroller game” does it as much injustice as referring to Red Dead Redemption as “a cowboy third-person shooter”. Limbo is the most gorgeous and haunting side-scroller I’ve ever played.
The world of Limbo is a monochromatic one, shrouded in gloom and fog and nothing but the game itself. The screenshot below shows what the game actually looks like while you’re playing:
No heads-up display, score or distractions of any kind: it’s just you and Limbo’s world. The controls are minimal – you just use the left thumbstick to move, the A button to jump and the B button to perform actions on things (typically push or pull objects). Where Limbo goes deep is gameplay – this game really sucks you in.
You control your character, a young boy who wakes up in a dark forest, with no idea what’s going on. There’s no opening cinematic, no explanatory text, no little pop-up hints, but somehow the game manages to convey a sense of what to do next solely through the way the game reacts to your actions. The developers, Playdead – an indie game dev shop in Copenhagen – did an amazing job in programming Limbo to communicate just through gameplay.
With its black-and-white graphics, smooth animation, minimal sound (you only hear things you need to hear) and the many, many ghoulish ways your character will die as you learn to navigate the game’s many deadly puzzles and traps, Limbo feels like the sort of ghastly-but-addictive game that Edward Gorey might have conjured up, had he decided to take up programming rather than becoming an illustrator.
Limbo may just be the best Xbox Live Arcade game ever released, and I suspect it’ll be in my “Top 5” for 2010. If you’re looking for a stand-out game for your Xbox 360, Limbo is well worth the 1200 Microsoft Points.
I’m going to be “booth-bunnying” today and tomorrow at the Microsoft area of the Explore Design fair, which bills itself as “North America’s first design education fair for youth”. It’s an event where young people can find out about the creative, technical and career possibilities offered by the field of design. There’s a wide range of design disciplines represented at Explore Design, including:
Explore Design takes place today and tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14th and Thursday, October 15th) at the South Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I’m going to be spending most of my booth-bunnying near the XBoxes, where I’ll be talking about XNA and Xbox Live Indie Games.
Depending on the internet access situation at the Convention Centre and how busy it gets at the booth, I’ll be posting dispatches either from Explore Design during the day or in the evening once I get back home. Watch this space!
Hey, it looks like I’ve got some potential reading material for the holidays! O’Reilly’s just released their new book, Learning XNA 3.0, an introduction to Microsoft’s 2-D and 3-D game development framework for the PC, Xbox 360 and Zune. Here’s an excerpt from O’Reilly’s description of the book:
Written by an experienced university-level game development instructor, Learning XNA 3.0 walks you through the framework in a clear and understandable step-by-step format. Each chapter offers a self-contained lesson with lots of illustrations and annotated examples to help you master key concepts. Once you finish the book, you’ll know how to develop sophisticated games from start to finish.
Learn game development concepts from 2D animation to 3D cameras and effects
Delve into high-level shader language (HLSL) and introductory artificial intelligence concepts
Develop three complete and exciting games using 2D,3D and multiplayer concepts
Develop and deploy games to the Xbox 360 and the Microsoft Zune
While teaching XNA to beginning game developers, author Aaron Reed noticed that several key concepts were difficult for students to grasp. Learning XNA 3.0 was written specifically to address those issues. With this book, you can test your understanding and practice new skills as you go with unique "Test Your Knowledge" exercises and review questions in each chapter.
The book, when purchased from O’Reilly, comes in several formats:
Dead-tree format (that is, an actual paperback book): US$34.99 (currently CAD$44.06) / £24.99 in the UK
Ebook (PDF, EPUB and Kindle-compatible “Mobipocket” format): US$27.99 (currently CAD$35.23)