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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

[Review] Xenominer: Xbox 360 Indie

I've found some pretty fun and not so fun indie games on Xbox 360 and I decided that I'd like to begin doing reviews on some of them starting with this gem, no pun intended.

There are tons of Minecraft-like games on Xbox let alone the PC. Xenominer is just one of many but I actually like this one.

Many other Minecraft clones come off as just weak imitations lacking things that made the game great or not taking the opportunity to fix what was wrong with Minecraft. With Xenominer, it's a little more different considering that the game does not take place on any place that resembles our home planet whereas Minecraft and clones focused on these areas.

Xenominer takes place on a distant planet and is a true survival game. Minecraft is fun in creative mode but not as fun in survival mode besides trying to fight off the monsters just because of all of the limitless things you can do in the mode. Xenominer is much different.

To start off with the things that I don't like about the game...
There are no monsters, or at least I haven't encountered any yet. I have not found any different difficulties or any way to set a different difficulty so I assume there is no way to add enemies into gameplay. The game seems like a very early version of Minecraft. For some gamers, that might actually be good. I mean older really because of the graphics. Newer Minecraft graphics are fairly realistic and have changed more than its first versions so this Xenominer seems to resemble those early days. There is no multiplayer support at all whether it be Xbox Live or local multiplayer. I love playing with BlackHood4 over Xbox Live and playing locally with my brother on Minecraft so this is something that I would've utilized.

Onto the good things, and believe me, there are lots of good things about this game. To start off, the game actually has a story. For Minecraft, it's been fine not to have a story because the game is solely made for you to create what you want. There are no official objectives, no backstory as to why he's there in the Minecraft world, etc. but with Xenominer, it's much different.

The story takes place on some distant planet. It's only you and a crashed ship's computer and neither you nor her, Daisy, know how you got there or where you are. Daisy helps you along in surviving the harsh landscape with the help of your P.I.C.K., M.U.L.E., and other useful tools.

Much like Minecraft, the game centers around you building and messing with blocks. In one way, devout Minecraft players may not like this game that much because it isn't so much about you building things as much as you surviving. However, I am sure that things can be built in this game, it'll just be more challenging due to the environment. A star comes around once every day and gives off a huge amount of radiation that is harmful to your body. Your suit can only protect you so much but you will need to help your human body protect itself by making a shelter and keeping away as long as you can during the day. I kept walking in the direction of the planet that looks like Saturn (on seed 1) until I began to get as much radiation exposure as was allowed. It took a while but I eventually reached it and my character died. I've also died while going without oxygen and falling. Each respawns you back where you started.

One of the best innovations to the game, in comparison to Minecraft, is that this game allows players to collect pieces far off in the distance. While playing Minecraft, I found it difficult at times to collect some blocks as they'd be under a hanging cliff and the block would fall below into the water or to the ground below and either I'd have to waste time jumping down and climbing back up to collect that one valuable piece or I'd have to risk death by simply jumping down to collect the one piece. With Xenominer, the P.I.C.K. allows players to pull blocks towards the player and use them. Players can be behind a half open wall and pull a block from the other side without having to destroy any blocks in the process.

The difference in blocks can be confusing. Since this is a distant planet, not much is known by beginning players about what block does what whereas Minecraft uses realistic blocks from real life and you know what block does what because it's taken from reality. However, after playing for some time, most players should begin to understand what blocks do what.

The game can be fun for a time but immediately becomes boring for the average Minecraft player as it grows evident that the game is more focused on the player surviving than creating whatever they wish with the building blocks available. For players that may have never played Minecraft or similar games, but are interested in creative games, they may enjoy Xenominer. For its price, it certainly is a good buy as the quality of the game is better than that of something someone has done in their basement however not as good as what someone can do using a corporation built for creating games.

Update 1/10/2013 4:17 pm:
Xenominer's developer, Gristmill Studios, has shared this blog's review with their Facebook and Twitter audiences. A special thank you to the guys there for this game and for including us in their reviews as we are honored to be included. We look forward to updates and checking out their other exciting projects.

Be sure to check out their website for other games and projects, like their Facebook, and follow their Twitter for their latest updates.

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