Pixels, Roguelikes, and Platformers, oh my! Indies are storming Xbox One though ID@Xbox

idxbox roundup apparatus

Microsoft’s Gamescom presentation may have disappointed some with a dearth of Halo 5 Guardians news, but indie gamers were no doubt pleased to see a huge batch of independently developed titles coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program, finally catching up to the PlayStation 4’s strong indie offerings.

Here are details on the games that have been announced, along with any relevant links, release dates, and other details we could find. There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming up via ID@Xbox, and this rundown gives you a good taste of that.

#IDARB (2014)

Other Ocean Interactive – It all started with a tweet from a developer showing a simple image of a red box on some platforms. From there the development has been guided entirely by the collective will of the internet, taking the recent trend of open and community-driven game creation to its logical conclusion. The resulting game is a chaotic, eight-player eSport with balls, jetpacks, and insane power-ups that continues to evolve based on player feedback.

Below (TBA)

Capybara Games – Capybara Games demonstrated its serious design chops with Super Time Force and the exquisite Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. Now the team is turning that talent towards a roguelike enhanced with the studio’s signature pixel art and music from Jim Guthrie (Sword and Sworcery). Below has all the hallmarks of the classic genre, based around exploring the procedurally generated depths of a mysterious island, with brutal combat and permanent death.

Blues & Bullets (TBA)

A Crowd of Monsters – An episodic noir action adventure, Blues & Bullets tells a classic story of dark investigations, back alley shootouts, and mysterious femme fatales. The action is rendered in stylish black and white with minimal color highlights like a splatter of red blood. As the player explores the city they will uncover evidence, make allies and enemies, and see the consequences of their actions cascading from episode to episode to shape their story.

Cuphead (2015)

Studio MDHR – A double-whammy of nostalgia, Cuphead takes classic, run-and-gun platforming in the vein of Gunstar Heroes and Mega Man, and wraps it in a skin of 1930s Disney animation. The light-hearted, hand-drawn visual style belies ruthlessly fine-tuned action and dynamic enemy AI that should help elevate this to more than an exercise in style.

Dungeon of the Endless (2014)

Amplitude Studios – After helping revive space 4X with Endless Space (and before turning attention to fantasy 4X with Endless Legend), Amplitude has embraced another classic genre that has gained traction again in recent years: the roguelike. Dungeon of the Endless combines the procedural exploration and RPG progression of roguelikes with resource management and defense as players have to balance their expansion against the need to protect their base of operations against increasing waves of monsters.

Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 (2015)

Halfbrick Studios – The original Fruit Ninja in 2010 was an early breakout game for iOS, pointing towards the new forms of play that could be native to touch screens. The game made an easy transition to Microsoft’s new Kinect motion sensor the following year, and so it was only a matter of time before it found new life on the Xbox One’s newly enhanced Kinect with more gameplay modes and more produce for you to karate-chop into salad in your living room.

Funk of the Titans (fall 2014)

A Crowd of Monsters – Titans of rap, pop, and rock have overthrown the gods’ one true jam: funk. Zeus calls upon his son Perseus to restore cosmic order and bring back the divine funk. Set in mythical Greece with a blaxploitation edge, the game otherwise looks like a very conventional 2D platformer.

Ghost of a Tale (early 2015)

Lionel Gallat – “Redwall” fans rejoice: this action RPG casts you as an adorable minstrel mouse in a medieval fantasy world filled with all manner of civilized forest creatures. Explore dungeons, sneak by skeletal rat warriors, and maybe play a tune or two with the lute strapped across your back.

Goat Simulator (TBA)

Coffee Stain Studios – What started as a playful riff on the ubiquitous prosaic “Simulator” games became a meme, and that meme spread enough to merit becoming a full game. Well, with no way to win and only arbitrary points, Goat Simulator is perhaps less of a game than a joyful, anarchic sandbox that lovingly skewers modern open-world games by highlighting the fringes where they fall apart when examined too closely.

Gunscape (TBA)

Blowfish Studios – While mainstream shooters are still disappointingly entrenched in gritty realism, Gunscape hearkens back to a simpler time when you could circle-strafe around pixelated demon robots while bombarding them with a lightning gun. More than a game, Gunscape is an FPS construction kit, letting players mix and match elements from themed content packages inspired by classic shooters, sharing their work with the community at large.

Inside (early 2015)

Playdead – Developer Playdead sticks to its wheelhouse in this Limbo follow-up. Inside is another shadowy platformer about a scared young boy leaping, sneaking, and puzzle-solving his way through a dark, mysterious world full of malevolent entities.

Knight Squad (2014)

Chainsawesome Games – Bomberman meets Gauntlet in this top-down arcade slash-em-up. Various gameplay modes pit knights against each other in teams or free-for-all as they capture one another’s flags, contend for a single chalice, or just rack up as many kills as possible using the variety of power-ups and weapons littering the destructible arenas.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (TBA)

Asteroid Base – Survive psychedelic space bears with the power of love in this couch co-op action game. With a friend or alone with an AI companion you man turrets, shields, and thrusters in a customizable ship navigating a randomized galaxy full of neon-tinged adventure.

Massive Chalice (September 28, 2014)

Double Fine – On the tail of its record-breaking Kickstarter for Broken AgeDouble Fine launched another campaign for something a little more out there. Massive Chalice tasks you with ruling a fantasy kingdom over generations, warding off a demon invasion while managing lines of succession and descent with your kings and heroes. It looks sort of like Heroes of Might & Magic with echoes of Rogue Legacy and King of Dragon Pass.

No Time To Explain (TBA)

Tiny Build Games – “I Am You From The Future! No Time To Explain, Follow m-OH CHRIST!” Thus begins your adventure in time travel, fighting giant space crabs, precision platforming, and collecting hats. It has the time travel silliness of Super Time Force in a colorful visual style, reminiscent of The Behemoth’s Newgrounds flash games. As a mechanical hook, your main beam weapon also acts as a jetpack, creating interesting challenges as you launch yourself around spiky levels while also trying to lay waste to alien horrors like a sharktopus.

Plague Inc: Evolved (TBA)

Ndemic Creations – An inverse of the modern classic board game PandemicPlague Inc: Evolved is a rich strategy game that tasks you with bringing about the end of humanity by engineering and spreading the perfect pathogen. Hopefully by the time it comes out we won’t have all been wiped out by Ebola.

Pneuma: Breath of Life (January 2015)

Deco Digital – Pneuma: Breath of Life offers the cerebral and contemplative challenge of exploring an “ontological mystery.” You play as a god poking around in a surreal environment of interlocking puzzles. The play appears to fall along the same lines as Myst, but with physics.

Rivals of Aether (2015)

Dan Fornace – It’s no coincidence that Rivals of Aether looks a bit like Smash Bros.: creator Dan Fornace first made a splash with the free-to-play PC tribute Super Smash Land that looks like it plays on an original Gameboy. That success landed him some AAA design work in the Killer Instinct reboot, which he has now parlayed back into a fantastic looking indie fighter that pits elemental beasts against one another in dynamic battlegrounds, all rendered in a lovely pixel style reminiscent of SNES-era games.

Smite (2015)

Hi-Rez Studios – Thor and Zeus duke it out for divine supremacy in this team arena battler that mixes up the MOBA formula by using an over-the-shoulder third person perspective. Smite remixes mythologies of the world into frenetic battles where you control gods and demigods. The PC release is free-to-play with microtransactions to unlock additional gods, but it is not yet clear if the Xbox One version will use the same price model.

SlashDash (TBA)

Nevernaut Games – Two teams of two ninjas slash, dash, and teleport their way to victory in this fast-paced arcade capture the flag game. Simple controls belie complex tactical possibilities in this latest entry in the couch co-op renaissance.

Space Engineers (TBA)

Keen Software House – Minecraft a little too terrestrial for you? Space Engineers offers deep, physics-based mining, crafting, and construction in space, letting you build ships, stations, and asteroid mining facilities in a variety of survival and creative modes.

Spectra (TBA)

Gateway Interactive – While many of the games on this list offer elaborate toolkits and open-ended sandboxes with a wide variety of modes, Spectra is confidently one thing: the old school challenge of racing against the clock along lo-fi tracks winding through space, collecting power-ups while avoiding obstacles. The courses are procedurally generated from the game’s original soundtrack by Chipzel, who created the music for the maddeningly-difficult indie hit Super Hexagon.

Speedrunners (2015)

DoubleDutch Games – Canabalt introduced the world to the hyperspeed platforming subgenre of the endless runner, but those games have been a largely solitary experience. Speedrunners turns it into a ruthless competition between superheroes trying to beat one another to the scene of a crime. Use rockets, bombs, grappling hooks, spikes, and various other surprises to slow down your opponents and zoom ahead to victory.

Superhot (June 2015)

Superhot Team – Superhot looks like a minimalist FPS at first glance, until you notice one key mechanical tweak that changes the game completely: time only moves forward when you take a step. That adjustment turns a twitchy bulletstorm into a thoughtful puzzle. Superhot originally spread as a stripped-down game jam prototype with just one weapon and handful of enemies and environments, but widespread excitement pushed the small dev team to flesh it out into a dynamic and fully-featured game that gives a radically different perspective on some of the most pervasive mechanics in mainstream gaming.

Threes (TBA)

Asher Vollmer – 2048 may have surpassed it on the app store by being free, but Threes is the original and, frankly, a vastly superior game. Two base numbers and more predictable controls makes Threes just as easy to learn as its derivative, but much harder to master, which is a testament to how thoughtful the design is. It will also be the first game playable within the Xbox One’s Snap mode, which makes it the perfect little distraction to play during commercials or while waiting for a multiplayer match to start.

The Escapists (2014)

Mouldy Toof Studios – The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape. All that stands in your way are tons of concrete, metal, packs of vicious dogs, and squads of guards on a hair trigger to beat you down if you get out of line. This prison break game is the inverse of Prison Architectwherein you need to plan and execute your escape while maintaining a daily schedule and appearing totally innocuous.

Volgarr the Viking (2014)

Crazy Viking Studios – If you miss classic platformers with punishing difficulty like ContraBattletoads, and Ghosts ‘n GoblinsVolgarr the Viking is for you. Modern conveniences like save points have been stripped away to leave this as an unforgiving challenge that will drive you crazy, but make you feel like a badass when you’ve mastered its subtler techniques. You can skip ahead to levels already reached, but only by playing straight through to the end will you be granted access to the real last level, the Path of the Valkyrie.


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