Welcome to a new series here on my blog titled Indie Workshop, where I take a look at some of the games of aspiring Indie developers and give them a honest review while also attempting to give them a little exposure.
This series will be very dependent upon the requests I receive from developers regarding their games, and the Indie games I can get my hands on, so they may not be as regular as some of the other features I have on my blog. That having been said, I truly encourage you all to get involved with the Indie games featured here and check out the developers – they work long and hard to bring you what potentially may be the next generation of video games, so its worth your time supporting them!
Blast from the Past – A 2x0ng Review
2x0ng is the creation of sole developer David O’Toole, who since 2008 has been creating Indie games for the PC platform, with his most popular being Xong, and its sequel, 2x0ng. 2x0ng is a amalgamation of sorts – its sort of 20% shoot’em’up, 60% puzzler and 20% adventure game all rolled into one retro package. For the efforts of just one man, it ain’t half impressive.
The main premise of 2x0ng is this; you are a robot-like being, who carries with them a squareball. Around you, scattered in each level, are several coloured blocks which when destroyed with your squareball allow it to change colour. By changing the colour of the squareball, you can then proceed to remove forcefields of the same colour. While you’re attempting to do this, a vast array of baddies will be doing their best to stop you, from a humble orb shaped being that simply floats menacingly towards you, to a octopus-like alien which shields itself and tries to occasionally blast you with light. The variation on enemy and level design is quite something for such a small Indie game.
In regards to story-line, there’s actually very little to 2x0ng, and I personally believe it plays in its favour. It makes me recall many of the first video games such as Tetris and Pacman – sure, you didn’t have any clue why the heck you were a little yellow ball going around mindlessly consuming everything, but it didn’t really matter – you did it because it was fun, and in the same vain, you destroy coloured blocks to access a portal in 2x0ng because, well, its fun. There is a slight story for the player at the end of the game as a sort of reward for managing to complete all of the game’s 16 levels, and it does a great job of rounding off the game, but apart from that, there’s little in-between, and I don’t think 2x0ng really needs it, either.
The main issue, unfortunately, is that I’ve just given you more information than I knew tackling 2x0ng for the first time. I actually had very little understanding of what to do and had to directly contact the developer in order for him to inform me that CTRL+H displays a help message. This does actually appear at the top of the screen briefly, but its easy to miss. If you’re going to set out a direct objective with little or no story, its very critical that you at least give your player-base some guidance – I died the first time because I had next to no clue what was actually going on, apart from that my square could kill enemies. For now its a little rough, but David has assured me that he plans to create a much more streamlined help system and a tutorial through which players will be able to learn the ropes – so lets hope that’s only a temporary issue.
As with many of the retro games of years gone by, 2x0ng is hard, and designed to be that way. On certain levels you’re flooded with enemies as you make a desperate attempt to escape via the portal, and if you die once, you’re forced into starting over again from scratch. While this may seem like a downside, I actually found that once I understood the premise of the game, and knew what I was doing, I couldn’t stop myself from trying again, and again, and again. You have to give kudos to an Indie game developed by just one individual that’s capable of drawing you back in like that.
One thing 2x0ng gets absolutely perfect, though, is the soundtrack. You can really tell that David has put a lot of time into the way this game sounds while you play it – it suits the retro theme of the game down to the ground and it really helps you to feel that much more immersed in the game itself – which is a mean feat when you’re trying to get immersed in a game with next to no story, but 2x0ng pulls it off with aplomb.
In general, the game is presented quite well. It has an introduction screen (seen at the head of this blog), and the visuals are generally very pleasing on the eye. Although 2x0ng uses a vast array of colours, somehow it manages to steer clear from some of the more eye-warping ones (such as red on blue) and generally shows itself off quite nicely. The whole game is wrapped into a nice package and I really wish that a tutorial/help system had been present at the beginning of the game to give players an easier progression and to better understand what their goal would be.
Don’t get me wrong, 2x0ng is by no means a triple AAA title, but then its not trying to be. Its humble in the most quaint of ways, and once you get over understanding what the premise of the game is actually all about, it turns into a really enjoyable affair that you just can’t seem to tear yourself away from. Its a diamond in the rough right now, with still a fair bit to do before it can be considered 100% perfect, but David is working tirelessly to make sure the game is as functional as possible, and I think with a bit of work it could really become a retro masterpiece. It has the charm to pull it off, and god knows its addictive.
I personally feel as though 2x0ng is really only at the beginning of its adventure, and that David has a real good game in front of him once he works out the kinks. Give it two or three years, and I can easily see 2x0ng sitting on your Smartphone equivalent, or being a downloadable game that everyone can enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with 2x0ng right now – god knows I finished it and had a thoroughly good time doing so – but I still feel there’s so much potential left for a really great game that will probably be misunderstood by many.
In the light of things, 2x0ng is a wonderful little mixture of genres smashed together in the most brilliant way, all by one guy that has his heart set on bringing retro gaming back into the limelight – and that’s the most brilliant thing about 2x0ng;
When I played it, I felt as though “retro” had never really gone away.
Title of Indie Game: 2x0ng
Most appealing quality?: Its die-hard nature and quirky mechanics. 2x0ng really is something a little bit different.
Most disappointing quality?: Lack of any real tutorial and the occasional glitch (to be expected with a small Indie title)
How much did I play?: I finished the entire game, and saw the ending.
How much does it cost?: 2x0ng is currently available for free.
Where can I find it?: 2x0ng can be downloaded directly from David’s website. It can also be found for free at Desura.
2x0ng is a puzzle shoot’em’up adventure game created by David O’Toole, available now on Windows, Linux and Mac. You can follow David and his progress on 2x0ng and all his other projects directly via his Twitter. An article regarding incoming updates and plans by the developer can also be seen here.
All reviewing content is used with consent of the developer.
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