Crowded as it is with farting massage simulators, it can be hard to find worthwhile titles on Xbox Live Indie Games. That's why we sift through all that rough to unearth a few gems. That way, you get the skinny on quality games and we get to indulge our secret passion for fart machines. This week, we try out the gravity-altering platformer, Antipole, from Saturnine Games.
There's a an oft-used formula used by game developers. First, come up with an interesting gameplay mechanic. Second, build an entire game centered around that mechanic. The central mechanic of Antipole is easy to explain: Pull the trigger to reverse gravity. It's a very simple mechanic -- and not necessarily one that's never been used before -- but the way in which Antipole uses gravity is what sets it apart. As Saturnine Games' Edward Di Geronimo Jr. puts it, "Our gravity ability isn't just a replacement for a jump, but rather a core part of the game world."
Gallery: Antipole (Xbox Live Indie Games) | 5 Photos
As a mysterious, well-dressed man with a ray gun, players have the ability to reverse gravity at any time by holding one of the trigger buttons. The ability instantly sends the player flying upward, even allowing them to walk and jump on the ceiling. The ability only lasts for a second or two though, so it must be utilized quickly. The power recharges very quickly once players hit the ground, so it's of the utmost importance that one actually lands on the ground and not, say, a pit of nasty spikes.
As Geronimo notes, however, the gravity ability is core to the entire game. It not only affects the player, but also the world around them. Anything that wanders into the player's antigravity bubble will be sent skyward. That includes enemy robots, certain hazards and even enemy projectiles. As I mentioned, the player is equipped with a ray gun, though it's often more effective (and entertaining) to dispatch enemies with gravity.
For example, you might see a robot on the platform above you. Rather than jumping and taking potshots, just flip gravity, let the robot wander a few feet away on the ceiling. Wait for the right moment and you can drop it right into a pit of spikes. It's also possible to reverse the trajectory of bombs dropped by flying enemies, allowing you to use the enemies weapons against them. In fact, one of the boss fights relies on that very principle (something that took me more than a few deaths to fully understand).
Players can't defeat all enemies using gravity, however. Some of them are immune to antigravity, providing an extra challenge. There are even some enemies that can reverse gravity themselves. And yes, you can reverse gravity that's already been reversed by an enemy. It's about as confusing as it sounds.
In addition to the core gravity mechanic, Antipole also includes a number of extras to extend the experience. While XBL Indie Games can't offer real Gamerscore points, Achievement fanatics will be glad to know that the game still hosts a number of in-game challenges. These challenges are listed in the main menu and even reward players with a pop-up message on completion. Each level also has three hidden coins that can be used to unlock special challenge levels. Finally, each level keeps track of completion time and the number of lives used. Throw in a top notch soundtrack and Antipole makes for an impressive package.
Anyone who enjoys a challenge and just has to beat par time should take a look.
Want to try out Antipole? You can queue the trial version for download here on Xbox.com! The full version is 240 MS Points ($3). If you've discovered (or created) an outstanding Xbox Live Indie Game and think it deserves some more visibility, email Richard aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "Xbox Live Indie Gems." Want to find more indie gems? Check out the archive.