Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Xbox Live: Smouldering Skies

I just got done playing another indie game on Xbox Live just now called Smouldering Skies. If you never heard of Smouldering Skies thats ok, it released less than a week ago on Xbox Live indie games marketplace. Developed by Distinction Games this old school fantasy top down shooter features a dragon as a protagonist with lush envirements and boss battles.

When you first start up Smouldering Skies your greeted by a few options at the main menu. You have "New Game", "Continue Game", "Level Select", "High Scores", "Controls", "Credits" and "Exit Game". The trial only lets you play one gamemode and thats New Game. The controls are pretty simple to grasp and serve their purpose in Smouldering Skies top down style gameplay. Left thumbstick is to move your protagonist. B button is to use bombs and Right Trigger is to fire. You can also change weapons by hitting the A button.

Smouldering Skies is one of those indie games, in my opinion that does some things right and too much wrong. First, no checkpoints or shields. Even some old school top down shooters have shield upgrades. No checkpoints either. If you die you have to start all the way over. The latter was frustrating after dodging and shooting a million enemies and making it to the pink octopus boss (who shoots black ink at you) only to die and start all the way over again. I understand that Smouldering Skies wants to be labeled as old school but the gameplay overall doesn't flow well enough not to have checkpoints set up. In some aspects the game feels kinda cheap in the gameplay department.
The visuals are pretty good. The protagonist dragon doesn't look good and its animations look pretty robotic. The backgrounds looked beautiful however. The underwater sea level I played on featured nice water effects with good texture work and vibrant colors. The enemies ranged from starfish to blue and red orbs. The sound design isn't good even by indie games standards. The sound effects from shooting and the enemies as well got pedantic really fast.

There are plenty of power ups in Smouldering Skies to upgrade your weapons. On the right side of the screen is a bar that shows your game data. The latter shows your overall score (i got 57,074). It also shows the levels of your bombs and other weapon data levels. Its nice to have that side bar always showing while you play so you can keep track of stats without pausing the game.
Over the years I played many top down shooters like Blazing Lazers, Guardian Legends and many more. Smouldering Skies lacks something. Is it fair to say it lacks simply "it"? The game just didn't seem fun to play. And in the end, that's all that really matters. Thanks for reading.