2017 has come and gone – providing some stellar AAA titles throughout the year. If you want to know about our overall Game of the Year for 2017, then take a look, but this article is all about the indie releases that we saw arrive on Xbox One this year. The following 7 independents have given us some very unique and memorable experiences in 2017…
Dubstep. Aaero provides hours upon hours of heavy dubstep beats – and moving along to said beats has never felt so good!
Set in a colourful world, Aaero will see you controlling your little spaceship on a journey through twisting tunnels with various traps, and along the way you will be disposing of animatronic arachnids and massive worms in an attempt to… well I’m not sure what, but you can be sure as hell it is immensely satisfying following the rhythm of the pulsing tunes along the way.
You see, Aaero gives you two objectives; follow the ‘ribbon’ which plays along to the music, and target and shoot down enemies at the same time, or face the risk of being taken out yourself. Perfectly following along to dubstep hits such as Flux Pavillion’s ‘Bass Cannon’, Noisia’s ‘Split the Atom’ and, my personal favourite, Katy B’s ‘Katy on a Mission’, whilst simultaneously taking in the colourful surroundings, is arguably one of the most rewarding feelings on Xbox One.
And that’s it. No upgrades. No skill trees and no real story to boot. Just pure dubstep and electro tunes to ride along to, whilst attempting to rank the amongst the global leaderboards.
Aaero is not complicated – simple to pick up but most definitely hard to master – hence the fact we couldn’t make much of a dent on the Master Mode! But despite our lack of rhythm we still love Aaero, and whenever we fancy jumping along to some electro and dubstep it just has to be booted up. A few minutes with Aaero and you will be hooked!
6. Snake Pass
What a great few hours we had with best buds Noodle and Doodle back in March, twisting and turning in order to slither our way through Snake Pass.
Like many 3D platformers, Snake Pass gives you a multitude of collectibles to obtain, as well as a good few levels to work your way through, instead this time round you have no limbs at all, and instead must channel your inner serpent and intertwine with obstacles to work your way up. The physics element of the platforming is something unique to Snake Pass, and this plays a major part in why it has made it onto sixth spot on this list.
The cute cartoon visuals also add to the charm of Snake Pass, and the adorable relationship between Noodle the Snake and Doodle the Bird when being used together in order to reach the higher vantage points never fails to put a smile on our face.
A good few worlds down and a hundred Wisps later and we were convinced that Snake Pass was a great platformer fun for all ages – however you will have to have an ounce of patience with the harder levels!
5. Outlast 2
Outlast 2 is certainly scary – never failing to get our hearts racing.
You ain’t no Chris Redfield packed up with military weapons and body armour either; instead you are Blake Langerman – a cameraman/journalist investigating the mysterious murder of one Jane Doe. Don’t expect to sort your problems out by shooting them out of existence – it will be a case of hiding and taking your chances when bolting it to the next area: or screaming.
The dark story blurring the lines between religion and horror is also a fantastic offering, and the levels of gore and mangled bodies are definitely enough to put you off your dinner. One of your only friends is your camera – without it you will not be seeing a damn thing and sight is vital to make it through Outlast 2 alive. But the fact that the camera could run out of batteries, forcing you to reserve your use of the camera and seek out more batteries quickly or play in near darkness, ramps up the tension ten-fold.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Outlast 2 is not for the faint-hearted – better get some spare pairs of underpants at the ready if you want to tackle this beast!
4. Sky Force: Reloaded
Never have we ever hit the grind so much than we have in the twin stick frenzy that is Sky Force Reloaded… but we enjoyed it so much we just had to put in on this list and give it the eighth spot on our ‘Best Xbox One Games of 2017’ list too.
Sky Force Reloaded gives you a spaceship, some guns and a whole load of enemies to take down. Whilst at first it may seem tough, stick at it and after procuring missiles, wing cannons and various power-ups, soon those harder enemies will be cut through with ease. Then you think it will be a breeze… and then the next level you are back to the struggles of having your powerful weapons not make much of a dent on the enemies and bosses of Sky Force Reloaded.
Queue some more grinding, obtaining masses of stars and completing objectives, upgrading weapons further and soon you will be bossing the level. It is this constant battle of Sky Force Reloaded that can quickly turn people off, but soldier on and the grind will be more rewarding and satisfying than you could imagine.
The fun doubles with the introduction of a couch co-op friend also, where you take your already upgraded ship and challenge each of the levels with another ship by your side. This all counts towards unlocking more levels, done by completing objectives such as going unscathed in a level or destroying every enemy. By collecting medals and other items to open up more abilities, soon you will be topping the global leaderboards.
Whilst you may not be a fan of the twin-stick genre and see grinding as a bit of a waste of time, a few hours with Sky Force Reloaded and you will see what the fuss is all about.
I’ll get it out of the way: Yooka-Laylee is heavily inspired by Banjo-Kazooie. But you can’t have too much of a good thing and Banjo’s outings were certainly good things, so it’s no surprise Yooka-Laylee is also.
Appealing to people of all ages and preferences, whether you have been a platforming fan for decades or are new to the genre, the collectable mania that is Yooka Laylee was a joy to play for everyone – a charming mix of platforming, puzzles and mini-games that had us excited for more 3D platformers on Xbox One.
With colour bursting out of every pore and across each open-world level, Yooka-Laylee couldn’t help itself when cementing an almighty grin on all our faces. The chameleon and bat duo also had a great relationship, exchanging comedic banter alike to the bear and bird of the past. The draw of racing around the world with Nimbo the cloud, trying out Rextro’s retro minigames, or rolling all over the place collecting Pagies and every other collectible that Yooka-Laylee threw our way was immense. And trust me, there was a lot to collect!
The cartoon aesthetic and cute noises the characters make hark back to a time where 3D platformers were all the rage – and hopefully the success of Yooka Laylee will spearhead a revival for the genre.
One of the later entries into this list, keep in mind Cuphead only came into our lives at the back-end of 2017, Cuphead proved to be just as exhilarating as we all hoped ever since its announcement in 2014, despite the seemingly endless delays.
The 1930s cartoon graphics were unique, bringing a certain charm to proceedings, and the various bullets Cuphead and Mugman could shoot out of their fingers also played a part in how we went through each side-scrolling level or flamboyant boss. The bosses themselves replicated the era Cuphead is inspired by: we have a cigarette, a casino machine and the devil himself! But all of them, without a doubt, were as tough as nails.
But let’s address the rather aggressive elephant in the room. Cuphead is hard. Very, very, very hard, and the boss fights are especially stressful. But never unfair, so every time we finally made it pass each boss the reward was immense, and this is what makes Cuphead so addictive and why it has got the runner up spot on this list.
1. Sniper Elite 4
…and TheXboxHub’s Xbox One Indie Game of 2017 goes to Sniper Elite 4!
The tactical sniping title pleasantly surprised us when it released in February, especially given the mediocre performances from the previous entries in the Sniper Elite series. But alas, Rebellion Games came through with this one and we were treated to a third person shooting masterpiece full of Nazi sniping, strategically relocating and carefully taking your shots…
Or you could go in with your assault rifle and fill each enemy with a fistful of lead, or even sneak up on Hitler with your pistol and melee attacks. Sniper Elite 4 was open to many different playstyles; all of them very rewarding.
Whilst it may be something of a rarity in today’s shooters, the co-operative campaign multiplied the fun to be had, with communication being key in planning your approach, when to shoot and how to traverse through the level. As for the versus multiplayer, either with randoms or an online friend, this was also very enjoyable, racking up the kills to complete certain objectives.
Whatever mode you played, and however you decided to go about your business, the famous bullet-cam was ever present, and piercing hearts and brains never got old, making us cringe with delight! In addition, we found Sniper Elite 4 to be so good that we put it into fifth place on our list of the very best games of 2017.
Of course, it isn’t just these seven titles that are the be all and end all of the 2017 indie scene, and there are some games that we just have to include in this article. So take a bow, charming farming simulation Stardew Valley, riveting open-worlder RIME, Aven Colony – the city sim set in space, and last of all July’s emotive walking sim What Remains of Edith Finch.
So there we have it. Agree with our picks or have we missed any out that you think must be given a mention? Obviously there are plenty of other decent indie titles on Xbox One that we could include – and this just goes to show how great 2017 has been for independent developers.