Disappointed in Decimation X3

Review of Decimation X3 on XBLIG: Pass
A simple Space Invaders clone, Decimation X3 offers little in gameplay and improvements over Decimation X.

Decimation X3 is part of the 2010 Indie Games Winter Uprising.  The uprising is comprised of a group of developers banding together to release “amazing games” the month of December.   Decimation X3 highlights one of the main areas for improvement in the Uprising: by letting developers pick titles, there isn’t an impartial judge of what qualifies as an “amazing game”.

Overall the game is very basic.  There are no fancy menus, the main screen covers game launch, high scores list, and credits.  The game allows for four player coop and after everyone joins in a choice is presented to play in “Normal” or “No Shields” mode.  I expected “Normal” would include shields, but when starting the game in either mode there are no shields.   Shields are a power up that appear a few waves into the game.

The game plays identical to Space Invaders, with the power ups falling from the advancing aliens.   The power ups add firepower, shields, or a timed invincibility cloak.  Firepower comes in two flavors; one increases the rate of fire and the other increases the number of simultaneous lasers.   All power ups (except invincibility) are permanent and carry over to the next ship when the current one is destroyed.   Power ups are given out like candy at Halloween and I felt no real challenge to the game as a result.

After every few levels a boss ship appears.  These boss fights are no different from the normal waves other than having one large ship require multiple hits to destroy.  The boss ship still has the same bombs as the regular ships, and none that I encountered possessed any special moves or weapons.

The graphics are excessive, and get in the way of gameplay.  Every alien that explodes sends hundreds of pixels streaking in all directions.  I often was destroying multiple aliens at once, and found the flood of pixels obscured the incoming bombs.  The aliens move on top of game messages, making it hard to read what is going on.  The game also uses a grey font on a black back ground, making it even harder to read.

Decimation X3 has the distinct honor of being the first game to ever piss me off by its trial mode.  When I start a review of a game I start with a trial to see how the game upsells me to the full version (note – it is GameMarx policy to review only full games, we never post reviews from a trial).  Xbox Live Indie developers can leave in the default Microsoft 8 minute trial mode, or they can choose to customize the experience.  In Decimation X3, after about 3 minutes into the game my ship was killed with a message saying “Trial Mode” before I was kicked back to the start screen.  All progress was lost.  A much better handling would have been a menu showing after 3 minutes stating this was as far as I could play in a trial version, and did I want to buy now to continue.

For this review, I loaded up Decimation X to compare it to Decimation X3 and see what was changed.  I’m sad to report that X3 is only a set of timing and graphic tweaks over the original.  Power ups, gameplay, the menu – these are all the same.  The only addition is the boss ships, and these are not major changes as implemented.  The game may qualify as a new game under the rules of Xbox Live Indie Games peer review, but for all practical purposes this is a new coat of paint on top of the original Decimation X.

It should be no surprise I rate this game a Pass.  If you were a fan of the first game and wanted a faster paced version Decimation X3 is worth a look.  Anyone else looking for a good Space Invaders clone I recommend taking a look at Krazy Alienz.

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