Square Off

By: Guest Reviewer

On: January 26th, 2010

[This is a guest review by anosou. If you’re interested in writing an article for TIGSource, please go here.

Square Off is an Xbox Live Indie Games title from Australian developer Gnomic Studios. An arcade-style shooter with a distinct cartoon art style, Square Off is one of the better games available from Microsoft’s indie platform. Why? Here’s why:

The concept of Square Off is rather simple really. You play as a little genetically-engineered square made from a mad professor’s brain cell and some alien DNA and your job is to wipe out the ongoing alien invasion. In practice this translates to a twin stick shooter with some twists. You control your little square (equipped with an adorable jetpack) with the right stick, aim with the left stick and shoot with the right trigger. During gameplay you can pick up an assortment of wondrous little powerups including a shotgun, a triple-barrel gun, bombs and a rocket launcher. The gameplay is very smooth and responsive, as it should be in a shooter, and the controls are simple yet functional.

In the main mode, the one where you fend off previously-mentioned aliens, the game is split into 6 stages. These generally take the form of a few rooms connected by smaller corridors and they’re all positively swarming with aliens. Again the gameplay is very basic but enjoyable – shoot the alien spawn and destroy the motherships and you move on to the next level. It’s actually quite unforgiving at times for the lonely player. If you can’t keep up with the alien spawn rate you can easily find yourself trapped in a narrow corridor unable to get through because your standard gun can’t keep up with the rate of alien spawns. A small design flaw but it’s uncommon during the game if you’re playing on a decent level.

What makes Square Off stand out are mainly two things. First and foremost it’s the focus on multiplayer. The main game (although a bit short) can and should be played with a friend or three. This makes the sometimes unforgiving levels both more fair and more enjoyable. Even the classic co-op “THAT POWERUP WAS MINE YOU IDIOT!” is there and I’m loving every second of it. This also takes care of the difficulty one might encounter when playing alone, it’s clearly designed around multiplayer play. There’s also a Death Match mode with three different gameplay options: To The Death, Frag Race and Time Limit. Going head to head with a few good friends in your couch makes for quite the killing fest.

The other thing that makes Square Off stand out is the delicious art style. Clearly inspired by The Behemoth’s games, the cartoon style with the thick lines and great attention to facial expressions works very well. There’s hardly anything to complain about here, this is definitely one of the better looking games on XBLIG. The sound and music almost reaches the same level too. The sound effects work perfectly with the game and the dramatic music gives the game a tongue-in-cheek serious tone.

Square Off does have some small issues though. The first and arguably biggest is the lack of online multiplayer. While this is uncommon for XBLIG titles in general, it would’ve taken this particular game to the next level. Other than that there could’ve been more variation when it comes to the enemies, most of them are of the same type (and look) and just keeps chasing you. To be completely fair these are minor things when you look at the whole package. Square Off is one of the better games on XBLIG and for 240MS (3 PUNY EARTH DOLLARS) you can’t go wrong with this. If you have friends to play with that is.

  • Dodger

    This looks like great fun! I’m picking this one up next time I log into XBL and at $3 bucks, from what I’ve seen, it looks like a blast!

    Which also brings me to some disappointing news regarding XBLA – Darwinia+ is coming February 10th… at 1200 MS points… I already own Darwinia and Multiwinia for the PC… I *might* have dished out another $10 to be able to play it all again (this time with friends on XBL), but there’s really no way in hell I’m dishing out $15 when I already own the games. I really don’t know if I would’ve bought it, but I certainly wouldn’t and won’t at that price. Perhaps others will still be interested but I don’t think it’ll be well received by the people who already know about the games. Perhaps it’ll become a sleeper hit though.

    Which leads me to think that why not just make Square Off an XBLA game at 400 Pts? I’d gladly pay $5 bucks for it, when the experience looks fun and at that price there would be a few Achievements to obtain, it certainly looks better than many other XBLA titles, whereas Darwinia+ looks like, Darwinia and Multiwinia… I guess it’s really only geared towards people who haven’t played them yet… which is a shame really.

  • dantakk

    It’s a great looking game from a part-time crew, hope it does well for them.

  • Skofo

    Purdy! Creative mixing 2D and 3D.

  • jrjellybeans

    This LOOKS fantastic!

    Except it’s a bit odd that there is no online multiplayer. I wonder how much this will affect sales…

    In any case, congrats to the devs!

  • Jotaf

    Awesome, the facial expressions are hilarious :D