For this week's review round-up, we bring you two games from opposite sides of the indie world. One is a free online hybrid shooter/platformer combining elements of Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft. The other involves driving jeeps around and shooting things as fast as possible. Both are great.
The brainchild of lone Israeli developer Hempuli, Masjin seeks to combine Minecraft, TF2, and a side-scrolling platformer. New players are thrust headlong into online games where their goal is to kill as many players on the opposing team as possible. To that end there are resources to mine, items and weapons to build, vehicles to drive, and character classes to select, in addition to the necessary shooting. Really, there are almost all the features one would expect to find from a much larger game, but crammed into a tiny, indie, multiplayer-only package.
The game also just underwent a huge update that fixed many of the issues endemic to it being a mostly-one-man indie project. Best of all: it's free! And it has a really awesome main menu theme song. Unfortunately Masjin's servers are already relatively empty nowadays, which makes it a lot less fun to play than it could be. Hopefully some of you will refill them.
Sega might not be an indie game company. But given the amount of hardship they've endured vs. the number of great games they've made ratio, we still love them. Renegade Ops is something of a departure for them: a $15 XBLA / PSN / PC downloadable game that seeks to combine two classic game types that haven't been traditionally linked: the twin stick shooter and Super Off Road-style top-down racing. Up to two players locally or four online each control small vehicles, usually jeeps. They are dropped onto large maps with a variety of destruction-oriented missions to accomplish, and then left largely to themselves. I had never heard of this game before PAX, but had great fun playing it there.
The final release does not disappoint. What separates Renegade Ops from the twin-stick shooter masses is how the jeeps themselves control. Driving them is more fluid and fun than driving the jeeps in Mass Effect, Borderlands, or any other recent AAA game that attempts similar mechanics. The maps are also well suited to pulling off crazy jumps and tricks in said jeeps, and the game rewards players with experience points for doing so. There's also a hilariously silly story told through comic-book cutscenes (complete with yellow-background dialog boxes) and some light RPG elements to tie the whole thing together. Think Gatling Gears, but with the Gears being way more fun to drive.
Like with most games that feature four-player co-op, playing with friends is the best way to play Renegade Ops. At its core, this is a game about having as much fun driving cartoon jeeps and blowing stuff up as possible. On both counts it succeeds spectacularly.