Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Xbox 360: CastleMiner Z

Howdy assorted gamers! As you can see, I've mixed stuff up today and gone for a 360 indie game just to keep y'all on your toes as well as added images for the first time *exciting!*. CastleMiner Z is a game many of you may well have happened upon on the Marketplace and ignored due to it being one of the many Minecraft clones to appear over the past year or so. Why I came to trying it I'm not sure. I can only assume the fact that it puts more emphasis on the mobs as opposed to building or mining, though they are of course still in there. CastleMiner Z is developed by Digital DNA Games which is the most successful XBLIG developer around and is responsible for titles like Avatar Paintball and more recently Avatar Laser Wars 2. They have even managed to shift over a million units of CMZ! Pretty impressive for a LIVE indie game if you ask me.

AK to the head for this skeleton, the first underground enemy you'll encounter

So is this worth giving a second look? I would say yes, at very least a download of the trial is in order. I love Minecraft and enjoy it more and more with every update but sometimes I kind of want something similar but with a different spin on it. That is where CastleMiner Z came in. While trawling through the ever harder to navigate Xbox Marketplace, (seriously don't get me started) I found my way into the indie section and this was the top title, which immediately made me realise it couldn't just be a plain old MC clone. I felt a download was in order and once I got myself playing the trial, I was sold. 

What is so great about CMZ you may ask your self. Well I suppose firstly I would say the graphics are pretty damn good for an Xbox indie title. If you give it a go yourself you will see what I mean with the shiny blocks and the properly shaped enemies and the GLOIVIN. It was nice to be in a world where enemies weren't made up of blocks (not that I don't appreciate the charm of MC) and I strangely really liked the idea of playing as my avatar. This probably sounds a bit childish (or part of a Microsoft E3 conference) but I really like going into a random multiplayer game with my own unique avatar. Oh and guns, this game has guns and I like guns, they're very useful and come in the shape of handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, rifles, SMGs even a rocket launcher is on the horizon.

Here we have your standard zombie enemies and one of the dreaded dragons in the background

Weapons are all well and good, but I should probably mention what you are actually pointing them at. As you can likely guess from the game's title, the base enemy in this game are zombies. They roam around on the surface and appear in worryingly large numbers at night or when you get quite far from the starting position. Like a lot of more retro games, zombies come in various colours based on difficulty. This helps you identify how dangerous they will be, not that you are usually left much time to be tactical once you've spotted them. Your other enemy on the surface are dragons. These guys are frankly assholes especially early on. They can launch flaming explosive balls of death destroying the landscape around you or use frozen projectiles to turn everything to ice and other variations exist that I haven't fought yet. The loot from these guys, of course, is pretty good. As you would probably expect, dangers lurk underground as well. Firstly are skeletons. To begin with, they are not very dangerous, but as you get deeper they start getting bigger and tend to gain big swords which they attempt to cave your head in with. Though I haven't personally seen them, I know for a fact that deeper in the world are demons.God help anyone who does find them.

I haven't made much mention to the crafting system in the game so far. The reason for this is there's not a great deal to talk about. There are no specific areas or tools needed, you simply take the resources you need and put them together in your inventory screen. Ores are refined simply by mixing them with coal and combining the resulting ingots with planks allows you to make tools, guns and (minus the planks) bullets. There are also other odds and ends you can create like walls of metal, torches, crates, doors, lanterns you know, the usual stuff.

Close up of a dragon and a good view of the spawn point in the background

There are currently four game modes on offer in CMZ. Firstly we have your standard survival mode. This is basically just free mode where you do whatever you like while fighting back enemies I mentioned earlier. Next there is endurance mode. Here your goal is to see just how far away from the spawn point you can get. Just to keep things interesting, every few thousand metres will find youself in a new biome like the desert, jungle, mountains, hell and there is even an alien one coming in the next update. The next mode is dragon endurance which has to be unlocked by killing an undead dragon in endurance. No prizes for guessing what this mode entails but let's put it this way, have you seen the film Reign of Fire? Finally there is creative mode that lets you build to your heart's content (without hordes of the undead trying to devour you). To unlock it you have to own the original CastleMiner so I haven't been able to give that a spin.

All in all this a fun game that deserves at least trial. For those who, like me, want something a bit different to the Minecraft experience, look no further. For anyone who is curious as to the price of this little gem, a purchase will set you back a hefty 80 Microsoft Points! No seriously, that's it. Don't forget this game is still getting content updates with 1.5 coming soon, adding the alien biome and other fantastical goodies, not to mention increasing multiplayer game sizes and improving general performance. Definite value for money here.

As always, dragon hunting miners, please send me your feedback or questions either in the comments or send it on to me over Twitter at @birnyb. Until next time enjoy your gaming folks!

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