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The buried brilliance of Xbox Live Indie - four games that are worth a try

Alex tours XBLA's dungeons in search of treasure

The Indie Games section on the dashboard is an easily overlooked place, lacking the high production values and glossy advertisements that define AAA titles. It makes up for this by sheer volume, with thousands of titles on offer, and browsing through them is very much like sifting for gold - you have to clear away a lot of sand (in this case, Minecraft clones and zombie shooters) to get to the shiny stuff. Nevertheless, there are brilliant gaming nuggets to be found, and I've written up a few for consumption below.

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First up is Bleed, a 2D platformer/shooter hybrid with a definite Scott Pilgrim vibe. Gun-wielding heroine Wryn sports shockingly purple hair, in the spirit of Ramona, but the similarities don't begin and end with follicles - the story (yes, an indie game with a plot, who knew?) focuses on Wryn's quest to track down and defeat 6 legendary heroes who have become corrupted by fame and fortune.

Bleed's controls are another matter, however. It's a side-scrolling twin-stick shooter, rather than a beat 'em up - you move the right stick to aim and shoot, whilst the left controls movement. The left trigger activates bullet time, and the right trigger is used to jump or dodge. It's fiddly at first, but satisfying enough once you get used to things. Mastering the ability to quadruple jump while toggling bullet time is crucial - this is a challenging game, even on the deceptively named 'normal' difficulty. It's also quite pricey for an Indie title, at 400 MP.

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Equally difficult, although in a much different way, is Scribendus. Gone are machine guns and rocket launchers - this is a puzzle game, and an ingenious one at that. Resembling the fiendish love-child of Scrabble and Tetris, Scribendus challenges players to create words out of falling pairs of random letters. Much like Tetris blocks, pairs can be rotated before falling into place. It sounds simple enough, but it's actually devilishly tricky; I frequently resorted to "cat" in vain effort to stifle the cascade of letters - in vain because the minimum word length is four letters. With not a zombie in sight (although you're welcome to try and spell it), this is certainly one of the most original concepts on the Indie storefront.

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Fast Fast Laser Laser is less original, and rather less literary. It's Bomberman with a twist, and thus a perfect example of something the Indie section does well - taking a familiar concept and innovating in one key way. In this case, rather than running around and placing bombs at strategic locations, players are armed with a gun and a sword. The gun fires a laser beam which bounces around the maze thanks to a system of mirrors, killing anyone it hits (including the original shooter). The sword can be used to bounce lasers back the way they came (making them faster in the process). It's beautifully straightforward, with only a few power-ups thrown into the mix, and insanely addictive.

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