Xbox’s indie game section is a wonderful place. Here, you’ll find thousands of indie games (obviously) ranging from 80 Microsoft points (in other words, a dollar, in a less-stupid form of currency) to 400 points (five dollars). Most of them are pretty decent, some more so than others. CastleMiner Z is one of these. I gotta say, I’m really glad I decided to purchase this one.
Now, as you can probably tell from the picture and title, this game includes castles, mining, and zombies. A lot of zombies. Like, I’m talking a LOT of freakin’ zombies. The game borrows heavily from Minecraft (it even states this in the game’s information on the XBox Marketplace), but it does it a tad bit differently. Instead of crafting swords and bows to protect yourself, you (and up to three of your friends) will have to craft modern weapons, like Uzi’s and AK47’s to fend off the zombie horde. These aren’t given to you from the beginning, though. You’ll still be crafting pickaxes and shovels to collect resources. You turn these resources into things like the aforementioned guns, more tools, doors, and even teleporters (you place one down and can teleport to it at will from the start menu). You’ll also be building shelters to protect you and your buddies from certain doom.
There’s a pretty nice variety of weapons to make. Each weapon has a stronger version of itself, requiring rarer materials to craft. A gold Assault Rifle will do more damage than a regular one, but you’ll need gold to craft it (duh). A diamond Assault Rifle requires not only diamond, but gold bullets to function. The higher up the weapon, the more effort you’ll have to put forth and the more resources you’ll need, basically.
This game will scare the living shit out of you. No matter where you are, you’re NEVER safe. It’s not like Minecraft, where you’re safe during the day (save the occasional Creeper). When you start, you’ll be placed near a weird bedrock tower (the thing in the background of the picture). The further away you are, the more dangerous the world gets. Death is common, but luckily, the game doesn’t punish you too much. You’ll keep the items in your hotbar (the bar at the bottom of the screen) and drop everything else, so it’s wise to keep things like bullets in the bar.
You’ll face a variety of enemies during your travels. Zombies are the most common foe. They range from being slow, easy targets to 28 Weeks Later-esque sprinters. Yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds.
They climb out of the ground instead of just appearing in the game, which is a neat little detail. Next, you’ll face skeletons. They’re pretty nasty dudes. They’re incredibly accurate and they’ll drop your ass like a bad habit if you’re not careful. Oh, and did I mention that you fight dragons, because that’s pretty important. That’s right, you’ll be fighting dragons. These behemoths won’t hesitate to mess up your day. Early in the game, these guys will be a serious threat. Your starting weapons will only piss them off more, and not actually hurt them (well, they do, but it’s HARDLY any). They shoot fireballs, and they’re not fun to be hit by. The fireballs also damage the environment when they collide, so you better hope one doesn’t hit the side of your house. Oh, and if you go underground far enough, you’ll reach Hell, which means you’ll be facing even MORE bad guys (like demons and axe wielding skeletons). SPOILER ALERT: It’s not a happy place.
You die REALLY quickly. A few hits from even the weakest zombie will send you straight into the afterlife. The health system is forgiving, though. Instead of eating to regain health, it regenerates automatically. The regeneration kicks in pretty fast as well.
“Well damn, why would I even PLAY this game? It sounds WAY too hard!” Well, yeah, the game’s challenging, but it includes 4 player co-op. Cooperation is impor-, no, it’s NECESSARY to survive more than a few minutes. You’ll need a buddy to watch your back while you’re down in a cave mining, since enemies have a nasty habit of appearing at the worst possible times. Multiplayer is every bit as fun as it sounds. My friend and I have had many fun experiences in it.
The sound design is pretty good. Nothing beats being trapped in a small hut while zombies and other abominations scream in agony just inches away. There’s not much music, but when it DOES play, it sounds epic. It’s triggered every time you enter a new biome (that’s about 1000 blocks or so). Guns sound okay-ish, but I didn’t really expect much from an indie game.
The graphics aren’t actually all that bad. The view distance is pretty good, and once you reach the mountainous area (I think it’s at 2000) and look over the peaks at night, it can be downright gorgeous. Zombies look creepy, skeletons look like skeletons, and overall, everything looks nice.
You may be sick of all these Minecraft clones, but I urge you to check out this one. It’s unique enough to warrant a second look, and at only one dollar, it offers plenty of “bang for your buck” (in this case, literally, since it’s only a buck). I highly, highly recommend it.