TA Top Five: Lesser Known ID@Xbox Games

By Mark Delaney,
This month, Xbox is celebrating the first two years of the ID@Xbox program. Since April of 2014, creators have been using the tools provided to them through the ID initiative to self-publish their games and stand among the sea of other digital downloads vying for your attention and money. We decided it made sense for us to do some highlighting of our own. Initially meant to be a 'best of' list, we changed gears at the last moment and figured Rocket League, Shovel Knight, and the like probably didn't need any more praise than the bevy they've already received.

Instead, we decided to highlight some of the under the radar games released through the ID channels. The program has played host to a ton of interesting, often-one-of-a-kind games, and looking at the tracked gamers stats here on TA reveals that too few people have gotten their hands on these great games. Figuratively, of course. You can't get your hands on digital content. Here are some of our favorite lesser known ID@Xbox games. What are yours?

Honorable Mentions

Lifeless Planet
What's on the agenda today? Ah, right – surviving.What's on the agenda today? Ah, right – surviving.

Stage 2 Studios' planet exploration game won't wow you with stunning visuals, but it more than makes up for it with a great narrative and well thought out backstory. After a crash landing, you roam the titular planet looking for oxygen and signs of life. As you traverse the desolate and dangerous lands, it starts to become more and more apparent that you aren't nearly the first lifeform to set your space boots on the ground here. Wonky puzzles hurt the overall experience, but if you enjoy science fiction, Lifeless Planet will keep you guessing during your playthrough, and make you think once it's over.

Action Henk
Buttsliding: It's the new hoverboarding.Buttsliding: It's the new hoverboarding.

I didn't know what to expect when I was assigned the Action Henk review a few months ago. I've had to play through many forgettable games as a reviewer, and I thought I might be heading into another of those experiences. I was so very wrong. Henk is a precise, colorful, and fun speed-running platformer not unlike Trials and Joe Danger. It scratches the leaderboard itch for those who grew up staring at arcade cabinets, sometimes asking you to shave the slightest slivers, milliseconds, off of your time trials. If you're a fan of the aforementioned games and need more from the genre, Henk is your man.

Spy Chameleon
This lizard has no time to lounge.This lizard has no time to lounge.

Spy Chameleon carries with it all the sensibilities of an app game you'd have on your smartphone or tablet. It's easy to pick up, presents itself in a neat and colorful package, and possesses an intense one-more-try attribute. However, the precise maneuvering needed to get through the rooms of patrolling robots and fish just wouldn't be available with touchscreen controls. The Xbox controller, thankfully, feels like a perfect match for the stealth puzzler. The game pairs its casual, Pixar-like aesthetic with deceptively challenging gameplay that also rarely feels unfair, so though it's tough, you won't break any controllers.

Top Five

5. McDroid
Wall-E 2: March to WarWall-E 2: March to War

When I put out a call to other writers on staff to submit their picks for best ID titles, Eurydace emphatically picketed for Elefantopia's tower defense game. Not having played it myself, I'll let him do the talking:This is simply an amazing tower defense game - the best on Xbox One and only barely behind Defense Technica and Sanctum 2 on console. The balance between the third-person shooting and your towers is perfect. Never once did I feel ineffective beside my towers, but I always knew I needed to make smart decisions with tower placement or I'd fail. The game also features a unique and fun difficulty system. Instead of playing the same thing again against enemies with more HP, the game carries over your progress in the previous difficulty down to towers placed and building resources. If you're a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to pick this up.4. Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings
Great gameplay, deep customization, fun imagery, and a challenging achievement list. SMB hits for the cycle.Great gameplay, deep customization, fun imagery, and a challenging achievement list. SMB hits for the cycle.

In the absence of a true baseball sim, Xbox gamers may often look to the RBI series for their fix of "America's pastime", but don't be fooled by its lack of the MLB license – Super Mega Baseball is the best game for the sport on the Xbox One. It offers a ton of customization over your players and team, really fine-tuned gameplay mechanics at-bat, on the mound, and in the field, and its child-like visuals are reminiscent of the late nineties CD-ROM game, Backyard Baseball. If you want a true testament to how great this game is, know this: I can't stand baseball, and I love Super Mega Baseball.

3. The Swapper
Just me, myself, and I.Just me, myself, and I.

The Swapper is an atmospheric award-winning sci-fi puzzler wherein you use clones of yourself to solve platforming puzzles while unfolding a narrative that would make Asimov proud. It's a game that should never be spoiled for you, so I won't, but you should know that getting to the end of the story will be difficult, as the puzzles really demand that you think outside the box. The sound design is another highlight of the game, often employing the less-is-more mentality that really leaves you unsettled while you try to solve your next obstacle.

2. White Night
What mysteries lie ahead?What mysteries lie ahead?

OSome Studio's black and white horror title cleverly uses light and shadow to create one of the most underrated settings in a long time. With fixed camera angles, enemies that outnumber and overpower you, and little but the book of matches in your inventory, White Night feels very much like a classic Silent Hill or Resident Evil, but it tells a story unlike either of those. It's set in a bygone era, with period music and furnishings that put you in that time and place, which, unfortunately, happens to be a haunted mansion with a very dark history. There are countless pages of backstory to uncover, and a unique achievement list to tackle too. Horror fans, look out for this one if you've missed it until now.

The Goonies + Poltergeist = OXENFREE.The Goonies + Poltergeist = OXENFREE.

The debut title from Night School Studio did not disappoint. Comprised of several Telltale alums, Night School gave us a Telltale-esque sidescroller that focuses on dialogue and narrative over puzzles and platforming like we typically see in games presented in such a fashion. Everything from the unique art design to the synthy, It Follows-like score, to the deliberately confusing storyline make up what will surely become a favorite of those who enjoy story-first gaming. You'll walk away with more questions than can be counted on one hand, but undoubtedly have found a great appreciation for a story unlike any other ever introduced to the medium.

If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like to see discussed and debated, let us know in the comments!
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.