The Xbox LIVE Indie Games channel has allowed console players to get a piece of the $1-a-game pie that many others have enjoyed on mobile platforms. Nearly-one-man indie developer Elemental Focus utilized this avenue to release The Cannon, which is being practically given away priced at a paltry 80 MSP.
The Cannon takes a very simple game mechanic and throws in a few twists to make things more interesting. Your job is to protect “The Cannon” in the middle of the screen by using it to fend off approaching enemies from all sides. But it’s not quite as simple as just pointing and shooting. Each of the four face buttons on the Xbox 360 controller corresponds to a different offensive weapon, and not all enemies will react the same way to each weapon.
Ninjas are pretty quick but succumb to a fire attack easily. Pirates are a little slower but take more fire punishment before yielding. Robots are immune to all attacks but electricity, monkeys will dodge if they’re not stunned first, and zombies need to be frozen before a fire attack will hurt them. And then there are these weird alien enemies that react differently to all attacks.
[pullquote_right]There’s a certain comfort that the silly, homemade feel displays, almost like you’re playing with your friends even if you’re alone.[/pullquote_right]In the first handful of rounds through the 15-round campaign, only one or two different enemy types will be attacking at the same time. But in the later rounds when nearly every enemy type is on screen simultaneously, it can be pretty exciting when clamoring to attack the right enemy with the right attack. It’s especially interesting when you accidentally hit an alien with fire and he just gets faster. It would’ve been cool to see more penalties like this implemented for hitting an enemy with the wrong attack.
The campaign can be finished in about a half hour or so, but there are additional skill levels to crank up the difficulty if it comes too easily. There are also three other game modes: Wave, Survival, and Timed. Wave and Survival both pit you against an endless stream of enemies but have two different ways of measuring success. Timed mode tasks you with surviving for 5 minutes. Each are definitely more challenging than the campaign.
The game is aesthetically pleasing overall, brimming with a DIY vibe. The sound is particularly amusing. At first it’s off-putting as the voiceovers sound like they were recorded with a computer microphone with no windscreen by someone making a concerted effort to not be too loud. But after a while, it’s actually endearing, and I found myself waiting before each level started to make sure that I didn’t miss any of the spoken dialog. Each enemy has its own signature sounds for taking damage, and I particularly enjoyed the old-school dial-up connection sound effects that the robot enemies employed. There’s a certain comfort that the silly, homemade feel displays, almost like you’re playing with your friends even if you’re alone. But you don’t have to play by yourself as there’s also a multiplayer mode thrown in for good measure.
You’ll be able to see everything The Cannon has to offer in about an hour or so but if you’re having fun with the mechanic, the extra game modes offer some decent replay value. The presentation is bare bones but fun, and it’s a solid amount of content for just 80 MSP. Still, The Cannon is ultimately a bit thin to desire playing on a big-screen HD console setup and it might be more attractive on a handheld console like the PSP or 3DS. But at such a cheap price, if you get an hour of fun out of it, it’s more than worth it.
Different attacks put a fun spin on a simple mechanic | Several game modes | Only 80 MSP
Can play all content in about an hour | Would be better served on a portable platform
Matt is a lifetime gamer from his humble beginnings with the Atari 2600. He is also the host of the Default Prime video series, The Bowlingotter Show.
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