Radiangames, the developers of Fluid, are among Xbox Live Indie Games' leading lights. Nailing the correct formula for success on the platform, they regularly release quality, well presented, cheap and eminently accessible titles. Their work ranks alongside that of Arkedo as the very best the service has to offer.
Like Arkedo, Radiangames work within familiar genres, adding novel twists and a quality of execution largely foreign within the Xbox Live Indie scene. As such, they have a bright future beyond the confines of Microsoft's Indie marketplace.
Fluid itself was originally considered for an XBLA release. But rather than tack on extraneous features and rebuild the game according to XBLA's particular demands, the developers understood that XBLIG was the game's perfect home. So here it is, in all its bitesize glory.
Fluid differentiates itself from the rest of Radiangames' output by leaving the guns behind. It bears many of the visual hallmarks of a shooter, but plays more akin to Pacifism from Geometry Wars 2. Or Pac-Man. Let me elaborate.
The aim is to swoop your tadpole-ish ship smoothly and gracefully around a series of increasingly complicated maps, collecting orbs in the quickest, most efficient manner possible. As you do so you'll have to avoid the larger red orbs left in your wake, as they slowly home in on your location. Doubling back is not really an option.
Remember that game you would play as a child where you had to draw a house with a roof without going over your lines or taking the pencil off the page? It's a bit like that too, except with a digital rendered drop of paint.
While the design is pretty nifty in its own right, much of the fun comes from the fact that the movement of your little ship is just so perfect. It is fluid. And smooth and silky and responsive. So much so that you want to maintain a satisfyingly swoopy flow just because it feels nice.
It is exactly this kind of quality execution that separates Radiangames' work from the masses.
Mixing things up is the addition of Boost Pads, Power Pills, Teleporters and Vortexs, all coming into play to necessitate an ever-more tactical approach. Beyond the early levels you'll have to plan out your route carefully to take advantage of these handy aides.
There are 30 levels to get to grips with, alongside 5 unlockable "Extreme Levels." But the longevity of the game really comes from your attempts to shave a few seconds off your times. Anyone currently lost in the midst of improving their Super Meat Boy times will attest to just how compelling that can be.
It's at this stage of an overwhelmingly positive review that you'll usually encounter a negative, some minor shortfall the reviewer feels they have to include just to show their critical acumen is still intact. I won't do that. For a mere 80 Microsoft Points it seems pointless.
This is a truly lovely game, with engaging core gameplay enhanced by some nicely polished visuals and a chilled soundtrack. Don't bother with the trial, it doesn't show the game in its best light. Just buy it. It may well be the last chance you'll have to play a Radiangames title on XBLIG. Big things beckon.