The Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace was a unique experiment, in that it allowed pretty much anyone to create and sell games on a console platform, with barely any oversight. As one might expect, a vast majority of the games were garbage, but Mommy's Best Games was one of the few developers that put out consistently decent titles. Developed largely by a single developer, Nathan Fouts, their titles are inspired by classic side-scrollers and shoot-em-ups, with uniquely bizarre visual stylings and silly dialogue. Since the XBLIG marketplace is being shut down in 2017, rendering all of its games unplayable (they require a persistent internet connection), all four of the company's games have been ported to Steam, saving them from oblivion. They can be purchased individually or bundled together as the Mommy's Best Action Pack. Since they were developed to be sold at a low price, some of them feel more like "proof of concepts" rather than full fledged games, but they're all worth the asking price, and the Steam ports offer some nice tweaks and extra stuff over their XBLIG versions.
An action-sidescroller vaguely reminiscent of Contra and Turrican, Weapon of Choice centers around blowing up lots and lots of stuff, to the tune of a heavy metal soundtrack. You control an army of commandoes, let by a general who looks an awful lot like Wilfred Brimley, though jungles, caves, and other scenarios.
The game starts with three soldiers, each with a different weapon - one walks around with amounts to a jet engine, burning everything that comes close, another shoots blades that twirl around like boomerangs; and the third launches little satellites that fire lasers. When one is killed, you choose the next character, who literally rockets onto the scene. You can them grab the incapacitated partner so they can be used in the next stage. However, you can only carry one person at a time, so if two commandoes are disabled, you'll need to leave one of them behind. There are also several other soldiers to be found in the field, which, when rescued, become a permanent part of your roster for subsequent replays.
The character and their aiming are controlled independently (either with both analog sticks, or with the keyboard and mouse). The high res art sets it apart from the pixel visuals of most other indie games, and the skeletal animation, where each of the characters limbs are animated separately, is sort of reminiscent to Telenet's Genesis game Earnest Evans. While that game was only barely playable (if strangely endearing), Weapon of Choice holds together much better, even if it takes a little while to get used to. The movement is slippery and the physics are floaty, but movement abilities are versatile. Your soldier can not only double jump, but can also scale walls and ceilings with a mechanical backpack, which automatically grabs onto something when you're close enough. Many of the insect enemies you face are also gigantic, often spanning several screens in both height and width, animated with multiple segments.
The levels do feel a little cluttered and it's sometimes hard to tell you what will hurt you and what won't. However, whenever you come close to mortal danger, the screen zooms in and time slows down automatically, allowing you a chance to dodge or otherwise avoid the attack. It's especially handy since your character dies in a single hit.
There aren't technically many stages - seven in total - but they're huge, with multiple branching paths that lead to different levels and even different storylines and endings. It lends well to replayablity, and it's easily the most fully featured of Mommy's Best Games' titles. It's also a plenty of fun, with an over-the-top, irrepressibly goofy sensibility. It's easy to see the roots planted for the game's successor, Serious Sam Double XXL.
Shoot1up is a self-described "manic shooter for normal gamers", although it isn't quite a bullet hell game. It is, however, a surprisingly well developed game with some very compelling core mechanics. For anyone familiar with it, it's most well known for the gigantic woman robot shooting missiles out of its nipples, a testament to the "why the hell not, we don't have suits to impress" mentality of independent game development.
In Shoot1up, you don't control a single ship, but rather a whole squadron of them, with each counting as a life. (The in-game terminology is "phalanx".) You can expand and contract your phalanx with the L and R triggers. Spreading out your ships will not only earn higher points, but will also trigger a laser in the center if the formation is wide enough. Of course, in doing so, you're also more exposed to danger, turning it into clever risk/reward mechanic. If you lay off the trigger for a moment, a small circular shield will also form around your ships. If you lure an enemy close enough and press the trigger, it'll cause the shield to dissipate but kill the enemy in the process, awarding 10x the standard point value. Obviously, waiting for it to charge and then getting close is even more dangerous, but is really the only way to score big.
Like many modern shooters, the goal is to reach the end of the game on a single credit. (You aren't allowed to credit feed, at all - once your ships are all gone, it's Game Over.) In general, dying isn't something you need to precisely avoid. In fact, when you're controlling twenty ships on the screen at the same time, it's almost impossible to get through completely unscathed. You can make a series of mistakes and wipe out a huge chunk of your squadron, but with some smart flying, you can eventually rebuild them. In other words, it takes more than a few misjudged bullets or mistimed maneuvers to put an end to your game, and more how you deal with the general flow of gaining or losing power. While it can get hairy in the later levels, it's not a terribly difficult game on the Normal setting, and with a few games you can probably get skilled enough to reach the end without much of a problem, and can then concentrate on score.
Shoot1up is a great little game, one that distills the better parts of modern shooter design without backing itself into a corner than only a few can master. Its only major issue is that, as a vertical shooter that uses the full 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, the camera is zoomed in too closely, making it feels claustrophobic. The original XBLIG release lacked scoreboard support, but this has been added to the Steam version, along with achievements.
Explosionade controls vaguely similarly to Weapon of Choice, in that you control your character and their aiming separately. Instead of playing as a group of commandoes though, you control a mech exploring underground caverns. You're equipped with both a machine gun and sticky grenades, as well as a shield that lets you bounce around, providing you activate it at the right time and take advantage of the game's physics engine. Owing to the heavier player character, the game controls a little bit differently than Weapon of Choice, with a feel closer to Cybernator.
As the title implies there are a reasonable amount of explosions, but compared to Weapon of Choice it doesn't feel nearly as fleshed out. (It was developed in just over a month, which accounts for it.) They are many stages and they're all a single screen in size, with the main goal to collect gold, destroy stuff and get to the exit. Since you have a fairly large life meter and can continue at the beginning of the stage, it never feels like you're in much peril, so it also loses that same old school sense of danger (unless you want to try to play through the whole game without dying - it's not a particularly long game). It's still a whole lot of fun though, especially when you jack the speed up to 200%, bounce around using the shield, and just wreck things up. Plus the silly interactions between doofus hero Atticus and his commanding officer are amusing. The PC version adds several more enemies too, which gives it more variety than the XBLIG release.
When divorced from the XBLIG marketplace, the concept behind Game Type might not make a whole lot of a sense. It was developed in response to the awful updated Xbox Live interface that was implemented in 2011, which cluttered up the screens with confusing icons and tons upon tons of obnoxious advertisements. You can't play the game until you navigate through a series of cluttered, inane menus. The game stars a weird, stock photo image, green hoodie-wearing, jump kicking girl featured in the "Game Type" menu. (There are some "hints" for the confused.)
The game itself is a horizontal shooter, with a big focus on scoring mechanics. Shooting enemies will slightly increase your multiple, as well as grant you cash to build up your "parkour" (AKA laser) bar. You can also sacrifice half of your laser bar to slow down time and cancel out any bullets with your beam. The same level is looped over and over, progessively getting harder, and while the scoring is fun, it's a little bit too easy. When placed in the context of a standard level-based game, this would easily be amazing. It's a funny game too - all of the enemies you fight are comprised of the commercialized (fictional) junk you see on the fake dashboard. The added scoreboards to the Steam release give this title more value than the XBLIG version. The Steam release also makes some balance tweaks, and adds a boss fight that appears after a few loops - the cat from the "Cat Chat" program.