30 Games On the Road to 200k Cheesemints (achievements)

H ello all! Thanks for stopping by. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy in this weird world we’re in! I thought I’d introduce myself...

Hello all! Thanks for stopping by. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy in this weird world we’re in! I thought I’d introduce myself a little as well as why I’m here and why this is important to me. I’m Kyleia, I live in Colorado and I head up “Destination Indie” a multi-faceted effort to both help people discover indie games you might not have known about otherwise, with a side of upping your Gamerscore. 

My Gamerscore journey began over 13 years ago in April of 2007. Little did I know that when I heard the “tink” achievement noise, that I’d become an addict. In the first year, I managed to gain 13,156 Gamerscore. In those days (the time of the 360)! I was ahead of the pack with my 80k achievement score. I chugged away at increasing my score with “Xbox Live Arcade” games. They were that generation’s equivalent of the indies you see widely released on Xbox. That’s where you could find the smaller, more quietly made, and less expensive games. Usually under $20, and packing a mere 200 achievement points if you managed to 100% them.

Some years were better, some were worse - life happened. In January, I halfheartedly decided to push for 200k by the end of the year and didn’t really think it feasible. Halfway through, I even gave up. However, due to the situation with the world I found myself with an influx of free time outside of work. I recommitted and on December 3rd, I broke the 200,000 Gamerscore barrier!

These days, I’m behind the pack at 200k. The highest Gamerscore out there right now to my knowledge is “smrnov” at 2,716,299. The first person to a million was Stallion83 and he’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for it - more than once! There are more than 240 people with over a million now. I don’t aspire to have the highest Gamerscore, but rather I focus on the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a game 100%. I *DID* something. I achieved. I have something to show for the time I spent in the game. I met the goals.

But I have other motivations too. I LOVE indie games. Indie games present such a unique capability to try different mechanics, game types, crossovers, graphics, playstyles and more that wouldn’t be generally accepted in a largely produced AAA game.  

If you made it with a buddy, in your basement, or have poured all your free time into it for years - I’m interested. I judge every game on its own merits, no matter what. I may not be into your style of puzzler, or love twin stick shooters - but I’ll still play it and give my honest opinion. 

Indie games need more love. They need more funding, more backing, more marketing and more time in the spotlight. 

We all have goals - mine is to show indies to the world. I’m only one person but if I can spur someone else to look into a game, or ultimately purchase it - I’ve done my job.

At my last check- I have played 560 games, acquired 7,162 achievements and 100% completed over 133 games over my Xbox lifetime. As much as I’d love to - that’s a lot to review. Instead, I’d like to mention some of the games that really stood out to me, honorable mentions and even some dishonorable - in hopes that even just one of these games would pique your interest and you’ll go support that developer. 

In the interest of fairness - these are in alphabetical order.

Game: Arise: A Simple Story

Game Type: 3D Puzzle Adventure

What it’s about: An old man relives his good and bad experiences in his life, by way of platforming through varied and unique environments. The touching story is told through voiceless narrative moments and collectibles you find in the game. 

What works? Arise has a really cool mechanic where you can fast forward/rewind time. Depending on the level you could be moving minutes or months! As you alter the flow of time, you can also choose to allow it to move freely or hold a button so time is frozen in place. By doing this, it will change the environment and create pathways, show a portion of the story or help you find secrets.

What doesn’t? There are some really frustrating platforming moments, especially in the levels with the fire and the shadow creatures. 

Final thoughts: I had to replay some levels to get collectibles or specific goals completed for achievements, but they were so beautiful and the FF/Rewind mechanic was so fluid that I really didn’t mind. And it has coop!

Would I recommend it? Yes.

Game: Battletoads

Game Type: Mostly Beat-em-up with a side of metroidvania & racing

What it’s about: This long overdue sequel of Battletoads follows three unique anthropomorphic toads and their adventures on alien planets. It has coop, and is an absolute blast to play. 

What works? The graphics are very well done, the characters feel unique in their fighting styles, the varied gameplay types keep you interested, and the dialogue had me chuckling.

What doesn’t? “Tadpole (Easy)” makes the game a reasonable difficulty without causing too much frustration, but anything harder can make it overly punishing. Also, the racing levels on the higher difficulties are pretty ugly.

Final thoughts:  I might not have played this if it wasn’t for the “Get some sails in Sea of Thieves” reward - however I was caught very off guard and ended up playing through much of it in a night. I really enjoyed this by myself, but as a coop game it excels as well. You can get about 75% of the achievements by playing through on easy, getting collectibles, and beating the time trials. 

Would I recommend it? Yes.

Game: Beyond Blue

Game Type: 3D Adventure / Simulation

What it’s about: You play Mirai, a scientist and explorer in the near future. She uses advanced technology to dive deep below the ocean’s surface and get up close and personal with the amazing sea creatures.

What works? The game is extremely chill, no combat or way to die. If you’re looking for a quiet game where you can learn things you maybe didn’t know, this is the one for you. My husband was like “ARE WHALES REALLY THAT BIG?!” “What is that fish?!” and “There’s no way that is real”. The gameplay is very simplistic. Your goal is to swim around the different levels and scan every creature, and between levels listen to some dialogue. The soundtrack is really calming, but there’s a curated set of songs available on the MP3 in the Sub that are freaking amazing.

What doesn’t? The music can’t be played outside the submarine!!! Also, there’s nothing that tells you there is a map - I found out after I finished the game, grr! The map shows you where things are that you haven’t scanned, but on my HDTV it was very hard to see the circles as they blended into the background.

Final thoughts: This is definitely not a game for everyone. Achievements are not bad either, as you can replay the levels if you miss scanning a creature. I can see how some people would find it boring, but if you’re looking to chill for a few hours and explore the ocean - it’s worth a look. 

Would I recommend it? Probably, but maybe not at full price.

Game: Brothers: Tale of Two Sons

Game Type: Single Player Action Adventure

What it’s about: Two brothers need to go on a journey to find a cure for their dying father. 

What works? The mechanic is relatively unique - you use one stick to control each brother as you move and platform through the world. The way you move through the world is really interesting. You could be pushing a cart or using one brother to activate a wheel while the other crosses the newly created walkway. You could even be moving across a broken bridge by catching hooks with rope and using the momentum of one brother to swing the other to the next hook. The gameplay is great, and not too punishing. I also (despite the indie crux) enjoyed the story. 

What doesn’t? It feels like it should be a coop game and it is firmly a single player game. I think it would have been much better if each player controlled a brother. If you can’t manage dual analogs well, this game will not work in your favor. 

Final thoughts: It’s not a long game, but I’ve played it multiple times across generations (originally a 360 game) because I really adore this gem. It’s so well done and polished that I think everyone should play this once. The achievements flow pretty well, with only a little bit of sidetracking to get to 100%. 

Would I recommend it?  Absolutely

Game: Candleman

Game Type: Action Adventure/Platformer

What it’s about: In Candleman, you are a small candle… man. You travel through dark platforming areas and you can flare the candle on your character for only 10 seconds (or 10 times of 1 second each) before you burn out. He is questioning the meaning of life, until he sees a lighthouse and decides he must go see the thing that shines so bright.

What works? There are extra candles all over the levels, they act as both a way to bring more light to the area you’re moving around in, and a goal to accomplish in each level. Like with Arise, the differences between each area are astounding. You might be in a library, a furnace, or even water gardens! The levels really set themselves apart from one another, and they do an excellent job at building the atmosphere with really great quality sound.

What doesn’t? The further you get into the game, the more complicated it is to get through levels, especially finding those hidden candles. While it’s never impossible, you may die many times trying to accomplish this, or struggle if you don't figure out how a specific mechanic works. The story also leaves something to be desired. 

Final thoughts: I accidentally got this game, thinking “Hey, that looks cool!” and it ended up being one of my favorites of the generation. I don’t replay games often, but this is one I’d happily play again. Easy achievements, if you seek out the hidden candles, you should get most if not all during the course of play. 

Would I recommend it? Yes. The Lost Light DLC is a great addition too.

Game: Donut County

Game Type: Weird

What it’s about: A hole, remote-controlled by raccoons, has appeared in Donut County and is swallowing up objects, structures and even people! Think of it as reverse-Katamari. You control BK the Raccoon, and thusly the hole. 

What works? This game is charming, but really odd. Like with Katamari, the more you drop into the hole, the bigger it gets, eventually consuming entire buildings. As you proceed through the game the game gets stranger and stranger. BK the Raccoon ends up getting sucked in by his own hole, and then having to answer to the townspeople for what he’s done. The overarching story is ridiculous, and despite its absurdity, I had a great time playing it. It’s also pretty friendly to younger gamers. 

What doesn’t? The talking noise is very akin to Animal Crossing and it’s a nuisance. The game isn’t that long for the price, clocking in under 3 hours. I wish there would have been more gameplay.

Final thoughts: Play this one because of the weird. The art style is really cool too. It deserves your time, just maybe not at full cost. Achievements were pretty easy to accomplish and there was a level select so there’s not any missable achievements. Just remember, every time you think it’s out of control - it gets worse.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but on sale. (Or it’s on Xbox Game pass on 1/21/21!)

Game: Glass Masquerade / Glass Masquerade 2

Game Type: Puzzles of the Jigsaw Persuasion

What it’s about: For both games, it’s similar. On an overworld-style map, you choose which puzzles you would like to do. In the first game you can choose from locales and in the second it is abstract-style art. You unlock more choices as you complete puzzles, and there is an easy, hard, and timed mode. All the puzzles are in a stained glass style and instead of the standard jigsaw shape, the pieces are complete and utter randomness.

What works? The progress you make on the puzzles is fulfilling, the achievements come through regular progression, and the music is chill - great for listening to a book or podcast while you work. In the first game, the puzzles aren’t too difficult either and I feel there was a better selection of them as well.

What doesn’t? The puzzles are more complex and difficult in the 2nd game, to the point of frustration. I had to walk away a few times and come back the next day. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to figure out where a piece goes and one puzzle may take 60+ minutes. 

Final thoughts: If you’re looking for a chill jigsaw game, this puts a unique twist on it with the bizarre shapes and stained glass. 

Would I recommend it? Yes to #1, No to #2. 

Game: Invisible Hours

Game Type: Mystery Solving/Point & Click Adventure

What it’s about: The game starts as several people arrive, following a mysterious invitation, to Nikola Tesla’s manor. When the last guest arrives, they find Tesla murdered! Who did it? 

You play as a 3rd party observer in this murder mystery and you free-roam to follow the suspects through the story. 

What’s works? You have the ability to fast-forward and rewind time as you go along, with the goal of seeing all conversations, private moments, and interactions. There is a really intricate way the 7 suspects in the plot all play together, and learning their secrets is downright fun. There’s plenty of twists and turns and you can do all of it at your own pace.

What’s doesn’t? For me - I loved it. For some, I can see how they wouldn’t, as it’s less of a game and more of an interactive experience. The pace of the game is definitely slower as you find and unravel all the threads, so if slower games aren’t your jam (like Beyond Blue), you may want to skip this one.

Final thoughts: There’s a bevy of interesting characters like the blind butler, the famous actress, Tesla’s assistant, a convicted murderer, a detective, and more to follow along. In the end, you need to figure out how all the pieces fit together and ultimately-  who was responsible. I would say this is one of the more obscure on my list, but it’s also one of my favorites. 

Would I recommend it? If you like whodunits/mysteries, absolutely.

Game: Midnight Deluxe / Birthday of Midnight 

Game Type: Physics Platformer

What it’s about: You’re Midnight, a little white box. You click & hold in a direction and based on how much power you give it will determine how far poor little Midnight flies. 

What works? The levels get increasingly complicated, adding different hazards and ways to die. Challenging without being too difficult, it’s a fun 2D Platformer. 

What doesn’t? There are an exceptional number of levels (140+). And sometimes, trying to get precision timing is really frustrating. This is especially prevalent in Birthday of Midnight, which added a whole new set of obstacles. 

Final thoughts: I initially bought this for the easy achievements, but was pleasantly surprised by the fun gameplay. So much so that I bought the sequel when it came out, no questions asked. I do feel bad for poor Midnight, he died in so many awful ways! 

Would I recommend it? Yes. 

Game: My Brother Rabbit

Game Type: Point & Click / Hidden Object

What it’s about: In a wordless narrative, you learn about a close-knit family whose daughter falls sick. Her brother cares for her in his own way, weaving stories about a fantastical world. You play through this outlandish world as a stuffed rabbit, helping care for a beautiful flower that has been struck by a plague. Do you see the parallels? I do!

What works? The cutscenes are beautifully drawn, and the environments are bright and cheery. The puzzles are varied, and the game has a generous mechanic in which it tells you how many more objects you need to find on that particular screen. The gameplay makes you think without being excessively challenging.

What doesn’t? Like many of the games on this list, once you play through the game, there’s not really any reason to replay it - unless you are missing some achievements. I also didn’t feel very satisfied with the ending - but I won't say anything to avoid spoilers. 

Final thoughts: Artifex Mundi did something extremely different in this game than I’ve ever seen in their games, in terms of puzzles, tracking, interface, and movement. It is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite Artifex Mundi game. All of their games are chill and easy puzzlers that keep you thinking, but this one I think is less “Oh they released another one” and more “This is a gem- play it!”

Would I recommend it? Yes

Game: Return of the Obra Dinn

Game Type: Mystery Solving / Logic / Puzzler

What it’s about: You’re an investigator tasked with researching the deaths on the Obra Dinn, a ship that has recently returned to port missing its crew. Your goal is to use a unique tool called the “Memento Mortem” stopwatch to dive deep into their interactions and eventual deaths, following the clues to figure out who each crewmember was and what happened to them.

What works? This game was made by Lucas Pope who also created Papers, Please - by himself. The way he uses literally 2 different colors of pixels to create a 3D environment is absolutely fascinating. The story is really interesting in the way it is presented and has lots of plot twists and surprises. I don’t want to spoil them so all I’ll say is it was a delight trying to logic through how people came to their grisly demise. 

What doesn’t? Your ultimate goal is to match people’s names to their rank, picture, and gruesome death. At first it’s a really cool mechanic and it rewards you for every 3 you get correct. However, as you get through the bulk of the main and side characters in the story - it becomes incredibly difficult. If you want the “Good” ending, you have to figure out every single person on the ship before you leave. I ended up having to get help. I couldn’t do it myself and I certainly could not have made some of the logic required to figure some of them out.

Final thoughts: Holy sea creatures, Batman! A surprise around every turn. And much of it, I didn’t see coming. But most interestingly, there was an unexpected amount of gore, so this is definitely not for kids.

Would I recommend it? Yes - if you’re up for a challenge.

Game: Wenjia

Game Type: 2D Platformer

What it’s about: You play a cat creature who travels through a series of levels in order to save the creatures of the forest. The catch? You need to traverse two different realities in order to move and platform through each zone.

What works? The graphics, while it seems to be heavily inspired by Ori, are beautiful. Wenjia is what I like to refer to as a “precision platformer”. Precision Platformers are games where execution is king, and if you mistime a jump or step too far on a platform - you’re dead. I appreciate games like this, as long as they are reasonable. If it’s a matter of me learning the pattern - great. If it’s the game being stupid just to make it harder - not great. 

What doesn’t? Unfortunately, Wenjia straddles that line. During much of the game you feel clever and triumphant when you move consistently through an area, or find the hidden collectibles - yet it can feel equally as frustrating when you die and have to replay a specific area over 20-30 times in order to get to the next checkpoint. The checkpoint system wasn’t generous enough. It also was buggy for me. There were certain times where I CERTAINLY landed a jump, but the game didn’t register it. 

Final thoughts: A part of me wonders if the forced difficulty was because the game wanted to artificially extend the length. It’s only a few hours to play through the whole game, or longer if you aren’t great at timing jumps. Overall, I still enjoyed my experience and while it is one of the many platformers I played, it’s in the small group of them that really stuck with me.

Would I recommend it? If you’re a glutton for punishment, or want to see the beautiful art style. 

Honorable Mentions

Agent A - A point-and-click where you are sneaking into the lair of your nemesis, superspy Ruby La Rouge. Interesting mechanics and puzzles, but one of the most interesting things about this for me is that most of the puzzles’ solutions are not set, so each time you play it you’ll have to re-figure it out again. Makes the speedrun a real pain!

Castaway Paradise - Animal Crossing lite that is fun for a short-term game. There’s the usual activities - take care of your town, work a small farm, spend time with your villagers, and harvest things. Then improve yourself, your house, and your town! 

Maize ~ You play an accidentally created race of sentient corn stalks whose goal is to launch a rocket to Mars. Yup... Did I mention your travel companion is an angry Russian teddy bear?

Never Alone - A 2d platformer, you play as both an Inuit girl and her fox companion. A fun (although challenging at times) game, you get a side dish of learning traditional stories of the Inuit, as well as unlocking videos discussing their culture. 

Refunct - A very short, chill 3D game where you move around in progressively more difficult areas in order to hit buttons. The buttons bring more platforms up, with the ultimate goal of exploring the whole area. Great music.

Seasons After Fall - Another pretty sidescrolling platformer like Wenjia or Never Alone, this is not nearly as punishing. You play a cute fox and utilize the four seasons in order to reach collectibles, access new areas and solve puzzles.

Submerged - A pretty, 3D Platforming, post apocalyptic game with no combat. You travel around in a boat and try to find all the secrets in order to unlock the visually-told story. I liked the game, but still have lingering bad feelings as this is the game I was playing when my first Xbox One bricked.  

Winter’s Daydream - The first visual novel I’ve played on Xbox. You’d think I would have watched enough anime shows to know that weird stuff happens. In this case, a boy’s elderly grandma turns into a cute girl his age. Awkward! Lots of reading and a few options, but a nice change of pace.

Dishonorable Mentions

Hang in there, things are about to get ugly… 

Disney Classic Games - I had this crazy idea that going back to some of my favorite games from my childhood would be fun. I was WRONG. I eventually gave up on full playthroughs and took advantage of the new tools like “watch a playthrough & take over at a random point” or “fast forward to a specific chapter”. At least I got the achievements. Makes me hesitant to try the Disney Afternoon Collection...

Fe - I really enjoyed the *playing* of Fe, a 3D puzzle platformer (Seeing a trend yet?). The environments were so different from each other, the colors spectacular, and the scale of some things incredible. Yet, after all that time I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE FREAKING STORY WAS.

Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride - Even seeing this name just makes my stomach turn. I love Artifex Mundi point-and-clicks, but if you don’t know already, you’ll learn one important fact about me - I don’t replay games. I like to play them once, and then move on. Due to a save game corruption when I lost internet, I wasn’t accruing achievements. Long story short, after a 2nd corruption and a lot of patience, I finally 86’ed the game after the 5th attempt. NEVER. AGAIN.

Hardcube - I haven’t gotten quite as frustrated on a game as I did at this one. It’s a 3D marble style game, and the goal is to roll, hop, and avoid obstacles to the end of each level. Seems simple, except the mechanics are flawed and often don’t work. These errors can be both beneficial and not, which is especially frustrating when you have to restart the entire level when you die. If you do play it, don’t bother with the collectibles. They’re useless and only another reason for you to have to start all over. 

Path of Motus - I tried really hard to like this game. It’s got a good premise- it’s about fighting back against bullying, however the gameplay is rudimentary at best. As Motus grows up, the gameplay evolves. There’s areas where I got stuck mechanically with no way forward, and I can only be expected to have so much patience. After 8-10 attempts to get through it post-release, it’s about to get deleted. In its defense though, the bridge building and puzzle mechanics are a fun change from the standard gameplay.  

Snake Pass - This one is a physics platformer, and was generally well received. I think, unlike some of the previous games, is less of a failure on the game’s end, and more on mine. The trailers of the game go on about “thinking like a snake.” I simply couldn’t “wrap”, pun absolutely intended, my mind around it. I could not get to the collectibles to 100% each level, so I tried to just play the regular game and I kept falling off. I guess “snake physics” is just not my forte. 

Storm Boy - Full disclosure, I played Storm Boy for the achievements. It’s a short, 3D adventure based on an Australian children’s book that was written in 1964. You proceed through several brief sections which have different mechanics, as you follow the story of a boy and his pet pelican. In the end, this suffers the same crux as nearly all indie games and I was not pleased.

Uglydolls - This game is based on a movie, and anyone would tell you that games based on movies are never good. I went into this blatant cash grab hoping for an easy experience to get 1k achievements. And with some patience - you can! But the game is not good. Not by any measure of the imagination. It’s what really started my dislike of the dev- Outright Games. It’s got co-op and is friendly for a much younger audience, but I can’t bring myself to recommend it in any situation. You can spend your time elsewhere, even in a different licensed title, for a better experience. 

Side note: If you’re enjoying this content, I do a written edition of Destination Indie - you can find it here on geeksvsgeeks.com on a semi-regular basis, as well as targeted reviews of games. Alternatively, if you’re looking for Xbox Game Pass specific games - you can find Destination Indie episodes on Keelhauled Podcast!

About the Writer: Kyleia is an avid Xbox fan and achievement chaser. She has a love of all games with a burning passion for indies and nautical adventures. She can often be found streaming indie games, achievement hunts, building crafts, or sailing the seas on https://twitch.tv/Kyleia

All images courtesy of Microsoft


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