Great indie games to download from PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade

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Was that blockbuster game’s campaign a little shorter than you expected? Have you grown tired of the aggression-fuelled multiplayer madness? Need to spend that money you got in your stocking? Try one of the downloadable titles distributed through the networks built in to your console of choice. These games, developed by smaller indie studios, have a purity of vision that is simply not possible in larger organizations with massive budgets. They’ll also cost you a quarter of an AAA game.

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PlayStation Network

Sound Shapes
Sony; rated everyone
When you purchase this genius game, developed by Toronto’s Queasy Games, you get both the PS3 and PS Vita versions. It started out as a collaboration between game designer Jonathan Mak and electronic musician Shaw-Han Liem, who performs as I Am Robot and Proud. Sound Shapes is a musical platformer in which you create the soundtrack by moving through the level. It also includes tools for you to create your own levels. And while you build your levels, you’re composing music.

The Unfinished Swan
Sony; rated everyone 10+
The quirky and somewhat melancholy tale told in this game feels a bit forced, and the mechanic that anchors it is anything but unique. Despite that, The Unfinished Swan is fresh and engaging. In another context it would be a first-person shooter, but here instead of firing bullets you are throwing blobs of paint. That’s how you reveal the structure of the environment that appears at first as nothing more than a white screen. As you throw paint, you begin to make out the walls, ceilings, and objects that allow you to find your way to the maze exit.

Xbox Live Arcade

Mark of the Ninja
Microsoft; rated mature
The purity of this stealth side-scroller is one reason it’s so worthy of all the attention it’s been getting. You play a ninja going up against hoodlums who are armed with firearms. Trying to fight them head-on is deadly, so just like you’d expect of a ninja, those hoodlums must be attacked from the shadows. With Mark of the Ninja, Vancouver’s Klei Entertainment refined its studio’s style while establishing a new genre hybrid that delivers exactly what it promises.

Both platforms

Quantum Conundrum
Square Enix; rated everyone
From Kim Swift, one of the creators of arguably the best puzzle platformer, Portal, comes this same-genre game. Your character must navigate his uncle Fitz Quadwrangle’s mansion, subject to the physics of four alternate dimensions: Fluffy (where things are lighter than normal), Heavy, Slow, and Reverse Gravity. A special glove allows you to access the various dimensions. You can carry a heavy safe when in Fluffy. Objects keep the same position and velocity when dimensions shift, so you can switch from Fluffy to Slow after throwing the safe at a window to break it. As with Portal, the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly here. Quantum Conundrum will give your brain a good workout.

Retro City Rampage
Vblank; rated teen
You’re forgiven if you have a hard time believing that Retro City Rampage—the product of a Vancouver studio—was primarily created by one person. In this open-world role-playing game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, Brian Provinciano, who does everything at Vblank Entertainment, pays homage to nearly every video game created, notable figures from the industry, and the pop culture that informed anyone whose sensibility was formed during the ’80s and ’90s.

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