Take your Avatar hang gliding over beautiful islands and an active volcano. Race through Ring Rush, collect stars in Star Smash, hit your targets in Delivery Dash, or simply unwind and explore in Free Flight. Three unique settings and nine challenges, all with online scoreboards. Take to the skies TODAY!

Avatars have been both a blessing and a curse to Xbox Indies, drawing attention to the channel but also further opening the shovelware gates as some Developers seek to capitalize on their popularity among consumers. Far too often a game comes out completely devoid of quality and creativity but find itself in the top ten sales list simply because players can import their Xbox avatars into the game. It's distressing and does little to enhance the image of Xbox Indies and the library as a whole. Thankfully, we now have AvaGlide to help.

AvaGlide is an absolutely beautiful Xbox indie game. It looks and plays what I'd imagine a Nintendo Wii hang gliding game would only now in high definition. The fully 3-D islands are a joy to behold with excellent mountain texturing and well crafted trees and cacti dotting the landscape. Although more varied scenery would be nice -- only two islands sport any kind of scenery and even then they are limited to the single type -- what is here looks excellent, and the gorgeous reflections and other details give off a professional sheen precious few avatar games sport. The only visual disappointment come in the lack of spectacular crashes; the hang glider just sort of thunks into the scenery be it mountain, water, or lava. Some splash effects could have helped make the otherwise liquid and plasma surfaces feel more authentic, but seeing as the goal of the game is to stay in the air and not crash into the ground, it's an easily dismissable omission.

It's not just in the gameplay visuals which impress but also the attractive and user friendly menu design, the fitting light soundtrack, and the wealth of options. Players can choose any of three challenge games -- Ring Rush, Delivery Dash, and Star Smash -- or enjoy the Free Flight option to fly about the three islands and practice gliding. Ring Rush is a dash through airborne rings which grant a timer bonus for each successful passthrough; Delivery Dash has the player dropping crates on targets of varying heights; and Star Smash is a simple gathering exercise to see how many stars one can pick up before time expires. These game modes are simple buy enjoyable, and the addition of on-line leaderboards will encourage repeated playthroughs to attain a high ranking. The scoreboards are easily the most impressive I've yet seen in an Xbox Indie game, offering individual filters by event and world along with global, local, and friends lists. AvaGlide also updates in real-time a la MotorHEAT, indicating what score is next in the rankings to beat while playing any challenge.

AvaGlide controls as well as expected, and the Jitter physics engine used feels just right. Success comes from knowing how to best maintain elevation via diving and climbing while also making use of the termals, columns of warm air which provides lift. The thermals are recognizable as columns of floating air particles which attact birds, and a well planned route involving them is necessary to achieve the events' goals. Players can change the inverted Y-axis (off by default) and the auto-centering feature (on by default) in the options screen if needed, and the game offers full camera controls along with the ability to turn off the HUD as well. The pitch and roll controls of Avatar's hang gliding is excellent, and any stalling and crashing is always on the player, never the game.

Avatar Golf finally doesn't feel so lonely as AvaGlide is a completely beautiful and excellent avatar game. I'm hard pressed to find any faults here beyond the odd menu hiccups when making a selection. I can think of things I would have liked to have seen such as split screen mode as opposed to the included four-player sequential multi-player, but wishlists aside, AvaGlide completely delivers. Haiku Interactive have a fantastic game in AvaGlide and one hopefully capable of expanding into other Pilotwings-esque games using the same physics engine and professional zeal.

July 22, 2010
July 19, 2010 | 80 points
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