Last year’s Summer of Arcade on the XBLA service brought the classic games Braid, Castle Crashers and Geometry Wars 2, this year promised to be bigger and better. A hefty claim… but did Microsoft’s crack team of burst play game experts pull it off? Will I ever get over the fact that I am shite at Marvel vs Capcom 2? What is the capital city of Sri Lanka? Find out all of the answers to all of these questions after the break, or maybe just the first one, did they pull it off? Well did they? DID THEY?
No it didn’t.
But that’s not surprising given the sheer quality of the aforementioned classics, what we did get was a solid selection of titles, ticking more boxes than a Health and Safety officer in a needle factory. Want a great beat em up? Marvel vs Capcom 2 has you covered, and Turtles in Time adds the good old side-scroller… Want sheer addicitive furiousness? Trials HD then. etc. etc. etc…
It all kicked off with quirky 2.5D side scrolling ‘Splosion Man, a gem of a title that was only really let down by the laggy online mode, although I played multiplayer offline and can report that it was both genius and infuriating in equal measure. Similar to the multiplayer mode on Boogie Bunnies which almost resulted in matricide.
The game, much like it’s predecessor The Maw, is light on plot and high on gameplay throwing you into the fray immediately and each level requires a combination of killer precision platform skills, lightning fast reaction times and the ability to negotiate danger rooms with only a semi-indestructible fat scientist for company – all together now… ‘Everybody love do-nuts….’
As addictive as it is colourful the game has become a firm favourite in the Lolocaust hub, and we didn’t think that it would be beaten in terms of ‘One more go syndrome’ but we are happy to report that we were wrong – more on that later.
Overall the 800msp that we spent on ‘Splosion Man was money VERY well spent, and while not necessarily a game that would scream out longevity, it is a fair price for the fun we are having, still after five weeks.
Following ‘Splosion Man’s little round ‘Splodey buttocks was the massively popular, near legendary brawler Marvel vs Capcom 2 – the game that gives you the chance to finally discover who would win a fight between Jill Valentine and The Hulk, although the ‘fight’ I imagined could only have been animated by certain asian film types, and would have involved rope. As a 1200msp download we are presented with a conundrum… do you stump the points for the game, or pick up a copy of the original Xbox version which is compatible with the 360?
On the plus side the download option gives a more stable graphical display, online play and achievements, but the counter arguement is that you can pick it up at Blockbuster for £1.95 and actually own the disk.
Either way, and despite owning three versions already I went for the download and was surprised at the lack of polish, especially in comparison to the recently released HD Street Fighter remake. It’s still a near perfect fighter, but it just looks a little dated, especially when displayed on a 50 incher. The one game that we can’t easily recommend, MvC2 is a great game, that just looks bad in context. Try to phase out memories of highly polished HD visuals, and enjoy the game as it was supposed to be enjoyed, a mighty mash up of nerd pleasing carnage.
Week three brought with it another piece of retro arcade fun, but this time they didn’t scrimp on the HD overhaul treatment. Turtles in Time is considered by many to be the pinnacle of great side scrolling beat-em-up titles – personally I am more a fan of Streets of Rage/Rocket Knight Adventures – and with every thirty year old’s favourite band of mutated beshelled heroes at the centre it can only get better. If you are unaware of the plot of the game I can sum it all up for you in only nine words:
Turtles fight through time to save New York, again.
The plot, frankly, isn’t important, but it does give variety that was sadly lacking in the earlier Turtles titles, and the HD remake is a very well polished version if losing some of the retro charm that the earlier, arcade emulation XBLA arcade title. Solid gameplay and nigh on essential multiplayer mode coupled with the last minute price reduction from 1200msp to 800msp make this title a worthy addition to any gaming collection.
The fourth week in the Summer of Arcade promo brought the game I had least interest in, Trials HD. For anyone who has ever been bored at work, insomniac etc.. they will have experienced those minigames that have you balancing a motorbike/monster truck/jetduck (delete as appropriate) over a course that gets harder as you progress. The prospect of paying 1200msp for a HD update of something I could get for free, and never really enjoyed filled me with as much anticipation as I would feel if presented with the chance of spending a holiday in Bridlington with George Lamb.
That said I am sometimes wrong.
In this case, very wrong.
Wronger than a joke about Maddy McCann and the Pope.
Wronger than kids who think that Starburst is the ‘proper’ name for fruity sweets.
Wronger than fitting a periscope in the garden to watch an elderly neighbour getting undressed.
Trials HD – or as we call it in the Lolocaust office, Trial and Error HD – is the perfect example of how to motivate a gamer into becoming a drooling, obsessed mess. Simple to play, difficult to master the game constantly taunts you with the prospect of new bikes, new track, new mini-games, as well as showing you exactly how much better your friends are than you. It’s literally like this.
“See that? They beat you by THIRTY SECONDS! You know what else, he also didn’t fuck up as often. You gonna quit baby boy? You gonna walk away or are you going to try and beat that bastard? I only point it out because I care y’know, you’ll be a better person for it.”
The fact is the game makes you want to play, even when you don’t. ‘One more go’ becomes ten, minutes become hours, and before you know it the police are knocking the door down after neighbours have reported the fact that you haven’t been out for weeks, the curtains haven’t been opened and there is a funny smell coming from inside. That scent is the stench of competition.
If you have a life and don’t want to lose it do not download this title. It will get under your skin and use you like a meat puppet.
It is excellent though.
The track editor is stunning n’all.
1200msp – go top up now!
Finally, and rounding up the season of top class gaming goodness was Shadow Complex, the highly anticipated title from Epic Games and Chair Entertainment. Based around the novel Empire by Orson Scott Card, the game sits in a world n0t too distant from our own, and gameplay wise it sits up there with Metroid and Castlevania with it’s semi-2D side scrolling room by room adventures. With innovative controls – the flashlight is a revelation – and a storyline that hints at greatness from the off, it is not only one of the best looking XBLA games ever, but also sits high up with full price retail products.
For once the hype is justified, and the game is as accessible as any game can be, with the simplist of controls meaning that anyone can pick it up and get to grips with it rather quickly. My wife, who is a fairly light gamer is engrossed in the title, and has barely put the controller down all morning, which is great news.
The game wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve, but it moves onward and comes up with some rather clever solutions to long term issues, while remaining challenging and intriguing.
To say more would detract from the experience, but suffice to say it is as good as everybody is saying.
Overall this year’s Summer of Arcade has brought great games, but also an increase in price. 1200msp is rapidly becoming the new norm, but on games as deep as Shadow Complex it is justified. That said, games like Shadow Complex make similar priced games such as MvC2 seem a massive waste of points, despite it still being a great game in it’s own right. For the service to keep charging this much it has to get the balance right. 800 points is ideal for titles such as ‘Splosion Man and Turtles in Time, but we need more games like Shadow Complex if Microsoft is planning on levering more cash from our pockets.
It must be noted that if you purchase all five titles before the 31st August you are entitled to an 800msp rebate, which effectively makes Trials HD and MvC2 800msp each (far easier to bear) although the small print does state that you may have to wait up to six weeks for the points to arrive in your account. The choice is yours of course, but all of the games represent a great slice of Live Arcade greatness. Naturally all games have a trial, so give em a shot and let us know what you think in the comments!