Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Considering the amount of quality titles on Xbox Live Arcade (and the huge success of Street Fighter II), I think it's only appropriate for Lawrence.com to start covering them. From this point forward, we'll include reviews of new XBLA games in a kind of "mini-review" format. All of the grading criteria will be omitted except for the Overall score (after all, I'd feel odd scoring UNO's graphics).
We'll kick things off with a brief roundup of some currently available XBLA titles:
Bankshot Billiards 2
Solid controls, tons of game modes, and lag-free online play. Aspects like english, shot power, and angle are presented well. The wealth of challenging Achievements should keep you coming back for a while.
Interesting platformer/puzzler that has some aspects that will remind you of Lemmings. 24 challenging standard levels (complete with par times for the Achievements completist) as well as several challenge stages. You can approach levels in two different ways: by blowing through them or by taking the long route and getting all of the Clydes out of the level.
Costanza's favorite coin-op is brought to the virtual arcade with both the original and "enhanced" graphics. The gameplay is still fun and it controls solidly with the 360 controller, but the online modes suffer from quite a bit of lag.
The classic can still be found in countless pizza shops, bars, and even Laundromats right here in Lawrence, and it plays great on the Xbox 360 as well. It seems like there's a very small delay when firing, but it doesn't hurt the gameplay.
Midway's four-player arcade game doesn't quite translate well to the 360, and playing online is an exercise in lag tolerance. The "enhanced" graphics look cheap and hokey.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
THE game to get on Xbox Live Arcade. Features dual-analog controls and more mayhem onscreen than you can handle. Deceivingly simple at the beginning, Geometry Wars becomes the ultimate test of reflexes, bomb usage, and ship control in later sections of the game. The first time you play, you'll be lucky to get 75,000. Once the addiction grabs you, however, you'll be able to score 650,000+ on a regular basis. If it were released in the 1980s, I have no doubt it would rank among the classic arcade games of all time.
Like Gauntlet, this is another ho-hum Midway port with cheesy "enhanced" graphics. Controls fine, but this is a great example of an old game that genuinely feels dated.
Marble Blast Ultra
Like a mix between the concepts of Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball, MBU puts you in control of a marble that you must guide to its destination. Along the way, you'll encounter loops, steep hills, pinball bumpers, and numerous entertaining powerups. Online play is fun in concept, but even a brief moment of lag is a problem with a game that requires precise control to avoid falling. Single-player is a lot of fun, however.
Mutant Storm Reloaded
Feels kind of like a poor-man's Geometry Wars. Same dual-analog style of control, but without the polish and addictive qualities. No reason to get this when GW is readily available for the same price.
You still eat dots, you still dodge ghosts, and you can still definitely have fun with this arcade icon. Arcade-perfect port, and the gameplay is still fun in short bursts.
Joust felt dated, and so does this. Another dual-analog shooter that isn't nearly as fun after you've experienced Geometry Wars.
The closest thing to a game adaptation of Schwarzenegger's classic The Running Man that you'll ever play. Smash TV puts you in the middle of a chaotic and violent game show that throws hundreds of enemies at you from every direction. Single-player is worth at least one playthrough, but any replay value will come from co-op.
Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
The big one. If you've ever once had fun playing a one-on-one fighting game, this is the gold standard to look up to and admire. For a game this old, it's still amazingly fun to play. Not just a bit of old-school nostalgia, SFII still plays as solidly as ever before, but this time with a world of opponents via XBL.
If you like card games and elevator music, UNO is right up your alley. Honestly, it would have been hard to mess this one up. It plays identically to the card game, even requiring you to press X to yell a virtual "UNO!" There's always a good amount of people playing online, so it's great for the occasional pick-up-and-play session.
Playing identically to the recently-released DS title Magnetica, Zuma is a puzzle game that features you hurling colored stones at similarly colored stones to create chain reactions. It seems simple at first, but later levels will really challenge your reflexes and combo-making ability. Surprisingly addictive.