Monday, August 6, 2007
The Xbox Live Arcade continues its hot streak with several solid titles in the last couple of months. Here's a look at some of the most recent additions.
We're in the era of high-definition, super high-tech gaming:..and the game that I've been the most hooked on in years is a digital version of a European board game. I've seriously played more Carcassonne, more often than almost any big-name $60 title released in this generation of consoles. The premise is simple: lay down tiles in a manner that will allow you to build more roads, monasteries, cities, and claim more farms than your opponent. Despite the straightforward nature of the game (you're essentially just taking turns placing tiles), there is a mountain of strategy you can utilize. Easily my favorite game on Xbox Live Arcade, and well, well worth the MS Points (hell, I even went out and bought the physical board game!). A must-download.
It's about time this series got back on track after the disastrous Act Zero. Bomberman Live eschews the universally maligned "mature" look of the previous 360 title, and goes back to its super-cartoony classic look. You can customize your Bomberman and take him online for some fast-paced intense multiplayer action. The gameplay is as strong as always, and it's still one of the best multiplayer titles available. As of this writing, there was a concerning amount of lag online, however.
I didn't know until recently that European board games are apparently amazing. Carcassonne and Catan recently made that obvious to me. This title (based on Settlers of Catan) involves building cities and roads to earn victory points to defeat your opponent. It sounds a bit like Carcassonne in concept, but it's actually quite different. Catan is dice-based, and you'll earn various goods based on the roll. You'll use wheat, ore, bricks, lumber, and wool in your attempt to reach 10 victory points before your opponents. Highly addictive, and a fantastic online title.
Yie Ar Kung Fu
The Live Arcade is filled with several timeless arcade classics that are fun to this day. Pac-Man, Contra, Galaga:.they were great in the 80s, and they're still great for a quick pick-up-and-play in 2007. Yie Ar Kung Fu is not one of those games. It's a fighting game technically, but to call the game archaic wouldn't even adequately describe it. Put simply it's not fun to play. At all. You mash buttons while pressing different directional buttons to select your punch or kick, and hope it connects before the incredibly cheap A.I. hits you. Do not download.
I've always hated games that are so difficult that they cross the line and become genuinely annoying to play. Super Contra is one of those games. Like almost every Contra, it falls into the "get hit once and die" category, but this seems far worse than the other titles. There's a constant barrage of enemies and bullets flying all over the screen. Things are a bit more manageable with another player, but it's still noticeably inferior to the other games in the series. It doesn't help that it features the most terrible letterboxing art on the Live Arcade.
Prince of Persia Classic
I remember going back to the original Prince of Persia after playing through The Sands of Time and thinking "how the hell did this become a classic?". I think I approached it as a standard side-scrolling action game, which was probably my main mistake. After playing through POP Classic on XBLA, I recognize what makes it an entertaining experience. It's a clever and challenging platformer that tests you on your ability to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. The controls are still a bit awkward, but the graphical enhancements are a definite plus (a rarity for the "updated" XBLA classics).
This Micro Machines-esque racer reminded me a bit of the underrated Dreamcast title Toy Commander. It's not strictly a racer, but you drive miniature cars around in normal-sized environments. Around half of the events are typical "Point A to Point B" affairs, but it throws in some decent little distractions with pool, foosball, and golf minigames, among others. Despite their novelty the first time, they get old very quickly.