12 Xbox Arcade Game Reviews

I was in need of some fresh pew pew or puzzley action this weekend so I downloaded loads of arcade game demos from Xbox Live. I thought I might as well review them so here are my brief thoughts and knee-jerk reactions. With all games I played until I reached the end of the demo or got sick of it.

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Death in Video Games

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different treatments and functions of death in video games. This started because of a stark disparity I observed between Prey and Bioshock. I’m going to include Halo as well, as a sort of baseline as it uses the traditional and ubiquitous checkpoint death mechanic.

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Awesome video game music

Whilst rummaging through the demos on XBLA the other day, I came across N+, which is a port of a Flash platformer/puzzle game involving Ninjas. The game itself is kinda frustrating but I can see its appeal as it accurately simulates the discipline required to be a Ninja. Your character is super-fast and can jump quite high, cling to walls etc. But the gameplay requires a lot of patience, which is something I find annoying. It’s like being a superhero then having to exercise restraint with your powers, this I simply couldn’t handle.

But I digress. The game’s music by Joris de Man totally blew me away; an awesome mix of 8-bit chip tunes and modern beats, but with a dark, serious tone, which is something you don’t often get with this kind of “chippy” music. The best quality can be heard on the composer’s website under the Projects section (flash site so no direct link). Interestingly, his KillZone work appears strongly influenced by Harry Gregson-Williams of Metal Gear Solid 2 fame.

Now I would buy this music in an instant, but annoyingly, BOTH the iTunes and Amazon MP3 stores impose geographical purchase restrictions on the album. WTF? Encourage piracy, what? Annoyingly, I can’t even find it on the usual pirate channels.

While I’m on the topic, another awesome theme can be heard in Geometry Wars Retro Evolved on XBLA – a game which can only be described as “Asteroids on Acid”. Check out the music and the truly chaotic gameplay in this YouTube video. The sequal is also awesome but lacks the variety in weaponry.

And just for good measure, here’s a list of my all time favourite video game music, with links where I could find them (I take back every bad thing I said about audio-only YouTube videos).

Inspirational!

The Green Rambo Rabbit

There is one Christmas I will always remember. It was the year my parents caved after plenty of persistent pleading and finally bought me the full version of Epic Games’ Jazz Jackrabbit – complete with the Christmas levels. In the subsequent months I spent countless hours immersed in this game, which at the time was the best platformer I had ever seen. And not least because of the catchy music, some of which is still in my MP3 collection today.

Now it’s been a while since I played Jazz Jackrabbit but all the nostalgia came flooding back when Good Game recently interviewed the game’s creator Cliff Bleszinski for their History of Epic Games segment. I had always read the names in the opening credits with a sense of wonder, like “Hmm, I wonder who those Arjan Brussee and Cliff Bleszinski guys really are. They sure do make a swell game.” So I always had a great deal of respect for these faceless names. When I watched the interview I was gobsmacked to discover that Bleszinski was only 18 when Jazz was released! I can safely say that he now sits along side Peter Molyneux in my “Heroes of the Games Industry” category. Speaking of which, I should really play Fable 2 now that I have it.

Oh and here’s a video of Jazz Jackrabbit.

Five minute Brawl review

So I bought that Brawl game everyone’s talking about. I used the Gamecube controller. I tried the Wiimote/chuck setup but with these intense games (MK is another one) my left hand very quickly starts to ache from holding the Nunchuck like I am trying to strangle a small animal.

Single player adventure mode is absolutely awesome. Clever cut scenes that make the characters look like they are ready to kick some serious butt. Strangely it feels like I’m playing Final Fantasy again. Great way to have some fun while getting to know the different characters.

Now online multiplayer… I tried the quick brawl feature to “play anyone, anywhere” and to say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the year. I don’t know how this game’s hosted (server or P2P) but the brawl was UNPLAYABLE. It would lag every second for about half a second. And the worst part: you can’t exit even using the Home button. So it was hard reset time. VERY POOR. Let’s hope this is fixed somehow or at least the friend battles are lag-free otherwise there will be A LOT of Aussie Brawlers who are gonna want Nintendo to suffer. And I mean suffer on the scale of Microsoft Antitrust suffering.

UPDATE: From a quick glance at some forums, it may be that Nintendo’s servers can’t keep up with the demand. Found some more info from Nintendo, limited in usefulness as it is.