So I decided once again that I hate money and I bought an Xbox 360 a couple of weeks ago. I bought 3 games, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power (both 360 launch games by Rare and dirt cheap) and the acclaimed title Gears of War. What I’ve really been taken by is the whole Xbox Live Arcade thing. I’ve downloaded a bunch of arcade demos and purchased a couple of the games and I’ve downloaded several demos of full-fledged disc releases (like Beautiful Katamari and Dead or Alive 4). Here’s what I’ve played so far . . .
GEARS OF WAR
Developer: Epic Games
The only non Live Arcade game I’ve played so far. This game received muchos accolades when it came out and I can KINDA see why. While playing it I was sometimes reminded of Resident Evil 4 and I later read that Epic Games was indeed influenced by that game. If you’re familiar with RE4 then you might think of Gears as a squad-based version of that game. The soldiers in the game reminded me a lot of Bill Rizer and his Contra compatriots – huge, hulking badasses with huge guns fighting horrible monsters. Most of your enemies are actually gun-toting grossouts that have body shapes similar to yours. On more than one occasion I mistook an enemy for one of my colleagues. In fact, once I stood next to one of them for several seconds before realizing he was an adversary – largely because he was making no attempt to hurt me. My partners sometimes suffered from poor AI as well, making no contributions at all to certain gunfights. The graphics are very slick but I guess you should expect that. Some of the monsters are pretty intimidating and horrifying but the game lacks any of the suspense of a Resident Evil game. In spite of all that I just bitched about, the whole adventure is really solid with gunfight after gunfight. There is a simple but realistic duck-and-cover mechanic that allows you to take cover, expose yourself to get some shots in, and return to cover. Oh, yeah, and your gun has a CHAINSAW BAYONET. BOO YAH!
PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION
I didn’t mention this game in my Pac-Man article because it technically isn’t released in arcades but it’s definitely the latest “true” sequel in the Pac-Man series. The changes made seem simple enough but they really improve on the Pac-Man formula in every way. It kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t make these changes back in the early 80s. Basically, the maze is twice as wide as the standard Pac-Man maze and divided in half. Clearing the dots on a side produces a fruit on the other side – eat the fruit and a new arrangement of dots appears. These arrangements occur in a set pattern, sometimes with power dots and sometimes without. In spite of the larger maze, there are still just 4 ghosts, so you have more of a chance to navigate than in the past. There’s a time limit, too – the game’s all about the score attack. It’s not about how long you can survive but how many points you can get in 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the mode. There are six modes and each are actually pretty unique. In some modes the shape of the maze even changes as you progress. It’s addictive and quite a bit of fun but $10 is way too much considering they re-use the sprites from the 1980 original in a lame, nostalgic move.
PRINCE OF PERSIA CLASSIC
This is a remake of the original Prince of Persia from 1989. I’ve played both now so I can make an accurate comparison – this new game is much more playable thanks to much-improved controls BUT they made it much easier by providing hints about your next move and removing several puzzles. When I played ‘Classic’ I hadn’t played the original so I had no basis for comparison which allowed me to appreciate it on its own terms and I really loved it. The graphics are modern but the gameplay is 2D, consisting mostly of jumping, exploring and swordfighting, which all comes together very well. Do it.