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Summer of XBLA Review Round Up

It’s that time of year again. Summer has come and gone, but its memories will haunt us forever. For those of you who didn’t have a kidney removed in Cancun, you might be interested in checking out what Microsoft felt stood out from the rest of the Xbox Live Arcade pack. We’ll take a look at the entire troop of XBLA titles and give you our honest opinion on whether or not they’re worth the space bucks. If you end up loving our impressions so much you buy them all, please share that 800 MS Point rebate with your friends :). Starting with me. Conversely, if you were saved those points by not buying any of the games – first what’s wrong with you – and then share those unspent points with me. Here it is. Five games, five reviewers. I see providence. /Morpheus

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SimonM7: Chair Entertainment (sounds less comfy than Couch Campus), archeologists extraordinare, have dug up the remnants of a long lost design concept and have crafted their own modern XBLA take on old sensibilities. Not without adding a few decidedly modern twists I shall stress, as without the analog, twin stick aiming, Shadow Complex wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying to play. But that is still largely its appeal in a nutshell. The Metroid style setup puts the satisfaction of powering up and progressing above all else, and the tame storyline – though penned by a “real author” – is every bit as arbitrary as it ends up feeling. xbla1Cast into the role as normal dude Jason Fleming you soon find yourself waist deep in top secret government shenanigans in an underground – shadowy as it were – complex. The path ahead is littered with secret areas, weapons, ammo upgrades, health upgrades and the acquiring of an ability granting power suit. Despite being played almost exclusively on a 2D plane, it’s not uncommon for enemies to appear further into the screen and even occasionally in the foreground. In these cases Jason will aim accordingly and you’ll dispatch them as if they were simply larger or smaller enemies. It’s a very nice play on perspective, and even though it occasionally takes you out of the “2D realism” of a game like this, it is for the most part expertly handled and gives a welcome illusion of depth while playing a surprisingly significant role in a number of encounters. But it is in marrying all these elements with bits and bobs from everything from Flashback and Blackthorne to modern day Prince of Persia and Uncharted, all the while drawing potent creative power from the limitations of a game played from the 2D perspective that Shadow Complex becomes such a great success. On the surface it appears a bit plain and charmless – and it’s certainly guilty of those vices from a presentation standpoint – but the game underneath is one I believe people will, in time, be comfortable mentioning along the genre’s best.

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Phaethon: This game looked boring. I won’t lie. I had no interest in this whatsoever. I can thank an intervention from my friends on XBL for turning me onto this however. I slowly but surely started track after track, and I had no idea how much fun I was having until I realized I couldn’t put it down. Don’t let the motorcycle fool you, this is a platformer. The most realistic, physics based platformer ever. In Trials HD You traverse a myriad of xbla2obstacles that don’t look challenging at first, until you realize that everything in the world behaves like it’s supposed to. Your bike responds to your weight, the objects respond to your bike, and the exploding barrels respond to the objects. I thought I knew what hard was. This game is challenging, frustratingly though. But it’s that little glimmer of hope and your hatred that swells for your friends above you in the leaderboard that push you to get the best score. Then you manage to look at the real leaderboard and feel pathetic. Still, this game has enough tracks on varying difficulty and mini-games to make this the best $15 I’ve spent all year. Just make sure to keep a swear jar handy. Tell your friends and neighbors you have Tourette’s.

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Pipomantis: Okay, so nobody told me that this year, Summer of Arcade was in fact “Summer of Old School Games gone HD”. Shadow Complex was a brilliant HD Metroid, Marvel vs Capcom 2 was… well it was an HD MvC2 and then we have Splosion Man. Splosion man is on hell of a good die and retry platformer, it’s like Out of this World made a baby with… let’s say… a cocaine-filled Prince of Persia? Yes it would be something like that. xbla3All along the levels of Splosion man, you’ll have to make your way through a shitload of deadly traps, mechanisms and really hard platforming sets. This is in fact a really classic game, but it is so well-conceived, so polished, that you HAVE to like it. Every level tries to bring something new to the core gameplay, the design is plain awesome (you have to watch the hero running, trying to mimic a plane, hilarious), the music is fantastic and the boss battles, even if quite classic, are real pure fun. It might not be the greatest game of all time, but it is seriously one of 2009’s best platformers. Wait, when was Braid released? 2008? Ok, so yes it is.

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Axel: “I’m going to take you for a ride!” YES!! Those lyrics can only mean one thing! Marvel Vs Capcom 2 is back and ready for action! Being a fighting game freak and already owning two different copies of the game (Dreamcast and PS2) you can say that I was pretty excited to see MVC2 was being released on Xbox Live and PSN. I went and downloaded it for XBLA (Duh Summer of XBLA). This game hasn’t changed a bit, and that’s a good thing….xbla4OK maybe it has changed a bit, now it has Online support, welcome to anonymous pwnage via headset and avatars. As far as balancing goes nothing has changed. Desperate scrubs will pick Sentinel, Ice man (no chip damage from blocking), or Magneto for the easy win (sometimes that’s the team, other times atleast one will be on it). Cleaner sprites are a welcome change, and the controls are a little better (talking about the 360 controller, that’s saying a lot.) For a game that hasn’t changed much however, 1200 Microsoft points is a little much, but if you’re a fighting game freak, let this one “Take you for a ride.” Just beware of the really cheap bastards that use the above mentioned characters.

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Domstercool: Everybody loved the Turtles back in the early 90s. Just like everything popular, it spawned numerous toys and films and even some very well made video games. One of these was Konami’s TMNT: Turtles in Time, an arcade game that was later ported to the SNES with bonus features. Turtles in Time was a highly praised scrolling beat-em-up with great music, graphics and even a mode 7 hover board level, which was excellent. Since the TMNT license belongs to Ubisoft now and their numerous attempts to make a great Turtles game have failed, they’ve decided remake the classic for the HD generation. But this remake doesn’t do the original justice, oh no… it butchers it. xbla5I am a huge fan of the SNES version so I was looking forward to playing the remake. For starters though. This version is a port of the arcade version, which means it has a missing level, and the original bosses included, rather than the remixed bosses in the SNES version. It just goes downhill from there. The music isn’t nearly as joyful and catchy as the original tunes, just check out these differences with the SNES sewer surfing and the remake version. The original wasn’t much of a challenge and this re-shelled version is the same, but is also a total spam fest. You can simply attack constantly, there’s no break up between the combos. The original had an animation to stop this, adding a short pause.  This remake just has your turtle slashing all over the place. Re-shelled looks decent, if a little plain, but all the charisma is lost with the blandness of the characters. They simply don’t have that charm that was with the original game. TMNT Re-Shelled is the story of a remake that feels like it was simply created to cash in. It’s only worth a purchase for serious fans of the genre and even then they’ll be disappointed. It seems Ubisoft just can’t make a good turtles game, no matter the source.

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Everybody loved the Turtles back in the early 90s. Just like everything popular, it spawned numerous toys and films and even some very well made video games. One of these was Konami’s TMNT: Turtles in Time, an arcade game that was later ported to the SNES with bonus features. Turtles in Time was a highly praised scrolling beat-em-up with great music, graphics and even a mode 7 hover board level, which was excellent.

Since the TMNT license belongs to Ubisoft now and their numerous attempts to make a great Turtles game have failed, they’ve decided remake the classic for the HD generation. But this remake doesn’t do the original justice, oh no… it butchers it.

I am a huge fan of the SNES version so I was looking forward to playing the remake. For starters though. This version is a port of the arcade version, which means it has a missing level, and the original bosses included, rather than the remixed bosses in the SNES version. It just goes downhill from there. The music isn’t nearly as joyful and catchy as the original tunes, just check out these differences with the SNES sewer surfing and the remake version.

The original wasn’t much of a challenge and this re-shelled version is the same, but is also a total spam fest. You can simply attack constantly, there’s no break up between the combos. The original had an animation to stop this, adding a short pause. This remake just has your turtle slashing all over the place.

Re-shelled looks decent, if a little plain, but all the charisma is lost with the blandness of the characters. They simply don’t have that charm that was with the original game. TMNT Re-Shelled is the story of a remake that feels like it was simply created to cash in. It’s only worth a purchase for serious fans of the genre and even then they’ll be disappointed. It seems Ubisoft just can’t make a good turtles game, no matter the source.

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