Xbox Live is finally set to launch in SA on 10 November, giving local Xbox 360 owners official access to the service for the first time.
The Xbox Live Arcade — a veritable treasure chest of downloadable games — is one of the service’s most attractive features. TechCentral entertainment editor Lance Harris singles out a few of the best titles on the Arcade.
From high-definition (HD) makeovers of arcade favourites and Sega Dreamcast classics to addictive puzzlers, offbeat indie games and adventure titles, the service is packed with the sort of content you’ll rarely find in disc-based retail games.
The games cost between 400 and 1 600 Microsoft points. You’ll be able to buy points cards at retailers or buy them online, with 2 100 points costing R299 in SA.
With its inky, monochrome images and minimalist sound, Limbo is one of the artiest games on the Xbox Live Arcade. The haunting game is a blend of puzzle-solving and platforming that tasks the player with negotiating a lonely, treacherous world where death lurks around every corner. The unique aesthetic and brain-twisting puzzles make this one of the best games on the Arcade.
2. Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex is probably one of the best-looking and most meaty games available on the Arcade. From Epic — the makers of Gears of War and Unreal — Shadow Complex is an exploration-heavy sidescroller that invokes the spirit of 2D games such as the Metroid and Castlevania series.
3. ‘Splosion Man
Twisted Pixel is one of the talented small studios regularly pumping out games for the Xbox Live Arcade. Its titles, which include The Maw and Comic Jumper, feature gruesome humour wrapped up in outlandish cartoonish visuals. Its ‘Splosion Man is a challenging platform game that will tax your timing and puzzle-solving skills.
4. Trials HD
Trials HD tasks the player with negotiating devilish motorcycle courses on a motorbike with exaggerated physics. Its main hook is the way it entices you to do just a little better on every course to improve your score.
5. Monday Night Combat
Part Team Fortress, part Defense of the Ancients, Monday Night Combat is an objective-based third-person shooter that is developing a bit of a cult multiplayer following on Xbox Live. The cooperative and competitive modes are great fun, provided you can round up a few people to play with.
This is an HD port of a game that was one of the many classics developed for Sega’s much-loved but ill-starred Dreamcast console. It’s a gruelling, difficult, top-down shoot-em-up game that centres on a mechanic that allows the player to switch between black and white “polarities”. Only bullets of the same colour as your ship can harm it but your ship does double damage to enemies when it is the opposite colour to them.
Another PlayStation 2/Dreamcast classic given new life by the Arcade is Rez. Designed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the designer of Lumines and Meteos (also both on Xbox Live Arcade), Rez is a shooter that creates electronic sounds and melodies as the player blasts through enemies. It plays on the ideas of synaesthesia that most of Mizuguchi’s games are famous for.
8. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
The Xbox Live Arcade — much like the PlayStation network — is overrun with dual-stick shooters. But Geo Wars 2 is the best of the bunch. The game’s clean but colourful visuals and pumping soundtrack effortlessly transport you back to the days of pouring 20 cent pieces into an arcade cabinet to beat the high score. There’s a range of challenging gameplay modes to choose from.
The arcade is saturated with puzzle titles including a number from PopCap, arguably the world’s best developer of casual games. But Peggle is probably the most fiendishly addictive game ever conceived by the digital crack factory responsible for titles such as Plants vs Zombies and Zuma. There is something glorious about hearing Beethoven’s Ode To Joy blasting out your lounge speakers when you clear a level of this game.
10. Sam & Max Save the World
Sam & Max Save the World, from adventure game revivalists TellTale Games, is a throwback to the heyday of the graphical point-and-click adventure. The puzzles aren’t too trying in this game, but the humour is sharp, the presentation slick and the visual style pleasing. It’s about as much fun as one can hope to have with an “anthropomorphic dog and a hyperkinetic rabbity thing”. — (c) 2010, TechCentral