Before Deus Ex: Human Revolution graced our consoles and reignited our admiration for the FPS/RPG hybrid, there was its predecessor (technically, the second iteration of the series) Deus Ex on the PC that basically created it. Gamers at the time were delighted to discover a game similar–mechanically and atmospherically–to System Shock, but intrigued by a storyline complex enough to challenge contemporary literature. It confronted the social implications of human augmentation as well as the overarching status of the fictional political stage in America–a future rife with corruption and conspiracies but also feuding organizations bent on national hegemony.
You play as J.C. Denton, a government agent of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO). Denton is your typical anti-hero equipped with a raspy voice and a general curiosity that gets him into many sticky situations. But what makes Deus Ex so great is how it allows the player to approach these scenarios. For example, if the game shoves you into a seedy section of Hong Kong and requires you to bypass a dozen or so criminal types, you can go gung-ho and blast your way through, hack a door that leads to a side entrance, silently take down your foes or even dive into a pool of water and avoid the gunfire all together–all of which lead to the goal of that particular level. The game is about choice.
While Xbox Live Arcade hosts numerous classics both untouched and unaltered, it also hosts modern renditions of the same titles with contemporary additions. But XBLA is becoming known for games that take the mechanics of classic titles and makes them better. It’s a concept that draws a line in the sand, pitting friend against friend, brother against brother. But in the end there’s a reason why you often see the word enhanced in regards to XBLA titles: they’re simply better than the classics. I chose three classic games to go toe-to-toe with three modern XBLA games. Each defines their genre relative to when they were released.
Fluffy Operation Overkill was developed by So SO Dev Games and released on June 22, 2011 for 240 Microsoft Points. A copy was provided by the developer for review purposes.
As gamers, we often feel desensitized to violence — something politicians in Washington like to mention when introducing legislation aimed at our favorite past time — but if they played a game like Fluffy Operation Overkill and benefited from its offering of stress release in digital form, only then would they begin to appreciate an industry not defined by violence but free enough to include it.
The premise is simple: an unnamed disease has devastated the peaceful tendencies of your neighborly animal folk, including yourself it seems (if harnessing a rapid-fire machine gun is any indication), contributing to their blood lust and an unabashed hatred for you (a squirrel, a beaver, a squirrel-beaver?), and you’re stuck having to defend yourself against them. Controls are that of a traditional side scrolling shooter. A to jump, X to shoot, right trigger to kick nasty animals off your body before they eat you alive, that kind of thing.
Tetris Splash was developed by Tetris Online, Inc and published by Microsoft Game Studios and retails for 800 MSP. It was released on October 3, 2007.
Tetris fans must be exhausted over choosing which version of the classic to spend their time with, having dozens of iterations on dozens of different platforms to choose from. Tetris Splash, the first time the game has graced Xbox Live Arcade, will certainly be a low priority for Tetris purists, but for everyone else, is it worth picking up — ahem, downloading?
Triggerheart Exelica was developed by Warashi and retails for 800 MSP. It was released on February 27, 2008.
Shoot em’ up (shmup) fans are an interesting crew. Most of them are not interested in fresh gameplay mechanics but simply the hunt for a high score and notoriously difficult challenges. Triggerheart Exelica attempts to throw a new concept into the genre—a hook mechanic—but the draw for hardcore fans will continue to be an immeasurable difficulty level that has them perfecting their skills and memorizing bullet patterns. If Triggerheart Exelica were to be judged by its challenge level, it would exceed expectations, but upon extraction it simply lacks the bells and whistles of better titles in the genre.
Geometry Wars was developed by Bizarre Creations and was released on October 3, 2005 for 800 Microsoft Points. The price has since been permanently reduced to 400MS points.
Developer Bizarre Creations, which closed its doors in 2010, was always known for its Project Gotham Racing series until it ventured into downloadable territory during the Xbox 360’s inception with Geometry Wars. Although it’s a simple twin-stick shooter, it’s flashy visuals and addictive score-based gameplay were enough for some gamers to purchase its inevitable sequel and even its cousin on the Nintendo Wii. Now, more than five years since its release on XBLA, it deserves a chance to get recognized by those who may have overlooked it.
To the uninitiated, you control a blocky spaceship with the left analog stick and shoot projectiles (which are upgradable through the game) with the right analog stick. You are confined to a large grid set on the backdrop of space, with enemies that drastically get stronger as the game progresses as well as advance in numbers. Some enemies are easy to take down, while others dodge your fire like a rat avoiding pest control. If you become overwhelmed you can hit the right trigger to activate a bomb that wipes out everything on screen — that is until they return in full force. If you’re looking for a challenge, try earning the excruciatingly difficult achievement unlocked by earning 1 million points in the game.
Have you ever played a game before the HD revolution so beautiful that you considered it a work of art? Would you want that work of art remastered for the current generation of consoles? The debate will never cease, but memories of titles worthy of remastering keep pouring in.
Elemental Gimmick Gear is a hand-drawn action RPG that was originally destined for the Sega Saturn until publisher Hudson decided to switch gears and release it for the much more powerful Sega Dreamcast. Now, more than ten years from its original release, EGG deserves to reach a new audience of gamers.
Spyglass Board Games was developed by Freeverse Software and Strange Flavour and retails for 400 MSP. It was released on August 1, 2007.
Before Xbox Live Arcade annexed the hearts and minds of hardcore gamers with an assortment of genres and titles, certain games were lauded simply because they were the only option for someone yearning for a particular genre not available elsewhere on the service — Spyglass Board Games was one of those titles because it contained a reasonable simulator of the game we know as chess. Although XBLA still only offers few options in that arena, Spyglass Board Games makes the same reoccurring moves and ends in a stalemate.
Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale was developed by Bedlam Games and was released on May 25, 2011 and retails for 1200 Microsoft Points. A copy was provided by the developer or review purposes.
The trial versions of XBLA games often represent some of the best segments of the full product, but Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale’s trial leaves you wondering if the final product will let you fight an enormous beast who appears at the end of the demo. Of course, upon purchasing the full game, you realize that this frantic battle doesn’t take place and that you are restricted to mindless escort and fetch missions for the entirety of the game. The demo aptly sums up the entire experience: a worthy license utilized in insufficient ways.