We’re late, and it seems that’s become somewhat of a trend for us lately. Our Game of the Year awards weren’t doled out until January, and now our look forward at the XBLA and Xbox One XBLA-type games of 2014 is just making its way to you in February. You were on your own when it came to planning out January’s releases, but now it’s time for our annual look ahead at the top downloadable games likely to arrive on an Xbox platform during the (remainder of) the year ahead. Read on to find out what you can expect out of Xbox over the next (not quite) 365.
Minecraft: Xbox One Edition
As was announced at Microsoft’s E3 2013 presentation, 4J Studios will be bringing its open-world block-building game to the Xbox One. The 360 edition of Minecraft was a huge success and 4J is looking to build off of that success by bringing a “bigger” world to players. The Xbox One edition promises to deliver on the power of next-gen gaming by giving players more of what they want. Maps, Adventures, multiplayer features and console specific enhancements will all be improved and larger in scale on the Xbox One than they were on the Xbox 360. Minecraft: Xbox One Edition will be released sometime in the month of March of 2014.
Whether it was intentional or not, Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, mentioned on his Twitter account today that the first two ID@XBOX releases will be Worms Battlegrounds and Nutjitsu. The ID@Xbox program is where small developers can self-publish games on the Xbox One Marketplace, now known as the Xbox Game Store.
Nutjitsu has already been released on the Windows Phone by Ninjabee, and it looks like the studio will be responsible for bringing it over to the Xbox One as well. As for the game itself, it’s free-to-play on the Windows Phone, but there has been no mention as to whether or not that model will continue over to the Xbox One. Gameplay wise it looks like Nutjitsu has been inspired by Pac-Man. You play as a ninja squirrel who has to sneak past samurai foxes in order to retrieve the acorns they have stolen.
When Microsoft announced the ID@XBOX program it sounded like a good idea, and it probably still is going to be beneficial for gamers and developers. However, one does have to wonder what impact this program will have if one of the first games brought to the Xbox One is a port from a mobile device.
Plants vs. Zombies 2
Developer: PopCap Games
File this one under the maybe or probable category. PopCap and EA have their hands full with releasing Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare in the coming weeks. However, once that title has been shipped it would not surprise many if the developers decided to cook up a next-gen Xbox version of Plants vs. Zombies 2. The game is already wildly popular on handheld devices like Android and iPhones, so it would make sense that EA and Microsoft partner again to deliver another world-class tower defense release.
Playdead’s Next Game
The last entry was a maybe. This one here is a long shot. It has been some time since we’ve heard from Limbo developer, Playdead. In June of 2012, the Danish Film Institute released a screenshot that is supposedly taken from “Project 2,” the code name for Limbo 2. I know, quite secretive isn’t it? At that time in 2012, the Danish Film Institute, which is partially funding the sequel, commented that the game will be “a 3D platformer revolving around the story of a little boy’s struggle to escape from people who are experimenting on human bodies.” Here’s hoping that this title sees the light of day in 2014.
RBI Baseball ’14
Developer: Major League Baseball Advanced Media
Excuse me if I sound a bit skeptical about this one, but there are a lot of firsts going on here, and no, not first baseman. Roughly 20 years ago, there was a game by Namco that was wildly popular for the NES called RBI Baseball. I have many found memories of this game from when it launched in 1986, the year my beloved Red Sox were the American League representatives in the World Series. And yeah, there is no need to re-hash what happened next. The Sox were loaded with thumpers like Rice, Baylor, Evans and Henderson. And in the video game, these guys were just as skilled, if not more so. Therefore, when I heard that they were bringing the series back I was ecstatic to say the least. Digging in deeper to the story, I am now cautiously optimistic.
The game is being produced by Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Excuse me, who? I’ve been told that they control the digital side of MLB, and this is their first foray into producing a video game. This will also be the first and only baseball game on the Xbox One as 2K Sports recently abandoned its MLB license. There has been no word if this will be a simulation, like the 2K franchise before it, or if it will play more like an over-the-top arcade title like SlugFest or The Bigs. RBI Baseball ’14 is set to release sometime during the spring of 2014.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Developer: WayForward Technologies
WayForward is best known for releasing licensed video games such as Ducktales Remastered and other titles for franchises like Adventure Time, Switch Force and Silent Hill. The studio has not released many original games lately, but it’d love to get back to doing so. So last October, it launched a KickStarter campaign to fund an original title called Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. (You might remember this “human/genie hybrid” as she has already been the star of three WayForward games for various Nintendo handhelds.) WayForward surpassed its KickStarter goal by more than double what it requested.
Being hyped as a game that “continues the tradition of action/adventure in the spirit of Metroid, Castlevania, and the Legend of Zelda,” Shantae: Half-Genie Hero will take players through various lands while solving labyrinths and fighting epic bosses. No release date has been given yet for Half-Genie Hero.
Slender: The Arrival
The original Slender was a free demo of sorts that was released by Mark Hadley. The “browser-based horror phenomenon” left players with a thirst for a sequel. Hadley (aka Parsec Productions) responded by teaming up with Blue Isle studios to turn what he created into an even better and more complete experience. In Slender: The Arrival, the developers now feel that they have created a “proper single player experience.”
The game, already released on PC, will feature expanded and improved upon elements from the original. Players can expect to see improved visuals and sound coupled with more levels. Slender: The Arrival will be released on Xbox 360 sometime in early 2014.
Wondering what other games are headed to XBLA and Xbox One in 2014? Check out the rest of our look at the year ahead and wonder no more:
XBLA Fans Games of 2014 graphic designed by Brandin Tyrrel.