Posts Tagged ‘Xbox Arcade’

20 minutes? Twenty minutes? Veinte minutos? Twaintee minoights? However you say it, it’s just as unbelievable.

For anyone who has played this game, and been manically frustrated with how easily you can die, especially on the later levels, you will have so much appreciation for this video. For the life of me I don’t understand how this gamer had the patience to perfect their run without dying. Jesus, they must have attempted this hundreds of time!!

Hats off to you, Sir.


For a review of this game, please click here.


Often I may be commenting on games, films, music or books that are somewhat outdated but somehow I have managed to miss. Hence ‘From the Vaults’… Onward!

Developer: Chair Entertainment, Epic Games

Producer: Microsoft Game Studios

Platforms: Xbox Arcade (reviewed), PC

Price: 1200 points (purchased for 600 during sale)

As Muse so eloquently put it, “Our time is running out”, and boy they weren’t wrong! As the years roll by it seems harder and harder to devote any real time to gaming. Jobs, relationships, doing your own washing, it all ensures that daily there is less and less time to sit down and session one of your favourite games. I remember fondly the days of my youth, sessioning Ocarina of Time after I returned home from school, not a care in the world. Now you’re lucky to squeeze in a few hours after a long day at work, and that’s if you find the energy from somewhere to avoid monging out in front of Dave. What was it Peter Parker used to say? ‘With great age comes great responsibility’, or something like that….

Beyond the diminishing time frame that increases as each year rolls by, the gaming industry itself continually makes it harder to divide your time. Games are released in increasing number, with bounding rapidity on multiple formats. Think about it, how many top quality titles have there been released within the last month and continuing into the next few? Fifa 12, Battlefield 3, Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 3. And that’s on top of all the games you have undoubtedly mounted up on your shelves, unfinished or even unopened! As games get more and more replayable, attempting to collect all those bloody achievements or trophies, with the ever-increasing amount of DLC and the days spent levelling up with online multiplayer, is it any wonder that many people immediately avoid the prospect of purchasing arcade or indie titles. There’s just not enough hours in the day!

However, conversely, an unavoidably strict daily schedule is the very reason why arcade titles catch my eye. Despite my fervent desire to complete the single player campaigns of all the games I own, often I find myself struggling to immerse myself in a full title. Instead, it’s much easier to get involved with a game you know is going to have much smaller scope and therefore less play time. This, accompanied by a half-price sale offer, made it impossible not to add an additional game to my collection. In this instance, Epic Games Shadow Complex.

We all know that Epic are predominantly known for their renowned third-person sci-fi shooter series (say that three times in quick succession!), Gears of War. Epic by name, epic by nature. Clearly, they have set themselves an impressive precedent, but can they live up to this with their ongoing releases? Let’s explore….

Jason...... Bourne perhaps?

Importantly, Shadow Complex is entirely different to their Gears of War trilogy. It’s a 2D shooter (well seemingly) in which you play a single character, Jason, who’s primary objective is to rescue his female companion Claire. One day whilst travelling along some kind of nature walk, Claire stumbles upon a hidden subterranean base…. as you do. She is subsequently captured as a spy and imprisoned deep within the base’s walls. That’ll teach her for not using a Natural Trust walkway; textbook error! As the eponymous male hero, your job is of course to locate and rescue the clumsy damsel in distress, not easy with a smorgasbord of minions seeking out new intruder (that’s you!) Yet, soon your mission takes on a much more global significance as Claire’s captors are discovered to be hatching a plan to invade San Francisco. Roll up Jason, the classic hero archetype with a classic hero name (Argonauts/Power Rangers) as he somewhat frivolously decides to take on the whole operation. What a guy, what a guy.

Foam bridge it up!

Despite the game’s name, the plot really is that simple. It is never really explored much beyond this fairly superficial level which, arguably, is a constraint of the game being an arcade title. Alternatively though, when you look at Gears it can be observed that narrative complexity is not really Epic’s forte. The plot is certainly secondary to the gameplay in Gears of War, which is clearly mirrored in Shadow Complex. In this case though it does not appear to leave any lasting damage. The game is so detailed and there is so much to remember in the way of back-tracking that it is beneficial to coast through a very straightforward plot, but more on this later.

The introduction to Shadow Complex is very successful. Where many games supply you solely with an opening FMV explaining what kinda shit is going down (bear in mind this does happen after the introduction here though), SC provides the gamer with a minute-long playable section. Suddenly, the game casts you into the deep-end with no real explanation of the control system or your abilities, leaving you to fend for yourself by spamming away optimistically. Although brief, the player is given a moreish insight into the potential of the games combat system and its interesting 3D perspective.

A note on this; although the game is predominantly a 2D scrolling shooter (there are a few sections where the use of a turret gun enables a first-person perspective), it is accompanied by an impressive 3D background. This interesting perspective initially seems a little odd, perhaps as a result of it feeling a little out of the ordinary. This soon subsides though as the user witnesses how successfully it functions. The background is interactive, with enemies located on multiple planes of vision creating a variety of combative action. The game automatically changes your line of fire so that you are able to effectively shoot enemies in both the back and foreground. These changes are executed timely and accurately, key for maintaining the fluidity of the game.

Fuck, shit, arse, crap. Sorry, I've got turrets.

In essence, the gameplay is extremely similar to the original 2D Metroid series. The protagonist must navigate a vast 2D world, destroying waves of enemies they encounter in each area whilst seeking their updated objectives. Like Metroid, the game is separated into very distinct sections, separated by sporadic save points strategically placed around the map. Initially you begin with a limited armoury and moves list, essentially just jumping, climbing, shooting and melee (allowing for a stealth strategy to be deployed as with many shooters on the market these days… or you can just shoot the shit out of everything in sight!) This simple core gameplay deepens as you progress, obtaining new weapons and abilities that increase the creative potential of combat and exploration; a particular favourite is the Foam Gun, try attaching a grenade to it! Further Metroid influence can be seen in the very deliberate back-tracking element to the game, forcing the player to re-examine areas previously explored with their new weapons or abilities to progress with the main story or to locate the many hidden items dotted around the map. Particular areas are inaccessible until you locate alternative weapons – shining your torch on blockades reveals a specific colour that can be destroyed with varying projectiles (much like Metroid), for example, red sections require missiles – ensuring that game progression is somewhat linear whilst allowing for significant personal exploration.

For this back-tracking element to function effectively it is vital that the game has a detailed but clear map, which it does and is undoubtedly inspired by Metroid. See for yourself:

Shadow Complex - Metroid: Notice much difference? No.

Now, although the map looks vast, perhaps scaring you a little about the explorative element, it also offers some vital help with back-tracking. Doors that require particular unlocks to open them are marked in their specific colours on the map. However, there are numerous vents and windows that can be accessed which are not marked, so better get that memory working! Where’s Dr Kawashima when you need him? Additionally, all hidden items are marked on the map as a question mark whenever the user enters the room in which they are located. This ensures that items are rarely missed, providing a useful guide for all you completionists out there. Although this sounds like it’s too much support, almost cheating, your memory and spatial awareness are still very much engaged as many items are only accessible later in the game, requiring you to remember which ones need which ability, and in what very specific ways.

For a thorough review, it is important to mention replayability, which this game certainly has. With achievements demanding at least a second playthrough, back-tracking to collect every item and three sets of challenge packs, you will certainly play Shadow Complex beyond that initial run. The latter are interesting hologram-style challenges which will aid in you in learning particular techniques that will prove to be vital in your quest; with rankings that can be compared on Live with friends and globally there are competitive layers to this gaming onion.

Melee attacks are usual for keeping covert.

The only criticism I have found of Shadow Complex, and perhaps it’s one that many people would find particularly damaging, is that it is too similar to Metroid to be a simple homage, or influenced by it. With a map that absolutely resembles that of the classic Nintendo title and very similar gameplay and game progression, especially in the method of gaining access to doors, you cannot help but feel that it is somewhat a rip-off. But fuck it, I LOVE METROID! Ok, so it is disappointingly unoriginal. Worse still, there is no way that the developers could have ever got away without the comparison being made and I’m sure they were fully aware of that fact but happily ignored it.  There is such a fine line between being influenced by something and completely stealing the idea, and unfortunately Shadow Complex appears to fall in the second camp. However, it must be said that the inventive change of perspective effectively enhances the gameplay of this title, creating a vital distance between the two franchises. Despite the seemingly shameless gaming theft, Shadow Complex is a bug-free pleasure to play from start to finish and one not to be missed.

So what have we learnt? Despite the torrent of full-release titles due for release towards the end of this year, arcade games cannot and must not be avoided. Sure there is almost certainly a whole heap of awful arcade and indie titles out there, but make sure that you do your research first!

Oh and don’t hike anywhere that isn’t registered by the Natural Trust, you never know who you might meet.

Originally written November 24th 2010

Meaty frustration.

Not an innuendo. Not a description of summer barbecue mishaps. However, it is an apt description of XBLA’s newest super hero title: Super MeatBoy!

With a significant precedent set by Alien Hominid, XBLA (as well as WiiWare, PC and Mac) now sees another successful Newgrounds flash title being released. Developed by Team Meat – which always makes me think of Shaun of the Dead; come on all you Pegg fans – the game promises some of the most excruciatingly frustrating levels that gamers will ever attempt. For those of you who have played Hominid, be prepared for just as difficult a title, especially when trying to 100% it.

Mr Meat Boy. First name Super.

Right, to the premise. Despite having a name reminiscent of a porn actor pseudonym, Super Meat Boy does a Ronseal – exactly what it says on the tin! He is meat. Super meat. Apparently. He looks meat-like, if all you can afford is Lidl spam, and you squint slightly. Essentially he is block of meat, who goes out with another lovely block, although she is made of bandages for some odd reason. If this all seems a little too weird for you, it only gets worse, because you see, in the game’s opening cut-scene she is kidnapped (Oh no), by a foetus, with a doctorate. In a jar. Wearing a tuxedo. Although this appears a little ridiculous, the characters have a surprising charm, especially the foetus in the suit – he’s quite dapper I can tell you. The game then sees you play through level after level, boss after boss, in a Mario-esque endeavour to rescue your Mrs, another typical helpless damsel in distress moment. In the same vein as old-skool Mario titles (this reference it joyfully promotes – “Sorry Meat Boy, but Bandage Girl is in another castle”), it’s a 2D platformer, where the aim is to survive gaps, lava and enemies until you reach an end target; but it’s much, much more violent. Throw in some saws, spikes, lasers, missile launchers, and bucket loads of blood and you get somewhere nearer to what Meat Boy actually is. Perhaps the most relevant title to reference when examining Super Meat Boy is N+, released on XBLA in ’08. If you’ve ever played or even witnessed this title, you’ll understand the sort of threatening 2D level design and split second escapes that you can expect in Meat Boy, with a delightful nod to this game in the unlockable character list.

Be careful buddy!

Super Meat Boy is arguably one of the most irritating games you will play in a long time, but also one of the most enjoyable. The game is inherently addictive – as the level difficulty gradually increases,  you cannot help but retry after each failed attempt, edging closer to the end goal. With personal pride, friends leaderboards and achievements at stake, desperation consumes you, blindly refusing to quit, despite the red mist taking over and many a swear word being screamed. On that note, this game will cause some of the most violent outbursts that you have ever uttered – make sure there are no children, or nuns, present when playing because the filth you blurt out is sure to offend. A particularly nasty spasm saw me calling our meaty hero a “shitting bloody tampon’. I won’t be forgiven for that one I call tell you. Sorry mum.

But which one will survive?

Making the game slightly easier is a quirky little addition in that Meat Boy leaves behind him a bloody trail, like somehellish snail. This means that whenever you fail and re-enter a level, you’ll have a visual guide of paths to retrace in the areas you passed and where to avoid in the areas you were defeated. Also, whenever you complete a level you are treated to an instant replay, which includes a ghost of every attempt you had before you passed. Not only is this functional, providing valuable information of how to complete the level again if you want to retry for a speedier time, it’s entertaining, depicting a race of epic proportions as you witness various Meatboys competing for victory, trying to spot the one who will escape the wave of death.

With charming graphic design and gameplay that is both fun and challenging, the only thing required for Super Meat Boy to become a classic arcade title is replayability, and this it has in droves. The game encompasses 5 worlds, spanning 340 levels of increasing difficulty. Each world has four warp zones to be discovered (each providing a loveable reference to simple arcade gaming, interestingly similar to the Super Gameboy visually and accompanied by perfectly matched 8 bit soundtracks) and 20 bandages to collect. Amassing these bandages allows you to unlock 10 secret characters, each with differing abilities and Achilles’ heels, including the famous yellow martian Hominid and Tim, Braid’s ginger, time-moulding munchkin. Many games offer varying characters that bear no real significance for completing the game. Not so on this occasion, as certain bandages are only obtainable by using the very specific abilities of particular characters. Even if you’re not out to finish the game in its entirety, having more characters makes completing the standard campaign much easier. Unlocking them is a challenge, but the rewards are there….

Gotta catch em all

Now, down to the nitty gritty. How much is this bad boy going to cost me? Only 800 points… Come again? Yes, that’s right, just 800 points, about £7.50. Considering how much you get for that price, it’s a bloody bargain! This is especially true when DLC is going to be free, that’s right free. Team Meat have incorporated an unlockable section called Teh Internets, which enables users to download free levels directly, without having to shell-out more MS points. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Team Meat certainly know how to treat their patrons. Its frantically fun, tough, engaging and refreshingly difficult in an age where games developers often pander to those who won’t commit to a game for more than a few attempts. If you do anything before this year is out, spend the cash and let the little meaty superstar into your life. Your nostalgia for arcade gaming will thank you for it.

Originally written in April 12th 2010, for a gaming content writer competition

When it was announced that the N64 classic Perfect Dark was coming to Xbox Live Arcade, frequent demands were heard across the gaming community for the release of its predecessor, the nostalgia-filling Brosnan-Basher Goldeneye. However, it soon became very clear that Rare made the right decision.

Despite PD drawing very heavily from Goldeneye, it is patently a much more developed title. Graphically it was much sharper, with a greater attention to detail and palette of colours used, especially visible in some of the darker levels like Chicago Stealth, looking especially beautiful when rendered in full HD.

See the difference for yourself!

PD also had more sophisticated gameplay and importantly much more replay value, lending itself perfectly to XBLA. Not only is there an entertaining solo campaign – a captivating sci-fi story, free from the chains of cinematic realism – but a vast multiplayer system also. This includes standard co-op mode and a highly inventive ‘counter-op’ scenario in which one player assumes the role of enemy forces, constantly respawning as a different enemy attempting to foil Joanna Dark’s objectives.  Additionally, there are crowns to collect by completing a specific task in each level and 29 challenges to conquer, which can be played solo or multiplayer, pitting the players against AI simulants in various scenarios like the classic capture the flag (briefcase) or king of the hill.

Greasy Monsieur Brosnan

Obviously when compared to a successful contemporary FPS like MW2 the AI often appears illogical and outdated. However, this is completely forgivable when accepting  that PD was originally released 10 long years ago, coupled with the incredibly thorough multiplayer simulant AI list. The list is perhaps one of the most creative and memorable elements of the game, including 18 massively differing sim types, from standard difficulty alternatives to specialised bots that prey on the winning player or that will only attack using explosives.

All this, bundled up for a measly 1200 points? And never having to look at Mr Brosnan’s greasy mirkin hair? Yes please.