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Xbox Live Adventures 1

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  The newest and shiniest game just came out and you’re the only one of your friends too poor to afford it, what with all those fancy Santa dolls you collect in your spare time.  You could always sell one of them, but at this point they’re like family, which makes sense since everyone you know avoids your home because of the cold, dead eyes of your hideous Santa collection.  Santa’s watching.  Always.

But never fear, my unsettlingly creepy friend!  There are tons of gems to find if you’re a member of Xbox Live for a fraction of the cost of a full game.  This guide will give you some pointers on what games to look for, which ones to avoid, and which ones will help pass the time while you wait for that next paycheck.  You might notice this article is titled “Xbox Live Adventures 1.”  The one means there will be more.  Oh yes, there will be more.  Probably maybe.

Castle Crashers

One of the many WTF moments in Castle Crashers.

Created by Behemoth, Castle Crashers is the second game to hit Xbox Live Arcade from the producers of newgrounds.com.  Castle Crashers doesn’t have much of a story, per say.  You (and up to three friends) are just simple knights, passing the time by rocking out in the castle’s barracks when suddenly the kingdom is invaded by barbarians.  Some princesses are taken, a crystal is pilfered, and then its off to get them all back the only way you know how: by stabbing everything.  This game has tons of unlockable characters, each with their own unique magical abilities, weapons (which are stored in a frog for some reason), and animal orbs, which provide bonuses during your travels.  Castle Crashers is a great party game, and the cooperative and competitive aspects of this adventure make it a must download for anyone looking to kill an afternoon.  The game has a great sense of humor, and it’ll keep you laughing right up until the ending of the game makes your brain explode.  There are several game modes, including adventure, arena (pretty self explanatory there), and All You can Quaff which is a timed button mashing contest that will probably break your controller and/or hand in short order if you play it too much.  As downloadable games go, this one is pretty sweet.

Turtles in Time Reshelled

"Shredder, didn't you use to have a base? Are... are you homeless now? Do you want us to buy you some sleeves?"

This entry into the Xbox Live Arcade is a complete overhaul of the classic Super Nintendo game, Turtles in Time.  It features everyone’s favorite color-coded, pizza munching, weapon wielding mutant turtles as they once again prove they’re the worst ninjas ever by running into rooms full of foot soldiers and beating the crap out of everyone.   As someone who played the hell out of the original Turtles in Time game, I downloaded Reshelled almost as soon as it came out.  Shortly after, I regretted the purchase.  Sure, the updated graphics are great and it’s pretty amazing to control a turtle that doesn’t move at a, well, a turtle’s pace.  But when I learned the developers had actually removed levels for Reshelled, well, it soured me on the whole experience faster than an Elvis impersonator at a birthday party.  The Technodrome level is gone entirely, and this time Shredder pulls the four into a time warp at the end of the sewer level.  Which, you know, I wasn’t aware he could do that remotely.  I guess we’ve got some better technology these days than we did in the 1990s.  Also: there’s a distinct lack of Rocksteady and Bebop.  Some other changes, including the addition of some kind of mud creature boss monster, just left me scratching my head.  You can download this one if you want, but I’d advise waiting for a game that doesn’t actually leave you with less content than you had 15 years ago.

Splosion Man

Exploding is your art. BECOME PICASSO.

This strange game chronicles the adventures of a newly created, uh, science experiment thing that has a fondness for meat, Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes, and blowing things up.  Created by developer Twisted Pixel, Splosion Man features dynamic music, levels and a very simple premise.  You are Splosion Man.  You must blow everything up.  FOREVER.

Every button on the controller is mapped to exploding, which serves as your main method of propulsion.  Don’t worry, exploding doesn’t hurt you.  This is good, because apparently the scientists who created you did so in the most chaotic lab ever, filled with acid pits, spike traps, electrified walls and giant robots with missiles.  After breaking free of his cage, Splosion Man makes the mad dash toward the exit over 50 increasingly difficult levels.  This is not a game to play if you’re running low on patience.  Splosion Man is one of the most precise games I think I’ve ever played, and that’s not counting the multiplayer, where you and three friends have to time your jumps to propel your Splosion Men to higher, unreachable platforms.  It should be noted, however, that multiplayer has been designed as its own separate 50 level campaign, and it’s the best game you could download if you feel like dying four hundred times in one level with your chums.  Also:  There is a song.  It is about donuts.  The song alone makes the game worth it.  This is a very fun, if frustrating game.  Pick it up only if you do not have a tendency to throw things when mad.

Sam and Max Save the World

Sam is a dog with a sketchy hold on what is legal and what is not. Max is the dangerous one.

I was happy to hear Sam and Max were coming to Xbox Live.  As someone who had never had a chance to play the highly praised series when it was out for the PC over a decade ago, it was great to be able to finally see what the fuss is about.  Created by Telltale Games, Sam and Max follows two freelance police, canine detective Sam and his psychotic rabbit pal Max as they slowly find themselves wrapped up in a sinister mind control plot.  A lot of the game is on exploration, and there’s enough dialogue trees to keep you finding new things to say to the NPCs even if you’ve talked to them a few times.  A lot of the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out, but every now and then the game will throw a curveball at you that will leave you wandering around the street outside your office, randomly trying to shoot everything with your pistol.  Sam and Max is more about humorous dialogue between the characters, and it really does deliver on the punch lines.  That mostly relies on your own sense of humor, though, and I’d recommend buying the trial version first to see if you’re compatible with Sam and Max’s sense of vigilante justice.  A word of warning, however, is that around episode four the series gets a bit political for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for political humor, but Sam and Max’s time and place was apparently 2003.  I honestly thought I’d never hear another “ha ha, Bush was a dumb president” joke.  I can almost see Enosh cringing in pain now.

Still, for $20 Sam and Max Save the World will keep you busy for a good long while, with six award-winning episodes to keep you busy for a good long time.

Shadow Complex

Are you a bad enough dude to shoot that turret?

This game, okay yeah you should download it.  The graphics in this game are amazing.  They look like something you’d expect from an actual packaged game, and the Metroid-style exploration system will keep you searching every nook and cranny until you find, I dunno, gold or something.  The game doesn’t really have much in the way of a plot, which is okay since these exploration-heavy games rarely do, but I’ll try to sum it up for you.  You play as this dude, okay?  You take your girlfriend to a series of caves for a little spelunking, but she goes on ahead without you and gets herself captured and beaten by some Bad Men who had killed the vice-president(!).  You must enter the complex, steal the enemies’ gear, and get her back.

Basically, it’s the same plot games have had since the early Nintendo days.  “Your girlfriend has been kidnapped.  Are you a bad enough dude to get her back?”

This game is seriously awesome.  It’s completely side scrolling, which gets a little confusing at parts, when you can see stairs in the background just three feet but still have to leap to each platform, but it works for the game.  The action will move back into a more 3D format when you punch a bad guy and look almost cinematic.  And unlike most side scrolling game, stealth is allowed and encouraged.  You’ll spend quite a lot of time crawling through vents to bypass rooms full of angry men with shields.  I forget how much this game costs, but it is definitely worth the MS points.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

The cannon makes as little sense and is as hilarious as you'd expect.

Serious Sam is a very Doom-like dungeon crawler game with a ridiculous plot.  Apparently, there’s been some kind of alien invasion, see?  And you have to go back in time to Ancient Egypt to fight them off and find some kind of a super weapon to destroy the aliens retroactively in the future forever, because they’re in the past also, fighting you.  As a first person shooter, you should know what to expect at this point.  Point your guns at the bad guys.  Make them dead.

But how will you know if it’s a bad guy or not?  Well, that’s easy.  Unless you’re playing the game’s four player co-op, you won’t find another nice person in the game at all.  That headless guy who is holding two lit bombs and running at you screaming doesn’t really want a hug.  Yeah, okay, so the story is completely irrelevant.  What’s important is running around with your chums and slaughtering a horde of demons aliens.  Weapons start at pistol and keep getting progressively more destructive until you pick up the cannon, which is pretty hilarious.  It’s at least worth a play through just for the last level alone, which gets very epic very quickly.

My beef with this game:  The Kleer.  Kleers are small, fast skeleton-things with razor blades on their arms that sound like helicopters when they run.  They are hard to kill and will take half your health before you can see where they are.  They are about 90 percent of all the enemies you will fight.  Also:  Being a port from a PC franchise was not kind to the control scheme.  You push left trigger to jump, for god sake.  Left trigger.

Still, it’s something to play if you and your friends want to stick it to your oppressive alien overlords.  Give it a download only if you’re pretty bored.

Okay, that’s all the games I’m listing here tonight.  Tune in next time (someday, maybe) for some more info on what games to get and what games to avoid.  And hey, try to ease up on the Santa collection a bit.  You’re kind of freaking us out.

One Response

  1. […] XBLA 2: I’ve lost that shining feeling Posted on September 13, 2010 by Tophat Has your wallet been stolen by ninjas?  Are you not a bad enough dude to get it back?  It might be time to hit up Xbox Live for your next game.  There’s a lot of gems and a lot of junk in the Xbox Live system though, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start digitally buying Microsoft points.  This week we’ll touch on Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgement and Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space, since both of these games are kinda short for a full post each.  I guess this is the second installment of Xbox Live Adventures.  If you missed the first one, check it out here. […]

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