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XBLA4: This one’s mostly out of spite

In addition to your mom being a crazy snake lady, she's also from the 1920s for some reason.

Well, it’s the holiday season again.  You’re not really sure how that happened, but unfortunately you are poorer than a hobo with no socks.  There have been a lot of good console games to come out in the past few weeks, but who wants to shell out $60 for a game when you know you’re just going to have to run to the store and buy your mom an entire crate of voodoo dolls before the those pesky Christmas shoppers clean out Mojo Hut again this year.  Every year you buy that woman a ridiculous number of voodoo dolls, and every year she plows through them, with that creepy gleam in her eye that people find so unsettling.  The neighbors are starting to talk.  Well, the ones that are still alive, anyway.

ANYWAY, I could write all day about your mom’s crazy voodoo practices.  No really, I could.  But I really don’t think I need any more poisonous marsh snakes showing up around my apartment at three in the morning, all speaking in English and hogging the shower.  So I’ll just write about some Xbox Live Arcade games instead.

This time around, we’re going to talk about Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, Costume Quest, and A Kingdom for Keflings.  I was also going to talk about Duke Nukem 3D on here, a bit, but I actually didn’t download the full game due to it being a bit… weaker than I remembered.

Classy, Duke.

Okay, okay, real quick:  It’s a first person shooter, the graphics are a step above Doom’s, and its gimmick was that it was supposed to be really, really edgy.  But hey, man, it was the 1990s!  That’s when edgy was CREATED.  Expect to see very short looping animations of strippers and hilariously pixelated cleavage.  I remember thinking the game was hilarious when I was younger, because see, there’s this Duke Nukem arcade game INSIDE the actual game!  And when you try to use it, Duke says “I don’t have time to play with myself!”  Ha ha!  Masturbation jokes!

Turns out ten years later, the game isn’t quite as edgy as it is…  sad, I guess?  Seeing a Doom game that actually goes out of its way to give us recognizable building interiors like movie theaters is refreshing, but lets be honest.  Duke and the 1990s went out of style about, what?  10 years ago?  Time has not been kind to this cult classic.

Okay, enough about that.  Lets get started with Costume Quest.

The box art is a bit on the childish side.

Costume Quest

I kind of fell out of playing arcade games for a while there, as work, World of Warcraft and Minecraft have absorbed a lot of my free time.  When I came back to my senses and loaded up Xbox Live, Double Fine’s Costume Quest was waiting for me.  I was immediately turned off of this game when I saw the box art-  cutesy kids in adorable costumes roaming the neighborhood searching for candy.  The fact that Double Fine produced it redeemed it about four seconds later.

Costume Quest is an exploration RPG.  The game opens with brother/sister twin supercombo Wren and Reynold arguing about going Trick or Treating that night.  Turns out neither of them is too big on the idea of walking around with their identical counterpart all night.  Unfortunately, they’re still new in town and haven’t had a chance to make any friends quite yet, so Generic Family Mom tells them they’re sticking together and that’s that.

After a short introduction where you get to choose to play as Wren or Reynold, the twins set out, with YOU (whoever you chose) dressed as a sweet robot, and your sibling dressed as a lame piece of candy corn.  Your twin is promptly mistaken for an actual piece of candy by a goblin type monster called a grubbin, and absconded with.  You know you can’t go home, especially if your sibling gets eaten, so off you go into the neighborhood to get candy, find new costumes, and beat the living tar out of some monsters.

 

By the power of Liberty!!

Combat takes place in the form of EPIC SCALE monster battles, where both you and the monsters you’re fighting loom over nearby settlements and use fantastic abilities to try to gain the upper hand.  You take the form of whatever costume you happened to be wearing when combat started.  So, for example, if you were wearing the robot costume, you’d be a gigantic robot mech, loaded to the teeth with missiles.  If you were wearing the knight costume, you’d be a totally sweet massive knight with a sword big enough to cleave villages in half.  You get the idea.

 

The costumes also have abilities to use outside of combat, which helps with exploration.  Though honestly, I usually stuck with the robot, since the ability to zoom around on roller skates makes things so much nicer.

The dialogue is the same quality we’ve come to expect from other Double Fine games like Brutal Legend and Psychonauts, just…  well, I found it a little hard to read.  Odds are that’s because I’m not playing on one of those fancy wide-screen, high-definition, non-broken televisions all you kids are on about these days.

The only negative?  The game gets a bit repetitive.  Combat is cool for a while, and constantly adding new costumes gives you something to look forward to in battle, but once you’re in?  There’s not much variety.  Each costume has just a basic attack, which involves a nice timed button pressing mechanic, and one special attack that takes exactly three turns to charge up.  These attacks do everything from hurt the enemy to heal your allies, but even those animations can get a little old.  You can’t change costumes when battle starts, so you have to really think about which suit you want to throw down in.

Also, there’s a trick or treat mechanic that gets a bit old.  There are three main questing areas in the game, and none of them can be completed without completely draining all the surrounding homes of candy.  Sometimes you’ll get a friendly be-costumed adult who fills up that sweet sweet candy bag a little more, but often you’ll just get attacked by another grubbin.  It’s a good way to get more candy, though, which can then be spent on battle stamps, which improve your abilities in combat.  But it’s a bit repetitive.

But it’s still a good Halloween game to play if you want to go back down memory lane and remember what made Halloween great when you were a kid.  Why am I reviewing this game now, when Christmas is just around the corner?  Spite.  That’s why.  Pure spite.

The original. It looks like this for maybe 10 seconds.

Space Invaders: Infinity Gene

This is another one of those games that came out a while back to breathe life into an old dawn-of-gaming franchise, and it was actually pretty fun.  Space Invaders: Infinity Gene is all about evolution.  The game starts out with the old tried-and-true Space Invaders format.  Ships are approaching from the top!  In a pattern of some sort! You’re the last line of defense!  Stop them!

The game gives us about ten seconds of that, and then stops, gives us a quote from Charles Darwin, and then new stuff starts to happen.  Gradually, over the course of the rest of the game, improvements are added to the old formula.  UFOs start to drop weapon power ups, new weapons are unlocked, your ship is freed from the bottom of the screen and can move about as it pleases, and the camera pulls back and creates the illusion of movement.  The enemy is also evolving, however, and new enemy types will crop up as well as some enormous bosses.

 

By the end, things are a bit more intense.

By the end of the game things looks nothing like the old Space Invaders anymore.  The action is fast paced, chaotic, and a lot of fun.  Though, there are some bad parts here too.  Some of the enemies are grade A bullshit, like an enemy whose laser takes up the whole screen.  Also, sometimes the white-line style of enemies and background can make it a little confusing about what can hurt you and what can’t.  I died that way quite a few times.

 

There are tons of “evolutions” to unlock in this game, but don’t expect them all to be awesome.  Most of them are simply new songs unlocked in the game’s sound test, which I guess works for some people.  Not me, though.  Never even opened that screen to take a look.

Anyway, this game’s a fun way to kill some time if you’re low on cash, but be aware it’s not perfect.

These jerks can't do anything without me. Grumble grumble...

A Kingdom for Keflings

This is another short one so I figured I’d throw it on here.  A Kingdom for Keflings is one of the most unappealing games if you take it at face value.  See, there’s these little guys, okay?  They’re Keflings.  By themselves they can barely manage to live in like, I dunno, caves or something.  But then you come by!  (Literally, if you want.  You can actually use your avatar for this.  I find it hilarious walking around with that terrifying pumpkin head I earned from Costume Quest and the Big Science shirt from Splosion Man, beating up Keflings.)

See, you’re a giant, and its up to you to help these Keflings build a home, or, you know, kingdom.  A kingdom for them.  For the Keflings.

The game starts by throwing you smack into the middle of nowhere with about four Keflings waving at you.  This is their way of letting you know they’re not doing anything.  So, you in your massiveness, get to pick them up and put them where you want them to work.  Setting one down by trees will make them a lumberjack, by rocks a miner and by a crystal node will make them…  a crystaller?  Magic-something?  Uhhh…

Once you establish that the Keflings need to walk the stuff they mine back to your workshop, you simply need to wait for the resources to start pouring in.  And ultimately, use them to build more and more advanced structures.  There’s no rush, though.   No aliens coming to murder you, no danger of the Keflings starving or dying off, it’s straight up creation and making the best, most efficient town you can with as few Keflings as you can manage.

There’s the downside, though:  Repetition.  You’re not going to get anything major to switch up the scenery.  The seasons change, the music cycles through about four songs, and buildings unlock as you build them.  And so it goes, so it goes.  But that being said, this is definitely one of those games where you’ll be thinking in your head about how boring it is, but that won’t stop five hours from slipping by unnoticed.  You’ll tell yourself “just one more blueprint” until you either A) run out of new blueprints to build, or B) Die of starvation in real life.

Once you establish a mayor in your town, you can also complete basic quests.  Don’t get too excited, though, most of those involve you doing stuff you were probably going to do anyway, like putting resources in a certain construction building or kicking Keflings around with your mighty boot of justice.

It’s a nice, relaxing game to pick up if you’re sick of the daily grind of the video game hack n slash.

Okay, lets see…  talked about three and a half games, voodoo and snakes.  Pretty sure that about covers it.  By the way, the last time I checked, all these games were about 1200 Microsoft points, which isn’t too cheap but it sure beats shelling out $60 for a game, especially when its voodoo season for your mom.

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