Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Year of Xbox Live Arcade :Part 2

And now, the pleasure is all mine to present you part two of my PaxEast experience. Hopefully you folks enjoy, as I look forward to posting some new and exciting thoughts soon on the gaming state as of today.

There are games that as could be seen at PAX, hold a very loyal following to many fans. One of those is Team Fortress 2, a game originally bundled with Half-Life and Portal in one whoppingly stunning game package, and one that presents a team based version of combat that is not only addictive but whimsical. Monday Night Combat will be a game in the same vein of team shooters that strive for a true feeling of teamwork, creativity and games that will create a feeling of exhaustion once finished. The concept of the game is simple yet glorious in its inception; pitting teams of 6 players (which makes sense given that you have 6 player models to choose from) against each other along with a variety of AI controlled robots that help defend (and move the line of scrimmage forward) your end of the battle zone. Within the battle zone you can build turrets and barriers, catapult yourself across the map and create general mischief for the other team in your quest to have your robots crush the other team’s money ball. The game' itself can last for long stretches of time (about 15 minutes per match), even going to overtime at the end of regulation time. The classes were not fully touched upon by myself, as I always head directly to the thinnest and fastest character; the two classes that were used included an Assassin and a Sniper class.

The real Xbox Live Arcade game that stole the show was Raskulls. The premise is so simple that it is almost shocking that this game has never been created before, this being a good thing as Halfbrick Studios has created a gem in this Xbox Live Arcade masterpiece. The game pits up to four players in a multiplayer race downwards, as you’re faced with breaking blocks below your feet to create a path to the finish line. With various powerups, and very polished but humoring graphics, you find yourself almost as attached to the game as a visual triumph, not just for the sheer fact that you are playing and trying to master the game. The Halfbrick kiosk had Nate and I at the kiosk at least once each day, even bringing our wives and guests with us. The game keeps each character model completely even - none are more powerful or faster than others, so the races keep extremely close and almost always build to a last minute win. This game will become the best online Xbox party game to play, as each powerup works wonders, the control scheme is great, and a built in frenzy meter, a regenerating turbo bar, helps to make this by far the best creation at the whole PAX East event.

The event that was created for us by the Penny Arcade creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, was a great place not only for the congregation of so many different types of people, from web comic lovers to video game lovers, to people who just wanted a place to be there favorite character. It - perhaps most importantly - also hid a beautiful nugget of truth in the expo rooms and that is that the Xbox Live Arcade this year will become the place to be and be seen with your friends, loved ones and people you love the least to show who is truly the stronger gamer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Year of Xbox Live Arcade

Greetings all! It is with great honor that I begin my entry into the realm of video game blogging for you. For all that do not know me, I am close friends with Nate and take video games almost as seriously as him. I look forward to any and all comments on my articles in the near future. With much pleasure, I post to you Part One of a two part Pax foray into the awesomeness that was Xbox Live gaming.

The Year of Xbox LIVE Arcade: A Tale from PAX East

I’ll be honest from the very beginning with all the incumbent readers I have had the pleasure of reaching out to, if there is one thing that has been spotty, lacking, and at times effortlessly incredible it is the function and creations that touch the Xbox Live Arcade. When deciding on the trek to PAX East, a mere 31 miles from my home, the expectancy was that games like Mafia II, Red Dead Redemption and Crackdown 2 would be the crème of the crop. I am happy and somewhat shocked to report that the Xbox Live Arcade was the steal of the show and helped to firmly supplant that they are the wave of the future for new and old gamers.

The first game that was on the docket was Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. From the creator of Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, Ska Studios once again covets the best of Xbox Live style with a dreary and depressing art form synonymous to a toned down Sin City - almost. Those who recall playing the first game will remember the moments where you seem bound to throw the controller in frustration. The game now allows you an easy mode, which will help to cure a portion of the controller throwing frustration. New with the second iteration is a character named Yuki, not only a visual treat to see a new character, but also bringing with her a completely new fighting scheme and weapons. The first game left a lower learning curve to be desired as well as a little more variation, and from the looks of the second game, we will see just that. Bosses receive their own introductions, ala a more toned down version of Borderlands, “Meet your next date” confrontational. All in all, the demo was short, but the one thing that drew to my attention was an area in one level that flashed words akin to things thought of when listening to “Fitter. Happier” by Radiohead, quite possibly my favorite band. Not having the ability to know whether or not this was intentional or not, the kitsch references alone I could take away from this game were more than enough to leave me wanting more.

The one last thing we can take away from Ska Studios is the inception of the Charlie Murder game, a rocking band brawler akin to a Castle Crashers or TMNT (the original arcade classic). This booth was a solid look into Ska Studios future and their powerhouse creator’s (James Silva) mind.

Shank was one of the close-to-the-door expo games that quickly received a large audience purely from its aesthetic. With a look akin to Samurai Jack, the lead character is a bandanaed man by the name of Shank. He faces a selection of tough guys ready to be vanquished by the handful and at the end of the demo you do end up facing a large Antonio Banderas look-alike by the name of Toro. There are portions of the game that not only become endearing for their multibutton pushes but also for their wide variety of results including grenade in mouth, or some nice gun play. The game also shines in the lighting and atmosphere, where in one part of the demo you end up fighting in the shadows, only looking at blackened creations of the characters you were using only moments before. The only downfall to Shank was the minute-long-demo and what looks to be a lack of environmental creativity. There will be more, soon, to follow on this game, as KLEI (creator of EETS: Chowdown, a previous entry on XBLA) has joined with EA to put this game on the arcade very soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Battleblock Theater Hands-On

Even at this stage in development BattleBlock Theater has a lot to offer; I did not get all of the time I desired (eternity would be nice) with this game because after I had my first go at all of the modes (available) The Behemoth's booth lost power. I feel like something this cooky is something that would only happen at their booth (and it did only happen at their booth).

Speaking of nutty things, the game's story is as nuts as the trailer makes it sound:

This is the official description of the game from The Behemoth's site:
Having shipwrecked on a mysterious island you find yourself both betrayed by your best friend Hatty and captured by the locals. All of this is happening while being forced into deadly performances. This however, is just the start of your problems.
All of forms that this game manifests itself in are mini-games. I did not get my hands on all of the modes that have been announced but here are the descriptions and what I thought of each one:

  • There is a block painting mode where the player simply has to run over, touch, bump into blocks and turn them their teams color. Whichever team has the most blocks at the end of the round wins. I enjoyed this mode but in all three rounds played my team was decimated by the AI.
  • The second mini-game is one in which you must collect golden coins from a golden whale and deposit them into a winged safe. My partner and I did exceptionally well in this mode but alas we did not finish because the booth lost power.
  • The first mini-game mode that I played I did not understand until it was explained to me. You have to kill or get the other team killed by pushing them into hazards. This releases their soul (in the form of a balloon?!) which you then grab for points! You can hold onto that persons soul until they avenge themselves or you are killed by a hazard. This mode was bizarre and by the time I figured out what I was doing it was too late.
All of the stages have hazards in the form of: spikes, what looked like exhaust pipes that shot flames, water, crumbling blocks, etc. Each stage that I played was played in a 2 vs. 2 scenario (2 humans vs. 2 AI).

I was skeptical on this game before I got my hands on it and I am not yet 100 percent sold but this is The Behemoth we are talking about and I am sure they will get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to spending my 15 bucks (that it is likely to cost) later this year. Something about being pitted into "deadly performances" by cats sounds intriguing to me.