My Summer of Arcade

XBox Live Arcade has done a pretty admirable job of bringing solid downloadable games to placate the summer draught with their annual Summer of Arcade promotion. This year seems to kill the goodwill by not picking the brightest, but the privileged. So far, we have a decade old game in a disparate bid to resurrect a dying franchise and another subpar Kinect game. Not to say XBLA exclusives have failed. Plenty other titles released recently that I deem worthy.

Swiller’s 5 Tips for you.
(Click to enlarge)

Spelunky: Indiana Jones-like adventure platformer with randomly assembled levels, items, enemies and music, so that no game ever plays the same. The gameplay is very simple. You run, jump, and fight your way through a level to find the exit at the bottom, while collecting as much treasure as you can. You’re equipped with a few ropes, bombs and your trusty whip to get you out of trouble, but you can come across many different items to potentially help you. As you go deeper, you will find a lush jungle, ice caves and mysterious temple in your bid to escape.

The first thing you may hear about this game, is that it is HARD. Most tightly controlled platformers, starting with the likes of Super Mario Bros, require muscle-memory. Retrying the same hurdle over and over, to get past it. This comes into a glorious, but insanely maddening way, with newer indie title, Super Meat Boy. Many complain about Spelunky because it’s randomness does not allow the player progress or get better. But to me, it’s randomness ends up being it’s greatest strength. Spelunky is about learning all the items and enemies you encounter. An entry is added to your in-game journal for every trap, creature, item, and artifact you come across. At the end of each series of four levels you will find Tunnel Man, who will build you a shortcut if you give him the items he needs.

10 Minis are coming soon!

After over ten hours, I found the progression to be a perfect balance. You will get better, but you must play the levels over and over to gain REAL experience in the world, not through manufactured XP, repetition, or leveling up. It has many secrets, that you continually see or learn something new. It’s quite refreshing to not have to repeat the same series of jumps over and over, to get to the next bit. You may also still be amused by the random , different ways the game will kill you over and over. This game is fast and condensed with action. Maybe lasting tens of minutes, if you make it to the end. I understand this XBLA version is a majorly updated port of the free PC version of the game. Jonathan Blow of Braid encouraged the developer to bring it over to xbox , as a result, they polished one of the finest gems on the service.

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A Journey Worth Investing In?

As a unknown protagonist wearing a hooded red robe in the middle of a empty desert, I was left with no explanation of why I was here, and what to do next. With a endless expanse of sand in every direction, it was only the slightly higher dune with a small formation on top that stood out. I inevitably headed in that direction to the promise of what lay beyond.

This is how it goes from thatgamecompany’s latest $15 downloadable game. It’s an experience built on curiosity. With amazing visuals and sounds, it draws you in. Their is no right, wrong or fail state. Just pushing forward to see what lies beyond. What also seems unclear is this seemingly life of solitude, is a multiplayer experience. Their is no pregame lobby, avatar names that pop up in-game or voice chat, but you may come across someone as you travel forward. At first this character seemed confused, erratic and shy. It slowly seems to follow my lead and learn from my actions as I sailed the sky and skied down sand dunes. Then we danced together to new heights and soared through expansive environments for untold miles only to separate in different directions. Later it led me and showed me the way, when I was uncertain. (Did the fact it had a longer scarf then me, equate greater wisdom in this land?)

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Great Game Music from 2011

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My Top 10 Games of 2011

10. LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3):  Despite its undeniable charm and ambitious tools to create and share your own games, I was not a fan of LittleBigPlanet. The controls and level design let me down. LBP2 fixes my issues as being a mediocre platformer, by providing creative gadgets and new genres of games to create and play. Best of all, level design has gotten much better. New stuff had me interested all year—It justified my Move motion controller purchase and was into a user created action-RPG. It provided me with a continued strong co-op experience from a community that is helpful and fun, not competitive and cruel. This is a YouTube-like experience for games that has matured and become worthwhile. So far I have only taken from the LBP community, but it’s creative richness has me inspired to give back or, at the very least, continue to check-in to see what’s new. Read more of this post

E3 Press Conferences: Snap Judgements

(Updated June 13: Realized my reactions on the Nintendo conference disappeared before I left a week to Portland. Got to love Word Press’s auto-save feature.)

Microsoft:

  • Call of Duty looks like Call of Duty, and that’s likely good enough to be the top seller again.
  • Military shooters and sci-fi shooters have finally crossed over to be the same thing.
  • Before you roll your eyes at another Tomb Raider, take a look. Best thing I saw this morning.
  • Mass Effect 3 with Kinect. Reciting dialogue with your voice= boo! Issuing commands to your squad= pretty cool.
  • Finally, the dashboard has search. Voice search, no less! Finding content on the marketplace has been a headache and embarrassing from this software giant. All fixed.
  • Microsoft should be cleaning the floor in the UE department. I’ll give them the nod now.
  • Taking movable cover against your co-op partner’s mech suit, may have me sold on Gears of War 3. The polished gameplay and new token female, may let me overlook the whole dude-bro problem.
  • See, video games are a beautiful thing. Bringing Body Count back together for a one song cash grab.
  • Pretending to have the reins of a horse and buggy? Wow.. mind blown, Molyneux.
  • Star Wars Kinect has me excited. Wait, that may be just the John Williams talking. Read more of this post

Pixel art craziness


Some notable mobile games I’ve spent time with recently, have fallen into this retro category. Gotta say. Love this modern-take, resurgence going on.

The melodic sounds are rippin

Sword & Sworcery LP (iPad, $4.99)- This adventure game will suck you in and take you to a different place. The pixel art, music, and touch controls will make for a wholly unique experience. A Rod Sterling-type host will smoke and lead you through a Zelda-inspired trip, and will then tell you to take a break after awhile. This has to be played with headphones, as the smoking man says, to accent the atmosphere. This will help you forget spotty control, obtuse puzzles, and all the long walks. It has great features! Like tweeting convoluted poetry as you play, to annoy the few followers you have. This is one, the critics will go gaga for, then claim it over-rated a year from now. Thanks in advance, internet. Read more of this post

Won’t get fooled again

It's on like Donkey Kong.

April fool’s gag last year by Think Geek. I immediately wanted it, only to find out that I am not the only one. We won’t see a nintendo mascot in this arcade anytime soon, but at least, some of my childhood dreams can come true.