Community Games Spotlight: Platform Games and Conclusion

Artoon
Developer: OK Games
400 Points

Awhile back there was a fun little platform game called Q-bert that I was addicted too for awhile. In some ways Artoon reminds me of Q-bert. Both feature a character that’s bouncing around trying to change the color of platform blocks. Except in Artoon the goal is more about achieving the highest score possible instead of evading enemies, and it’s in 3D.

I wish I could say it is the gameplay that really makes Artoon stand out, however it is really the distinct art styles represented in the game that differentiates Artoon from other platform games. There are several distinct styles and it’s worth playing through the game to just see them.

Not that the gameplay is bad. It’s a very decent 3D platform game that also blends in some puzzle elements as you have to try to figure out the best possible approach to a stage in order to successfully get the highest score possible. Between the music and the simple gameplay Artoon is more of a relaxed experience for a platform game than just about any other, and though it is decent and seems well programmed, it just doesn’t stand out as nearly as much as the art does.

With that said, Artoon does have a pretty engaging multiplayer mode. While it’s pretty much the same as the single player mode, you are now competing against another player locally over who can get more blocks than the other player. This adds a feeling of tension that is missing from the single player mode of the game.

Overall it’s a decent game with a great art style, and $5 seems like the perfect price for it.

Final Rating: Buy

SMASHELL
Developer: Antab
400 Points

SMASHELL is an oddity in the platform genre. It is one part platform game, one part arcade style high score game, and one part arena game. It’s a very cool concept. Essentially you move around different stages, collecting coins as they appear, getting fruit, and beating enemies. As you continue to play the game spots on the arena pop up, and landing on these spots cause different results, some will give you an energy shield for a period of time, while another will cause an explosion. Some will send you to the Upgrade Hut. Different upgrades will unlock different things, like the ability to shoot in mid-air to take down flying enemies.

This game still remains a platform game with moving sections of different arenas and jumping on enemies’ heads. At first the action in the game starts off slow but it builds up quickly and soon becomes a fight for survival. The different arenas provide variety for the game, and the game looks pretty good for one of the few 3D Community Games. Plus the game provide a number of challenges and rewards trophies for different accomplishments.

It controls well, looks pretty good, the score attack part of the game is addictive and provides an interesting take on the platform genre. Like Artoon I’m not sure if this is a game that I’d recommend people buy at 800 points, but at 400 points it seem like it is at just the right price point for this game.

Final Rating: Buy

World Molder
Developer: Victor Dettlaff
200 Points

Every now and then a game comes along that just completely surprises you with some new function. World Molder is one of those games. The graphics for this game seem uninspired and for the stages seem designed more for function than for any aesthetic reason, but it’s the ability to warp and shape the levels you go through that makes World Molder special.

In World Molder you play as a 2D version of what looks like Death and the point is to get him to the other side of the level as fast as possible. The only way to cross the levels though are to use the main characters power to shape the world around him. Are you at a gap you can’t possibly cross? Chane the area around. Holding down the left trigger will bring up a small blue cursor and overlay a dot style grid over the blocks that make up a level. By clicking on these block you can stretch, flatten, or shape them in a lot of different ways. Take the gap example from the previous sentence. You’d need to drag the cursor over the blocks on the other side of the gap and pull one of the edges of the block over and then you would be able to make the jump. There are numerous other puzzles of this type in the game.

The biggest problems is that sometimes controlling shapes are unpredictable, I would occasionally want to move parts of a block and it was hard to understand sometimes why when I tried to shape a certain section that for some reason it just wouldn’t move in the way that I wanted it to.

Still, can you imagine in the next Ratchet and Clank game there being a toll that let you warp the environment and how that could be used to create platform puzzles? World Molder is a good example on how those concepts could be used, it’s almost better as a tech demo than a game, but for 200 points it’s worth playing through it to see how this gameplay mechanic works.

Final Rating: Buy

Being
Developer: Chounard
200 Points

Being is probably one of the most straightforward platform style games available on the Community Games service. Honestly it reminds me more of the 16-bit style sidescroller games that I used to play as a kid, and that’s not a bad thing. The worst thing I can say about Being is the fact that it feels like a project that was almost thrown together. While some of the platform gameplay is well done, the whole game is pretty short and the artwork looks like it was a bunch of samples of different sprite art that was thrown into the game. The game is also pretty easy for anyone who has played this style of game for awhile, but if you’re looking for a game for a younger player that’s also for a budget price for this holiday season, Being would be a good game. It’s sort of like playing My First Platform game, it is an okay effort that younger gamers will enjoy, but even for the low entry cost of 200 points the game is too easy and not polished enough to satisfy a hardcore gamer.

Final Rating: Try

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Let’s wrap this up.

I’ve spent 5 days covering different genres from the Xbox Live Community Games service, and featured interview from the developers of some of these games. My whole point of this feature was to hopefully show that despite some negative press, the Community Games service is a fantastic new addition to Xbox Live. I’m not sure why there is some negativity about the service, there are certainly some poorly designed games on the service, such as Swords & Monsters, Aaron’s Ping Pong, Colosseum, and A Kitchen Sink War, but they do not represent the entire game catalog.

The fact is Xbox Community Games service is still in it’s launch stage, and for being a new service there are some amazing games such as Weapon of Choice and Biology Battle available. If this is what is available at just the start of this service, image for a moment the possibilities on what might be on the service in another 6 months or a year…

Take the time. Read the interviews and see that these are individuals with vision trying to make that vision real. Then go and at least download the trial for their game. You might hate it or you might be surprised by how good a game that was created by only a few people who are dedicated can be.

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