Community Games Spotlight

While I’ve written a few things about the Xbox Live Community Games service before, I thought it would be beneficial to point out some of the highlights of the service. As of this article there still is no user rating system to sort through the junk and those community games that are worth the Microsoft Points. As an ongoing feature I plan from time to time to help shed a spotlight on the community games that I personally feel are worth the time and trouble to seek out.

First up is a set of games from the same developer. Halfbrick Studios currently has two Community Games on Xbox Live, Halfbrick Echoes and Halfbrick Blast Off.

Blast Off is a physics-based puzzle games where you launch a spaceship off of a planet while trying to rescue as many stranded astronauts as you can. Then you can fly to a warp gate. It sounds easy at first, and it actually is for the first couple of levels as you get comfortable with the controls. Once the game starts throwing different planets and different gravitational fields, the challenge pick up. The game scores based on the time it takes the player to collect the required amount of astronauts, and how much fuel and air is left over in the ship. While the concept is deceptively simple, it’s extremely well executed. There’s a sense of satisfaction to be had when achieving a high score or after pulling off a complex manuever such as slingshotting around a planet. Blast Off is 400 MS points.

Echoes is the other Halfbrick game on the service. In Echoes, you control a character from an overhead perspective. The game uses different size maps of various shapes. The goal is to collect gems on the map, which is easy at first. Each time you collect a gem, an “echo” of the character appears on the map. It will then pace back and forth in the path that the player took to collect the gem. These paths appear on the map in the form of footsteps that the echo will walk on,. Touching these echoes will cause the character to lose health. As things pick up, there are gems with different abilities such as extra lives or destroying the echoes. While Blast Off is fun, I highly recommend Echoes. At 200 points Echoes is addictive and fun to play.

Halfbrick Studios is also at work on their first Xbox Live Arcade game named Raskulls. From the description provided by the studio, the game is a mix of puzzle, platform, and racing genres. After enjoying the previous Community Games from the developer, I have full confidence that if any studio could pull off a mix of those styles, it would be this one. Plus the character designs are adorable. In a manly way.

Another recent addition to the Community Games service is the game Clover, which is gaining some buzz given the political nature of the content within the game. Clover is an interesting mix of point and click adventure games and platform game elements. No one is going to confuse this game with Mario, but in the game you walk around and jump on, or across, ledges to gather artifacts scattered around the game world in order to interact with different people and objects. After gathering a carrot and stick, for example, you can then interact with a horse and its cart driver to gain the ability to travel to a specific location. By gathering items and interacting with the world the story unfolds. While it’s a little too blunt for my personal tastes, it’s at least a decent attempt at using video games as an outlet for a political message.

The art in Clover is very well done. The game delivers a better, clearer message than a game like Braid, looks great, and at 400 points is half the price of most Arcade games.

While technically not a game, I recieved an email about a Community Game application called Cocktail Paradise. I do think that there is a place for applications within the service as long as they’re well done, and Cocktail Paradise is one of the few I’d actually recommend. For 200 points, Cocktail Paradise includes a ton of different mixed drink recipes with easy to use instructions and nice large pictures of the drinks that are being described. In addition to the drink recipes, the application also has instructions on a number of drinking games to play with your friends. I had 200 points to burn, so I picked this up and I’ve been happy with the purchase.

Finally, the future of Community Games looks bright with the recent announcement by Mommy’s Best Games, the developer behind Weapon of Choice (My favorite community game!). The studio announced their next release which is named Grapple Buggy. Below is a link to the debut trailer for the game. If you haven’t yet checked out Weapon of Choice, then go do so! Then you will understand why my expectations for this title are so high.

Grapple Buggy Trailer

That’s it for the time being. The Community Games on Xbox Live need your support, so if you have a moment inbetween playing Halo or Call of Duty, check them out.

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