The Good, The Meh, and The Ugly
Since the first interview up is on Weapon of Choice, I thought it would be a good time to go over some of the Action/Adventure games to choose from on the Community Games service. Throughout the week there will be short reviews for all of the games features, except instead of the usual 10-grading scale that we use normally here at DiehardGameFAN, I’ll be using a simple Buy, Try, or Ignore system. This is not meant as a way to catalog every Community Game, just to highlight a few of the games available on the service.
Weapon Of Choice
If I had to recommend just one game to someone as an example of why I’m glad the Community Games service exists, Weapon of Choice would be that game. Weapon of Choice is a side scrolling Contra style shooter that was one of the finalists of this years DreamBuildPlay competition.
It is also completely awesome.
In Weapon of Choice you get to choose between members of the United Nations Police force, at first only three of them. Each character in the game has a unique weapon and double jump ability. One character for example has a cross between a flamethrower and a jet engine. Every weapon has a special ability, using the special ability of the gun just described will let you hover with that character or propel you in a direction. Each character has a different double jump ability, one character might jump higher, another might have a mid-air attack, and another character can create a mirror image of herself. While each character has a specific weapon, you can also switch between that weapon and a standard gun, the cool thing is even the standard gun has a special ability of being able to extend in a direction. Say you’re on a ledge and want to kill an enemy below? You can hold down the special ability button (right trigger) and guide the gun over the edge and kill an enemy that way.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that a guy who helped work on a Ratchet and Clank game would know how to make cool, useful weapons, but everytime you unlock a new character and test out their weapon is a thrill. One has a weapon which is sort of like a giant chainsaw!
The unique features of the game don’t end with the weapons. Every character has a different double jump ability. Double jump with one character and he’ll go higher, double jump with another and she’ll create a mirror image of herself that will last for a short period of time. A different character has a midair attack, etc.
There are fun new features found throughout the game. Each character has a backpack that will automatically attach to the nearest surface. Say you’re maneuvering a character through an enclosed space but there are enemies all along the ground. You’d just need to jump up and the Spider Pack will automatically attach to the ceiling. It’s a great idea that leads to much less frustration from accidentally falling from different platforms.
The game has a feature called Death Brushing. When a character is near death from an enemy or a projectile, the background goes black and everything slows down. In that brief moment you will have to figure out what is about to kill the character and try and react to it.
In the game you start with three characters, and in different levels you have the ability to save other agents. If you see a downed agent you can pick them up, and then piggyback them through the level and if you make it through the level you unlock them. Each of these agents are like lives in other games, if you die you choose the next agent to get sent out. When the next agent gets sent out they’re deployed in a missile which you can manually aim.
The game has a striking visual style and animates so well that it’s hard to believe one guy created most of this game. Of course if walking testicle looking aliens and giant bloated alien teats aren’t something you like to look at this might not be the game for you. In a time where so many games now are dull shades of gray or brown, Weapon of Choice is vibrant and colorful, even when it’s an alien corpse splattering everywhere.
The game controls with the left joystick to move and the right joystick to fire. The R trigger manages the special abilities of the weapons, and the left trigger controls jumping. Shooting with the right joystick in a side scrolling shooter was a little awkward at first for me, but it works so naturally with the weapons in the game that you’ll not notice any control issues pretty quickly.
With 7 levels, branching paths, 4 different ending, multiple characters to play with and two difficulty levels, there’s a good deal of replay value for the title even though you can play through from beginning to end pretty fast. If at the end of the day the worst thing you can say about a game is that you wish there was a lot more of it, well then that’s a great game. At 400 points it’s a fantastic value.
Also, the music rocks.
In The Pit
In The Pit is the most experimental of the Community Games, and is another great example of why a service like this should be getting far more attention than it has. Do you think a normal game studio would be able to take a risk on developing a game that has abolutely no graphics? That’s right, In The Pit has no graphics. You want to see what In The Pit looks like? Turn of your TV, look at the dark screen, and there you have what In The Pit looks like.
This is because the main character you control for In The Pit is a monster at the bottom of a dark pit. As the monster people will be thrown in, fall in, or willingly come into your pit, and it’s up to you to eat them. During the game you listen for audio cues to figure out where your victim is, and then try to move silently towards them until you can hear their heartbeat. When you get close enough the controller will vibrate and then you press A to eat the victim. The game starts off easy with unconscious people, then the difficulty gets hard with people who are awake, and then you’ll have to face heroes who have come to kill the monster.
I once had the chance to visit a history of video games exhibit in Chicago, and in that exhibit was an adventure game that was specifically designed for the blind. In The Pit sort of reminds me of that, you could be blindfolded and still play this odd audio only stealth action game. What you can’t do is play this game without either headphones or surround sound. Just about everyone owns one or the other though, so if you get a chance check out this weird hybrid game. The voice work is a little corny, but otherwise it’s a example of someone thinking outside the box.
Anyone remember the light cycles from the movie TRON? If you want to get an example of the type of thing I’m talking about check out this flash game for an impression. StarPilot takes the light cycle idea to completely the next level. The craft in StarPilot also leave a trail that enemies can run into, though in StarPilot there’s health to be considered so running into a trail once will not kill an enemy outright. Throw in powerups, four different arenas, five different game modes and the ability to play with up to 10 people online, StarPilot is a very well crafted multiplayer game.
There are single player challenges and you can play with the AI, but it doesn’t seem like you can play with 2 people in one room, I think mostly due to the camera which follows behind the vehicle the first player is controlling. I hope that this developer creates a sequel and adds a few more camera options and local multiplayer support. Otherwise for 400 points StarPilot is a very polished game with slick graphics and a decent audio.
If you can convince a few other friends to throw down the $5 to get the game so you have people to play against, StarPilot is a very enjoyable concept.
Loot, Steal, Destroy
Developer: Ludosity Interactive
Loot, Steal, Destroy is a local multiplayer party game with a pirate theme. There’s an official Xbox Live Arcade game named Age of Booty that also features pirates and naval warfare wrapped up as a strategy game. Loot, Steal, Destroy is a more action oriented experience than Age of Booty. In Loot, Steal, Destroy, you choose which flag your ship will fly and then you face off against other players in an attempt to gather more gold than anyone else. Gold can be recovered from certain islands on the map, or if you are feeling evil you can try and steal any gold from another players home island.
It’s a pretty fun party game that’s well balanced, looks decent and there are a lot of different powerups to use. However the game seems limited at 400 points, had there been more game modes, maps, or different ships to choose from this would be an easy recommendation. Had this been part of a party game collection it would be a great inclusion, as a stand alone product it doesn’t really have much to draw players back to the experience over and over again. Plus this game has the opposite issue of StarPilot, there’s no online, it’s all local multiplayer. As an online multiplayer game this would be great fun.
If you are into pirate themed games, it definitely worth a trial.
Developer: ‘Some Call Me Tim’
For every good game on the Community Games service, there is a game that you might try that will leave you with a bad impression of the whole service. UAV Wars is one of those games. UAV Wars is a arcade style 3D action game where the player controls an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and has to fight against other UAVs. This game is riddled with problems though. The largest of these problems is the fact that you can’t attack other UAVs unless you are on the same vertical plane as the enemy, but there’s nothing to really indicate where you are on the vertical plane compared to your enemy. The shadows are the same no matter what level you are on. What this means is that you are often left open to attack while you struggle to figure out the right level you are supposed to be on to hit the enemy.
It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t look very good and controls sluggishly.
Unless you really feel like wasting 4 minutes of your life, I’d avoid UAV Wars at all costs.