Xbox Live Arcade

And this week’s Xbox Live Arcade release is…once again, NOT PUZZLE QUEST!

Since the creators of the $30 Tetris Evolution proved that it is entirely possible to botch a terribly simple game that has been reimagined and ripped off endlessly (and often with higher quality), I think we legions of Tetris fans are entitled to a true version: simple, addictive, and very, very cheap.  Lo and behold, Halo-resistant Xboxers can enjoy Tetris Splash on Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday for a thumbs-up price of 800 MS points.


So the word “Splash” signifies what kind of gimmick?  Are we going to have to endure yet another misguided attempt to spice up a game in need of no spice?  The answer is a sweet, merciful “no.”  This is old-fashioned Tetris, exactly what XBLA needs.  The only difference is that this version can accomodate up to six people at once, and the “splash” only means that it sports an aquatic theme. 

I was afraid there’d be an option to drop a boulder onto the blocks and “splash” some of them off the board.  I would have then decided to drop a boulder on my 360 and “splash” it across my driveway.


 And neither one is Puzzle Quest <author destroys workspace in blind fury>

There, that’s better.  Major Nelson has revealed two more XBLA titles due out the usual Wednesday this week.  First is Space Giraffe, a blistering version of Tempest that has built a considerable amount of buzz; it’s priced at 400 MS Points.  Secondly is Street Trace: NYC for 800 MS Points, where up to eight people can street race or arena-duel on Marty McFly hoverboards.  I get the feeling the success of Street Trace is going depend entirely on how well the hoverboards control.

Talk about craptastic timing.  These poor things will have to pull some mind-bending tricks to pull us all out of Rapture.  But I’ll exit to the dashboard and give these little gems a whirl if I feel a Little Sister-induced freakout coming on.

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

I was excited at the prospect of finally getting to try Marathon: Durandal, Bungie’s ancient foray into the realm of first-person shooters. I remember its praise in the mid-1990s, but also its unfortunate Mac exclusivity. Doom and Duke Nukem substituted social interaction for me back then, and my world still had plenty of room for Marathon. My Windows-based PC disapproved, however. So, over a decade later, I finally get the chance to play this on Xbox Live Arcade. Turns out, there’s a prerequisite to nostalgia: you had to be there.

When Doom showed up on Live Arcade by surprise last year, I actually changed my Live gamertag motto to “OMFG DOOM!!!!” for a few weeks. I played beginning to end, loving every moment all over again. I so look forward to a Live Arcade version of Duke Nukem 3D–I may even buy that sight unseen. If given the chance back in the nineties, I surely would have felt the same for Marathon. Maybe later on I’ll get that urge to time warp back and investigate further, but the trial version left me with no desire to drop even $10 for the whole game. I’m sure the primitive gameplay, seemingly random level design, 2D enemies, and three-frame reloading animations will be welcomed back into the hearts of those who loved Marathon all those years ago. For me, it’s a missed opportunity that will never return, and I’m disappointed in that I’ll never feel what a great game it probably was.

A video game called “Carcassonne” can be an immediate turnoff simply due to its unwieldy title (or maybe because it contains the word “carcass”). Actually it’s a rather excellent Xbox Live Arcade title translated from a popular German board game. The object is to “own” more property than your opponents, but it’s a far cry from Monopoly. You do this by expanding your empire by placing randomly-chosen tiles representing such things as cities, roads, rivers, farmland, and monasteries. You lay claim to areas by placing “followers” on them. If you claim part of a city, for example, and the city is completed, you win the point value based on its size. The tutorial fails to cover all the angles, but a few rounds with the AI will fill in the gaps quickly. Carcassonne definitely falls into the category of “easy to learn, hard to master”, as most excellent games do. It’s a strangely addictive empire-builder everyone should try.