Tagged: Xbox Live Arcade

Done Playing: World Gone Sour (Xbox Live Arcade)

World Gone Sour is another one of those increasingly common games that I buy not for its apparent quality but because of how it revolves around real people I know online. When certified real person Adam Boyes (from co-developer Beefy Media) plays the game alongside equally real Giant Bomb co-founder Jeff Gerstmann, their banter is more than just a PR dude trying to sell a press guy on the game. They’re friends and though they may not call me the same, I feel a friendly connection to the two from years of Giant Bomb podcasts and tweets. It was during this quick look that Boyes mentioned a Giant Bomb logo hidden in the game which further blurs the line between things I like. If that wasn’t weird enough context to come into this review I also just earned enough free Microsoft Points from Bing to cover the cost of the game. Let’s just qualify it as “individual results will vary”.

World Gone Sour is a game about Sour Patch Kids candy but like in the days of Cool Spot and M.C. Kids it doesn’t shove candy or soda or happy meals down your throat. The licensed property is just there to set the scene, in this case a world where candy that doesn’t get eaten goes crazy and builds contraptions and obstacles out of everyday junk. You’re a saintly sour patch candy whose quest to rescue his friends has suppressed the madness. What that sets up is a Pikmin-lite system where you find other Sour Patch Kids and hurl them at switches, precariously placed pick-ups, or absorb them to grow bigger and enable new powers.

Those powers include growing and shrinking in size, doing a ground pound move and using your buddies like a bowling ball to take out enemies and explore the side-scrolling levels. It’s nothing cerebral like Fez or daunting like Super Meat Boy and paired with the mellow music and narration of Creed Bratton the whole game feels largely subdued. I’d even call it a nice change of pace from other platformers of late that feel like they’re out to prove something. World Gone Sour is also subdued (in a bad way here) in its visuals with textures that almost look out of a PlayStation 2 game. I like the Toy Story scale of things and the depth of field effects but I didn’t expect to be squinting at blurry objects to make out the gag labels in a modern game. That Giant Bomb logo looks crisp though, oh, and so do the Sour Patch Kids themselves. You can practically taste the crystals of high fructose corn syrup that cover them.

World Gone Sour is aware of what it is — a platformer based on a licensed piece of candy — and it tries to make it special. The narration is clever in spots and the Method Man video takes itself perfectly seriously but it doesn’t go far enough to be really memorable. If you don’t also have a strange meta connection to those involved with its production I can only call it a palette cleanser that isn’t as sour as you’d expect from a pun that bad. It’s cheap, lasts for a couple of days, has local co-op play and you’ll likely get all of the Achievements without much extra work. I hate to call it a throwaway diversion between bigger games but given the sugary nature of the source material that may be the most fitting way to put it.

U-WARS is now Deep Black, Episodic on Xbox?

Back in 2009 when I was writing for a site that has since deleted or hidden all my posts (not mad, really) I wrote up a game then known as Underwater Wars or U-WARS. It had already been in development at Russian studio Biart for a while and I was enticed by its cover based shooter gameplay set largely underwater. Thruster powered diving suits, harpoon guns, and hostile submersibles were all promised. Long (dev) story short, the game took a while to find a global publisher for consoles.

Ok, now for another long story. At least on Xbox Live Arcade the game is tagged as Deep Black: Episode 1 and priced at 800 Microsoft Points for release on April 25th. The full game, a German-exclusive PC release from last May included 40 missions and 8+ hours of gamplay so there’s no telling just yet what your 800 Points will get you. More confusingly, the game is also coming to PlayStation Network without the ‘Episode 1’ designation on the box art. Will it cost more? Contain the full PC experience? Is there multiplayer in any version?

It looks like I’ll have to wait until the day of release to finally put this U-WARS story to bed. Once that’s sorted out we can move on to whatever the hell Deep Black Online and Deep Black: Reloaded are.

 

Well it’s about time!

After waiting since 2007 I was beginning to think a message like this would never happen but today, my bank account can confirm, I actually bought Fez. If it lives up to what feels like a lifetime of hopes and expectations is a much bigger hurdle for the game to leap.

Done Playing: Scarygirl (XBLA)

My first exposure to Scary Girl — the gothic storybook creation of Australian artist Nathan Jurevicius — came in 2009 with the official Flash game. Part platformer, part adventure game I loved looking at the 2D art but didn’t care much for actually playing it. Three years later and I’m surprised to see a Square Enix published follow-up as a full-fledged side-scrolling 3D platformer. Finally, I’ll get to enjoy a Scarygirl game for its looks and its gameplay… I thought.

While it starts out pedestrian enough with short levels, a handful of enemies and some pick-ups Scarygirl secretly aspires to be a hardcore old school platformer: precision timed jumps, crystals that are just out of reach, waves of enemies with fast attacks, and punishing boss encounters with multiple patterns to memorize. Oh, and don’t let those patterns flutter too far out of your mind because in the last level you’ll be fighting them over again.

I haven’t undertaken that kind of platforming challenge in a while but I’m still certain that Scarygirl’s frustrating difficulty comes mostly from its clunky controls. Not even jumping feels right as Scarygirl goes straight into a helicopter-tentacle hover if you hold the button at all. That hover move also sends her slightly higher than a normal jump and you’ll frequently have to hover into the sides of ledges before she elevates enough to land on top. Combat grows more complex from the basic light and juggle attacks at the start but I never found it reliable enough to be any fun. Spamming a powerful combo to keep enemies at bay or running past them altogether was what kept me sane as they line up to take potshots while you attempt to block and counter. You also have a grapple move that’s used to swing from hooks and the ability to grab dazed enemies and throw them around but those too felt unreliable and twitchy.

In starkest of contrasts to the gameplay, Scarygirl is a downright joy to look at! The hand drawn characters from the online comic and graphic novels have been transmutated into splendid 3D form. They lack the 2D charm that I love but I was constantly enamored with the way this game looks and moves. There’s plenty of depth-of-field effects and the camera moves pretty frequently, keeping the perspective fresh. The music and sound effects aren’t as exceptional but they fit in fine with the whimsical presentation.

Scarygirl embodies a love/hate formula that had me both desperate to be done with the game but also yearning for more to see. Funny, then, that the game checks multiple times for DLC when you load it up. Whatever that content may be I have a hard time recommending a full price purchase. Six hours of frustrating (single or co-op) platforming for some pretty visuals is a tough sell. The only reason to slog through it again is to find secrets and buy collectibles and that’s not incentive enough for me. I say save yourself the pain and go right to the source: buy the graphic novel.

Vessel fills me with fluid dynamics, love

Fluid dynamics… You guys!! Fluid! Dynamics! Yes, it’s another side-scrolling, puzzle/platformer with a physics hook and I can’t help myself. Here’s the latest look at Strange Loop Games’ Vessel which is coming to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network “late 2011” for the asking price of $15. That’s always a tough price point for me.