Archive for the ‘XBLA’ Category

Band of Bugs Review

October 19, 2008

So Far Band of Bugs has been slammed by critics and has an average review score of 69/100. DO NOT be swayed by this without trying the game. The basic problem in a lot of these reviews is that they view Band of Bugs as too easy for tactic/strategy game fans and too hard for casual players. My problem with so many of the reviews is that they seem to be reviewing and critiquing the concept of Band of Bugs (create a simplistic and more casual tactics experience) than the actual game itself. Why such glowing reviews when Ninjabee simplified RTS genre in Outpost Kaloki? Aren’t RTS fans as hardcore and particular as Tactics/Strategy fans? Apparently not.

In the end, a review is just a person’s opinion. Typically, I think that all the critics reviews average out correctly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Band of Bugs. At least, that’s not the direction the reviews are heading. I can only hope that I fairly review the game and voice some opinion or perspective that is worthwhile.

Graphics: 9/10
Pros: Phenomenal 2D art..Gigantic HD handdrawn depictions of all the bugs look great! 3D engine looks good for a Live release and all the different types of units and teams are easily discerned. The animation of all the critters is stellar.
Cons: The different color line shading does detract from the graphics somewhat…taking this option off is usually not worth doing in multiplayer, but it does improve the 3D graphics.

Gameplay: 8/10
Pros: Fully Featured game with an enjoyable campaign, a multitute of online modes, and a level editor. This is where Band of Bugs has really been critiqued and while I found the campaign somewhat easy, I was very entertained and it was all over too quickly. I was actually left with questions about Maal’s origin and hope that DLC will fill in these holes. The campaign dialogue is absolutely brilliant and quite witty and funny. While strategy/tactics fans may find the game easy or simplistic, the point of the game was to make this genre of games more approachable and casual. Outpost Kaloki certainly simplified RTS games, and I loved that it did (not being the biggest RTS fan) even though I struggle to beat certain levels. While I agree that Band of Bugs is no Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem, etc. is it fair to compare it to these full retail games? I don’t think so…it would be like comparing Outpost Kaloki to Command & Conquer 3.
Cons: I did miss the rock-paper-scissors weapon element that is present in the fire emblems, but this game is supposed to be simplistic. I do agree with some of the other reviews about the RPG elements and stat-tracking. Adding in some character customization would have been great…from naming them, to picking 2-3 skills/abilities/spells. I think it could have been added while still staying simplistic and casual.

Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: The bug voices/gibberish is absolutely great and works perfectly with the game’s sense of humor and tone. The sound FX as a whole are well thought out and distinctive to certain units, actions, etc. The Music is good and fits with the theme…
Cons: ..but some of the music misses and feels a little repetetive…ok only 1 particular song, but still a con.

Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: I find it hard for anyone to argue over the feature set in this game. It offers a variety of multiplayer modes: Spider Hunter, Elimination, Capture, etc. both online and locally. There is also the great addition of a Level Editor plus a full 20 mission campaign story mode with additional stand alone missions. It’s a game chock-full-to the brim with features for $10.
Cons: My complaint is squarely on the online multiplayer… I have found it very hard to find ranked games and virtually all the games I have played have been Spider Hunter. I really love elimination and find a human opponent very fun to compete with online…so Band of Bug players stop playing Spider Hunter.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +2.00%

Don’t get me wrong, Band of Bugs has it’s issue and may not be a homerun for Strategy Fans, but it delivers on a ton of features. While RPG elements and custom Bug armies would have been great, this game’s purpose was to offer a simplified and more casual Tactics gameplay experience. Ninjabee certainly delivered on this goal and exceeded their previous titles in the story mode and dialogue category if you ask me. My biggest issue with the game is that I wanted more of the campaign, more Maal, and that I find it incredibly hard and time consuming to find online ranked elimination/capture matches. Everyone plays Spider Hunter! I don’t think I’ve mentioned that the turn system works FANTASTIC for online matches and keeps them action packed. Great design decision! All in all Band of Bugs offers a lot of game for $10. Perhaps the reason for all the low reviews is that people are comparing it to $50-60 titles, since the quality of the game and features resemble those full priced titles over the typical offerings of Xbox Live. Give Band of Bugs a chance, you probably will find yourself smiling and chuckling along with Maal and his gang.

Verdict: 92%

Outpost Kaloki (X) Review

October 18, 2008

Let me start out by saying that I love this game. More power to Ninjabee(http://www.ninjabee.com/)! They have 2 of my favorite Xbox Live Arcade games and they’ve only made 2 games for the 360 so far (as far as I know). I don’t really know how to describe Outpost Kaloki X. It is part Real Time Strategy Game, part Action Game, and part Puzzler. It all winds together into a great package. Outpost Kaloki was originally available for PC and was heralded with critical acclaim. Only reason I didn’t get it for PC was because I figured Xbox version for $10 was better than PC version for $20. Yes, as surprising as it may be, I dont’ make the big bucks blogging and making Video Games- the 9-5 job is the one that provides me with food. Bottom line is that Outpost Kaloki is a very addicting and frantic Action/RTS game and an absolute must buy for Xbox 360 owners.

Gameplay: 9/10
Pros: Gameplay is way quicker and action packed than most RTS. You really have to build things in the right order, and be ready to increase power, alter settings, and build the next building just as you’ve earned the money to pay for it in order to beat the level and not run out of time. I can’t imagine successfully managing my space station in ther later levels at the faster gameplay speeds. (After Level 6 I pretty much stuck with Speed 1). This all adds up to there constantly being something to do or attend to as you reach for your goal. The Controls are spot on and make it easy to navigate to all your expansions. The game is simple enough to pick up and play, but is a lot more complicated than you think.
Cons: This game can be pretty hard. I have been playing the game a lot and am not that far in the campaign, but have had to consistently replay levels in order to complete them (but I immediately clicked retry and got right back into it!). The instructions on how to play could have been more in depth to help you understand the necessary intricacies of gameplay. A tad too hard.
Graphics: 9/10
Pros: The graphics are fully 3d and the engine runs incredibly fast and smooth. What’s even better is the variety of stations that each new level brings, from a crazy pink domed station to a giant oak tree! What’s more important is that each facility/expansion is easily identifiable so you can quickly sell and upgrade or change attributes. I also love the cartoony feel of the menus and cast of characters and aliens.
Cons: Graphics definitely lack the wow factor since this game just focuses on resource management. No real battles or crazy effects to speak of, but you do have to love the hustle and bustle of a successful space station and all the dollar bill and money indicators.
Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: The simple clicks and beeps of the menus work well. The cha-ching of money is always nice. The music is very catchy…and I have found myself grooving to it when my station is doing well and I’m in the zone. The music really stands out…but
Cons: The music really stands out…but it can be repetitive.
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: The main campaign scenarios feature over 20 levels, add to that several downloadable scenarios, different story lines, and modes and you have a hefty game with plenty of levels and fun to be had. I just glanced at the Ninjabee website and there is significant DLC.
Cons: If you don’t like the game you won’t want to take advantage of these ways to extend it. It would’ve been cool to see some sort of multiplayer or online aspect.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +4.00%
I have to give a little extra to this title because last night everything just clicked and became uber fun. I finally advanced to a level with several options, tons of ships visiting my station, new upgrades, and not nearly enough time to get everything done. I failed the level twice, but then it all came together and money started pouring in as I frantically switched, repaired, and adjusted my expansions. With my continuing success came a joy and right before I finished the final objective, knowing my inevitable victory, I took a break from my feeble dancing attempts and yelled a resounding “Yes!” How many games can spur such a response? Not many…how many games can do it for $10? Even Less. Outpost Kaloki is a gem that I have to wholeheartedly recommend.
Verdict: 94%

Castle Crashers Review

October 13, 2008

Castle Crashers finally arrived in late August and has been surrounded by controversy. First, there was the alleged rumored price of $22.50 that caused the internet to erupt in outrage…no worries though, the game is only $15. Then there were the 2 heinous bugs that caused the Behemoth’s devlog and Castle Crashers site to crash. I have actually suffered both bugs…. 1 bug being that I cannot play online at all and the other being that my Level 28 knight, unlockables, and save file were erased on me right when I got to the Marsh level. Despite these bugs, I’m still a huge fan of Castle Crashers and have happily surpassed the point of first game erasure.

Castle Crashers exudes tremendous personality. Dan Paladin’s hand drawn graphics are superb and there is a ton of humor and extra animation work that create mostly great moments (thief washing scrubbing clothes in the river, Ice/Barbarian Boss taking the time to laugh at you, Barbarian punching knocked down gray knight) and some not so funny ones (Thieves Forest animal crapping is just too much…Owl ok…deer & bear excessive). The sheer amount of work, animations, characters, levels, etc that went into this game is incredibly commendable.

Let’s get to the particulars. I’ve already talked about the great graphics and animations, the story is thin… 4 knights have their 4 chicks stolen, but all the animated sequences (there’s no dialogue) put together an interesting, if shallow story. The music is very catchy especially the shop theme and suits the eccentricity and theme of the title very well. The gameplay recreates the arcade co-op beat-em-up gameplay perfectly. It’s instantly playable, and the leveling system gives the game depth. Leveling up unlocks deeper combos and magic abilities. There’s also an immense amount of content to unlock from weapons, animal orbs, secret characters, etc.

It is a very big letdown that Online has been completely unplayable (I got about 30 secs of all you can quaff online once) but the Behemoth has assured its fans that a title update and downloadable content is on the way. I have played the game splitscreen and it is way more fun with a friend, even if a little less challenging. The major negatives for me have been the bugs (erasing my save was especially infuriating) and the annoying enemies that stand off the stage and shoot projectiles at you. All in all though this game is superb, utterly unique, and a must buy on XBLA. Hopefully, the online issues will be fixed and we’ll all be questing online in the coming weeks.

Orange Knight Rules!

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal 9.5/10

Average: 93.75%
Tilt: -0.75% (sorry gotta take some off for the bugs)

Verdict: 93%

Braid Review

October 13, 2008


Braid is a very commendable and entralling independent game by Jonathan Blow. First let me start off by saying that screenshots do not do this game justice. While the game is not pushing the graphical power of the Xbox, David Hellman’s art for the game is simply fantastic. The game has a unique water color look to it and the swirling colors and especially the parralax backgrounds can astonish and fit perfectly into this surreal sort of fairy tale. The story of braid is interesting and has a pretty good twist of an ending. It’s certainly one of the best XBLA stories out there. Since it’s all presented in text form, it does lose something that other full priced games have. Let’s get to it though, the best thing about Braid is the gameplay. It is a puzzle platform game revolving around time manipulation. This time manipulation reduces frustration (since if you die, you just rewind) and changes in each world keeping things very fresh.


Braid is doing everything right so far, but it does stumble. Braid is incredibly short and has little in the way of replay value (a speed achievement). While the shortness is refreshing (I really like that I’ve beaten the game, enjoyed it, experienced it and can now move on), 1 more world of puzzles with 1 more mechanic would have gone a long way to flesh out the package. The game is about $5 more expensive than a lot of the other XBLA games out there, but let’s be honest, this game deserves to have you $15 and was made by an indie studio rather than Capcom or some other uber developer. Still, I can see people’s complaints about price (as spoiled as they are) especially with the brevity of the game. My only other complaint about the game is the lack of different enemies/hazards (c’mon 2 enemies?) and a lack of graphical diversity (the opening stage looks to cool! why are all the levels sprawling green hills?).

Bottom line is that this game is not for everybody, but is a very delightful and engaging little title. It is a very unique game that is definitely worth your time and money. I downloaded the trial game and unlocked the full version before I was even finished with the trial. Give it a try, support an indie game developer, and discover the clever story twist.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 6/10

Average: 82.5%
Tilt: + 4.50%

Verdict: 87%

Switchball Review

October 7, 2008

Switchball is one of the best looking XBLA titles available (I think Undertow beats it, but that’s it). In addition, it is also a very entertaining and rewarding game. I guess you would call Switchball a puzzle game, but you certainly need some platforming skills to successfully roll your ball to the exit. The gamplay a revolves around…switchball-ing (sounds dirty)…switching your ball into other forms in order to complete tasks and move onto the exit. There’s the standard marble, the heavy metal ball, a bouncy airball, and a slick multifaceted powerball. The art direction in this game is superb. The world is a beautiful looking DaVinci inspired world with odd gyrocopters and perpetuates the idea that you are one marble in a complex machine or gadget. If you like short but sweet games, Switchball is definitely for you.

THE GOOD:
4 different balls to control with different abilities
Beautiful Graphics and unique, interesting worlds
Easy Controls! (Analog stick and the A button)

THE BAD:
Music/Sound is bargain basement and repetitive
There’s only about 30 levels
Time Medals are very Strict

All in all, this game is a great buy for an evening/weekend of relaxing gaming fun. It has a slow pace and easy controls so it can be played by a wide range of people. It’s too bad that the game gets frustrating when you start attempting to complete levels for even a bronze time medal. The music/sound could have been easily improved too, but it’s about par for other games like this one. Give the game a download and try the demo (on Xbox Live or the PC). If it grabs you, give it a purchase and you won’t be disappointed.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10

Verdict: 83%