Monday 3 May 2010

E14 Arcade

Welcome to E14 Arcade, where we give a couple of examples of some top-quality downloadable games for the different consoles. Let's be fair: not everyone has the means (or indeed the inclination) to spend out £40 (or $60) on new games all the time, so with E14 Arcade you can find yourself some more appropriately priced games (and in the case of our recommendations, sufficiently awesome games).

'Splosion Man
Xbox Live Arcade, 800 Microsoft Points (around £6.00 or $10.00).

The game includes 100 total levels. The aim of the game is to "splode" through a series of levels consisting of puzzles, traps, and enemies. A "splode" is effectively a jump, and the resulting explosion can also be used to kill enemies, demolish walls, detonate explosive barrels or trigger other effects. The character can explode up to three times before needing to take a breather to replenish his supply.

Playing as a 2-D side-scroller in the vein of Super Metroid and games of that ilk, although the only thing your character is armed with is the ability to splode through the levels. The game is a fast-paced platformer of sorts, with most of the focus being the travel from left to right as 'Splosion Man. There are a variety of puzzles and traps, some of which are slow-paced and allow for a little bit of thought, but for the most part you're having to think on your feet and show quick reflexes in order to escape from (among other things) rapidly closing walls, rising water levels and spike traps.

One of the great things about this game is the challenge involved in completing each level. When it comes to difficulty, I'm personally of the opinion that a game can be challenging and difficult as long as you feel like it's not unreasonably so. If I can't do a level (although I'm not a great example as I generally suck at video games), I'll only feel downtrodden if there's no possible way I can finish it. With games like 'Splosion Man, although I die a lot in the game, I don't feel like it's impossible, just sufficiently challenging.

Another great thing about this game is the sense of humour. There's a launch trailer below, so you can get an idea of the style of humour, with enemies becoming various cuts of meat as they are "sploded" by our hero, and generally the funny stuff consists of the game allowing you to do more and more messed up things to them, be they dropping a gate on their head or just blowing them up as you come flying through a window. Either way, there's plenty of steaks flying around on some levels, and there's even an achievement for killing enough enemies to produce a large number of fillets.

Even better is the fact that there are 100 levels to this game, with 50 of them comprising the story mode. The other 50 are multiplayer levels, for up to 4 co-operative players, who can "splode" alongside or on top of each other in order to attain greater heights. For a game of this type to have 50 levels is one thing. For it to have another entirely different 50 for multiplayer means that for around £6/$10, you can't really go wrong by adding this to your Arcade collection.

World of Goo
PC, Mac, Linux & WiiWare, £16.99 or 1500 WiiPoints.

World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game for Wii and PC/Mac, with the idea of the game to get a specified number of goo balls to the pipe at the exit of the level. To do this, you have to organise the balls of goo into towers, ropes and bridges in order to solve puzzles and get them to their goal. If you want an idea of a game that was of a similar type, think along the lines of Lemmings, one of the scarcely-mentioned classics on older home computers. A crude example, I know, and I'm not saying they're identical, but it's a similar idea at least.

The game has a Tim Burton style, with bright colours offset against almost a sepia finish in places, along with some suitably Elfman-esque music to accompany the visuals. It's a stunning style, no doubt, and it makes for a particular atmosphere that's very reminiscient of a Burton movie, particularly as the game itself is a little quirky.

What's cool is the amount of depth involved in the game. There are five chapters, each divided up into over ten levels, each with the same objective: get to the pipe, which will always be somewhere in the air above you. However, the ways to reach that pipe can vary wildly from level to level, meaning that you're required to think on your feet and do each level in a different way. One could involve you building a straight tower, and another could see you building a sort of rollcage-type structure in order to counteract a rotating platform.

It's a great game with a lot of depth, despite what first impressions might suggest, and is certainly a fun concept. After a few levels, my play almost became along the lines of Jenga, the popular brick-related building game, where everytime I moved a goo ball away from a lower position to a higher one, that it may end up dropping my structure completely and making the move pointless. This is only true of a few levels, true, but the physics in the game are spot-on, so if you're not paying enough attention to the layout of your structure, it may drop.

What's always nice is when a developer decides definitively between whether or not to do a sequel. Developer 2D Boy have stated for the time being that they're not going to be doing a sequel for World of Goo, and instead support the first game with extra levels and modification tools. Oftentimes, you can find that the modding community can really do some exciting stuff with a game. Then, sometimes they just do nudey versions of female game characters.

Castle Crashers
Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network (Release TBA), 1200 MS Points (Around £10, $15)

Castle Crashers, developed by The Behemoth, the studio behind Alien Hominid, is a side-scrolling fighting game in the vein of Streets of Rage and others of that style. The story is that you play as one of four knights of the realm, looking to save four princesses after an evil wizard attacks the castle. You do this through travelling the world, and beating on any hostile enemies you come across with a combination of magic and melée attacks.

Although the game is an action-focused experience, it also benefits from elements of RPGs, with experience, and sometimes money, being earned for each enemy you kill. Numerous weapons and spells are available in the game, and players can also take advantage of another feature, animal companions. These hover next to you and can do anything from boosting the experience you get from each kill all the way to actually attacking enemies alongside your attacks and magic.

Again, this game benefits from a development team with a great sense of humour, and particular scenes of merit include a woodland scene where progressively larger animals shit themselves (literally) upon hearing some massive pounding sounds along the floor. It's pretty funny to watch a grizzly bear come roaring out from behind a bush, think to yourself "Ah, it must be him that's been making all that noise", then see him fill his bush (in the absence of pants) and scarper. Having said that, it did then make me think "Oh shit, what's that coming then?"

It's difficult to describe what it was, it was enormous though.

Another bonus of this game is that it's a different experience from single player to multiplayer. In the single player game, the object is not to die at all and to earn the gratitude of the princess in the form of a smooch. In the multiplayer game, players can revive each other as long as they have the few seconds they need to perform the revival action, and only one knight can earn the smooch of a princess, in which case it becomes a fight to the finish (don't worry though, death at that point is not permanent).

Add to this that The Behemoth have supported the game with two pieces of downloadable content, adding new characters and weapons, and the game has plenty of lifespan. The price is sometimes a stumbling block initially for players, but there is certainly enough here for the price.

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