Monday 29 November 2010

E14 Arcade

We've all had it: that one relative who says "What should I get you for Christmas?" and then wrinkles their nose when you say that vouchers are fine if they can't think of anything. I, personally, have never seen the problem with vouchers provided that they're for a shop that sells fun stuff. I would be happy to receive HMV vouchers, GAME or even Blockbuster, but I'd balk at opening my card to find a five pound gift card for Halfords. "Ooh, now I can stock up on air fresheners!"

Anyway, this week sees a slight variation on E14 Arcade, as this edition is devoted entirely to the games that you should be focused on, just on the off-chance that someone gets you either Xbox Live points or Playstation Network credits.

Shank - Available on Xbox Live Arcade & Playstation Network

Shank is a 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up in the vein of Kill Bill. The cartoon graphics on it are slightly misleading, as the game itself is hyper-violent (because, after all, it's themed on stuff like Kill Bill) as the hero, Shank, makes his way through a series of criminals who have turned on him and killed his girlfriend.

The game plays akin to the old classic side-scrolling fighting games, such as Streets of Rage. In my case, that means "bash the buttons like a fucking maniac until everything around you is reduced to a fine red mist." The advantage of Shank as a character is that he has more in the way of arms to get him through than the cast of Streets of Rage. Straight away, you're armed with a chainsaw as a heavy attack, pistols as a ranged weapon and your titular 'shanks' as a fast, light attack. As if that wasn't enough, you also gain an Uzi as well as a Samurai sword over the course of the game. How cool is that?!

The game also features a reasonably lengthy single player campaign mode, with two difficulty levels, as well as a co-op campaign detailing the backstory leading up to the events of the single player campaign. With value like that, you'll be pleased you own it!

Shadow Complex - Available on Xbox Live Arcade

Shadow Complex is a 2D side-scrolling shooter more akin to games like the older Metroid series. The story follows a guy named Jason Flemming, who stumbles across a terror plot while on a hike with an attractive female that he presumably wants to bang. If he doesn't, quite why he goes after her when she gets captured is beyond me.

What's great about this game is that although the action is based on a 2-dimensional perspective, the action itself can actually work in different depths of perspective. As an example, if you have an enemy at the back of the screen going through a door into your area, you can shoot him despite the fact that you're not on the same plane as him. It's a really interesting way of doing the game style and making it work, and something that really looks more awesome as you see it happen in front of you for the first time.

With a variety of weapons, including a foam gun which allows you to make platforms to reach distant objects (and potentially, so I've been told, sequence-break the game so that you can finish it in less than half an hour), as well as some legitimately tough enemies and some decent AI, the game is well worth picking up.

But then, what do you expect from the development studio who brought you Gears of War?

DeathSpank - Available now on Xbox Live Arcade & Playstation Network

If the name Ron Gilbert doesn't mean anything to you, and you're unsure as to why his name should be relevant, I'll clarify. Ron Gilbert, the creator of the character of DeathSpank, is one of the minds that was responsible for the Monkey Island series of adventure games, one of the rare game series that both Brad and I will agree were awesome. It's not that we often disagree, more that there are fewer franchises in common, but off the top of my head I can only think of Monkey Island and Silent Hill.

DeathSpank plays a little like Diablo in some ways, with the main character travelling across a map doing quests for various characters such as ridding the lands of a particular enemy or number of enemies, or finding an enchanted item. When you consider that Diablo was a full retail game, i.e. a game that is charged at around thirty pounds in the UK, it's pretty strange to consider that arcade games are getting to this point.

The main thing that sets this game apart from a lot of the arcade games released is that the sense of humour from Gilbert's earlier works is ever-present in the game. In an interview with IGN's "Game Scoop!" podcast, Gilbert stated that the reason for the dialogue system he has always preferred is simply that where one developer can give one laugh from a dialogue exchange if there are no options, he can get up to four laughs from the same exchange by giving the character some funny responses to choose from, even if the player doesn't choose the other three.

Well, there you have it. This year, if you're a gift-buyer buying for someone with one of the main consoles, you now know that buying vouchers aren't as bad as all that with all of the awesome Arcade games available! If you're a console owner, and you get vouchers for Christmas, your yuletide celebration is saved, courtesy of E14. VoilĂ . You're welcome.
Words: Rob Wade

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