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There are now over four hundred XBLA
games available for download, and with such a variety of downloadable games to
choose from, it’s best to think carefully and check what’s best for your cash
before you splash out those Microsoft points. As well as XBLA exclusives, some of the best titles available from the marketplace are re-releases of older games, allowing gamers to replay past
classics or to hit up a masterpiece they never got the chance to play.
Let’s start with one of the best of
those classics: Perfect Dark. Originally released on the N64, Perfect Dark
features secret agent Joanna Dark, thrown in the middle of a war between two different
races of alien. As well as a very lengthy campaign, Perfect Dark boasts a
brilliant multiplayer mode, a “combat simulator” which sees you completing
a variety of different tasks in beautiful gameplay, similar to Rare’s previous
FPS, Goldeneye. For the bargain price of just 800 points, Perfect Dark is one of the
great pioneers in the world of FPS, and a must-have for anyone who’s an avid
player of the shooters that are around now.
It’s a shame that the platforming genre seems to have taken a noticeable
decline on most console formats (with the exception of the Nintendo consoles).
The only platformer games you see nowadays are your generic
movie tie-ins, which nine times out of ten, are absolutely abysmal.
Banjo-Kazooie is a game that any Mario or platforming fan should play. Once
again, 800 points lets you grab a title which will see you emerged into a fantasy
world of complete adventuring ecstasy. You play as Banjo the bear, who keeps
his avian companion Kazooie hidden away in his backpack! This character model
creates a unique and innovative playing style, allowing you to utilize a
combination of techniques between the two characters. You will learn
new skills which let you progress through levels and collect “Jiggies” (jigsaw
pieces), which literally unlock new stages along the way. This is the closet any
developer has ever come to giving Mario 64 a run for its money.
A game that costs 1200 Microsoft points needs to live up to its price, not only in terms of
playability, but its re-playability also. Trials HD does just that, and it does
it bloody fantastically. You know that saying, “If at first you don’t succeed,
try, try again”? This couldn’t be any more relevant to Trials HD. It’s part of
what makes it such an addictive game; the simple idea of persistence after
bailing on that jump for the fifty-ninth time eventually pays off and you’re
rewarded with an amazing sense of self triumph, and maybe an improved gamerscore if you’re
lucky. The simple idea of side scrolling motocross has been reinvented and
turned into a masterpiece. This needs to be on your hard drive.
There are times when you feel like shelling out on the more expensive titles, but what do you do when you’re left
with an amount of, say, 400 points? You immediately spend them on the original Sonic
the Hedgehog or Worms. I say immediately spend them, because that’s what you
should do. Don’t spend time browsing through the catalogue looking for
something as cheap that’s going to be as enjoyable, because you just won’t find
it. We all know who Sonic is: he’s the coolest hedgehog around. He spends his
time matching land speed records, collecting rings, and then evidently using
them to splash out on sweet new trainers. Worms is probably one of the best
ways to spend a night in. Nothing beats getting a few beers in, geathering a few
friends round, and then absolutely destroying them with mad ninja rope skills
and insanely timed grenade throws. Now featuring online play via Xbox Live,
there’s never been a better time to pick this game up.
There are also the titles out there that should be avoided at all costs.
You know, the titles where, after you’ve clicked on them and wasted several minutes of
your time reading the description or downloading a demo, you feel like you’re
owed that time back. Developers shouldn’t create games that are making you ask
them for minutes of your life back, they’re precious minutes that could go into
skill whoring on Skyrim – give me iron daggers and put me in a smithee’s. Instead, you’ve found yourself a couple of megabytes
short on memory and feel like considerably less of a human being. Shrek-N-Roll
is one of those games. Bang a movie character in the name of a title and it
will sell, regardless of the quality of the game. It’s pretty much video game
politics. I’ll admit, it did look fun, and being the impatient bastard I am, I poured
away 800 points into a destructive bowl of self-pity. Flawed gameplay mechanics and excessive
repetition make me a very, very sad man.