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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.