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Akermans Arcade Asylum

Akerman’s Arcade Asylum
By Nick Akerman

An overview of the some of the new offerings on the LIVE Marketplace and on PSN

In the first of my bi-weekly columns rounding up the world of downloadable content, I take a look at the most interesting titles to recently hit the console marketplace. Not sure what to buy? Check out the impressions below. Look carefully, wildcards could appear at any time!

Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond: (XBLA and PSN)

After a poorly received full release, Matt Hazard arrives on the marketplace looking for some positive exposure. While the main title was never going to compete with the behemoth release schedule last year, the series certainly feels more at home in downloadable form.

If Hazard co-managed to bypass your interest the first time round, then this side-scrolling shoot 'em up could hold some ingredients for success. The series' recognizable satire and game-related humor is here in abundance, and does provide some petty laughs as it points out a number of gaming clichés in the name of fun. Dialogue is mostly text based this time, with the main characters discussing how they can't afford audio after the failure of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard last year. They're cheap laughs, but it's good to see that D3Publisher aren't wallowing in their own self-pity.

Environments are vividly colored and extremely varied, as Hazard quest’s to save his character's legendary status and to defeat the General Neutronov, who has reincarnated all of the chirpy protagonist's enemies one last time. The journey will take you through lush jungles, Japanese temples and the Wild West, as you stumble across many classic gaming influences and level designs. If you haven't played the demo, it's worth doing so just to see the Mario-inspired platform section.

With twitchy gunplay, there's no way this title is going to live up to the technical astuteness of Shadow Complex and many other downloadable side-scrollers, but there is enough light-hearted jesting and intrigue to make it worthy of release.

Read GameZone’s Full Review by Louis Bedigian

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (XBLA)

Just like Matt Hazard, the adventures of Serious Sam involve a hero who isn't afraid to verbally abuse his enemies whilst kicking their butts. In Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Croteam have reproduced the original PC adventure for a console audience. As you battle through Ancient Egypt in search of a mysterious artifact known as the 'Time-Lock,' you better have your trigger finger ready. Serious Sam is the last hope to save the world from annihilation as he battles against a frantically exciting barrage of opponents who are out for his blood. The game doesn't take itself too seriously, and boasts squeaky-clean visuals that are always a welcomed sight for downloadable releases. Not quite matching up to Battlefield 1943's graphical prowess, Serious Sam's gameplay is where the main appeal stands.

As you travel through Egyptian pyramids and forbidden tombs, you're going to be faced with some hilariously bizarre enemies. Serious Sam is the only game that pits you against a headless kamikaze foe, a machine gun-wielding scorpion and an AT-ST styled robot in the matter of seconds. Many opponents' guts and limbs can be blown across each ancient temple, as they explode from the pressure of a few well-placed bullets. Their body-popping antics keep the pacing of the game extremely fast, as enemies attack from all directions. Entering a new room is never safe, as Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter quickly teaches you to cover your backside as quickly as possible.

Look for GameZone's full review coming soon.

Dreams of Witchtown (Xbox Live Indie Games)

As the descendent of Witchtown, Aurora has a huge job on her hands. After it becomes clear this enchanting world is under threat from the power of wizards and witches, the elderly witch travels to the sacred city to place a curse on it. A scrolling introduction announces that, on her way, she was hit in the face with a soccerball, and therefore lost her spells and scrolls that would save the universe. Alas, a true hero doesn't give up there. Aurora picks up the offending ball, places it in her bag and strolls off to find her missing documents.

This is exactly why the Xbox Live Indie Games scene was created. Quirky, out-of-the-box titles like Dreams of Witchtown would never see the light of day without it. If you hadn't worked it out already, your main weapon is the soccerball. 2D side-scrollers are nothing new on the marketplace, but few have the character and excellent art design of Witchtown. A bright color palette isn't the only attractive thing about this game, though; the actual platforming is hugely fun, and will have you leaping about the luscious scenery in seconds. Aurora, despite the announcement she is elderly, wouldn't look out of place alongside Ash in Pokemon as her user-friendly looks will appeal to adults and children alike.

Romping through this world there are many familiar challenges to overcome: collecting coins, rounding up golden stars and tackling enemies. Prepare to volley oversized mushrooms into oblivion, drop-kick gigantic bees across the sky, and even take on a ferocious red dinosaur (another nod to Pokemon). When enemies have been defeated they beautifully disperse into broken pixels, and eventually vanish from sight, leaving the path ahead free to pass. Dreams of Witchtown is wonderfully designed, and even incorporates an RPG leveling up system to keep players making progress. All of this, backed by a well-produced soundtrack, is available for 80 MSP (around $1). You'd be a fool not to give it a try.



NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (WiiWare):

Ok, so this title isn't particularly new, but it's certainly worth a look. A demo has just been released for players who want to try before they buy, and indicates how well produced NyxQuest is.

You assume the role of Nyx, a fairy-like heroine who has arrived in Ancient Greece to search for Icarus. After regular visits from the wax-winged wearer, Icarus suddenly disappears. Despite breaking an ancient bond, Nyx takes to Earth to search for her lost lover, only to find civilization has been ravaged by the war of the Gods. Deserts sweep across the world, swallowing anything that stumbles outside of the slumped ruins that remain. Nyx's quest is full of physical obstacles to overcome in this subtly dark adventure to locate her lost interest.

When taking control of Nyx, you are forced to plan ahead. Before long the power of the Gods will be guiding you on your way, allowing you to harness incredible strength to overcome obstacles. Zeus, for example, provides the chance to lift towering statues and push large blocks that the petite female cannot cross. Her wing power is limited to a few pushes and gliding meaning you are forced to work out a viable solution rather than trusting her flight. Clever use of physics allow you to surf on sliding girders and utilize ruins to their maximum potential, in a title that often rewards those with excellent timing and precision. Challenging, intelligent and expertly designed by Over The Top Games, NyxQuest will test your mettle from start to finish.

Be sure to check back on the 31st January where I once again don my arcade goggles and ogle at more downloadable titles, as well as throwing questions at an unsuspecting developer.

Gw
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