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Akermans Arcade Asylum Dim the lights, the 'House Party' is wrapping up

March 28, 2010

Akerman’s Arcade Asylum – Dim the lights, the 'House Party' is wrapping up
By Nick Akerman

Microsoft ends the promotion for LIVE downloadable titles

This week's column sees the wrapping up of Microsoft's House Party promotion, as I take a look at the final set of games made available in the last two weeks. There's social times at the arcade, flying through the desert, exploring the galaxy and even the happy-slapping of Peter Molyneux to enjoy. If that doesn't get you excited, I might even get those juices flowing by talking about the occasional downloadable release. Might.

 

Perfect Dark (Xbox Live Arcade)

Although many gamers would opt for GoldenEye 007 to appear on the downloadable scene before Perfect Dark, we're pleased to have the spiritual successor up for grabs. Joanna Dark's adventure provides a subtle way of reminding ourselves just how far the FPS genre has come over the years, as the simple gunplay and corridor focused level-design feels a world away from most titles released this generation.

With a visual overhaul, and guest appearance or two (which the series is renowned for), Perfect Dark is still surprisingly fun to play. The escapades of Perfect Dark Zero around the 360's launch may have disappointed the majority, but it's hugely refreshing to trawl through the simple levels of the original release without the need for overcomplicated objectives. With auto-aim on, Perfect Dark actually manages to feel relaxing, such is the difficulty of games like Metro 2033 that we've played recently. If you missed out on this one first time round, it's definitely worth picking up. The fact that Miss Dark now resembles a certain 'Umbrella' wielding pop-star only serves as an added bonus.

Game Room (Xbox Live Arcade)

The final piece to Microsoft's House Party puzzle, Game Room has been much anticipated over the last few weeks. Creating a virtual arcade isn't exactly original, but there's a lot of potential to be explored here.

Vitally, Game Room brings back the sights and sounds of the arcade scene in abundance. Whether it's the clattering of coins dropping, the bleeps of a retro game or the fist-punching action of an overexcited player, it certainly reminded us of days gone by. We love being able to play a host of forgotten games at the touch of a button, but there's a fault in the system right now. The catalogue  isn't interesting or extensive enough to warrant much interest as of yet, especially if you aren't keen on paying for Atari or Konami games that are available on a host of other formats for free.

It's certainly a welcomed addition to the arcade scene, but we're hoping Game Room evolves quickly with an interesting library of games that goes beyond the realms of Centipede and Asteroids. Definitely one to watch, but right now, Microsoft's tag that they're providing  “Affordable blockbuster games” is a little misleading.

Avatar Cannon (Xbox Live Indie Games)

The avatar-based games catalogue is hastily growing on Xbox Live, and Avatar Cannon is one of the most entertaining to hit the store. There's something so charming about seeing our on-screen characters fired across the African Savannah, as Avatar Cannon proves itself to be an addictive title.

Many gamers will have played this over and over again via Flash, but there's challenge and a cheap price tag here to make it worth a shot. Your job is to land on as many bounce-giving animals and props as possible to gain the longest flight from your starting point. This may mean hurtling towards the rear of a flatulent elephant (which is why our avatar wears a gas mask), using a giraffe's neck for leverage or even the tusk of a rhinoceros to get an extended journey. Be careful though, there's pesky monkeys and a host of other critters ready to pull you down at any moment, which is why utilizing your limited flapping ability at the right time is vital for success. Charming, well-presented, and a whole lot of fun.

Catch Me If You Can (Xbox Live Indie Games)

There's a few variations of games that put you in a chase on the downloadable scene, but Catch Me If You Can is an interesting prospect, as its environment constantly adapts to keep you on your toes.  Its distinct visual style has you chasing the female narrator's brother in the form of a silhouette, and overcoming obstacles by either jumping over them or sliding beneath. It's exceptionally simple, and won't take even the most casual gamer long to come to terms with, as you sprint through levels in aim of getting your hands on the cocky runner.

Catch Me If You Can is also presented via a slick monochrome interface, with competent voice-overs and a decent backing track. It echoes titles such as Canabalt and Exit 2, and even manages to fend off The Impossible Avatar Getaway for a mention in this week's column.

Star Chart (Xbox Live Indie Games)

Star Chart is one of the more ambitious titles on the indie scene, and should be considered more of an encyclopaedia than a game. There's no levels to complete, no bosses to overcome, and certainly no avatar-based physics puzzles; just exploration. You're prompted to set your location on the globe, and then can view the galaxy according to the exact time and position of our planet.

It's an interesting change from blowing off countless mutant's heads, as we explore the areas of space they may stem from. Zooming in on a planet or constellation brings up information, and offers enough insight, thus getting the 'what's out there' thoughts going. If you're anything like me, this'll have you amused for way longer than it should, as I sit back and wonder about the mysteries of the universe in more depth than Stephen Hawking could ever imagine. I mean, what is beyond space?

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Thanks very much for tuning in to Akerman's Arcade Asylum. Call back soon, where I'll probably still be contemplating what lies beyond the darkest depths of Space, and trying to work out if Pluto is a real planet, or simply a midget among men.

Gw
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