Akermans Arcade Asylum From tower defense to top-down racers, the arcade is a'humming
March 15, 2010
Akerman’s Arcade Asylum –
From tower defense to top-down racers, the arcade is a'humming
By Nick Akerman
LIVE is the focus with a quick look at five new titles
After the drama of a faulty console, we're back in business a little later than usual on AAA this week. The round-up sees the best from Microsoft's 'House Party' promotion forcing us to slam cars against bigger cars, defend our Ypres stronghold from some angry Germans, and even a few quirky indie titles to boot. If you love the word 'nuggets,' I suggest you read on.
Toy Soldiers (Xbox Live Arcade)
At it's most basic, Toy Soldiers is well-balanced tower defense game set during the turmoil of WW1. At it's craziest, it's a fight to defend your base (or “Toy Box”) from the incoming Germans, in a frantically-paced and hugely fun struggle that launches Microsoft's House Party promotion in fantastic fashion.
Toy Soldiers allows you to take control of the weaponry you put in place to fend off the advancing threat, and is immediately welcoming to those who may have bypassed the tower defense formula in the past. Through a quick tutorial you're brought up to speed on how to choose heavy-duty artillery, put it in position, and then carry out mass killings through them. As you progress, new hints and tips are brought in to help you shape your defense, all of which allow you to gradually improve your skill and range of tactics when in a spot of bother.
It's certainly an authentic looking title, inspired by wartime propaganda and tabletop games from the era. There's an unprecedented about of care and thought put into Toy Soldiers that many arcade titles lack. It's rather challenging, and won't allow you to gain victory if you decide to sit on the howitzer and plough through as many enemies as possible. Toy Soldiers is remarkably good at bringing in an outlandish boss just when it seems the storm has settled. This one is well worth a try, as it's strategic outlook and excellently balanced difficulty makes it one of 2010's best arcade releases so far.
Scrap Metal (Xbox Live Arcade)
The second game incorporated into Microsoft's House Party campaign lacks the brains and strategic elements of Toy Soldiers, and simply pits you in a Mashed-styled race to the finish, or more likely, race to the death. Scrap Metal is a top-down racer that takes inspiration from Robot Wars and provides your remote-controlled vehicle with a tasty weapon. Each mission comes with a simple objective; whether it be finishing first, eliminating a certain amount of opponents, or even hunting one particular character down before they can complete the race.
It's not going to win any awards for originality, but Scrap Metal is a well-presented, entertaining and enticing product that is good for washing away a few minutes with. Similar to Trials HD, Scrap Metal urges players to have one more go, as it's simple ranking up and reward system provides more than enough thrill for 1200 MS points, especially with four-player co-op thrown in as well.
Bush Hunt (Xbox Live Indie Games)
Ever wanted to be a safari worker? Better yet, a safari hunter? Well Bush Hunt may be for you. Taking on the role of a hunter, it's your job to round-up all the animals that have escaped from RidKim Zoo. It's bright, it's cheerful, and it's mightily difficult.
Taking on the appearance of a platform game, Bush Hunt quickly shows it's intent. Before long, you'll have a host of different animals sprinting towards your position - even the turtles head towards you with unprecedented vigor and pace. Unlike most platform games, jumping on their heads isn't going to help, as you're forced to shoot them down before they reach your position, or at the very least, jump out of the way. If you like a real challenge, and aren't prone to frustration, Bush Hunt is worth a blast. If not, sitting back and witnessing someone else get destroyed by a circus of rampaging animals is more than entertaining, especially with the insane drum and bass soundtrack kicking off when things get particularly mad.
Word Duelist (Xbox Live Indie Games)
After being inducted into the Morphemial University, Word Duelist quickly announces that this is a world of battling where words are used instead of 'fisticuffs.' You're simply tasked with challenging other students and professors across the university to word based battles.
Players are given nine letters and must make up as many words as possible within a short amount of time. It's easy to pick up and play, and is able to provide challenge for quick-thinking linguistic masters, as well as the less educated. Simple presentation and an acceptable soundtrack make this feel like the first few moments you step out of Professor Oak's lab on Pokemon Red: it's you against the world, and instead of a Pokedex, you better have your dictionary handy.
Space Nuggets (Xbox Live Indie Games)
This title gets a special mention in this week's column for being rather odd. Not only does Space Nuggets look like it was made on Microsoft's Paint program, it feels completely unfinished, and doesn't really work.
It's your job to commandeer a 'space ship' (or more to the point, a red arrowhead), and pick up a nugget from each planet before your fuel runs out. The game itself can be fun, but the level design is often too simple and visually uninspiring, meaning many players will look at this and give a disapproving sigh before moving on.
If you have any musical content stored on your 360, Space Nuggets will also start playing that when it first loads up. This would be pretty cool if it didn't cut out every time you make a decent move in the game or pick up the nugget. Definitely a niche title that not only feels completely unpolished, it feels outclassed alongside many of the other indie games available.
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Thanks for reading Akerman's Arcade Asylum, on this, the fifth edition of the column. Check back soon, as I plunge into the pool of downloadable content once more.