Xbox Live Thumbs Down – Elements of Destruction, Ticket to Ride, Happy Tree Friends, Top Spin 3

Elements of Destruction (Arcade)

Falling into the same pit as other B-list action games on Arcade, Elements of Destruction fails to provide suspense and danger, resulting in a lot of mindless and uninteresting action. Using mad scientist powers to control the weather, the player destroys random countryside while racking up points towards medals. Why do mad scientists care about points and medals? Why do medals create weather upgrades? The lack of challenge and uninteresting rewards sunk an otherwise solid concept in the genre of Dungeon Keeper, Evil Genius, and other “play the villain” games.

Ticket to Ride (Arcade)

Ticket to Ride seems to be a an expanded version of the “longest road” sub-game from Catan. I like a lot of these boardgame-to-videogame conversions on Xbox Live, but this is one of the lamest and most random parts of Catan. As players try to build railroads for their company across continents, an opponent can cut a well-planned road to bits at any time, and Ticket to Ride is this all day long. I never felt like I was in control of my destiny as at any time, and it seemed to get even more adversarial and annoying as I added more players. The game board is hard to read, the scoring is unclear, and the games are very long with little payoff and few “small wins” along the way. The music is really good, though!

Happy Tree Friends (Arcade)

Violent webtoon turned into Lemmings game? The premise gives the Friends a chance to get sizzled, sliced, smashed, and otherwise stomped as they try to get through mazes. Otherwise, though, this game makes no sense. Per this puzzle sub-genre’s formula, the game packs confusing and annoyingly micromanage-y controls with pointless elaborate puzzles. As a console game, the controls are never accurate enough for the most dire situations. In the very first room, as I was guiding my Friends across some moving gears, some of them walked off screen and were sliced in half by samurai sword-swinging statues I couldn’t even see yet. This sort of frustration is common in the genre and fans of the bloody web cartoon that try the game are likely to be turned off by the complicated, thrill-less gameplay.

Top Spin 3 (Retail)

I’m pretty sure all of the technology for making fun tennis has already been developed. Top Spin 3 goes over the top and manages to exclude just about everyone besides Top Spin fans. Like golf and boxing, tennis has been ruined for me by Wii Tennis. Building in more precision and accuracy into a tennis, golf, or boxing game punishes most players and isn’t greatly rewarding for expert players. The game also lacks the cool meta-game mechanics of seasons and careers that make football/baseball/etc fun to replay, because tennis careers are a solo thing. There’s only so much a single player can develop over a season.