Xbox Live Thumbs Down: Trying Too Hard

Some games are too big, some are too small.  Some don’t know what they want to be and others don’t understand why nobody likes who they are.  Since I started playing and reviewing everything on XBLA, I found a lot of games that aren’t bad, only limited.  Most any game that makes it on Xbox Live is fun, I play demos to decide whether they are worth buying.  

Facebreaker (Retail)

Analog control pioneers like skate, Fight Night, and Wii Boxing bring superior, subtle, and satisfying control that obsoletes the competition. In other words, Facebreaker is old and broken. The controls and fighting system are fast and responsive but the generic, humorless cartoon characters damper enthusiasm. Who would buy a $60 throwaway sports game?

Puzzle Quest: Revenge of the Plague Lord (Arcade Add-on)

I installed this add-on, started the game with my old character, and had no idea what to do. There’s no indication where the new stuff starts. This completely apathetic approach reflects the lack of effort in Revenge of the Plague Lord. Bland, churning content can’t resuscitate Puzzle Quest from the first game’s “I only finished it cuz I got this far already” ending. Lame new quests, not a lot of new gameplay, and the stores and items still suck. One of the abusers of the low-price-for-good-value trust that XBLA tries to engender.

1942: Joint Strike (Arcade)

I wrote earlier that I admire the style of remake being done in Commando, 1942, and Street Fighter HD. While I do still appreciate the graphics in 1942, I’m not so fond of the gameplay. Lacking the danger of Geometry Wars 2 or Commando 3, 1942 is unexciting and easy, except when bosses sprays millions of bullets for a cheap kill. The slow, pattern-dodging “escape” scenes are especially tedious, contrived, and action-free. While I like a lot of things about the style of the game, I just can’t quite get into the actual game.

Schizoid (Arcade)

Billed as the most co-op game ever Joe and I fired it up, excited.  The game has moments of Geometry Wars-like tension as each player is completely dependent on the other.  After finishing the demo, though, we neither of us reached for the “Buy it now” button.  Although the gameplay has tension, players share a pool of ten lives, which feels weirdly bottomless.  Most of the levels are not particularly hard, either, and playing through the stages lacks immediate goals.  I like the aim of the game but it wasn’t compelling.

Go! Go! Break Steady (Arcade)

A mash-up of rhythm and puzzle gameplay but lacking the precision of either. Right after getting into the groove of a song, gameplay swaps to match-3 “Zuma” gameplay with only seconds to succeed, then back into rhythm. The product feels like a zany single idea that got funded and had ace production values layered on top. I bought into the art style and presentation but pushed the game aside because of the jarring gameplay.