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Those Summer Nights

Five games; five weeks; one console; and a hell of a lot of Microsoft Points. summer-of-arcade That’s the idea behind this year’s Summer of Arcade, a mini-festival of sorts with five games being released for download through the XBox Live Arcade. Some of these are classics, like Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time and others are original, and exclusive to the console and the network, including Trials HD, ‘Splosion Man and the most recent release, Shadow Complex.

We’ve already had a look at Marvel vs Capcom 2 upon release a few weeks back as part of the Flashback Feature series, but having played all of the games, we thought we’d run through all five in a retrospective and see just who came out on top in the Summer Of Arcade.

SplosionLogoThe interestingly-titled ‘Splosion Man was the first of the games to be released. Developed by Twisted Pixel Games, it’s quite a simple 2D platformer, where the whole point is to…well, ‘splode. For vowel fans who haven’t quite figured out what that means, the apostrophe stands for a missing e…and an x too.

Playing a scientific experiment, you take control of the ‘splosion Man of the title, a cute, flaming little man (he’s on fire, before you read too much into that) whose sole power is to explode, what in any other game would be a jump. Three jumps can be strung together and exploding near a variety of devices will extend the jump past a variety of obstacles, including lasers, moving platforms and angry scientists.

The game is both cute and irreverent: ‘splosion man has a tendency to talk in nonsense sounds, and on the rare occasions that he gets a clear run in a straight line, puts his arms out and makes an airplane noise. He also enjoys blowing up overweight scientists while they sing a song about loving donuts…it really needs to be experienced to be understood.

The levels themselves are adrenaline-driven and fast moving: as with many platforming games, it’s all about perfectly timing your jumps, which isn’t as simple as it sounds, but there’s enough variety in each to keep the fifty levels of gameplay fresh throughout, and even if things get too frustrating, you can skip ahead (once you’re prepared to don a nifty tutu for the rest of the game.) With a serious replayable factor, ‘Splosion Man gets a very impressive Zombie Rating of an A.

mvc2Marvel vs Capcom 2 provides an interesting spin on the standard fighting game, pitting characters from Capcom games against others from Marvel comics (really, who’d have thought the name of the game would actually indicate what happens in it?) You can check out the original article (link above) for an in-depth look at the game but it’s a standard button-basher with some strategic elements thrown in (like deciding which character to play as, and who to keep in reserve.)

The game is a fan’s dream come true for many a comic-book nerd or old-school gamer, but gamers who’ve come to the genre and practiced with 3D fighters might find Marvel vs Capcom 2 a little bit too old-fashioned for them. Nevertheless, enjoyable gameplay and all the fun that you usually get from a beat-em-up game earns it a B+.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-turtles-in-time-re-shelled-on-xbox-live-arcade

Although the classic 80s/90s cartoon was known under different names in different markets (with some channels unwilling to show a cartoon containing the word ‘ninja,’ preferring to call them ‘hero’), the franchise retains its traditional name for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time Re-Shelled. The game is an update of the title released on the SNES and in arcades in 1992, with completely new graphics and improved gameplay.

Unfortunately, some improved graphics and a lot of good will from players of the original game are all that Turtles In Time has going for it, and it is easily the weakest offering of the Summer of Arcade, certainly the least worthwhile in terms of points spent. While each of the four turtles plays differently with different weapons, there isn’t enough difference between them to help this side-scrolling brawler stand out from the crowd, and a surprising amount of the action ends up taking place at the edges of the screens. A multi-player campaign through the game’s arcade mode took a paltry thirty minutes to complete without too much trouble, getting the game a suitably unimpressive C-.

Trials-HD-XBLAOn the other hand, Trials HD takes an old-fashioned game and updates it for a new audience successfully, greatly reminiscent of the BMX levels from classic 8-bit California Games or the early Tony Hawk Pro-Skater games. Hopping on your motorbike, the game expects you to negotiate your way across ramps and loops, maintaining the right speed to make it over those all-important jumps while balancing just right to land safely on the other side. The game is based on the popular Trials series, available as PC download and a variety of flash games, and in many way, Trials HD plays in a very simple fashion, but with amazing graphics and the HD that the title suggests.

The physics of Trials HD remains realistic, and actually add to the game’s entertainment value: players will be on the edge of their seats for every jump, just hoping that the bike lands just right, but the more masochistic can look forward to the end of each level, where the driver will face a bone-crunching demise after passing the finish line. There’s a competitive aspect to the game, with an ever-present reminder at the top of the screen just where players on your friends list are on the same level, and three medals to achieve in each. Don’t expect the game to be boring, however, as there’s constantly new bikes to try, each with their own speed and their own sense of balance, and some of the later levels play like ridiculous stunts best reserved for a John Woo film. It all comes together to earn the game a very respectably B+.

shadow-complex-01But easiest the best game of the Summer Of Arcade is Shadow Complex from Epic Games, the same studios behind the Gears Of Wars games. The game is yet another 2D platformer/action-game with surprising depth, and we mean that literally; the game allows the player to shoot into the background, attacking storm-trooper like troops who can’t be killed any other way. The shadow complex of the title is a vast facility extending both under-and-overground, with an unlockable suit that grants special abilities to explore the rest of the facility.

0890bb2779davidThe game is a conscious homage to some more vintage games, specifically Super Metroid and even Donkey Kong (there’s a kidnapped girlfriend, what more can you expect!) The game may prove frustrating for some, with the vast level requiring quite a bit of backtracking, and many doors remaining closed until you’re received the perfect upgrade, but there are also many shortcuts that can be found to make life easier. The game will be quite simple to play for established gamers, but provides a surprisingly classic feel in an all-new package and, unlike some of the other games, specifically those that have been remastered for download, doesn’t leave you wanting or expecting something more. Depending on how in-depth you play, the game can be cleared in four or five hours, but to unlock the full story, and the full suit, expect to be playing for closer to ten. The upgradable nature of the game’s abilities and the suit makes the game very replayable and Shadow Complex easily comes off as the best offering of the Summer Of Arcade with an A+, leaving us wanting a full game in the franchise.

Summer Of Arcade Rundown

annual-summer-of-arcade

‘Splosion Man: A

Marvel vs Capcom 2: B+

TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-Shelled: C-

Trials HD: B+

Shadow Complex: A+

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