Review: Xbox Live Arcade: Pinball Arcade

It’s Pinball Arcade Time!

It’s been a while since I picked up something in my own time, just browsing the Xbox Live market place I came across something that caught my eye as I’ve seen it launched on many platforms and that’s Pinball Arcade.

It’s available on PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, iphone, ipad, Mac and Android devices. That’s a serious amount of platforms to launch just one game onto but you can see a Pinball game is one of those games that fits the bill to make it instantly compatible for all of these platforms and because of this it also reaches out to an amazing assortment of gamers new to old. This is what actually took my interest, it must already by incredibly well established.

It’s time to get flipper happy!

Pinball tables attract allsorts of different people if you think about it. They’re normally placed in corners of pubs or in various establishments who also have Arcade machines and other similar machines. They’ve been around for a while in physical form but sadly have disappeared from view in various places, however like many well timed balances in this world when one thing goes down another comes up. There’s now an increase in virtual items online such as Pinball tables making an appearance! Pinball Arcade has also attracted some of the biggest names in the history of Pinball tables like Williams, Bally and Stern Pinball and you get to play these real tables on your console or portable device.

Pinball Arcade does an amazing job of capturing the lights, noises and challenges you associate with pinball tables so well and brings you some brilliant and sometimes complex challenges to boot. It whips your attention span right into the game as soon as you pick it up as it’s a game that requires straight-line thought and focus to play. The gameplay can get rather speedy too once you start timing you shots right and you need to be ready to return the ball at a moments notice. That’s the basic way you play Pinball, it’s remembering the different angles you hit the ball to with the flippers that gets you those high-scores and also a bit of luck too! That’s what keeps pinball games interesting and the element of random occurrence or when you don’t exactly know what your next objective is. You’ll will quite happily play Pinball Arcade for hours simply because of these well developed elements making it a time gobbler and a good one at that.

One of the hardest tables you’ll get to try… Concentrate!!

There’s several tables to choose from and each curbing your tactics by introducing a different table layout. Each table has it’s own history there for you to read too and they have a some cool themes like ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’. This makes the tables quite rich compared to say the Windows Pinball game where you have a lot of the same features but with no creativity or care unlike the original creators of these tables and Pinball Arcades developers, FarSight Studios. The challenges for the tables are relative to the theme too; like there’s a lamp in ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’ that you can hit to increase multipliers or to keep hitting until you obtain a certain level of spin to finish the challenge, it’s not too hard to wrap you head around but hard to accomplish. Simply, you can see what you need to do just not always how you do it.

There’s also Goals to achieve while you play, Standard and then Wizard after you have cracked the Standard. These are another fun way to challenge yourself in Pinball Arcade, you get into all the tables secret areas and learn how to hit some serious high-scores and these then end up on the Online Leaderboard along with everyone else’s scores across the world. So it’s like playing in a giant amusement arcade or pub with all these tables and scores that build up! You can also grab a look at the Flyers for the tables which sit in the Extras menu section along with the History of the table. They have some information on the challenges, this really just adds more detail to the history of the table itself. You’ll be able to see why these Pinball Tables where the best back when they where released too, they’re really quite the marvel when you see these pieces come together. I felt lucky that I could still see the history of the Pinball Table movement, I was also surprised that it would have that effect on me but then I realised myself these where all the pieces offline and on coming together while I played it.

Beautiful looking tables.

There’s ten tables altogether on Xbox Live, six of those you will have to buy from the Marketplace but luckily they come in packs of two. Considering that this is a lifetime purchase, not one or two goes in the street but for life, 800msp is a fairly reasonable price to pay for something that has disappeared under other interesting ways and means of spending our time with machines. This is why I like virtual items along with the physical, you can freely move the virtual and bring life into the physical which is exactly what I see happening in Pinball Arcade. FarSight Studios have captured what we love about these machines to an incredible standard that it shows instantly, especially through the sounds of the ball hitting various aspects of the table, it just perks your ears up but isn’t over amplified either. This is what you want from a game that simulates something you’ve already come across and Pinball Arcade also gives you plenty to do in the way of challenges, goals and Leaderboards to drive your mates crazy with!

Go pick it up today if your an Arcade game fan, you’ll simply enjoy it as it’s very well made. If you like your Pinball you’ll just love it (and its noises!) and if you generally like your memorabilia I reckon if you gave Pinball Arcade some time you’d also see all of it’s history it has woven into it!

Review XBLA: Dead Rising 2: Case Zero

Ready to take on a case of zero tolerance towards those pesky zombie folk again? Good news! Capcom have released a mini-portion of playable prologue in the form of DR2: Case Zero for those zombie slayers chomping-at-the-bit for some unpropitious and humours zombie moments and encounters before the real deal arrives.

DR2: Case Zero is set two years before the affairs of Dead Rising 2 and offers a full-featured prologue along with some small and neat rewards. The cut-scene that begins to unravel the story involves a new zombie slaughtering protagonist Chuck Green and his daughter Katey getting themselves into a typical zombie apocalyptic situation right in the middle of Still Creek. Chuck’s truck gets stolen (along with his supply of Zombrex) and as it does, Chuck and his daughter get jumped-on by some nasty-assed zombie. You’ll find a safe house and this is where your journey begins – time to scout for some Zombrex before Chuck’s daughter turns gooey and hungry for brains.

Zombrex is a drug that stops the infected from turning into zombies. It’s in high demand and hard to find, it also has its negative effects as it’s an experimental formula. This is where the last titles main in-game mechanics return and once more make you very time conscious to the point where you’ll sweat and panic as dooms-day approaches in the form of the military.

When you actually begin playing the games simple dainty tutorial will teach you about your current objectives, time constraints and HUD and refresh some of those past controls and features – then it’s onto the art of masterfully creating weapons of mass-mushing power.

Maintenance Rooms can now be used to create weapons that do extra damage and when you create one of these weapons you will receive a cool little Combo Card. Combo Cards give you the formula to build these weapons again and tell you how much extra PP you’ll receive when Chuck tops a zombie for good with one. Meaning you can level up faster if you keep building them, which you’ll have to anyway as they have a use limit and will break after a period of caving heads in. You can discover and create a nice selection of weapons all-over Still Creek and by looking at the icon hovering around the item you can tell what it’s, either health item, weapon or seemingly random object to make into really dangerous killing ‘thing’.

Even though Case Zero’s visuals could be scoffed at abit the environment change is refreshing and adds more colour into the world around you. This slightly better placement delivers some space to provoke flesh-eating havoc with the things you have acquired along the way. As you adventure through the chaos in the search for Zombrex your Case File will also be updated when necessary with your mission objectives and there’s a compass at the top of the screen to help you in-game. Navigating around the game seems easier than before, though it’s still a small intricate area to plot through it’s still enjoyable because of the clearer options and features.

Case Zero’s main experience accumulates and build well as you run around collecting items to survive and then escape and this all works well enough as a whole up until you hit a smaller more compact area of the game you need to proceed through – prepare for immediate dissatisfaction. It’s the only one really buggy problem in Case Zero and it gets worse when you least want it to, it’s the sluggish and sometimes reluctant 3rd person camera view that follows Chuck abit too closely. This can cause some great upset at times and might have you biting at your own flesh in frustration but thankfully this problem eases off and gives you more bloody fun to distract you from that previous irritation.

For 400 MSP it’s not badly priced but for gamers who are a little bit pickier with their points and what they get for them, I’d wait for the full title as Case Zero does play short altogether. For fans of the genre however it’s a good place to get ready for Dead Rising 2 and you’ll get some cool rewards to import over to the full title and a series of different endings anyway just by completing Case Zero. It also offers some improved zombie fuelled chaos compared to Dead Rising but does have its drawbacks due to the camera angle but it puts Dead Rising 2 in good stead to deliver a better experience all-round.

Score: 7/10

Publisher: Capcom.

Developer: Blue Castle Games Inc.

Genre: Action & Adventure.

If you’re looking for a free taste of what Capcom  are masterly creating themselves in the run up to the launch of Dead Rising 2 on the 24th of September in the UK, check out the ‘Mike & Jeff To The Rescue’ self-help videos. These video blessings-in-disguise are full of way to keep your ass safe during pending zombie attacks. Subscribe!

Review XBLA: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World The Game

After the amount of promotion the Scott Pilgrim franchise has had over this past month from the announcement and release of the movie and the growing interest in the already published comic books shortly after, no wonder every geek is talking about Scott Pilgrim but can the Video Game stand on its own two feet and live up to the hype from its two predecessors?

Scott Pilgrim vs The world is a charming example of geek culture, the game comes in a side scrolling beat-em up style with a kick-ass chiptune soundtrack to give it some life as soon as you’ve pressed play. Alongside that alot of elements draw inspired visuals from games like Double Dragon and TMNT, it has some small RPG elements bulking out the game aswell as the usual level up as you progress system. You can also see from the game, or whatever you’ve picked up already in the series, that this is a quality three part experience and these three things will link together and improve the more you indulge into the Scott Pilgrim world.

You start with just a few basic moves and work your way up levels by fighting an array of 8 to 16-bit dudes and then 7 evil ex-boyfriends bosses. You can block, jump, kick and punch or you can pick up the various objects to batter your teenage foes with. Each of the four characters you can pick from has a special ability, all these actions work well with the side-scrolling action however there will be one or two cheap shots you just can’t dodge.

The visuals and theme’s surround the game are very attractive and the gameplay itself is shaped and thought-out to a degree with some good evolution in play, which leads it to be a really good side-scrolling title underneath everything but without some the mistakes coming through into the gameplay. There’s experience to collect which levels-up your character and unlocks moves as you progress, there’s money to gather and spend at in-game stores and a multitude of secrets and bizarre things to find alongside your nerd love mission.

Single player is great fun to play but can be a little tricky at times and in certain places, there’s the option for multiplayer to help with this snag but there’s no online multiplayer option, only local. When you begin the game this problem can drag you down a little as it takes time to build up enough exp to play well on your own and the fact it has no multiplayer keeps it locked down into just your home, this takes some of the shine off Scott Pilgrim The Game. As you progress past this and are able to kick-ass at will you’ll be able to buy lots more items to boost your level and stats, this and the fact you unlock some tasty reversals gives you some rewards to continue to play for and helps pick up the speed of gameplay.

The chiptune soundtrack provided by Anamanaguchi fits superbly well with the old school visuals and is one of the most fitting soundtracks I’ve heard to a game. With that and the whole geeky attitude running throughout, the game can offer a very lively experience eventually or from the word go if you have players sat next to you.

Though the game has some initial bumps due to the problems stated, Scott Pilgrim will eventually bend you to its un-beatable charm to give you many hours of nostalgic gameplay even when you have to repeat levels. It has an instant draw due to the visual design and some old but damn funky sounds alongside enough in-game bits to keep you happy and away from its weakspots.

Score: 8/10

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft Chengdu

Genre: Fighting, Platformer

Review XBLA: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara made her first energetic and bold appearance in the title ‘Tomb Raider’ in 1996 and went on to hit highs and lows in the titles that followed. This certain charming protagonist has battled through the entire history of her own series and against her current competition, alongside this she has been nurtured through the best & worst of times in various talented hands. This new chapter in the series has been moulded by Crystal Dynamics and brings new directions to the series we haven’t seen before in such a small yet refined light.

Lara Croft: GoL comes set in a refreshing isometric third-person point-of-view, with this view-point being very important in the game everything else like platforms, enemies and puzzles are placed and woven neatly into the levels to give you a healthily paced experience till the end. Keeping in with one of the more popular and reliable traits that runs though these games, Crystal Dynamics have made sure to give gamers their necessary fill of puzzles and obstacles which you have to pull, push, shoot and clamber your way out of but with an excellent addition of a friend – Totec.

Lara joins forces with Totec to stop an evil power Lara has released in her typical haste for un-earthing glory. You’ll start at the Temple of Light and work your way through fourteen levels of familiar themed and well structured platform levels consisting of mini puzzles and obstacles to fit the variety of challenges that run through-out the game. These challenges can consist of bridging gaps, scaling vertical walls and dodging moving traps all while kicking-ass, sounds true to the ‘Tomb Raider’ titles but the new view point and multiplayer focus shines through the game, giving this small change of direction some very attractive quality’s as you play.

Single Player and Co-op Multiplayer both play very fluidly and most levels have their own balance to compensate for the lack or added benefit of another human player. Also in Single Player mode Lara will be given most of the tactical benefits when you adventure through the game like, for example the Spear weapon Totec would normally carry but if you were to play Co-op the player using Totec would get use of that Spear only and brings Totec’s variety of physical traits into play to. Either way you choose to play you won’t be disappointed and the levels aren’t arcade short or just played once as they’re tombs and upgrades to discover, also the game weights in at a hefty 2GB so get ready to be patient for the experience if your broadband crawls.

The 3rd person isometric point-of-view means no more fumbling around backing into things as you get platforms to run around in and as you play the weapons and the grapple features are instantly more entertaining and pliable. Fans that feared a shakeup should put their fears to rest as the game keeps most of its legendary character and dramatic charm with the added benefits of this new structure, LC GoL also reinstates Keeley Hawes as the voice of Lara Croft adding more quality to the games dialogue as you play.

For an arcade game it’s damn good, for a ‘Tomb Raider’ game it’s not as instantly exciting to play but for this new ‘Lara Croft’ chapter it works perfectly well in arcade form as it’s very addictive and dinky altogether, a welcome addition the whole series and with DLC packs on the way should make it and keep it a enjoyable experience for many.

Score: 9/10

Publisher: Square Enix Europe

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Genre: Action & Adventure

Review XBLA: Monday Night Combat

Monday Night Combat is the plucky new contender to hit the Summer of Arcade scene, bringing with it a definite enjoyable shooting experience from many angles and with very suitable Tower Defence developments alongside. This is by no means, a mindless Team Fortress 2 clone.

For a genre somewhat planted in its terms of creativity and diversity Monday Night Combat came as an initially unbelievable delight as it’s visually ideal and engaging with its Team Fortress 2 inspired impression and design. One of MNC’s simple and ample innovations to the genre’s structure is that you don’t particularly concentrate on building strategic defences from above, you’re given attack options on the ground due to your players 3rd person view point and upgradable attacks. This instantly turns an otherwise flat predictable game into an exciting and speedy one, opening up an exciting new array of different directions for the developers to utilise. Along with these new developments the nicely familiar visuals create a widely approachable and conventional feel.

The character you control has three special moves and two weapons at their disposal; these vary depending on which of the six different character classes you have choosen from and can be upgraded to produce more umpf with the cash you collect from fallen adversaries. The ‘Assault’ class is the most equally balanced class with offensive, defensive and speciality bars all levelled off and makes the ‘Assault’ class the best place to start. You have a remotely detonated bomb you can attach to enemy players, turrets and bots using X, you can hover using the Y button before or after a jump and you can charge towards the enemy sending them soaring out the battle field with the B button. The two weapons and these actions together create an amazing amount of combat diversity alongside the other points of interest in the level, which overall adds up to a near perfect formula for upgradable and strategic 3rd person shooter game-play.

Turret points can be found carefully placed around the map, normally around the point you have to protect called the ‘Moneyball’ along with some small ability pads. These all cost cash to activate and upgrade so at the beginning of the game you will have to decide with the limited cash you have at the start of the game to either upgrade yourself or the A.I. To upgrade or build a turret you just walk up to the small round bases and press down on the D-pad, this will bring up four turrets to choose from. The ‘Lazer Blazer’ turret is the cheapest and easiest to deploy but is defensively the weakest, you will find strengths and weakness with these turrets just like the character classes meaning you have more combat options when the right situation arises. There’s also the ‘Rockit’ turret named after its obvious use, ‘Shaveice’ turret which is used strategically to slow down enemies and the ‘Long Shot’ turret which is capable of hitting foes from a distance. They’re all upgradeable to level 3 and steadily cost more eachtime and your core abilities also work this way, just by pressing up on the D-pad you can upgrade these too.

Monday Night Combat gives you the chance to be the strategist and the soldier without any great hassle and it’s all put together onto carefully designed multi-path maps. MNC’s sudden immersive quality’s are prominent from the very beginning as all movements are smooth and easy to control, alongside beautiful visuals means you can pretty much start kick-ass straight away and simply enjoy the modes and staggered difficulties MNC has to offer without any drag.

Blitz mode, one of the two core modes that you have available, consists basically round one point you must protect, your ‘Moneyball’ and then your turrets are placed around this point to protect it. Blitz mode has five challenges to choose from, all five waves have escalating difficulties and the very last challenge is the infinite one, ‘Sudden Death Blitz’. Single player plays perfectly well and is just sheer fun but you can go Co-op if you wish, which pits you and three other players against these challenges. Blitz mode gets a big boost from its multiplayer feature and raises the difficulty bar depending on how many players are in the match, this creates more interesting attack and defence options especially when you have those six different classes to choose from.

Crossfire mode is built on the same principles as Blitz mode but the difference is two teams of four have to counter and match the opposing sides contrasting attacks to win. This mode will shake up your previously gained knowledge of the game as the less effective skills and classes you dropped before now become just as beneficial as the ones you’re already accustomed to. Crossfire mode brings most of the games aspects together and then gives you the task of accompanying your bots to the enemies side and defending your own space at the same time amongst a melee of other human players. This adds alot of quality and speed to Crossfire mode and gives it a push in a compatible direction for the type of characters and equipment you’re given, seriously opening the game up for some brutal multiplayer action.

They’re some extras to be had in the ‘Locker Room’ section of the game like, creating custom classes in the ‘Custom Class’ tier, ‘Highlights’ which are Modern Warefare type emblems that you can acquire and equip and there’s a place to look at your overall career stats.

Monday Night Combat not only gives you a solid fun experience offline but can offer the same and more in its online modes as both Blitz and Crossfire work very well in conjunction with each other, this leads to a lot of of lively gaming in amusing mini-bites. For a Tower Defence game it rules above most with bundles of creative thinking that manages to break those already indented, dull and lifeless patterns in the genre, and with its charismatic and active game-play should reel in a wide variety of gamers to its door as it’s a top quality arcade title within its own right – never mind the fact it could delight fans of the Shooter genre delightfully too.

Score: 9/10

Publisher: Uber Entertainment, Inc.

Developer: Uber Entertainment, Inc.

Genre: Shooter

Review XBLA: Castlevania Harmony of Despair

Castlevania Harmony of Despair is not for the faint of heart. With monsters, labyrinths of platforms and that almost un-beatable end of level boss, Castlevania leaves most gamers furious in its wake.

You have three modes to chose from, Single player, Co-op (2-6 players) and Survival mode (Versus multiplayer). The Single player campaign seemingly doesn’t want you to progress past the second level as a lot of switches and puzzle elements are multiplayer designed, plus the boss is too strong for just one player. This causes abit of a slope in enjoyment but if you get online and battle it out with other keen players you can end up having alot of good fun and get further into what the game really has to offer.

At the menu screen you’ll need to select one of five players that are available, there are some more recognisable cult characters to choose from but become unlocked when playing throughout the game. Each character has their own unique set of weapons, armour, abilities and spell combos to wield and all the characters pros and cons are balanced well between might and magic, which leads to some great varieties of teams online. You can switch between any of the  characters before taking off into battle or you can try and raise that characters attack spells or skills by killing foes while playing the chapters, there’s also a shop to purchase additional equipment if you have the gold or you can find apparel in chests or looted from fallen creatures. The main menu option is where you can also change or equip the things you have found or bought, offensive or defensive, and you can also check Compendiums or change the games settings.

When you start the game there’s some basic movements to grasp before you tackle Castlevania’s maze of paths and obstacles, then there’s the fighting moves and spells to learn and wield. The analogue stick is used to move left or right, A button is used to jump then again for a double jump, the RB button is used to block, X and Y are your attack buttons and will activate what weapons you have equipped into those slots and the D-pad is used injunction with the spell casting. Easy it may sound but blowing away those 2D Vampire hunting cobwebs again can be difficult in this game. If indeed you are finding it hard you’ll have to resort to plundering chests for essential stat boosting equipment and items within the first level as you defiantly need them for Castlevania’s line-up of resurrected PITA bosses – prepare for each of the level’s happy suicide surprise time, as I like to call them.

Unlike the structures of Castlevania games past this one reveals the entire map straight away and gives you an idea of your task ahead as there’s no shrouded areas. As you scan over these cool labyrinth levels and get stuck in with your mates you’ll instantly rejoice a little inside, especially when that same friend gets lost and cornered by Minotaur’s, Again. The levels are dived into six huge platform mazes that you’ll fight, jump and plunder your way through for at least thirty minutes every chapter. I imagine this will cause problems for some gamers as this title is, and thankfully, made in mind for very talented and persistent players. Every level has a couple of cliché traps lined-up for you in the familiar gothic fashion of spikes and flame contraptions but the foes themselves are the actual challenge.

Classically the old favourites like Mermen, Zombie’s, Skeleton’s, minotaur’s amongst others, are can be easily dealt with using perfect timed precision, but it’s the end of level bosses which are truly suicide educing monsters. So prepare to die, prepare to die alot and then expect to die after that when facing all these bosses but have hope after two hours of getting your assed kicked you may have gathered enough crap to sell to buy something half-descent to finish that git off with.

The amount of items floating about in the game is quite generous but there isn’t much character stat progression or visual change alongside the collecting of items, so most of your success hangs on what items you have, leaving the game a bit bland in that area. The only other slight problem aspect Castvania has is hinged on the games graphics, visually nothing much has been improved and it seems they’ve simply imported ideas from other titles, but nether the less the magic of the game stays within that anyway. As well as that if you look at the detail of the levels and monsters it’s aged well and keeps alot of its intricacy – overall this doesn’t hamper the experience at all it keeps it original and true.

I’m really enjoying Harmony of Despair even though it’s a hard game to conquer but the Co-op feature makes this Castlevania even more worthy of a purchase, even for the fans who are weary of the changes that have been made to the way the levels compensate more for more players. As the difficulty is quite high it puts it way out of the reach of many gamers and the game does focus’ a little too much on the multiplayer aspects so it needs those players it’s losing, which does reflect badly on the Single player campaign when you want to play alone, leaving it a bit unbearable.

Otherwise its – great bosses, some good changes and a whole load of Capes.

Score: 7/10

Publisher: Konami

Developer: Konami

Genre: Action Adventure

Review XBLA: Hydro Thunder Hurricane

It’s been over 10 years since its last splash and now Hydro Thunder Hurricane makes another lightning fast appearance as the second title released in the XBLA Summer of Arcade line-up.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a HD sequel/remake of the original with a few small improvements but still stays loyal to its coin-op roots; it also delivers an authentic sweat inducing ride by never giving up any of its previous arcade insanity. There’s a selection of things to accomplish in the game such as completing several different Race Modes, conquering Championships, unlocking an array of nifty boats, livery’s and courses as well as getting your GT into the Leaderboards, alongside this the games experience is abit like riding a peeved bucking bronco – you’re going to be holding on tight to win.

In Races and Championships the trick is to drive over boost power-ups to add boost to your meter, this transforms the engines on your ride. When that happens you can hold the A button to boost constantly or tap it to manoeuvre yourself quickly round objects or correct your course while in mid-air. You can also pull of nifty jumps when you have filled your boost bar, press the X button for a Boost Jump and experience some silly arcade style air antics while you race or just bunny hop over the competition. Similar to alot of games from the N64/Dreamcast period, the popular trend of craftily hidden short-cuts are all there to be discovered. Best of all these aren’t just any samey short cuts you can find in most racing games but the ingenious type – that same type were you’d have to hit three jumps then boost left through a cave and then whizz past a giant Greek gods strop. Well I’d normally say ‘scratch that last line’ but Hydro Thunder’s courses are full of crazy beasts and objects, which adds more of a distraction to the environment while racing. The game looks fantastic in HD and along with the extra content; it should be enough to bring back the fans of the original.

As you progress through the game you will discover locations of short-cuts, multiple power-ups, the ten Hydro Thunder Logos placed on each track and some avatar awards, giving you plenty to look for and collect. If you want to progress through the latter difficulties in the game you will need to become even more determined to win as the races become much more brutal. This is guaranteed to test your reflexes whatever level of skill you’re at, this will have you practicing certain tracks for a while to beat Expert difficulty and clock-up some more game time.

The other Single Player modes, Ring Master and the Gauntlet are great fun to play and give you an opportunity to take a break from the games races and championships. Ring Master mode allows you to take part in a set of increasingly difficult challenges. This involves you darting through a succession of rings placed throughout the tracks you’ve raced on but they have a couple of minor changes. As you pass through the rings and keep hold of your streak you will be given boost to use, unfortunately you’ll be forced to keep correcting your course after this and hit every ring or you’ll end up with no boost and a slower time. This mode is original and fun but will have you pushing harder to hit every ring and beat your friends times on the XBL Leaderboards.

Gauntlet mode is a little bit more risky than Ring Master mode as it contains more dangers, multiple explosive barrels float around the course making race lines and short-cuts abit more chancy. This ups the excitement when you’re boosting through the tracks for the best times and can create some hairy moments, these two modes are perfect for a game like this and adds boat-loads more fun alongside the Race and Championship modes.

The Multiplayer is quite light and fun considering everyone’s competing against each other and the Multiplayer modes apart from Race’s are a little different to what you’ll be expecting, for example Rubber Ducky mode is where one chosen player from each side must ride the rubber duck to the finish line no matter what the distraction. It comes across as a little barmy at first but that adds abit more character to the short races and helps keep it lively and bubbly. Split-Screen is available and works well considering the speed of the game, you will also keep the credits you earn online when you place in the points giving you two fair and balanced options to proceed through the game.

Compared to the previous Summer of Arcade Title Limbo, Hydro Thunder Hurricane offers a more comprehensive experience with the different Race Modes and Championships. You also have the multiple multiplayer modes to explore and an array of things to unlock alongside a vibrant and clear setting to the game. It’s good to see a swift change of pace  with Limbo and Hydro Thunder Hurricane offering a fast and funky racing experience, this will definitely stimulate and test your reflexes, but at 1200 MSP you might want to wait till it drops in price as it’s a little costly for what it is.

Score: 7.4/10

Published by: Microsoft Game Studios

Developed by: Vector Unit

Genre: Racing Action

Number of Players: 1-8

Review XBLA: Limbo

Limbo, a black and white flower in the middle of a black and white desert, the only opening line that felt fitting for a game so strangely beautiful.

With no text, no dialogue and a mysterious black and white harmony to the environment Limbo creates a fascinating first impression. It then goes on to immediately challenge you, not only with its lulling pace but with some unpredictable angles of 2D puzzle mastery.

You control a young boy who finds himself in a strange parallel world with no indication to how he got there and as you take your first steps into the game you’ll get the immediate feeling this world isn’t a very safe one. With an eerie silence throughout and dampened sound effects as you move and clamber the environment, combine this with the games backdrop and the top quality puzzle mechanics the game becomes very unique and memorable.

The best part about Limbo is its challenges and mind bending puzzles and it pours from the game from the word go, showing you an amazing way of looking at some seemingly simple movements and logistics. You’ll need to climb, jump, swing and nudge your way through 24 levels of constantly dangerous booby-traps by using the objects around you like crates, ropes and all-manner of gravity bending switches. This all sounds like a lot of fun initially but throw in blackened monsters, bear traps and giant rotating blades and it becomes a bit more frantic. There’s some incredibly irritating ‘slap your head moments’ but it’s done in a really commendable way, which will keep you playing for longer and longer as Limbo doesn’t have any cut-scenes or indication of what level you’re on.

The game has a small amount of arcane items to search for and are placed very well, these look like small white eggs and will be located in areas you really wouldn’t think to look or try to get to0, giving you more good game time for your MSP. There’s some other secrets in Limbo which require some serious grey matter and that’s what amazing about it, it really gives you a refreshing angle on 2d puzzle platormers that you won’t forget in a hurry.

This all blends into a great gaming experience, one with substance and class. Sound effects are perfectly timed alongside the unearthly visuals, puzzles are creative and progressive and Limbo also has a very distinctive ending but it was a little too blunt and abrupt for such an impeccable title. Limbo is an unmissable arcade game on any platform and especially if you love 2d plaformers as it will fascinate you from the very beginning.

Score: 9/10

Published by: PlayDead

Developed by: PlayDead

Genre: puzzle

Number of Players: 1

Review: Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment (Xbox Live Arcade)

So Vandal Hearts makes its long awaited return to the gaming scene after it first being introduced to us by Konami many years ago on Playstation and Microsoft Windows. The Vandal Hearts series had a small but hardcore fan base after the Psone title was released, its turn-based tactical direction got some gamers hooked for life. Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgement is a prequel to the series and the next instalment for us gamers to enjoy, the question is has Konami and Hijinx Studios done enough to challenge and entertain gamers of this generation and past using the best parts of an old nostalgia filled title like Vandal Hearts but with enough evolution and direction to bring the gameplay up to today’s standards.

Vandal Hearts is a turn based so straight away it is only going to be for certain tastes as some gamers can find turned based games very slow and boring, often sometimes irritating. I do have a fondness for turn based games, I am a freak for planning and strategizing, nit-picking and general fussing over the smaller details, if this sounds familiar Vandal Hearts could be for you.

At the beginning of the game you’re introduced to a short cut scene to get you familiar with some of the games characters, after this you will be placed on one of the many small but attractive looking maps the game has to offer. The battle grounds are all miniaturised with tiny trees and chests, which is visually really effective for an arcade game and relates to the older maps in the past titles. The map space is used efficiently and is not too over crowded with objects, which is important as the grid is a big part of what you use in Vandal Hearts, the maps however still seem a tad too small and lacking detail in places.

The tutorial is worth paying attention to as it explains how your stats work, the more you use spells and attacks the more the bar rises for that particular core skill. This means characters can be trained in certain skill areas (like classes), that’s if you want to, you can just train all your skills to become a cutesy killing machine, I do like the fact that the choice is completely in your hands. Also in the tutorial you will get you first taste of turn based danger, attacking is easy: you get into range depending on the weapons you have, choose the attack command or spell and execute the command. The gameplay relies heavily on its command system and Vandal Hearts menu layout is easy enough to use, just press A on what you want to do, the title sadly does lack a variety of items and you will find the selection just short of enjoyable.

The game is based around stages but you will have some say in where you move to, when you can progress to another area like a camp, shop or even bonus stage the map will appear with the option/direction you can take. There’s not a lot of choice in direction all the time but it makes a refreshing change from gameplay and gives you a chance to change equipment at camps by pressing Y to check your status. As you make your way through the game you will pick up other various characters, though they look attractive and are visually well designed it doesn’t add much more enjoyment as most characters can be trained in the same way, in a sense they have little or no defining characteristics to make them stand out. The equipment menu is a little boring for my tastes and two item slots are only available for each person, which is irritating as to use items in battle like Herbs you must equip them first. Buying and selling items is easy but again a little lifeless with the lack of items, and when you’ve proceeded to the later stages of the game it just seems obligatory.

Though the game has a couple little drawbacks it offers the chance for some brilliant mini strategies, when you have acquired spells and some decent equipment the game does get a bit better. Some of the puzzle like scenarios you’re placed in make for some good turn based gaming and the odd Team Attacks helps to when characters are aligned a certain way.

It is a good turn based game with a couple of minor irritations and does have certain elements that relate to the older titles. Sadly I didn’t get much of that great nostalgia feel as it looks and plays just like most arcade games released on XBL and PSN, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the overall quality of arcade games is on the rise but I was expecting a little more originality from Konami and Hijinx Studios as this was such a rare game to get hold of back in the day.

Rating: 7.2

Developer: Hijinx Studios, LLC.

Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.

Review Xbox 360 Arcade: Call of Duty Classic

Video games have come a long way since I was a little girl, even more so in the past ten years. The visual quality of games has taken a huge leap since the days when Call of Duty was first released by Activision in 2003, and you can truly see how far the Call of Duty series has come over the years especially battling other popular war titles at the time like Medal of Honour, makes the rise of the CoD series even more astounding.

Call of Duty Classic is well as it says on the tin, a classic. This game shows you the very foundations of the series where the great features and dramatics started so to speak. Visually it looks basic with no textures or in fact soldier shadows pointed out by my friend really does take you back to a time where quality of game play really mattered. Over the past ten years game have developed at an incredibly speed visually, look at Modern Warfare 2 now with all of its details like dust, explosions and textures and take a look at early PS2 games and Original Xbox games, even the difference between those and our modern day console titles is quite incredible when you get the chance to take a step back with a port like this.

As I started playing my brother said “That’s your CoD face” I was truly consumed in this original, all of the greatest parts of the CoD series originate with this title and you can experience it right now in 2009. Controls are the same as our modern CoD’s, this is where the standard 1st person shooter button layout came from, I play so many 360 first person shooters that have this button layout it’s interesting to see where it came from. You get the exact same feel playing it, all the excitement is still there but in a more simple form which is just as enjoyable and fierce and intense fighting that we experience now.

You have the story mode to complete consisting of three different sides, Russian, British, and American, the story mode is pretty awesome. You also have Leaderboards to explore and Achievements to hunt, but best of all you have multiplayer. Multiplayer is great fun and you have a decent amount of modes to choose from, it’s such a selling point for this XBLA title as it so much fun, it’s like CoD but made all dinky and small almost compared to our modern CoD multiplayer.

If you enjoy CoD even if you’ve only played the 360 CoD titles you will enjoy this game. The feel you get is purely original even in the multiplayer it shines through, this isn’t a title to miss as you get a great insight into the CoD series and history but you also get so much fun and enjoyment from playing it on your own or with your friends.

Gamer Rating: 8.9/10

Buy or Pass: Buy

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward