Entries in xbla (9)


Alan Wake's American Nightmare review - A misguided misfire

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is an odd concoction built upon the weaknesses of its predecessor. A thin facade of Alan Wake has been spread over a foundation built with other goals in mind. The disconnect is evident. For fans of the universe, this morsel of campy absurdity will scratch the itch for more but stop short of satisfaction. The unfamiliar need not apply, as all they will encounter is an impenetrable fiction attatched to a game that struggles to justify even its bite-sized price. 

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Stacking Review - Miniature World, Full-Size Fun

We could use more games like Stacking. It’s charming, original, fun, and the perfect size for its ideas. Imagine Portal but with Russian nesting dolls. 

Double Fine’s latest downloadable morsel learns important lessons from the Portal school of game design. For a small fraction of full retail price, it delivers a compact experience that’s a good value without overstaying its welcome. It lasts long enough to charm you into loving it, but no longer. 

The question of value is one of the biggest issues the gaming industry is currently facing. Games can last anywhere between five minutes and hundreds of hours while costing as little as a dollar or as much as sixty. In other words, we spend a lot of time thinking about how much our games are worth these days and there’s no easy answers.

What is clear is that you don’t see many games like Portal. These gaming middle children, so to speak, can provide a dose of originality not possible with expensive games that have to play it safe while offering bigger budget thrills than what’s possible in the bargain bucket. 

The industry needs more great titles in this category, but it’s hard to find a place for them. Downloadable gems such as Limbo are leading the way in this area and Stacking will surely soon find its way into the hearts of many gamers as well for the same reasons as others of its ilk. Its concise tale packs the charm and satisfaction of a game many times its price.

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Best of the Decade: Braid


Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Mac OS X, Linux, Windows

Release Date: August 6, 2008 (360 version)

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios (360); Number None, Inc. (Other versions)

Developer: Number None, Inc.

It’s not often that a puzzle game can snare me. I like a good mental challenge, but I don’t have the patience for the genre most of the time. I’m already susceptible to switching away from a game I’m stuck on and an entire genre built around stopping you in your tracks periodically and forcing you to solve tough puzzles usually doesn’t work for me. I’ll try a new game, get hooked until I’m stumped, put it down, and never play it again.

Thus, sadly, I’ve come to largely avoid puzzle games. Portal and Limbo are two exceptions, but both are far more than traditional genre entries.

Braid is more traditional a puzzle game than either of those two, but it’s still something special. 

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Best of the Decade: Limbo


Platform: Xbox 360

Release Date: July 21, 2010

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Developer: Playdead Studios

I think most who hold the hobby of gaming close to their heart would agree that the medium is perfectly capable of being considered art. When it comes time to decide which games constitute art, consensus is decidedly less clear. Outside of a few select titles that seem to pop up repeatedly in such discussions, such as Shadow of the Colossus, I’m not sure most gamers know what an “artistic” game is supposed to look like.

Should we look to games like Heavy Rain, which aspires as much as is possible to be a film, for our example? Should we turn to games like Flower, which dispense with most recognizable aspects of being a game at all in favor of being visually interesting and delivering a strong message? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

I think with Limbo we’re a step closer to knowing. Of course, as with any type of art, there isn’t simply one easy definition. Looking at games like Shadow of the Colossus and Limbo, however, it does become clearer what is required on a fundamental level to be both a game and art.


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Best of the Decade: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy

Platforms: Xbox 360; Windows

Release Date: October 20, 2010 (360)

Publisher: N/A

Developer: Team Meat

I will readily admit that I’m a modernist when it comes to gaming. As I hope to demonstrate with this list, the last decade has been a tremendous one for my favorite hobby. Nearly every aspect of game design has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few generations. 

This development has come at a cost, however. I often find that it is difficult for me to appreciate games that were once thrilling and cutting-edge. They simply seem dated to me because of how far games have come over the years and I have trouble enjoying these games in a modern context.

I have great love and appreciation for classic games. I spent many hours playing retro titles of all sorts back when they were the latest and greatest. When it comes time to set aside my 360 and fire up my SNES, however, I usually find myself more frustrated than enthralled.

I have no lack of respect for retro games or the gamers that play them; quite the opposite in fact. My personal predilections simply relegate my love for these titles to that of distant spectator, save for the rare glorious exception.

This tenuous relationship with older titles is precisely what makes Super Meat Boy so special to me.

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