games / Columns

Living LIVE 01.31.09: The 7th Edition

January 31, 2009 | Posted by Trace Aber

I find myself rather tired writing the article as I spent most of last night renewing, or moving, the licenses on my Xbox 360. For those of you that do not know what I am talking about, or plan on purchasing a new 360 anytime soon, you might want to keep reading. When you purchase arcade games or game add-ons, Microsoft installs a “license” on your console, meaning you can only play arcade games and use game add-ons (free or otherwise) offline on that console. If you want to take your games to another console, however, you will either have to be constantly connected to LIVE or transfer your license. This is a rather tedious process, since it requires you going to the official 360 site and going through what they describe as a quick process, meaning you will have to redownload everything. While annoying, it works and the only way to do it that I know of. The main downside (besides the time it takes) is that you can only perform this operation once a year. You can find more information about it by Clicking Here.

My name is Trace Aber, and this is Living LIVE.

Game Marketplace – A weekly look at the arcade game, demos, and add-ons released this week.
Looks like we are back into the trend of puzzle games, but at least this week it is a game I am not too familar with.

FunTown Mahjong (800MP)
Mahjong is one of those board games I never really got into. I see the appeal as it does seem like it can get rather complex, especially with other players, but I just do not understand it. So, despite my disinterest in this game’s subject matter, I am reviewing this game from the eyes of someone who actually likes playing Mahjong. Well, what I imagine the vision to look like. FunTown is, for what it is worth, a detailed and in-depth virtual Mahjong world. The game comes with a helpful tutorial that did help my understanding of the game, along with both single player and multiplayer (LIVE enabled) options. If you choose to play with the AI you will find a wide variety of opponents to play against, each of them with different stats that make their method of play different. I am glad FunTown (the developer) decided to add this small detail in because it really does add to the replay factor of the single player mode.


These three kids take Mahjong way too seriously.

The graphics are done in an anime style that works well with the rest of the environment the game creates through backgrounds and audio. The game also features leaderboards that allow you to check how you rank against players from around the world, with the hope that you will be able to brag to all of your friends about how you are the best Mahjong player ever. I am sure somebody out there has that desire. The game also features various forms of Mahjong, though I could not find out what the modes were by means of trial. Still, fans of Mahjong will surely find something to love about this quirky arcade release, and those new to the game may want to check out the demo if only for the tutorial.
Recommendation: Fans of Mahjong will enjoy it. Others may want to try the demo first.

Community Games

Bounce Crazy (200MP)
This game, described as “ball bouncing fun for children of all ages,” is a really weird game. The basic premise of the game is rather simple – score points by hitting balls into the other person’s net. The twist is that there are twelve balls on the screen at all times and instead of players you control a large white hand. Featuring single and multiplayer (2 player, no LIVE support), Bounce Crazy will catch your interest for a short while then you will quickly forget about it. It is not that it is a bad game, and in fact it is quite fun for the first couple of rounds. You will be trying to beat your previous score (on my first game I score 108 and 120 during the second game) for a while, but then you will realize that there is not much else to the game. This may be fun for a drunken party, but I do not think the game is fast enough for it to really be good for that. The hands move much slower than they should and that is the biggest downside to the gameplay. I feel like the hand is being held back by some greater force (perhaps a wrist, or even a whole arm!) and keeps the game from staying interesting for even a few seconds longer. As far as graphics and sound goes, everything is extremely basic, but considering only one person made it, you cannot fault him for it.
Recommendation: Fun for a round or two, but quickly grows old after that. The trial will outlast your desire to play. Avoid.

Revenge of the Ball (200MP)
Revenge of the Ball is a breakout clone with a twist. This time, the balls are out for revenge after being used and abused. This game looks pretty dull, I am not going to lie. As it turns out, though, it is actually a rather difficult game. The trial consists of five levels (thirty-two in the full game) and I cannot make it past level four. Gameplay consists of moving a platform (similar to breakout) and blocking the balls from hitting the wall behind you. Sounds simple enough, and it is, until the balls start shooting at you. Some shoot missiles, others have a machine gun, and there are those that shoot laser beams at you. So, now, you have to evade the weapons while trying to prevent the balls from hitting your wall, and on level four alone I saw about ten balls bouncing and shooting constantly. This is defintely a challenging, but fun game that I think many people will enjoy. The music is your basic techno (which is clearly ‘in’ nowadays), sound effects are typical, and the graphics consists of a gray platform, different colored balls, and a variety of backgrounds. This game should have been named Bounce Crazy, though I am not sure what we would call the actual Bounce Crazy.
Recommendation: Highly fun and entergetic, you cannot go wrong with a purchase here.

Rumble Massage (200MP)
Not so much a game as a unique way of using the rumble feature. We have all been using the rumble feature on controllers for years now to ‘massage’ various parts of our bodies. Now, we no longer have to come up with an excuse as to why we are massaging ourselves. Rumble Massage allows you to choose the type of massage you want (which corresponds to how strong the vibrations in the controller are) and the frequency at which it vibrates (the tempo of the massage). Both my girlfriend and I have tested the program and it does indeed provide a decent, if simple, massage. The only downside is the possibility of it draining your battery rather quickly if you decided to go the wireless route. If you are wired, however, massage away.
Recommendation: The only new feature of buying it is you get the “epic mode” massage, so you really do not need to purchase it unless you want to entice other developers to produce applications like this.

Fields – Soldier of Time (400MP)
Fields is another unique game in a slew of them this week, as we get a community 3D platformer with elements of action and puzzle added as well. I use the term 3D loosely because the graphics are circa mid-90s and from a far away view, but are still servicable. Gameplay consists of avoiding enemies, killing enemies, blowing up barrels to kill enemies, and escaping twisters. To aid you in all of this is your temporal field, which is the games method of slow motion. With this, you can pick off enemies and dodge bullets in situations you otherwise could not. The game gets difficult at some points but can be really easy at other times, so the difficulty is widely varied and not in a good way. You never really get a sense of increasing difficulty and instead it feels random and out of place, but the levels are designed well for a community game and there it is fun enough to last you for a while.


It can be kind of hard to tell what is going on in Fields, which is why it is handy to slow things down.

Recommendation: A fair price for a fairly decent action platformer, it is a different game than what you normally get from the community. Check it out.

Don’t Fear the Sweeper (200MP)
Clever title aside, this game is a minesweeper clone for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. Featuring four modes of difficulty, including custom games, replays, and game saves, there is slightly more to the game than your typical clone. Also added to the fray is the use of a bomb that safely uncovers a large portion of the board for you, for which I assume is for the newer players. The game is not much to look at, and the music consists of about five beats. But, really, there is not much to say about minesweeper. You flag the mines, clear the board, and that is about it.
Recommendation: If you just cannot get enough Minesweeper, this is the game for you. Otherwise, you will not miss much not downloading it.

Simply HangMan (200MP)
Simply HangMan is, well, simply hangman. The full version consists of over 56,000 words and definitions for each word, though they are brief. The graphics consists of a piece of paper, stick drawings, and tiny buttons to represent the letters. You can also use the messenger keypad, if you so desire. That is about it, to be honest. It is HangMan, plain and simple.
Recommendation: I do not see any logical need to buy this when there are plenty of better ones online.

Crystal Crush (400MP)
Crystal Crush is your typical ‘match 3 and eliminate jewels’ puzzle game. The ‘twist’ to this game is, well, you twist the board so you can match the jewels, which shoot from various different points. The game features 48 levels, all slightly different from the others. The game also features four different modes of play and 1-2 player games. My biggest problem with this game is, well, there are countless of other games like this one – and many of them can be found for free online. I firmly believe the genre has been sapped and there are no new routes the games can take. You can twist, shape, and bend the board any way you want to, but in the end it does not matter. You are still matching things based off their colors and, in the end, that gets old after 20+ years.
Recommendation: Avoid. You have played this a thousand times before.

Game Demos

Resident Evil 5
The demo includes two missions to play and features offline single and co-op modes, as well as an online co-op mode. I am not going to go into much detail as I believe there should be a full preview of the game up here soon, but just know that the demo rocks and should keep you at bay until the full version release. In short, you are going to want this. All of this.

Game Add-Ons

Fallout 3
Operation: Anchorage DLC (800MP)
Note: Watch your Pip-Boy 3000 for the ‘Outcast Distress Signal’ on your radio which will lead you to the new content.

Guitar Hero: World Tour
Album: “Dig Out Your Soul” by Oasis (1520MP)
“To Be Where There’s Life” by Oasis (160MP)
“The Turning” by Oasis (160MP)
“The Nature of Reality” by Oasis (160MP)
“Soldier On” by Oasis (160MP)
“I’m Outta Time” by Oasis (160MP)
“(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” by Oasis (160MP)
“Falling Down” by Oasis (160MP)
“Ain’t Got Nothin'” by Oasis (160MP)
Bruce Springsteen Track Pack (Free)

FunTown Mahjong
Chinese Festival (160MP)

Avatar Editor (Free)
This week we get soccer sport shirts from the following European National Football Teams;
Austria
Belgium
Denmark
England
Finland
France
Germany
Ireland
Italy
Netherlands
Northern Ireland
Norway
Portugal
Scotland
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Wales

Rock Band
“Don’t Ease Me In” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
“Hell in a Bucket” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
“Uncle John’s Band” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
“Cold Rain and Snow” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
“Doin’ That Rag” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
“Fire on the Mountain” by The Grateful Dead (160MP)
Grateful Dead Pack 02 (800MP)

LIVE Activity for week of January 19th

Xbox 360 Top Live Titles (based on UU’s)
1 CoD: World at War
2 Halo 3
3 Call of Duty 4
4 Gears of War 2
5 Left 4 Dead
6 GTA IV
7 Fable II
8 FIFA 09
9 Guitar Hero World Tour
10 Madden NFL 09

Top Arcade Titles (Full Versions purchased)
1 The Maw
2 Castle Crashers
3 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
4 Worms
5 UNO
6 A Kingdom for Keflings
7 Braid
8 Banjo-Kazooie
9 Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
10 Bomberman Live
The above arcade list is based on full versions purchased.

Original Xbox Top Live Titles (based on UU’s)
1 Halo 2
2 Star Wars: Battlfrnt 2
3 Fable
4 Counter-Strike
5 Conker: Live Reloaded
6 Splinter Cell Chaos
7 Doom 3
8 Star Wars: Battlefront
9 Call of Duty 3
10 Street Fighter Anniv.

Top Community Games (Full Versions purchased)
1 RC-AirSim
2 Golden Royal Blackjack
3 CarneyVale Showtime
4 Ocean Scenes
5 Air Legends
6 Groov
7 Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp
8 Foosball For Two
9 Weapon of Choice
10 Colosseum

Video Marketplace

Title (HD, STD)
Mamma Mia! (N/A, 320MP)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (480MP, 320MP)
Swing Vote (480MP, 320MP)
RocknRolla (480MP, 320MP)
Pride and Glory (480MP, 320MP)
Bangkok Dangerous (480MP, 320MP)
The Duchess (480MP, 320MP)
Ghost Town (480MP, 320MP)
Eagle Eye (480MP, 320MP)
Traitor (480MP, 320MP)

There is nothing of interest this week on LIVE, and as of this portion of the column I no longer have access to my 360. That being said, the only video worth watching this week is the Final Fantasy XIII trailer.

Events

Monday: Music Monday – Guitar Hero: World Tour

Tuesday: Family Game Night – Scene It? Box Office Smash

Wednesday: GamerchiX Ladies Night – Skate 2

Thursday: Co-Op Night – Left 4 Dead

Friday: Game With Fame – P.O.S. (Skate 2)

Saturday/Sunday: Community Playdate – Gears of War 2 with 2old2play.com

Saturday/Sunday: Game With Fame – Halo 3 – As I Lay Dying, Protest the Hero, The Human Abstract, and MyChildren MyBride

Top Ten Xbox-Live Arcade Games Everyone Should Own
I love playing the random, quirky, and classic games that Xbox Live has to offer. Obviously, like everyone else, I have my own quirks about me that form the types of videogames I like. So, each week, I will be revealing a new game to my list of XBLA games that everyone should own. Or, at the very least, try out. These are in no particular order, by the way.

Week 4: Sonic the Hedgehog (400MP)
When people think of the early console wars, people think of two mascots – Mario and Sonic. Nowadays the two mascots are pretty friendly towards one another and appear in multiple games together, but back in the early 90’s things were not always so smooth between the plumber and hedgehog. In fact, they were constantly battling for console gaming supremacy. While Mario featured more puzzle-based levels and greater scope, Sonic was all about speed, speed, and more speed. Sonic the Hedgehog had you running through loops, over baddies, and performing amazing leaps that defied physics…all while being a hedgehog. Finally, the hedgehogs have something to be proud about.


If this screen does not bring back old memories of video games past, nothing will.

While I loved both Mario and Sonic as a child, I always thought Sonic was a better game. To me, it was easier to pick up and play and you got to do things that you simply could not in Mario. The story was always a little wacky, with the evil Eggman trying to take over the world and everyone leaving their fate up to a blue hedgehog, but it was the 90’s. The game featured six different levels, each of them divided into three separate acts. There is nothing quite like loading the game up and hearing the familar tune of the Green Hill Zone, which followed the classic “SEGA!” soundbyte right before it. It truly was a magical minute in my video game life.


Those things always hit me at least once

The XBLA version of the game features updated graphics and a nice save and load feature. Sadly, the classic level select cheat does not work in order to prevent people from gaining achievements (seriously?). There is also an option for graphics smoothing, but I cannot tell a difference on the TV I use to play it on (which is by no means HD).

This game is not a hard game to sell. Most everyone has played it about once, and the majority of those people have beaten it, yet we still continue to play it to this day. It is a classic game that will never grow old and with good reason – great gameplay. That is all it takes to make a great game…something developers could take note from…especially Sonic Team.

Closing
And that closes out yet another week in the world of Xbox Live. If you have any questions of comments, post it in the comments section and I will respond as soon as I can. Thanks for reading!

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Trace Aber
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