Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Digital Crack for XBox Live Arcade
From GameTap's Dana Jongewaard
This morning's first stop was in Microsoft's press tent, where we got to see five of the upcoming titles that are coming to XBLA this year. I have to say that as much as I love some of the big titles, the games that always end up sneaking up on me are the little downloadable ones, so this was one of the appointments I was looking forward to most.

And it's pretty clear that Microsoft is really still pushing to provide a wide variety of content to users. There's cult favorite Rez HD, which looks appropriately amazing in HD (go figure), and there's even a classic version for those of you who don't like your games as bright and shiny as possible. Omega Five, which comes out tomorrow, is side-scrolling flying combat action. And Brain Challenge is XBLA's answer to Brain Training, the type of game that gets hyped so moms get convinced that they should buy gaming systems.

One of the titles we spent the most time looking at was the long-rumored update of classic Lode Runner, which first came out 25 years ago. Basic gameplay, where you're zipping up and down along a level while collecting gold and avoiding robots, is the same as before, but the graphics have now been 3D-ified (although gameplay is still 2D). The game includes 16 stages, with four to five levels per stage, and also has a number of modes in addition to classic play, including a survival mode, which is available in both single-player and multiplayer.

The other featured game was Poker Smash, which is basically match-three gameplay with poker elements. Rows of tiles creep slowly up the screen, and each tile is labeled with a card type-ace, king, queen, etc. Shoot for three- and four-of-a-kinds while trying to set up the maximum combos. Show-offs will have the chance to edit footage of their combos and then upload them for others to view their mastery. While I'm not entirely convinced that people are going to want to watch other people's play footage, the game itself looks like one of those deviously addictive pieces of digital crack.
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