Review: XBLIG: Avatar Paintball

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
After some “sit down time” with Avatar Paintball, I’ve got to say that it’s a great starting place. The game has obviously been treated with more care than many other Indie Games out there. A lot of work went in to making what is a genuinely good game, though a little more public feedback and play testing I’m sure would have lead to the resolution of my biggest complaints.

In Avatar Paintball, we are treated to an Xbox Live Indie Game with multiplayer online supper through Xbox Live, and a Leaderboard. This is among the most advanced XBLIG’s I’ve played. And while it may not have quite the graphcis of other games out there, even other indie games, but it’s not always about looks. The game itself is fast paced enough to keep you entertained – you don’t have to wait 30 seconds to respawn everytime you’re “painted.” The many powerups in the game, including super speed, invisibility, teleportation and more, all make the game quite interesting. You could be chasing after someone who is leading you right in to a trap.

Some graphical glitches bother me from time to time – fences in the game are only a pixel thick: meaning that, at the right angles, fences don’t even appear on your screen. While most of the game has a cartoony feel, it is a perfect environment for your avatars to play, with many buildings sporting familiar names of other Xbox Live Indie Games from the same developer. This is kind of funnym but the self promotion gets shameless when you press buttons that to find out what they do, and the demo of the game prompts you to buy it every five seconds. Some things, like some of the shrubbery near the buildings, looks out of place and poorly texture mapped, but that may be a graphical complaint not many others will notice.

It’s funny that after spending a few hours in the game, I have no recollection of there being music in the game – if there was, it was neither memorable nor annoying, so let’s just consider that a plus! If you’ve ever played the Xbox Live Arcade Game “Texas Hold’em” for more than 5 minutes, you’ll understand “annoying.”

The game is not without its faults, however. The over the shoulder, 3rd person view is abhorrent for aiming. You’ll go through half of your ammo hopper each time you encounter an enemy, because there is no targeting reticle. It’s a good thing ammo is readily available throughout the map, but perhaps stocking more ammo would be easier.

Avatar Paintball offers upgrades, but they are only unlockable by getting many points built up over a long “career” (so to speak). The more multiplayer games, or single player training sessions you go through, the more points you get to unlock better guns – but the point values for those guns are so high that most players will never get to them. If some players do, the players that haven’t, aren’t likely to stand much of a chance against the more advanced players, either. I’m guessing skill-based match making wasn’t a concern when this game started using Xbox Live’s multiplayer feature.

Finally, the lack of a jump does make me feel a little bit stagnant. While the map is big, there’s only one of them, and at least a little bit of “verticle” may have made the game more interesting. Auto-Aim could solve the problem of looking up or down, it could be relatively straight forward levels of “verticle” – but an ability to jump would come in handy – not just when you back yourself into a corner, but when you see an enemy you want to get to.

A future revision may cure some of these problems, and frankly at the $3 price point, I want just a little more from my indie games. But it’s an excellent start and I hope to see more solid work from DigitalDNA, especially when the demo is shamelessly begging for your Microsoft Points.

The game, itself, I would give a 4.5/10 – but the fun level still gets at least a 6, because you may just want to have a little fun wasting time some nights, and Avatar Paintball may just be a good way to do that.

Review: XBLIG: World War Toon

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
While I hate to be cheap about it, the two previous XBLARatings reviewers both hit the nail on the head when it comes to World War Toon, and you may see me referencing some of the things they had already talked about!

I had seen the name of “World War Toon” and was interested, but I had not yet seen anything about the game the game. After finally having a chance to sit down with it, I could not be more thrilled to play this game.

Protip: when starting the game: use the quick start. Otherwise, be prepared to spend a large chunk of time just determing where all of your troops will begin. While that does stay true to the board game style, I have to admit it got very old – and I think the AI bot placements should go a little faster. In some cases an AI player will rotate the globe painfully slowly. Once they find what they’re looking for, however, the AI players fly through their progressions, knowing exactly what they want to accomplish.

There is no beneficial tutorial mode, other than the basic “rock, paper, scissors” which troop-type is best suited for battle against which. It would help if the game explained or offered tips when placing new troops between rounds. The game seems to rely heavily on prior experience of board game players.

Fluid animation of the interface, the simple and straight forward design of the combat dice being rolled, and the joy of zooming in and out on troops makes this game “not much to look at” and “eye candy” almost simultaneously. The game has no music to speak of, and lacks much in the ways of animated combat or even sound effects of battle… but what it lacks, it makes up for in the same way board games do. The action is almost never ending, can go for hours on end, and will undoubtedly hook you and your friends in to extremely long battles.

I say World War Toon needs to be a full Xbox Live Arcade game with Xbox Live support – I want online play, with maps of different sizes (20 minute games would be nice for LIVE Support), an ability to sort of ‘save and resume’ would be ideal for the long campaigns, even if multiplayer. There is so much potential for this game I really hope the developers continue to work the idea out some more and have a full 800MSPoint offering some day in the future!

Good luck to them. I enjoy the game, and I hope many others will, too.

Review: XBLIG: Easy as 123 Blackjack

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
I was genuinely excited to try this game as soon as I saw the title. I enjoy BlackJack well enough, but maybe I’m just not familiar with the gambling scene to know what was going on. I gave Easy as 1, 2, 3 Blackjack an honest hour and a half and it made very little sense to me.

I had a friend play it and as he started to catch on, he thought it was making sense, but when I asked him the questions that I ran up against during the game, he couldn’t answer them either. Primarly, it seemed as though you were always placing a bet on a hand that hadn’t been played. I could bet $300 and win $25, but the next hand’s ante was $300, when my chances weren’t nearly as good.

Like I said, it may just be my own lack of understanding of the betting system, and other players may be having a blast betting on your choice of 3 different BlackJack hands. The game concept is unique enough, but even for my friend who thought he understood what was going on, the game quickly got stale.

Here’s hoping someone out there finds what they’re looking for in this game, but unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it much at all.

Review: XBLIG: Cyborg Mice Arena

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
Let me right out of the gate say that I’m giving Cyborg Mice Arena a seven out of ten because it is fast paced addictive FUN. Consider it a more comedic version of your favorite twin stick shooters (Geometry Wars, Robotoron 2084, etc…).

I first played the game for thirty minutes, and thought “well, I’ve seen enough.” A few days later, something told me I wasn’t ready to write a review for it, so I sat and played it a little more. It was then that I really got sucked in to the “I don’t want to set the controller down!” pace of the game. Enemies kept coming, wave after wave in the arena. Unfortunately, and this is what frustrated, even though the game rewarded me with 35 waves completed before I died and $39,000 in cash that I could use to unlock more weapons and cybernetic upgrades for my mouse, I was unable to comprehend the process of unlocking levels and game types! I simply could not unlock anything new and exciting.

But just because that is my own mental limitation or inability to correctly read a menu, doesn’t mean this game’s score should suffer from it. The action is great, the 3/4 overhead Isometric view angle gives you much more to look at and appreciate the work that the developer put in to this game.

The menu includes some hilarious backstory, excellent control customization (something missing from many twin stick games), and an interactive “art book.” The art book shows just how much care and creativity the developer put in to this game.

I have not had anyone over and thought to play this game, but I look forward to an extremely hectic night of local multiplayer in the near future!

Xbox 360 "S" is the official name!

During the big E3 event, Microsoft kept calling this new slimmed down Xbox 360 “The New Xbox 360” – but they stopped short of calling the “slim” or “small” or “lite” or anything!

For those still wondering, the back of the box does, indeed, call the new Xbox 360 the Xbox 360 S. Not only that, but the support section of the Xbox.com website now officially totes the Xbox 360 S title. So if anyone out there was still confused, we do have a real name for the latest iteration of the console.