Monday, March 31, 2008

Arcade Extravaganza

So right after posting about how I have never bought anything off of Xbox Live Arcade, I went and bought 3 games (for about $10 each). Heh.

Here they are with my capsule impressions so far:

N+
Which is a great little platformer that's been free on PC/Mac/Linux for ages (download here). The basic idea is that you are a ninja who can run around and jump of walls and whatnot and you are trying to complete 5 levels before time runs out. You finish a level by flipping a switch and getting to the door, and each little gold coin you get adds two seconds to your time. The controls are simple, just left, right, jump, and suicide (for when you are trapped or just want to see the ninja explode - which is sickly satisfying I might add). However, with the simple controls comes, as a friend would say, "finesse". There is a certain rhythm to wall jumping that is the difference between bounding up a vertical cliff face with ease or scrabbling desperately for purchase.

The big difference between the Xbox Live Arcade(XBLA) version and the free computer version, besides polish, is multiplayer. You can do co-op or competition online or off. All of which looks like a lot of fun, but Anna is still working her way through the tutorial (she didn't grow up with a Nintendo, so platformers are a bit alien to her), so I haven't really checked it out.

Carcassonne

This purchase was somewhat of a brain cramp to be honest, as I already own the actual board game. Basically, I meant to get Catan (see below) which is based upon a classic board game I've always been intrigued about, but needs way more players than I could ever assemble. However when I tried to remember "the video game based on a board game that someone on my friends list plays a lot" I got Carcassonne instead and just dismissed why the name seemed so familiar.

Turned out pretty well though, since I almost never want to play the real game when Anna does(maybe that's why I didn't recognize its name immediately)... mainly because of the general hassle of any board game(score keeping, set-up/clean-up). The XBLA version takes care of all that and tells you the legal positions for any pieces without you having to think about it (nicely preventing arguments as well). The graphics are pretty pleasant, and do just about as much as you can with a game based on placing tiles.

The rule and terminology changes from the board game were a bit confusing at first (monastery!?), but the fundamental gameplay remains as good as ever. I'm not sure yet how I feel about there not being walls, but in the handful of games Anna and I played we didn't really miss them. I may have more on this later as we get more games under our belt.

Catan
This was the game I meant to get all along. However I only played the one tutorial game, so I don't have much of a verdict. The most disappointing thing was the realization that you can't play multiplayer locally; only online. This makes sense with secret cards and all that, but it means that unless I discover a bunch of people who love to play it, I probably won't get my money's worth from this title. We'll see though.