Friday, December 10, 2010

The good and the ugly, no in between

Free offerings on XBLA have had a mixed history. Dash of Destruction was shit. Aegis Wing, on the other hand, was actually pretty good. I like to think of these gratis game-lets as public proof of concept propositions. The developer has confidence that the idea will work, but no one else does, some some larger company foots the bill, slaps their own advertising all over it, and lets the public decide. I have no idea if the Aegis Wings guys every saw any money for their work or if they got jobs in the industry, but they should have. Those responsible for Dash of Destruction (or that damn Yaris game) should never be allowed to touch a video game again. This week two more freebies dropped, both thanks to a contest Doritos put together that I had never heard of. The results? Surprisingly better than quite a few games that actually cost money.

The easiest way to describe Crash Course is Wipeout the game starring your avatar. You move from left to right as quickly as possible, dodge all sorts of stuff, get to the end as fast as you can and then do it again. Simple, yes, but also quite well done. The level design is an excellent balance between twitch reactions and planing due to repeated, embarrassing failure. I am sure there are people who will do the levels over and over trying to get the best time, but I had fun just getting through them once. Controls are responsive and rarely get in the way, an important step that other platformers *cough*Little Big Planet*cough* often miss. I even appreciated the balance mechanic that keeps you from just holding down the run button all the time. If you avatar pick up too much speed he will fall forward and face plant, much like we all did as kids when running down hills that were just a bit to steep to handle safely.

'Hey this is fun! Wait, wait, OH SHIT!'


Good stuff. It could have used a bit more variety in both visuals and obstacles, but whoever laid this thing out has potential. Someone should give him a job.

The same can be said for Harms Way, but for different reasons. Harms Way tries to be two games: a racing game for one member of the team and a turret based shooter for the other. The racing is mediocre at best. It reminded me of everything bad from Motorstorm, so after a race and half I was done with it (which is about as long as I played the second Motorstrorm). Manning the turrets surrounding the track was much more fun that it had any right to be. On the first shot of the first lap I caught a truck right in the windshield and one shot killed the driver. After that I popped tires on his friends vehicles, unlocked mines that fell from the sky and blew the shit out of everyone else. It was a blast, managing to hold my interest through three almost identical courses. I do no know if this could be supported for an entire retail game, but I would pay the usual XBLA price for a this kind of thing spread out across ten or so different tracks with more vehicles, weapons, and fun ways to humiliate opposing driver. Concept proven, now give these guys money to make a real game.

So, free stuff can be quite good. How about a retail release that forces its way into an established, if not fading market by trying to avoid all the coat tails it can, thereby doing absolutely everything wrong?

Power Gig is aggressively bad. I will catalog its multitude of sins tomorrow, suffice now to saw that no one should play it, ever.


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