Before I start, of course these are my personal choices and no doubt yours will differ depending on the ones you have played, however be sure to share your favourite games.
Xbox Live Arcade has certainly added a new twist to console gaming. No longer are we forced to nip over to the shops, buy one of those shiny disk thingymebobs in the ugly plastic boxes for around the £35 mark, travel back home slowly teasing back the wrapping and security tape until finally you can insert your new purchase into your Xbox 360. It is these first five minutes where you decide whether you have made a wise decision or whether listening to your friends online gaming recommendations has led you right up the garden path.
Xbox Live Arcade is our knight in shining armour though, offering free downloadable demonstrations and an affordable way of expanding our gaming library without even leaving the comfort of our house. At one time there were grumbles about the lack of releases on the service, however now we are flooded with all manner of genres both retro and modern, so choosing the superior titles can be quite a challenge.
Let me ease some of your frustrations by offering what I consider to be the top titles that will tantalise your television screens from the selection I have experienced…
Based on the cartoon style of Worms 2 many of us know and love from PC gaming years ago, Worms for Xbox Live Arcade has all the charm of warfare without the risk of troubling your conscience spoiling the fun. Millions of possible randomly generated landscapes with a selection of themes (with additional content available for a cost), bizarre accents and even exploding sheep are all available
Although a seemingly destructive title, there is far more to it than that as you will need to use your lethal arsenal effectively. Whether you call in an air-strike, throw a grenade, collect that tempting crate or take to the skies dropping a little goodie along the way, your choices will determine the outcome of the war being raged in this tiny, yet very personal, set of circumstances.
There is plenty of single player intrigue as you battle the computer through increased difficulty, but the excitement really begins when you sit down your friend next to you and take out all your frustrations on their little pink minions (Worms that is!). If picking off random strangers is your thing, hop onto Xbox Live as you are sure to find people who like you, desire something destructive, yet charming. Be warned though, humiliation is an easy goal to attain without even trying.
9) Golden Axe
Who could deny the appeal of Tyris Flare. Many a prepubescent boy learned the wonders of the feminine physique thanks to continually walking upwards on the screen. Look at it sway. (clears throat)… Anyway, aside from the obvious appeal of scantily clad women of the Amazon, Golden Axe features good old fashioned 2D scrolling hack and slash adventuring.
Porting the original arcade version, it includes a few more niceties than the SEGA Megadrive (Genesis), including enemies that fall to the ground losing more than just the colour in their cheeks when they are defeated and the crunching of bones when attacking those tormenting skeletons. The downside though is due to the fact the Megadrive had a slightly longer gameplay experience thanks to an additional section after defeating the notorious Death Adder. Where the two thrones appear at the end, there is actually a door on the Megadrive, but nevermind.
This aside though, it faithfully recreates the memories I had as a youngster as Golden Axe was one of my first gaming experiences and is more than likely one of the reasons I am a Journalist today. I was so chuffed when I completed the game on a single 20 pence piece and now here it is, but this time I don’t have to worry about any coin slots digesting all of my money on every occasion.
The icing on the cake though has to be the online co-operative mode allowing you and a buddy to tackle the evil together. Although frightfully short, you may find yourself falling for the obvious simplicity and fantasy aspects. I mean come on… You can ride a fire breathing dragon for goodness sakes! Just remember to watch out for those killer drops though. Whoops!
8) OutRun Online Arcade
Another SEGA gem that has found new life on Xbox Live Arcade has to be OutRun Online Arcade. Although I felt the title mocked us a little with the lack of modes available, the 5-10 minute nature quickie moment of gaming action on Microsoft’s service has allowed it to really shine.
Racing against the clock, you and your female companion set to the road travelling through all kinds of backdrops and obstacles, with traffic being the prevalent pain in the backside. The best way to drive though is to slide around those treacherous corners that would otherwise bother you.
Enhanced graphics and a seductive soundtrack will delight you and friends who remember the time when SEGA ruled the world with their arcade expertise. Heart Attack mode will add challenge and competition to your life, but online as always will be that little bit extra you need to warrant considering this legend reincarnated.
7) Bankshot Billiards 2
Usually, when sat in your local pub your eyes wander over to a pool table tempting you with its green cloth, shiny balls and blue chalk. When you finally venture over though you are often disappointed at the line of money indicating people have reserved the next session, the sticky cues with other peoples residual sweat (ewww) and the slight lean causing any missed shot to be the tables fault (that is my excuse anyway).
Once more though, Xbox Live Arcade has come up with the digital solution for all our ball potting needs. Bankshot Billiards 2 started life in a top down view causing some people to suggest the game was actually 2D, however thanks to an update the developers had the last laugh as pressing the D-pad revealed the true 3D nature.
What makes this a pleasing experience though has to be the selection of modes other than just your standard pool offering. There are the typical variants of pool from around the world, but also how about a spot of golf or even a trick shot or two? 2 player online is of course here, but quite unusual for a pool game, there is a 3 player mode included in an option called ‘Cutthroat’, where the aim is to eliminate your opponents from the table by potting their coloured balls be it red, yellow or blue. The Xbox Live Vision Camera also provides a platform for your mocking, shame or even a friendly gesture of hello with a wave. Awwwww how lovely…
6) Uno Rush
Imagine Uno the classic card game, but with no time to linger, no time to ponder, no time to discuss the random happenings on the latest episode of Heroes, just the pure thrill of speed and rapid decision making.
Rather than placing one at a time, you are pressured to organise your card collection without delay so when your turn comes forth, you are prepared to ditch as many of the little blighters as possible and with a bit of luck your whole stash. If that isn’t mind boggling enough, you also have to contend with special cards that will add more problems to your assortment and even more aggravating, mixing up your lovingly re-arranged hand… The swines!
It may tax your brain to its maximum level resulting in shorter gaming spells, but you will find it hard to ignore the exhilaration of a triumphant outcome.
5) Soul Calibur
There have been countless sequels of this fighting classic, but for me, the real thrill rests where it all began. Dead or Alive may be spot on for its hand to hand combat, but Soul Calibur fills in the gap nicely where weaponry plays such a vital role. Yes some of the sound clips are maddening, but just listen to that epic music… Absolute bliss… It more than makes up for it.
The game may be ageing gracefully, yet in spite of this I persist in appreciating the finer virtues that Soul Calibur bestows. The varied attacking hardware, the huge assortment of characters and the sheer brilliance of the on screen action. Let’s not forget the amusing victory poses either, bottoms up Voldo.
Just be careful you don’t get too carried away with the special moves though, it can get a little embarrassing. You soon get over it though with the fancy name entry screen.
With the emblematic arcade, time attack and survival modes, there is sufficient justification to include this in my top 5. Unfortunately there is absolutely no online experience to speak of, however as disappointing as that fact is, not having the original Soul Calibur in my catalogue would be as equally astonishing.
4) Streets of Rage 2
With roughly an hour of gameplay from start to finish, Streets of Rage 2 certainly provides value for money while also regarded as one of the best titles to ever be released by SEGA. Although the Megadrive was and still is attacked for its musical power by a few of the Nintendo faithful, SEGA often excelled in reaping the benefits of the system as was proved time and time again in the Streets of Rage series.
Providing many important lessons in life, such as why lifts are not always the safest way to reach new heights, why not to order the spicy fast food take away, woman with whips aren’t as wonderful as you were once told and that too much sun bathing is bad for your skin (you will need to watch the video for some of these to make sense).
If facing the computer is getting a little tedious, how about a quick duel to settle a few scores. Will you pick up a weapon or just use your trusty mits to cause all the damage? Just like Golden Axe, Streets of Rage 2 features online co-operative, just be sure that you don’t get in your partners way, otherwise you will experience pain from friends as well as foes and with so many enemies on screen, it is surprisingly easy if you are not paying complete attention.
So what are you waiting for? You younger gamers have missed some truly astounding titles, don’t let the fact you were born much later than us who were there at the time of when SEGA was king provide an excuse for missing out on this one.
Endured a difficult day at the office, suffered far too many head-shots on Call of Duty or maybe your yearning for an evening of socialising and a chilled atmosphere? Uno provides the perfect antidote to all the stresses of life and indeed gaming.
Unlike Uno Rush, you can actually settle down in your comfy chair, unwind and reduce those pesky troublesome thoughts running around in your head. All that remains is to relax while selecting the appropriate card. There is still a thought process involved and tactics are crucial in reaching the victory, but at the end of the day Uno is all about the calmer aspects, so you can skip your ying and yang for this week.
So this is the ideal game for when the typical hectic pace of gaming is wearing you down and all you wish for is something to pass the time, encourage a chat with a few friends while still pressing a few buttons on the controller reminding you that you are still involved in the action.
2) Castle Crashers
Who ever suggested 2D gaming a thing of the past was obviously ignoring the bigger picture, in fact the high definition picture. One developer took a bit of a risk in this field and my goodness it has paid off. With HD visuals that scream colour and immense sensory stimulation, a set of enemies that will make you laugh at the wacky larking around while crying at their difficulty and then the icing on the cake, the online 4 player co-operative that has to be seen to be truly believed.
Castle Crashers is not just a game, it is a sharp finger-nail in the eye to those developers and publishers who have said for so many years that 3D is the only way to make gaming interesting and fun. What a load of old tosh that statement has now proved to be… Not only is this 2D perspective masterpiece a joy to play, not only does it tickle your ribcage with its humour, but it is a work of art that belongs in an expensive frame hanging on your wall for all to admire.
With a ‘levelling up’ feature to improve your characters attributes, magic with increasing strength and dazzle, varied weaponry ranging from the shimmering sword to the mighty branch with a few leaves on it, level design with stellar imagination and outrageous allure and still the fun keeps on coming hours later.
The only reason why Castle Crashers misses out on the coveted number one spot is due to the fact the genre isn’t one that will appeal to everybody. If though you are like me and adore the thought of reliving happier times with a new modern twist, you certainly would be wise to invest in this gaming spectacle of just amazing production value.
Who would have thought such a simple idea would be so terribly addictive! Dropping a ball from the top of the screen and watching it bounce around is hardly rocket science, yet Peggle achieves something very special and that is your captivation. Some of you may have been put off by the demo, but trust me it is one of those frustrating cases where the preview doesn’t do the full game the justice it deserves.
Peggle is highlighting what Xbox Live Arcade has at its core. Casual gaming that appeals to a wide audience yet still convincing the hardcore that even simplicity will delight even the most sceptical among us.
It may be a fairly basic idea, however the execution is superb. Your task is to hit all (or as many) of the orange coloured pegs. There are green pegs that initiate a perk dependent on the character you have chosen, ranging from explosions and multiballs to magic hats and divine intervention. Purple will provide a points boost and the boring blues will mostly just get in your way.
For those who enjoy a little solitude now and again will enjoy the lavish options available. First of all you progress through the countless characters until you finally unlock them all. This will take quite a bit of time, but the real challenge rests in… Yes you guessed it… the ‘Challenge’ area. Being on your own though can be a little depressing for long periods, so hop onto Xbox Live and revel in the duel mode where each of you takes a turn on the same level or crank it up a notch with a 4 player simultaneous point fest. Although your exclusively controlled play area fills the screen, you can still take a sneak peak at the others if you want to be nosey. There is nothing better than hearing your opponents whine as you score a bucket bonus or a crafty leap to victory at the last moment thanks to a lucky bounce.
So there you have it folks, my personal top 10 Xbox Live Arcade games. With new games released each week, no doubt the list will change in the future, but for now I hope this little selection helps you on the way to arcade thrills, spills and smaller credit card bills.
Thanks to Skilgannon, Dibzy, K1ckfl1p, xDare2playx and L4dyvenge4nce for taking part in much of the online gaming.