What I played on the Xbox 360 in 2010 (Part 1)

by on Jan.09, 2011, under Xbox 360 Commentary

Another year passes and once again, I find myself woefully remiss in keeping up with my writing activities. I’ve got notes on just about every game I’ve played over the last few years, as well as assorted musings and conversations with various gaming developers and industry pundits. I’m just finding it increasingly difficult to spare the time to publish all these articles. After a couple of weeks of leave and some seriously needed down time I feel suitably refreshed enough to make my annual New Year resolution: “to once again apply stylus to tablet and re-commence publication of all my gaming activities, as well as any gaming news of interest that I might stumble across.”  

I have admittedly managed to break this regular promise on countless occasions in the past, but this year I feel more confident that I can follow through with my intentions!

Seriously …

No, I mean it! …

(sigh) …

Anyway, let’s start the ball rolling with a quick look at what I played on the Xbox 360 in 2010.

What might interest readers is the large number of older titles that attracted my attention last year. I’ve never found the need to focus exclusively on the latest and greatest blockbuster titles, and given the static nature of hardware for each console generation, many of 2005’s Xbox 360 launch titles still hold their own five years down the track. With each title I’ve included a mini-review of my overall experience; a more comprehensive assessment for many of these releases will (hopefully) be forthcoming as the year progresses.

Mass Effect 2 (and all the DLC)
In an effort to appeal to members of the “I’m not playing it unless it’s a shooter” school of gaming, every accepted facet of computer RPG’s has been ruthlessly simplified or excised. No simple puzzles, guns are unique and can only be purchased at one store in the known galaxy, and levelling your character requires almost no decision making whatsoever … and the less said about the probe shooting and mining mini-game the better (although that was eventually patched). On the plus side, some interesting characters with well fleshed-out backstories (Mordin Solus more than makes up for Miranda’s bland and disinterested attitude), a storyline that maintains the cinematic sweep first showcased in Mass Effect, and (despite my shooter apprehensions in the first sentence) a vastly improved third person combat engine (although as many people have commented in other forums, the presence of chest high crates and paraphenalia tends to highlight an impending firefight.)

My experiences with the DLC was a mixed bag, with only Overlord and the impressive Lair of the Shadow Broker measuring up to the quality of the main game. There is at least one more DLC release planned for Mass Effect 2, although the time-frame is still undetermined.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
A new perspective on Lara Croft that doesn’t accentuate her “assets”, Lara Croft GOL is a 3D isometric action platformer set in the usual haunts that you would expect to find any self-respecting tomb raider. With her erstwhile companion Totec in tow, you’ll witness the pair leaping vast chasms, scaling cliffs, shooting a wide variety of undead and prehistoric beasts and bosses, and solving a myriad of death inducing traps and puzzles. I confess that my experience with this game so far has been purely multiplayer (we’ve nearly finished the game!) and it’s actually a heck of a lot of fun. There’s plenty of insane firefights to get the adrenaline pumping and plenty of follow up traps designed to catch you off guard when you think you have successfully navigated past a puzzle. The biggest issue is trying to keep both protaganists acting in concert as it only takes one individual going off on his own to result in both players meeting a grisly end.

Comic Jumper
Here’s another 2.5D action platformer from Twisted Pixel (the makers of ‘Splosion Man) that narrates the misadventures of a failed comic book hero Captain Smiley and his chest-bound sidekick Star. Relying purely on pointless jokes and toilet humour to give it a unique flavour, Comic Jumper ends up being average “run of the mill” fare. The various comic strip genres get tired very quickly and in a nutshell, all the game offers is repetative platforming and 3rd person rail shooting action with different artwork. The welcome introduction of checkpoints will at least prevent many of the “hurling controller at TV” episodes characterizing ‘Splosion Man‘s gameplay, however you will still die regularly, complete with a pertinent insult from the developer targetting your lack of  gaming skills or friends.

Feeling rather pissed off by these irritating and totally unneccessary remarks, I had a closer look at the licensing agreement for the game and can confirm that: “By purchasing Comic Jumper (the game designed to kill you off multiple times each session), you (the consumer) are granting Twisted Pixel the implicit rights to abuse and insult the player’s parentage, sexual proclivities, lack of hand-eye coordination and religious affiliation.” All I can say is, buried deep within this site is my article authoring licensing agreement that clearly stipulates: “By selling Comic Jumper (the allegedly “intellectual” property of Twisted Pixel), you (the developer) are granting me the right to tell you to be thankful that you got a score of 2 1/2 llamas and collectively go %$#% yourselves.”

A Kingdom for Keflings
I have a sneaking suspicion that I was going through my early 2010 “casual gaming” phase when I picked this game up. At it’s heart, A Kingdom for Keflings is a simple resource gathering and settlement building game which involves your Xbox avatar running around assembling a variety of buildings with the ultimate goal being the successful construction of a castle. Cartoony graphics and a very flat learning curve provide the player with a pleasant diversion from hardcore gaming. No replayability to speak off once you’ve completed the game, but there’s still 6-8 hours of entertainment to be had. In fact it was amusing enough for me to pick up A World of Keflings just before the year closed out, so there will be more Kefling shenanigans forthcoming later in the year.

Gears of War 2
Gears of War 2 continues the adventures of Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago as they take on the relentless Locust Horde for control of the planet Sera. Another example of how Epic Games title development is just as impressive as their licensed 3D game engines. A generous number of diverse levels and an intuitive combat and cover system makes this game more than worth the A$20  plonked down for the co-operative gameplay alone. As with most shooters, the gameplay is linear and the game does suffer from “omg, there are chest high walls there … it must be time for a firefight” syndrome. In its defence, it should be pointed out that when the game was released in 2008, the plethora of third person shooters sporting similar mechanics that were destined to follow had not yet been conceived. There is PVP online multiplayer provided as well, but I tend to steer clear of most online shooters because age has dulled my reflexes to such an extent that I find it nigh on impossible to click on cards in Spider Solitaire.

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming … well, eventually!

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