What I played on the Xbox 360 in 2010 (Part 2)

by on Jan.10, 2011, under Xbox 360 Commentary

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, here are some more of the Xbox 360 titles that I toyed around with in 2010. I’ll apologise in advance for all the LEGO titles that I completed, however smacking the bejeebers out of beautifully designed LEGO environments is a great way to de-stress and get in touch with your inner 5 year old.

Alan Wake (and all the DLC)
This third person psychological horror/thriller set in and around the town of Bright Springs, Washington had me utterly absorbed within the first 10 minutes. A fantastic story with remarkably good voice acting and dialogue supplemented with a generous helping of combat sequences. The idea of light being used as an initial weapon to combat the possessed residents of Bright Springs is well conceived, however by my count, Alan Wake managed to destroy more “taken” than could possibly live within Bright Springs, suggesting that the Darkness has a well-developed recruitment and human resources team to assist with his malevolent machinations. As with many story based games, this one is as linear as it gets, the environments can be a bit repetitive (one of the rare instances in the world where de-forestation should be positively considered) and the initial introduction of Alan’s wife, Alice, is almost as scary as the opening gameplay sequence!

Nevertheless, this is a lengthy game with immaculate pacing that generates just enough “suspension of disbelief” to keep you rivetted to your wide-screen monitor. Highly recommended!

Puzzle Quest 2
In yet another unfortunate example of how game sequels can stuff up a perfectly good gaming formula, Puzzle Quest 2 has managed to remove most of the aspects of the original game that made it such a hit. Instead of focusing the game within the vast regions of Etheria, the sequel focuses on events around the small Etherian town of Veloren (indeed, the only reason a player would know that Veloren is in Etheria is the single reference to the continent that I read in one of the monster descriptions!) The more restrictive scope of the game removes the citadel capture and empire building of the original game that I found appealing. The plot is completely disposable; in fact, within the first hour or two I’d completely forgotten what the whole premise behind my presence in Veloren was. The AI is unremarkable at anything other than the highest level and I believe I only lost three battles during the entire game. Each character class has set spell combinations that can make any battle virtually un-losable. For example, equipping Disarm and all 4 strike based spells for an Assassin will result in endless combos that can knock off 50-100 hps off your opponent each turn.  Mix this in with the monotonous and unchallenging mini-games and you’ll rapidly find yourself restricting your gaming sessions to 1/2 an hour or so to prevent boredom. I still like the theory behind an RPG linked to Bejeweled-type gameplay but the formula needs some serious rethinking before the next game in the series is released.

LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
Here’s another epsidode in the on-going series of LEGO based games that involve you roleplaying one of the many characters in the Indiana Jones universe as you wantonly destroy LEGO environments rendered from the scenes of all four movies. As with all LEGO games, there are plenty of unlockables and secrets to discover, a reasonable amount of combat and some nifty cranium tapping puzzles to solve. The tounge in cheek cutscenes continue to impress with their off-beat and humourous renditions of various movie clips.  Great co-operative gameplay however you will need to be sitting in front of the same console. I was also the rather unfortunate victim of a bug where an item that I was supposed to interact with was flagged as destructable earlier in the level. Needless to say I swatted it in passing yielding a couple of nice silver studs … but denying me the 140 GS I needed to get the full 1000 points (sigh.) Nevertheless, this is a great way to relax with a friend if you cannot be bothered transporting your console around.

LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy
Focusing on Episodes 4-6 of the Star Wars saga, this title has an incredible amount of combat within it ranging from protracted fire-fights with Imperial Stormtroopers to fast paced dog fights over and within both of the Death Stars. There are a lot less puzzles to contend with and the vehicle levels can be particularly difficult to deal with until you’ve indulged in some extended practice sessions. Probably the biggest issue I had was with your companion characters blocking your jumps or following to closely on your heels and knocking you off precarious ledges. The lack of a split screen camera (first introduced in LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (2009)) does restrict character separation during co-operative play (hot seat only) however it’s still an enjoyable experience. It scores 1/2 a llama less due to the excessive combat sequences and respawning enemies.

LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4
By now you’ve probably got a fair understanding of what gaming features are integral to the creation of any LEGO game. LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 follows the forumla to the letter. Levels feature key events within the first four Harry Potter movies and all the secrets, puzzles and unlockables you’ve come to expect are present. There is markedly less combat within this title (as you would probably expect from the Harry Potter franchise), balanced by a marked increase in the number of puzzles to solve. Puzzles are pretty straight forward in nature, requiring a sequence of standardized tasks to be carried out in order to render a solution. For example, if you see a pixie carrying something you need, hitting it repeatedly with the Immobilus spell will vanquish the critter and cause the item to drop. To open a vault, you’ll need a character that carries a key. Once you’ve figured out the dozen or so different tasks available to you, any conundrum should be easily unravelled. The final boss fights are a mixed bag with the Year 2 experience being markedly less intuitive than the other three encounters. Companion characters can still get in your way on occasion and I’ve witnessed a couple of glitches that caused key objects to be disappear, requiring a level restart.

Hopefully tomorrow, we’ll have the final installment of 2010’s Xbox 360 games of note.

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