Sunday, March 21, 2010

Try It Or Die (3)

(week of March 21st, 2010)

Pretty strong week this past week - it's worth having a look at the recent releases. But here's two that I enjoyed the most:

Avatar Bumper Cars (80 MP)

Sometimes it can get annoying when a trend starts to peak and the bandwagon starts to get full. Yes I am talking about Avatar games - that's me, Debbie Downer. Avatar games seem to have natural appeal to those who value their avatars and like the big-headed cartoony look, so we've seen a flurry of them come out lately. And I get it, I do.

One other common theme is that the gameplay in avatar games is almost always very very basic. The avatar becomes the hook (and succulent bait), and the graphics, and then it's a matter of picking a simple theme and gameplay mechanic. So when an Avatar game works for me, it's usually because the simple gameplay mechanic is well-executed and enjoyable.

Breaking through the opening unintentional negativity, the reason I chose Avatar Bumper Cars this week is because the gameplay mechanic is smooth, works well within the cartoony world of avatars, but is actually not reliant on the avatars to be interesting. It's also not what I would call a "mini-game" (i.e. reaction game, timing game) - it's actually real time action with some strategy involved.

It's a 4-player local game if you have some peeps around, and players control their avatar's bumper car in a pretty small arena. The controls are simple forward-and-reverse, using the joystick to steer. Basically, the front of the car is strong while the sides and back are vulnerable - the idea being to ram your opponents (friends) in the side/back. Doing so enough will lower their "life bar" and eventually eject them out of the arena.

There's a good amount of hectic strategy as you maneuver to get the best angle on an opponent while at the same time trying to protect your weak spots. And that's what makes it fun. It could definitely benefit from some additional game types and arena choices, but the foundation is very strong. Enjoy!

Dysnomia (240 MP)

I'll say right off the bat that I was really impressed with the overall production value and professionalism of Dysnomia. From the box art, to the cut scenes, to the graphics and gameplay - this is all upper echelon for the XBLIG platform.

From a broader perspective, it's a somewhat conventional top-down shooter, yes - but with far more polish, features, and attention to detail then I am personally used to seeing on XBLIG. For that reason alone I would encourage you try the demo.

The experience is backed by a pretty engaging "stranded on an alien planet" story, with satisfying controls and high-action. Oh and wait, there's also big boss fights, lots of exploration across many level-types, and a well-conceived map feature that will actually prove helpful. I'm not done - how about two player local co-op, cool lighting effects, a great interface for mini-quests, and 5 distinct gun types?

The whole package is just very tight and my complaint list is mostly picky stuff. The enemies spawn randomly and constantly which I generally don't like because it tends to punish exploration and patience. You have to keep moving or else you just get stuck fighting the constant spawns. I didn't find the music anything-but-average and once in awhile I felt like the level design was a bit restrictive/claustrophobic. Again, that's me being picky.

At 240 MP I actually think this could be underpriced - easily could be a 400MP game. Go try it.

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