Recently, Microsoft announced Arcade NEXT, their latest promotion of top tier XBLA titles. In the past, they have pulled out all of the stops for events like these, rolling out eagerly anticipated and revolutionary titles week after week. The bar has been moved up a few more notches this time. Beginning on April 18th and continuing until May 9th, every Wednesday will see the release of a great new Microsoft Studios title. Some are sequels, some are well-established sensations making their first official appearance on a new platform, and some of the push the limits of what it means to be an XBLA game. Not only that, but they inaugurate the “400 pt, 30 achievement” enhancement to XBLA games. Let’s do this in release order, shall we?
1200 MS Points
If you’ve played any games for XBLA, chances are Trials HD was on the list. Few games have seized me with the sort of hand-cramping, time-devouring, just-one-more-try addiction more effectively than that little gem. Technically, this is a sequel to that title, but as the name suggests, it is one hell of a lot more than a few extra levels and a wacky new mode or two. Trials Evolution is a leap forward in virtually every conceivable direction. Dank, rusty warehouses give way to panoramic outdoor environments. Single-screen or Live multiplayer bring excitebike-style races mixed with Trials-style physics and carnage. The already powerful track creator has been enhanced, and a distribution hub called Track Central lets you download user-created tracks… Oh, and there are a few extra levels and a wacky new mode or two.
1200 MS Points
Okay, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This looks disturbingly like God of War if you swapped Kratos out for Conan The Barbarian’s meaner brother. You take on the role of Crom, a legendary and unstoppable warrior who needs to slice his way through legions of twisted soldiers, and an entire pantheon for good measure. Sounds familiar, yes? Here’s the thing though. That was a flagship title, a boxed release with a disc and everything. This is an XBLA title, and to place them side by side, you’d be willing to call them peers! The visuals are exceptional, the animation fluid. Even the voice acting is above average. Stir in a running score list that puts you in direct competition with your friends for the top spot and you’ve got a game that is feeding the blood lust of the average gamer in many, many ways.
800 MS Points
I’m a Fable fan, but more than that, I’m a fan of any game that makes me feel like all of the hacking, slashing, grinding, and solving has been constructive. It is thus no surprise to know that I was one of those who snagged the batch of Fable pub games when it came out and proceeded to dig myself into a pit of crushing virtual debt. Well, it looks like I’ll have a chance to redeem myself. Fable Heroes has got nifty “wooden doll” visuals, four player co-op action adventure with RPG character advancement, and familiar characters and settings from the franchise. Most importantly, though, your time in this game will be rewarded with items for the upcoming Fable: The Journey. That’s right. Not only are you having fun, you’re enhancing future fun! Gaming multitasking. I love it!
1600 MS Points
Seriously? Do I even need to write anything here? Minecraft isn’t a game, it’s a phenomenon. And now it is on the Xbox. Split screen multiplayer, Live multiplayer. And the guy who made it is named notch. Are you still reading?