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XBLA Triple Play

While I was chipping away at more of the world map in Kingdoms of Amalur, I took the time to download three new XBLA demos for games that came out within the last few days.  All three were games I’ve known about to a varying degree, but I honestly hadn’t been keeping up with the release dates.  With the summer coming up, we’ll probably be seeing more Arcade releases in the coming months.  But the three games in question were Skullgirls, The Splatters, & Fez.

Skullgirls

Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game that harkens back to the olden days of fighting games.  It’s selling points are its unique animation design & control scheme.  The animation is all hand-drawn, with everything possessing a unique & lively design.  Characters are colorful, & I don’t just mean their color schemes.  Although the fighting roster is pretty limited with only eight characters to choose from (developers have announced two upcoming DLC characters), each has a unique look, personality, backstory & move set.  Some of the characters include a school girl whose hair has become possessed by a demon that helps her fight, a robotic girl who fights using cartoon antics, an undead catgirl thief who can dismember herself & a mutated girl who uses a giant pinwheel attached to her back.

The story, for all its lack of importance in most fighting games, involves a country called Canopy Kingdom & an artifact called the Skull Heart.  The Skull Heart is said to grant a woman’s wish if she finds it, but only if she is of pure heart.  If not, the Skull Heart transforms the girl into a Skullgirl, a monster who seeks nothing more than destruction.  The plot of the game is the various women’s attempts to find the Skullgirl & retrieve the Skull Heart for their own reasons.

The demo only gives access to Filia & Cerebella as playable characters.  I only went through what was available in the tutorial & training arena.  Combat is fast & simple to pick up, but the variety of moves suggests a deep combat system for hardcore gamers to learn.  It’s a very different fighting system than what I’m used to with games like Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive.  It reminds me a lot of the Guilty Gear series, but with more cartoonish characters.  What I didn’t like about the controls was having to double-tap to run (why would I want to walk in a fighting game?) & not having a proper block button (you have to hold Back).  Again, this is probably more related to the style of fighting games I’m used to & not the game mechanics itself.

You may also recall that Skullgirls received some flack a few months ago during a convention about the female characters being too sexualized.  Although the developers stupidly responded that this couldn’t be the case since most of the designers were female themselves (as if saying women can’t perpetrate the same stereotypes as men), I don’t see this as the case.  Fighting games are notorious for having scantily dressed women, so I can see how someone might think this with Skullgirls’ all-female roster.  But that would only be the case if every single character was sexualized.  Sure, you’ve got characters in short skirts & cleavage so deep you could get lost in it, but you’ve also got characters who look like children or are even emaciated.  If they all looked like sex bombs, I’d be concerned.  But as it stands, I just think developers made characters they liked.

The Splatters

The Splatters is a physics-based puzzle game.  It’s a little difficult to explain, so I’d recommend watching some videos on it if you’re interested.  But basically, the object of the game is to make blobs of goo explode in stylish ways over bombs.  Each level is an enclosed space that lends itself to ramping, spiking & exploding in spectacular ways.  The controls are pretty simple.  You aim your blobs with the left analog & use A to launch them.  There are a variety of different techniques to help the blobs achieve their explosive ends, such as Air Strikes & Warps.

I only played through the first few tutorial levels, but I was impressed by the physics in the game.  The blobs behave somewhere between water & gel, still maintaining some cohesion even after being blasted against the wall.  They move in realistic ways when you fling them around.  I don’t think I’m very good at it, but I think if you take the time to learn the mechanics it would be a fun game.  It’s more fast-paced & action-oriented than standard puzzle games, which I think could be a draw for those who find most puzzle games tedious.

Fez

I think Fez could best be described as an adventure-puzzle-platformer game.  In it you play as Gomez, a white creature who lives in a 2D world until one day he discovers that he can switch the world into 3D.  Now he has to collect a bunch of gold blocks to somehow save the world.  The gimmick for this game is that you can switch your perceptions.  Although the game world you can move around in is always 2D, you can rotate the world around, thereby changing the area you can move around on.  This mechanic is necessary because the world Gomez lives in seems to be made almost exclusively of floating islands.  Rotating the world reveals hidden secrets, platforms & ledges to help you traverse the landscape.

Although the graphics are close to 8-bit, the use of shadows helps add depth to the world.  I also think it looks pretty cool when the world rotates around.  The platforming isn’t anything groundbreaking, & Gomez is no Lara Croft.  His actions are limited to walking, climbing & jumping.  He can pull himself up if he’s dangling on the side of a platform, but that’s about it.  But at least if you fall to your death, the game respawns you where you fell off.

Of the three demos I played, I’ll probably only buy Fez.  As much as I love fighting games, I don’t usually have anyone to play with, & I still refuse to pay for online.  And as I said before, I didn’t do too good at The Splatters.

– GamerDame

 

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Saints Row The Third Demo Available to All… Sorta

If you’re on top of your gaming news, you know the demo for Saints Row: The Third, called “Initiation Station,” came out on November 1.  However, it was only available on the 360 to Gold members.  And being that I have a limited income, I don’t have a Gold account, so I couldn’t download it.  However, when I was checking XBLA this evening before playing more Alice: Madness Returns, I noticed that I could actually download it.  Now I’m not sure if this was a glitch or if the developers decided to let everyone get a taste of the demo before the game comes out next week, but I couldn’t pass it by.

The demo is basically just the character creation screen, but it allows players to upload their creations to THQ’s boards for others to view & download.  This feature was not available in my demo, stating that I needed a Gold membership.  I was a little bummed that I couldn’t save my character, because I thought I made a pretty bad ass Playa, but at least I got a feel for it when I get the game Christmas.

Assuming the character creation for the actual game is the same, it has some impressive additions.  A lot of new customization features have been added to give you even more control of what type of character you want.  Of course you start out with the standard gender & race options.  The body type feature is a triangular board where you move the slider between Skinny, Strong & Fat.  The creator also has a “Sex Appeal” bar, which makes your character more well-endowed.  To be honest, I think THQ made this feature for female characters, but couldn’t justify including it only for them.  For women it makes their breasts larger, while for men it increases the… bulge in their trousers.  Although I’m sure my opinion won’t stop people (i.e. guys) from doing it, putting the slider all that way at 100% looks a bit strange.  It either looks like the woman has water balloons in her bra or the man has taken too much Viagra.

Once you have your body type decided, you can continue customization with skin tone, hair, makeup, etc.  There are a lot of new hairstyles to choose from, which are available to both genders.  So you can create a woman with cornrolls or a guy with the Cheerleader ponytail.  Thanks to the inclusion of the Anime hairstyle, you can even make a replica of Cloud.  There are more eye color options, including giving your character evil eyes (solid white or black).  There are also more facial sliders to give you complete control of your character’s face.  I liked the inclusion of a Face Feature screen that lets you add scars, freckles, warts & other features.  The makeup options still seem a bit limited, but you get more color options, & you can even add nail polish.

You know, now that I think about it, doesn’t this make men who’re creating female characters feel a bit odd?  I mean, yeah, I get that you like creating your dream girl, setting the sliders to the max & watching her jiggle around the screen.  But I’d love to be in the room with one of you while you tried to choose eyeshadow & nail polish.  Just saying…

Anyway, as with the last game you can also customize some of your character’s personality.  Each gender has three voice choices, one white, black & Hispanic.  Of course, you can give your male character a female voice if you want.  You can also pick a compliment & taunt, all of which were different from the second game.  Sadly, there’s no walk option, so now crazy, spastic walking.

After finishing the Playa’s body appearance you can pick their clothes.  This is new from Saints Row 2, since you were starting from scratch in that game after being in jail.  But in the third game, the Saints rule the city.  They’re rich & famous.  And I have to say, this game appears to have a much larger selection of clothes.  And I don’t mean just in number.  I remember most of the clothes from the second game looked basically the same.  In the demo, you can actually create a style, be it professional, goth, or whatever.

You can also give your character tattoos & piercings.  I found the tattoo selection rather limited, but they were different from the second game with a few exceptions (some of the Saint tattoos are back).

As I said before, I wish I could’ve saved my character.  But the creator was still impressive & has me looking forward to the full game’s release on the 15th.  Too bad for me I’ll have to wait until Christmas.

– GamerDame

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