Video Game DEMO-lition: ROCK BAND 3, UNDERGARDEN, More

Video Game DEMO-lition: ROCK BAND 3

Handful of Demos to jump into this week, so let's get to it!

Rock Band 3 (Xbox Retail)

The demo for the latest entry in this popular music game series presents a conundrum to the player.  The main selling point, aside from the retail game’s new song list, is the addition of the “Pro/stringed” guitar mode and the keyboard, neither of which a gamer is likely to have, unless they happen to own a compatible instrument from a traditional manufacturer. This, coupled with the typical locking out of secondary features in demos, reduces this download to an isolated track pack and a sneak peek at one of the venues.  However, armed with your legacy instruments, the included songs: White Stripes' “Hardest Button to Button,” Slipknot's “Before I Forget,” Foreigner's “Cold As Ice” and “In the Meantime” by Spacehog can be setup as a quick playlist and challenged at the various difficulty levels to your heart’s content.

UnderGarden (Xbox Live Arcade)

This floatly trip of a game is more about atmosphere than any kind of hardcore gaming challenge.  In the demo you take control of an odd forest sprite who bobs, zero-g style, though narrow caves, inspiring the growth of colorful plants and fungi as you pass or squish down onto small spore-spewing sacs.  With the goal to grow the greatest possible amount of plant life, you can arrange tiny music playing monkeys to grow special kinds of fruit, some that obey gravity and some that don’t, that can activate switches to solve simple puzzles that impede your progress.  The demo lets you glide though the three levels of world one, learning the simple controls and the fact that although you have to reach the end to finish a level, nothing is really putting up a fight to stop you.  Again, the game’s atmosphere is its largest selling point, as bobbing along in a colorful, harmless world to soft tinkling music makes UnderGarden the matter to a game like Limbo’s anti-matter.

Guwange (Xbox Live Arcade)

The demo for this top-down shooter is a straight-up emulation of the original 1999 arcade title’s first stage.  After choosing one of three player characters, you can blaze though the frenetic combat with the help of your character’s Shikigami/partner spirit, the use of which trades your mobility for their speed and close range ‘touch of death’ attack.  With the screen likely to be constantly full of enemy bullets, a life bar thankfully increases your survivability by letting you take multiple hits without having to start over, and a super-beam attack can occasionally clear the way in front of you (though not when the game is scrolling horizontally).  Apart from the arcade mode, two more modes designed for the Xbox 360 are advertised in the demo, but are unplayable.

Faery (Xbox Live Arcade)

This RPG combines world exploration, branching conversations and turn based combat in fantasy fairy world.  After a bit of character customization, including name, gender and physical appearance, you awaken as a special fairy charged with discovering why magic is leaving your world.  You can recruit up to two allies in to your party (just one before the demo ends), by convincing them utilizing a Mass Effect style conversation wheel (complete with red and blue responses that will affect how other characters perceive you).  Your allies will then take your orders in combat, a simple turn-based/menu-driven affair with melee and magic attacks, as well as the option to drop back a row for increased defense but a weakened attack.  Upon leveling up, your can direct your fairy character’s development through ‘metamorphosis,’ giving him/her, for example, different wings with grant different magic powers, or horns to provide an additional melee attack.  Consumable items and armor sets fill out the stock RPG compliment of features, and it becomes clear that the otherwise serviceable visuals and an almost total lack of audio were scarified in the name of slightly deeper than average gameplay from a downloadable title.

What demos have you tried this week?

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