Rush’n Attack: Ex-Patriot (Xbox Live Arcade)
The latest in the trend of ‘re-imagined’ classic 8-bit games, Ex-Patriot takes the side-scrolling knife-people-in-the-face action of the 1985 original and stretches it to fit a stealth based ‘metroidvania’ adventure. The result, from the demo’s initial prison-break stage anyway, is hit or miss. The core combat mechanic of the game is knife-to-knife combat and the simple light/heavy attacks, even with combos unlocked as you progress, feel clumsy and hack/slash with unclear indicators if you are attacking effectively. The stealth system for sneaking up behind or ducking into darkened recesses to score one hit kills also suffers from the camera that’s zoomed in so far that you can only see approaching enemies on the mini-map/radar. Fortunately, though inexplicably, the enemies can only see about four feet in front of their faces, allowing you to duck out of sight from foes within spitting-distance. This phenomena might be blamed on the darkened prison level, which does its part to hide not only secret passageways to power ups like heath packs, grenades and the super-useful night vision goggles that actually let you see the otherwise obnoxiously obscured by darkness ledges and gaps. Unlike remakes like Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Ex-Patriot does little to capture the (albeit) simple charm of its originator, or expand on it in a new or interesting way.
Islands of Wakfu (Xbox Live Arcade)
Spinning off from the French RPG/Animated series, Islands of Wakfu is an action/RPG title that takes a note from the Secret of Mana school of combat, character development, camera angle and simultaneous play. The demo, which covers the game’s first three chapters dealing mostly with extended tutorials before the plot kicks in with a challenging boss fight, shows off the game’s two player-character system of symbiotic gameplay. Although it was designed for two human players, a single can swap between the two characters, a young martial artist who can also teleport either behind her foes or to any available point on screen and the other a flying dragon that in the complicated mythology she is the ‘twin’ of, who features ranged attacks. The aforementioned mythology comes at you thick with weird names for common gaming elements (like ‘health’ and ‘mana’) and takes a bit of getting used to, though the combat, especially with strategic use of the teleporter’s skills can be fast and fun. The game’s colorful fantasy-Polynesia setting is at least interesting to look at, though the music sounds recycled and the decision to use the sound of people talking backwards to represent conversation is off putting at best, grating at worst.
Strania (Xbox Live Arcade)
This demo does little to disguise the fact that Strania is little more than an arcade ROM emulation of a Japanese top-down scrolling shooter, and doesn’t need to. In it, you can play as one of the two available characters who fly their heavily armed mechas though the full game’s first two levels. The typically frenetic action is flavored by your ability to wield three of the game’s available weapons (the usual assortment of machine, rocket, grenade and laser guns; plus since you’re flying a hominoid mecha, a sword that is powerful at short range) at the same time in a variety of configurations, adding a dash of organizational challenge while you are dodging bullets and lasers. Easing the burden a little is the ability to take three hits before exploding (and one more if you don’t use your maxed out super attack), though getting blown up will take you to the game over screen, requiring the use of one of your three ‘credits.’ Strania tries to differentiate itself a little more with its rotating background that gives the illusion of three-dimensional flight, but only in the early-nineties arcade way, which like the audio, can now be called an element of classic arcade age charm.
Zumba Fitness (Xbox Kinect Retail)
Zumba, the ‘dance your way to fitness’ program that is this decade’s Jazzercise, comes to Kinect with perfect timing to fit into the wave of dance and fitness games that have become the first breakout hits on the Xbox’s motion detector. Like the demo for Dance Central, Zumba Fitness will, if you let it, take you though the steps of two of the songs/dance styles (Merengue and Reggaeton) before trying out the real thing. Unlike the aforementioned game, there only appears to be one pace, full throttle. Matching the onscreen dancer’s movements in Zumba Fitness is nigh-impossible as it lacks any system of warning you where you need to be an instant later, though not that it seemed to matter, as simply occupying space was enough to trigger a positive response from the game. Moreover, there didn’t seem to be any tracking of actual fitness stats, as the demo at least didn’t ask for even cursory information like height and weight. If for anyboby, Zumba Fitness seemed to be geared towards people who are experienced Zumba program members looking to simply bring the experience home from the gym.