Yar’s Revenge (Xbox Live Arcade)

A classic title from Atari’s pre-crash heyday returns with a 3D rail-shooter facelift and a change to the singular possessive. Luckily for gamers born after the original’s release date who’ve since aged enough to be able to drive, vote and drink legally for almost a decade since the last “Yar” release (to the consternation of older gamers who remember playing the original), the mythology of this new franchise isn’t too dense for new players to get into. Save for some of the names of characters, weapons and factions this could be any game. The demo lets you play though the prologue/tutorial level on one of three difficulty settings, giving you time to get used to the Panzer Dragoon style dual stick control system, one for movement on a 2D plane as you fly on a rail though the lush green jungle level, the other stick for your aiming recital. It should be noted that only the latter can have its y-axis control customized. As you sweep across the screen to dodge enemy fire, you can score points by striking back with your primary weapon, a rapid firing cannon, a powerful rail gun that takes a few seconds to recharge and a collection of secondary weapons like lock-on missiles and a familiar looking shield that also recharges your health. Checkpoints and extra lives will get you to the first boss, but the demo will frustratingly end about halfway through the battle.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade)

An HD console remake of last year’s Nintendo DS puzzle/strategy/RPG release, Clash of Heroes takes some of the best elements from titles like Puyo Puyo (aka Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine or Kirby's Avalanche) and Final Fantasy Tactics and blends them into a colorful and fast paced strategy game. The demo takes you though the prologue chapter and part of the way into the first full chapter, teaching a new mechanic in each of the scripted battles. The demo shows step-by-step how you can use your limited amount of moves per turn to stack like-color units vertically for attacks, and horizontally to defend, before introducing advance moves like chaining attacks and the abilities of special units. At least to the point the demo ends, Clash of Heroes seems to get that mix of simple-yet-deep gameplay just right, and teases even more like player character special moves and puzzle boss fights. Bright, cel-shaded visuals and an accessible plot enhance the experience.

Fantastic Pets (Xbox Kinect Retail)

Hot on the heels of the Kinectimals demo last week is one for another pet-sim/activity title, Fantastic Pets. As the title implies, your animal associate isn’t limited to baby wild cats and dogs, but mythological creatures like Unicorns. For the demo, which is a custom built/dialoged demo experience, you can select one of three pets: a dog, another breed of dog or a bat-winged, fire-breathing tiger-wolf thing. The friendly voiced demo narrator will then take though two of the mini-games. The first is piñata-smashing, where you wave your arms to try and break them open while they virtually hang in your living room while your pet frolics around your house ‘augmented reality’ style. In the other sample mini-game, you play a game of fetch that scores you based on where you throw the ball. Like Kinectimals, time is taken out to show you how you can command your pet to do tricks, but Fantastic Pets seems to lack the ‘physical’ interaction with your pet that the former is able to simulate with its petting/brushing mechanic. Visually, it is also not as smooth as its close predecessor, with flatter characters and much more clipping, but promises a much higher degree of pet customization.

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