The beginning of every year usually offers a dearth of new games. With most publishers aiming their triple-A titles toward the lucrative holiday window, the first few months of the new year are typically littered with a few games that weren’t ready for a fall release. However, with the industry presenting an ever-increasing amount of downloadable software, many gamers may be able to avoid the January doldrums.
One surefire entertainment choice may be found in Xbox Live Community titles; a collection of independent games of widely varying quality. Although currently hidden within the Xbox dashboard, users can also peruse Microsoft’s website and mark games for automatic download the next time players power up their console. Half the fun of the community games is sorting through the free demo trials while searching for the hidden gems. To make the quest a bit easier, we offer three game recommendations that we encourage all 360 owners to seek out:
Weapon of Choice
With the exception of the Metal Slug series, the ‘run and gun’ genre has been nearly forgotten by the gaming industry. Games like Contra and Gunstar Heroes had players running and jumping across the screen, while filling the air with a steady stream of ballistics. Clearly, developer Mommy’s Best recalls this motif, as its recent title features screen-filling reptilian bosses, immense weaponry, and a nearly endless supply of extraterrestrial cannon fodder. Weapon of Choice is 2D gaming at its best.
For five dollars, players get seven full levels and a handful of characters each with their own unique weapon. The game has several distinctive features, our favorite put the game into a super-slow motion when an enemy was about to make contact with the player. The execution of this feature was flawless, making the title feel evolutionary, rather there mere homage.
Download the free Weapon of Choice Demo.
While most of the time we yearn for a completely engaging game, sometimes we like to zone out with a laid-back game like Rez. Equal parts Q-Bert and Cube, Artoon sends players bouncing from one elevated platform to the next. Players build a combo meter by hoping on each section once, changing its color. Additionally, the game adds a puzzle element by requiring players to change the color of pieces around a hub, before the core piece can be converted.
Each level is rendered with a slightly different art style- from a glowing pixilated 8-bit look, to cell-shaded environment filled with cascading blocks. A variety of head-bobbing trance music gives the game a sense of rhythm. Taken as a whole, the title synergistically melds sounds and visuals to give the player a unique experience.
Download the free demo of Artoon.
360 owners suffering from a case of PixelJunk Eden envy need look no further than CarneyVale Showtime, a game with a surprisingly similar play mechanic. Players launch Slinky, a rag doll physics-based clown, from a cannon toward an intricate system of ’grabbers’. As player near a grabber, a press of the A button, pulls Slinky in, via a telescopic arm. Players orbit around the device, creating enough momentum to launch the clown toward the next grabber, with a well-timed release.
As the helpless clown is sent careening around the screen, multiple goals challenge the player- from popping all the level’s balloons, to finding a hidden star. Once players tire of the games 18 levels, they can use a level editor featuring content unlocked via superior gameplay.
Download the free trial of CarneyVale Showtime.