XBLA House Party Round Up

Due to a family emergency I won’t be able to provide individual reviews of the Xbox Live Arcade House Party event. So instead I will briefly describe each game and tell you if it’s worth your time and money.

Developer: Remedy
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is not the sequel to the original Alan Wake. However, it’s a spin off, a short story if you will. I enjoyed this episodic experience of Alan Wake. I wouldn’t want to spoil the twist of the story, but if you’re reading this, then most likely you’ve already read enough to know. American Nightmare does a good job of capturing the attention of anyone who was a fan of the Twilight Zone growing up. Night Springs is the Alan Wake equivalent to the Twilight Zone.

The combat is fun and familiar to players of the original Alan Wake. You’re still running around with a flashlight, awesome, and weapon to ward off the Taken. New enemies appear some that are more elusive and much larger than past Taken. A few improvements have been made to the gameplay such as the mini-map located on the top left corner of the player’s HUD. Alan Wake is apparently in better physical shape because he can now run further before stopping to catch his breath. Also the annoying backwards-crying baby used in the first Alan Wake to signal to the player that the Taken were coming has been removed. Yes! – I liked the idea, but it ruined some of the scare factor.

Remedy has also included a survival mode a franchise first. Alan Wake must survive waves of the Taken horde for until dawn breaks.  As you gain points and successfully survive you’ll earn stars that unlock more levels. Eventually you’ll unlock the “Nightmare Difficulty” and more locations to combat the Taken horde.

For $14.99 Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is worth your time and money. It’s a fun game with a quasi-decent story. Remedy offers moderate replayability with the inclusion of their survival mode. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. However, if I could change one thing about this game; I would give Alan Wake the ability to climb over fences a bit better.

Rating: 4.5/5

Developer: Illfonic
Publisher: THQ
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Nexuiz tries to revive an era of gaming that has been long since passed. The quick-twitch, fast-paced, first person shooters such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, Tribes, and Painkiller are all great examples of popular games of this variety. These types of games typically don’t translate well to gamepads. They’re designed for mouse and keyboards. Games like Nexuiz require high sensitivity and precision. The mouse is a far more accurate device than the analog sticks. However, on the console if you turn the sensitivity up you can get an experience as close as a mouse.

Many reviews have bashed the console version of Nexuiz. I’m not too thrilled with it myself, but there is one feature that I enjoy that keeps me coming back. It’s called ‘pogoing’ in the game, but any gamer with a PC background will know that it’s strafe jumping all over again. Except, in Nexuiz it really does look and feel like you’re jumping with a pogo stick. Very weird, but easy to get used to I’ve enjoyed “pogoing” around the levels and shooting people in the face with whatever Quake/Unreal knockoff I have selected. There are a lot of places where you can pogo off the map so watch out.

Nexuiz is a game I hope that the Xbox community will support though because it’s a game I’d like to goof around in from time to time. Sure there might be better options, but no one plays Quake Arena Arcade anymore. I’m also applying the logic that this is the game I will get my 800 Microsoft Points back. I bought all 4 House Party games and the incentive for doing that is 800 Microsoft Points in return. Which brings me to my next question. Is Nexuiz worth the money?

Nexuiz, for $9.99 is bleakly worth its price tag. If you’re a fan of the genre it might be to you, but if you are just a regular gamer looking for something to try I recommend waiting until this game is part of a discounted promotion in the future.

Rating: 3/5

Developer: Ubisoft Singapore
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation 3, PC

I Am Alive is extremely unfriendly to players. That’s a good thing for this game. I Am Alive is about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. There are very few resources to help aid you in your journey to find your family. Especially when it comes to ballistic ammunition this game is relentless against you and your survival. Everything you do could potentially be your last action in this environment.

The challenge is there, the sympathy is not. You start out with 3 retries and if occasionally you can find an extra retry in the form of a camera. Once you run out of these retries you’ll have to restart from a previous checkpoint. That might not sound bad if these checkpoints weren’t so hard to come by, but that’s incentive not to use up all of your retries.

This game is so relentless to the player I have seen the creator of Duke Nukem himself fall to his knees in mercy of the game. George Broussard said on his twitter “Wow, I just died on The Ship in I Am Alive and lost 45 mins of progress. Replay system is the worst idea ever. #fired” He later replies to someone and mentions that he does like the game but hates when the system screws the player. It’s rather ruthless.

There are a lot of different challenges that you must face in I Am Alive. Most importantly health and stamina, but be very mindful of collecting bullets and using as few as possible to drop a target. You’re also equipped with a machete that you can use to quick kill when thugs are slowly approaching you. Be careful though you won’t be able to swing wildly you’ll have to enter a button mash that will leave you open for attack, and eventually death.

There are tricks that you can utilize to your advantage to clear rooms and make your way through the dusty city. Shooting to kill larger enemies can cause smaller, weaker, enemies to fall to their knees and beg for mercy. You can then knock them unconscious once they are on their knees. You can also help survivors by collecting resources throughout the city or fighting off thugs. Picking when you engage survivors is also critical to your survival.

All in all I think this is a very solid game. Ruthless, unrelenting, highly unforgiving, and beats even the most experienced gamer to their knees. I Am Alive is survival done right. Games such as I Am Alive are rare and hard to find. The developers offer a true challenge to the player and their will to continue. I’ve seen mixed reviews on the game and that’s a shame because I think this is a well-executed game despite its few flaws. The story really isn’t as important as the mechanics and true design of this game. Some will say that this game isn’t good because of the weak story. Others will say it’s too hard and too unforgiving.

Is I Am Alive worth your time and money for $14.99? Absolutely. If you’ve never played a challenging game I dare you to test yourself and see how far you can make it in I Am Alive. I dare you to push yourself to finish it. And when you do finish it, I want you to go outside during the day and do something, whatever you want, and then say to yourself, I Am Alive!

Rating: 4/5

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About Doc. Rogers

Creator, Ruler, Seeker, Magician, Jester, Warrior, Lover, Sage, Caregiver, Destroyer, Sports Fanatic, and Scribe.
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