7 underappreciated Xbox Live Arcade classics
Solid stealth games are hard to come by these days, let alone exemplary ones. That’s why Mark Of The Ninja was such a blessing. The game’s audio and visual design is unlike anything else on the marketplace, not that you’d expect anything else from the developer behind Shank. The way Klei approached stealth in a 2D space is revolutionary. If you’ve been searching for a traditional stealth game to replace Splinter Cell in your life, one with tight platforming and an inviting challenge, look no further than Mark Of The Ninja.
There’s something utterly intoxicating about Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s games that’s difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps it’s the way the flashing visuals relax and calm any willing to become enveloped in the experience? That’s it. Rez HD isn’t just a game, it’s an experience – one that far few gamers took advantage of. Rez became a cult classic when it launched on Dreamcast, and the HD presentation only furthered the descent into a wonderfully hypnotic trip. Rez HD deserves your attention, a solid sound system and an empty flat – pump up the volume and get ready for the ride of your life.
If you had told us back in 2007 that we’d spend our evenings becoming the master of medieval strategy, over saving the galaxy with the newly released Halo 3, we’d have told you that you’re nuts. But as Carcassonne made the jump from physical board game to excellent XBLA game, we quickly found our evenings dominated by amassing land, building cities and chasing points. Supporting five players over Xbox Live, and four in local same-couch games, the digitised edition of Carcassonne is still our go-to chilled-out party game, leaving the boxed copy gathering dust in a forgotten cupboard somewhere.
Years later, and games like Braid, Bastion and Fez continue to reap all of the attention. But Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons is arguably as good as a lot of the XBLA greats. Perhaps it was a matter of timing, it released at the end of the Xbox 360s console cycle, interest was beginning to wane and it didn’t explode like we expected it to. That doesn’t stop the incredibly engaging narrative, wonderful control mechanics and all-around innovative game design from being any less impressive. Brothers continues to feature regularly in XBLA sales, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Harmony Of Despair released to little fanfare or attention, and while everyone continues to flock to the re-release of Symphony Of The Night, Harmony sits on the marketplace begging to be played. Huge maps, six-player co-operative play over Xbox Live and a shift in the established gameplay made Harmony a classic in the eyes of anyone that played it. This is a game built around speed and loot collection, beautiful graphics and tight platforming – if you’re after a great co-op game, don’t let this one pass you by.
Six years hasn’t changed a thing when it comes to N+, it’s still surprisingly one of the most stylish platformers available on the platform, and its slick gameplay is still as fun as it ever was. N+ sees a tiny stick-man ninja running through levels collecting gold and trying to find an escape, it sounds far too simple, but it’s the smooth gameplay and flowing control system that continues to impress us to this day. It’s challenging, fast and incredibly addictive. N+ is still held highly
in regard by those that remember it, but it never received the acclaim or attention of its platforming peers.
Trials isn’t the only game with motorbikes you should be playing on XBLA. Joe Danger, from the four-man studio Hello Games, had players navigating beautifully designed 2D levels chasing time trials and challenges. Its insanely fun style and addictive gameplay channel that of classic Nintendo racer Excitebike, with a combo system not dissimilar to that of Tony Hawks’ Pro Skater. It’s insanely colourful, bursting with joy, and stupidly fun – whether you play solo or with friends. To this day, it’s still a game we find ourselves dipping back into when we find ourselves with a spare couple of minutes.