X08 Underwhelming


Bringing eXy back

X08, Microsoft’s holiday preview event for its XBox 360, XBLA and XNA platforms, has come and gone. Overall, the feeling i’m left with is the same feeling i had when i went to the movies recently and saw trailers for remakes of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Death Race (??). It was kind of depressing, sitting there realizing how hard-up for ideas Hollywood must be to be remaking Death Race. i mean, Death Race. Mere font emphasis fails me.

Ditto X08. i wandered the junket floor from kiosk to kiosk, looking for the gotta-have games for Christmas (or, if you’re Jewish, Black History Month) and came up wanting.

Here’s a quick rundown of my impressions, based on up to two minutes of hands-on gameplay in a noisy and distracting environment, completely out of my natural habitat (ie not sitting down):

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Old dog, new art.

Easily the biggest disappointment on the floor, the Nuts & Bolts build was incomplete, but not so incomplete as to suggest that its biggest problem will be ironed out by launch. The game is slow. Like, slow as a sloth riding the short bus. It seemed to take forever to march bear and bird from part of the enormous demo level to the next. i tried to explain this away by convincing myself that the levels were built for Nuts & Bolts’s’s vehicles. That rationale lasted until i climbed into one of the vehicles, which actually drove like the short bus.

Word is that Rare is bringing the original Banjo Kazooie to XBox Live Arcade to finally deliver on their “Stop n Swop” promise. This would have been much more clever if it was executed on the original N64 cartridge. Daddy hates retcons. i’m trying to contact a representative from Rare to ask if he can go back in time and announce this to me ten years ago when i actually cared.

Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers

Old dog, new tricked-out artwork.

The latest from the guys (guy?) who brought you the ultra-punishing platform shooter Alien Hominid return with this cartoony, medieval beat-up. Like Alien Hominid, it’ll win big points with fans for its art and animation, which definitely set it apart from the pack. It’s too bad i played this game already, back when it was called Double Dragon.

And Bad Dudes.

And Final Fight.

And Double Dragon 2.

And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III:Turtles in Time.

And Golden Axe.

And The Simpsons Arcade Game.

And et cetera.

Viva Pinata 2: Trouble In Paradise

Viva Pinata 2

i can’t see a difference. Can YOU see a difference?

“Trouble in Paradise,” hmm? Could the “trouble” be that Professor Pester has erased the database storing all of your piñata records so that you have to spend hours upon hours re-collecting all of the same piñatas from the first game, plus about thirty additional characters? Or could the “trouble” be that the developers used this storyline as a justification to re-use all of the models and gameplay from the first game to try to knock a few remaining dollars from you with a stick? A more appropriate title would have been Viva Piñata 2: This Again or Viva Piñata 2: Same Effing Game or Viva Piñata 1: Oops Did We Say 1? We Meant 2, Honest.

A footnote: If you’re choosing the guy to do your Viva Piñata demo, make sure you don’t pick the guy with breath that makes you want to run for the border … especially since he has to spend the entire day extolling the virtues of PUHHHHHUUUHHHH-iñatas in people’s faces.

Infinite Undiscovery

Infinite Undiscovery

Worst Game Title Evar?

i only caught a brief glimpse of this Square-Enix title. It was easily the prettiest game in its aisle of kiosks. It’s, predictably, an RPG, but it has real-time combat, which i’m a big fan of. Battles looked very shiny and chaotic. As long as it doesn’t get too terribly button-mashy, it might be worth checking out. It’s out in a week an a half, so we’ll know soon enough.

Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2

Do want

i can hardly criticize Viva Piñata 2 for offering up more of the same and in the same entry, start gushing over Rock Band 2. Aside from it being far awesomer than the Guitar Hero series, which is for meth addicts and people who download animal porn, Rock Band 2 offers up roughly the same number of innovations as Viva Piñata 2.

Piñata has local and Live multiplayer co-op. Rock Band 2 has local co-op (as before) and Live World Tour (story) mode.

Piñata has a free-play level where you can print piñata cards from their online community database and scan them into your game using the console’s camera, without going through the hassle of catching them the “legitimate” way. Likewise, Rock Band 2 has a “no fail” mode so that when grandma comes over for a visit, she can still rock out with you instead of flunking simple songs on “Easy” vocals within the first fifteen seconds.

Despite this, the reason why Rock Band 2 is exciting and Viva Piñata 2 is not, is that Rock Band 2 allows you to bring all your downloaded songs and (for a nominal fee) the songs on the first game’s disc, in addition to giving you an entire disc’s worth of new songs. Viva Piñata 2 gives you essentially the same content as the first game, plus 30 new animals. It’s (very) roughly the equivalent of buying Rock Band 2 with all the same songs as the first game burned on the disc, with a handful of extras thrown in, and some nonsense story about how your millions of fans were struck with amnesia at the same time, and they want you to re-play all of your songs again.

i’m beginning to think “Rare” describes the probability of seeing a good game come out of that developer.

The bottom line is this: a friend of mine grabbed a copy of Rock Band from the US last year around thanksgiving, because the title was grossly delayed up here, and i have not stopped playing it all year. No other game in my library boasts that kind of staying power. Rock Band 2 presents an automatic, robotic, walk-to-the-store-and-plunk-down-cash-like-the-Manchurian-candidate situation for me.

Gears of War 2

Gears of War 2


Friggin’ awesome. You’ve got this gun? That shoots bullets? And the bullets are tiny chainsaws? And they go in the locust horde’s mouths and, like, explode them from the inside? And it’s awesum! And your screen is, like covered in blood. My mom won’t let me play it but i played it over at my friend Timmy’s house even thow its’ not out yet because Timmy’s dad works for Microsoft and Nintendo and all them and he gets games urly.

One day, someone will have to explain to me why the word we chose to describe this kind of content is “mature”.

5 thoughts on “X08 Underwhelming

  1. Rajio

    some of your observations are spot on regarding originality in the industry but come on, rock band 2? it’s hardly original either. There were, however, some original things going on at X08 which you don’t seem to have noticed. did you check out Vehicle in the XNA section? It looks interesting. How about that ‘in the movies’ game? or lips? All I’m saying is that the lineup at X08 wasn’t as bereft of originality as you make it out to be. There was some fresh thinking to be found there, you just had to look for it. It wasnt as much as I’d have liked either, but it was still there, unlike trips to the movie theater lately.

  2. Ryan

    i saw Lips out of the corner of my eye, but dismissed it as just XBox’s answer to Sony’s SingStar. Is there anything more to it? Something about a French tickler force feedback microphone?

    You’re In the Movies was interesting, but it looked like one of many titles devised to move an overstock of Vision Cameras. Just like Screen It the year before, i don’t expect their family titles to really hit. The most success they’ve had there is with Uno.

    The X08 event i attended was in Toronto. The XNA contingency was showing off a 3D maze game from Algonquin College, and a driving game for an annual art event called Nuit Blanche from the University of Toronto engineering department.

    i didn’t see anything called Vehicle. Is that a new kit?

  3. Pingback: untoldentertainment.com » What i’m Playing

  4. M Man

    I agree with about most of the stuff you said about the games you brought but I disagree with you about Viva Pinata 2. There are many changes they have done to it like the many new pinatas and the many new regions, items, and accesories you could get. And, like Rajio said Rock Band 2 is hardly original.

  5. Ryan

    Yeah – Rock Band 2 is not original, but i’ll take “fun” over “original” any day. When it comes down to it, it’s nice to have a unique experience, but fun is the ultimate goal.

    Viva Pinata stopped being fun for me when i caught on to the formula. It started feeling like a chore. Ditto Pokémon Silver, where i left the franchise – chasing down those elite magical fairy pixie dog things was actually not very fun, but i felt that addicted compulsion to “catch ’em all”.

    Anyway, it’s easy to complain that VP2 doesn’t add enough new animals compared to Pokémon, when VP2 has rendered 3D critters with multiple behaviours, and Pokémon just has static images drawn from the front and back that wiggle around randomly. :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.