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X3F Impressions: Sierra XBLA Round-Up

At the Sierra event we attended XBLA games weren't exactly the main attraction. Despite the fact that four games were there, the area was rather empty in comparison to the rest of the games' booths. True, it was a bit hidden toward the back, but there were never more than a dozen people there at a time (including the devs!) On first glimpse of the XBLA titles listed on the cardboard display, it appeared as though the place was being avoided for good reason, but upon further inspection there was indeed some potential in the available games. Plus, Sierra had a few small pieces of XBLA swag that we'll give you guys the opportunity to get your mitts on in a short fanswag giveaway tomorrow.

The four games on display were Assault Heroes 2, which is something of a known quantity, Zombie Wranglers, which was (and is) largely unknown, Sea Life Safari, which has the appearance of Finding Nemo, and Gin Rummy, which is ... well, y'know, just Gin Rummy. So we couldn't exactly blame our fellow attendees for wanting to see Ghostbusters and Prototype instead. Still, that doesn't make the XBLA titles bad, and what we saw look quite good for what it was. Hit the break for the individual game impressions.

Assault Heroes 2

If you've played the first game, then you know almost exactly what to expect out of Assault Heroes 2. The same top-down shooting craziness was there in full force, and everything that's returning has received an upgrade. The new stuff though looks great too, with the on-foot portions of the game having been fleshed out more, and more weapons having been added.

The top-down camera was played with a little bit as well, with the level design changing in unexpected ways to alter the camera angle. Heroes 2 will be getting more level variety too, we played a space level and some of the new underground levels (which have been changed so that you don't leave them upon death.) All in all, Assault Heroes 2 looked like the worthy successor to the first, but it did feel repetitive, and long-time players may want to find something else. If you're an AH newbie though, give this a try when it hits the arcade.

Zombie Wranglers
This game was easily the standout of the XBLA titles on display. With charm, humor, and wide appeal, Zombie Wranglers is not the kind of title that is common on Live Arcade. In a cel-shaded semi-open (more is unlocked as the story progresses) world overrun with zombies, it's your job to take control of one of four friends and repel the hoards of the undead. The four characters have distinct abilities and personalities, and because the game has drop-in/drop-out four-player online coop, you'll never have to be without any of the characters. The gameplay mostly consists of running around and using your suck-pack to vacuum up zombies and gain zom-bucks.

In other words, the actual gameplay isn't really very compelling (I know certain people hate that word, but still.) The fun part of the game really seemed to come from exploring the world's inherent humor. Things like seeing all the varieties of zombies and the individual bosses and items. We saw some skater zombies, a giant katamari ball made of zombies, among other things. Even then, it didn't seem like that would be where the most fun would be had. In the end, it'll be the charm of exploring this world with three friends that will make Zombie Wranglers a game to watch.

Sea Life Safari
Originally a free PC game, Sea Life Safari can be summed up rather simply: Pokeman Snap + Endless Ocean. With such a simple concept, we found it surprising actually watching the game being played. It has a lot of personality to it, and features character designs not unlike Finding Nemo, with comically exaggerated features and animations.

Revolving around completing your local Professor's photo collection, it's your task to move through 5 different on-rails environments taking pictures of everything from killer whales, mermaids, and (maybe) kraken to smaller, simpler creatures such jellyfish, fish and sea worms. While it's far from hardcore, the game was surprisingly relaxing and felt like a nice break from the twitch-fests that usually attract us hardcore players. This might be a good casual title, but its success rests largely on price and marketing.

Gin Rummy

Really, what can be said about this? It's virtual Gin Rummy .... You still here? Fine then. The game's got all the online features you could want, leaderboards, matchmaking, custom matches and rules, camera support, etc. There's a tutorial mode included, and the devs say that the game is a great way for beginners to learn how to play. Oh, and there's DLC planned, so get ready to say hello to downloadable decks!

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