Video Games Arcade Guide For Xbox LIve

It's a side scrolling mindless blastathon, which was very much en vogue then in both the gaming scene and in popular culture, when the market for "well armed muscly guys shooting things to hell with vaguely patriotic
overtones" was at it's most robust. It doesn't hold up very well now - two player mode is sloppy due to one player being able to scroll the screen forward while the other is caught towards the back (leading to a lot of instant deaths), and if your bag is virtual fantasies about blowing holes in hordes of people with high powered weaponry you can do that in much more advanced graphic style these days with Halo and Ghost Recon and all those sorts of murder simulators. Contra is repetitive, has not aged well and is not recomended, not even for $5.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : Available in the Konami Arcade Collection for Nintendo DS

Published by : Konami
Original Release : Arcade, 1982

On the subject of mindless blastathons, we next come to Time Pilot.

In the far future, not only has time travel been developed, but it's been commercialized. One of the most popular pastimes for the privileged is to travel back in time in a well-armed spacecraft, picking fights with the air forces of primitive nations and using the advanced weaponry to blow hordes of them to shreds. For bonus points, you can pick up parachuting fellow travellers who incompetently got themselves owned!

Time Pilot was a bit of an innovator when it came out in 1982, though it uses a relatively simple gimmick. Instead of the usual flat left-to-right horizontal or bottom-to-top vertical scrolling plane, your ship is centered on the screen and can fly in any direction. Enemies come at you from all angles, so it's sort of like a scrolling Asteroids. You plow your way through 56 of the current type of craft you are fighting, then a (usually not impressive) Boss shows up that takes seven hits to kill, then you move on to next time period for more indiscriminate slaughter.

Unless you've got some personal nostalgia tied to memories of this game or something, it's probably not worth bothering with.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : Also available in the Konami Arcade Collection for Nintendo DS; also can be found in the Konami Arcade Classics compilation for Sony Playstation

Published by : PomPom
Original Release : PC, 2005

Continuing on this theme of mindless shooting games that I've accidentaly developed .... Mutant Storm is a more modern entry in the field. It basically pilfers it's gameplay from the Robotron - Smash T.V. lineage of games,
where you can move in one direction and fire in any other, and you progress through a series of small enclosed arenas wherein hordes of foes come at you from all directions. Coincidentally, Robotron and Smash T.V. are both available .... so what's to distinguish this one? Well, mostly the trippy visuals, which really are pretty cool ... it's a nice little casual game you can pick up whenever and leave whenever, but I think you only really need one of these types of games in your life at most.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : The original Mutant Storm for PC

Published by : Namco
Original Release : Arcade, 1981

New Rally-X has a lot more in common with Pac-Man than with racing. You're some car rolling around a sort of Pac-esque maze, trying to pick up all the flags that are scattered around. Meanwhile one or more suicidal red cars are chasing you and trying to slam into you (first time I played I thought we were supposed to be racing to pick up flags ... then they veered into me and killed me).

It's kind of basic brainless fun but it gets old fast, and after the first level there's always some red car that's faster than you that inevitably catches you unless you drive some perfect pattern in each level. So it's kinda cheap too. And the sound is annoying. I definetly suggest you pass on this one.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : Available in Namco Museum Battle Collection for the Sony PSP, and Namco Museum Vol. 1 for Playstation

Published by : Stainless Games
Original Release : Apple II, 1989

Crystal Quest is a decent little "pick up and put down at will" game I used to play quite a bit on the Mac at my first job, when I was supposed to be entering stuff into databases. In my previous batch of Xbox reviews I looked at Mutant Storm, another game available for download that is essentialy the same as this one. Crystal Quest of course predates Mutant Storm, but this new upgrade of it employs the same basic technique to appeal to the player, which is sort of fractally trippy visuals. So it's the same deal with this one as with Mutant Storm - there's a surplus of these types of games available and you probably only need one or less to get by sufficiently.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : There's older versions of the game for Gameboy and Macintosh; there's also a new PC release that's the same as this version

Published by : Namco
Original Release : Arcade, 1981

Among the first of the brainless space shoot-em-up games, and still one of the most fun, Galaga is certainly a good game, but it's also been widely available on nearly every platform for a long time now. Even a few
bucks seems a high price for it. I don't see too many situations where someone would find this version to be worth paying for, though this version does have one unique quality in that it lets you continue from the stage you kicked off at.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : Available on Namco Museum 1 for the Playstation, Namco Museum 64, Namco Museum Dreamcast, Namco Museum Advance, the Namco Museum 50th Anniversary collection and the Namco Museum Battle Collection for PSP

Published by : Midway
Original Release : Arcade, 1990

Earlier on I mentioned Crystal Quest, and it's similarities to Mutant Storm. Well, they're all basically derivatives of Robotron 2084, as is this game. So I guess the only question is what flavor you want, if any at all. Smash TV puts an interesting sort of dystopian future twist on the formula, with a setting similar to that of The Running Man. You're in this game show where you have to go through a series of rooms gunning down hordes of violent clones and other monsters, and each level culminates in a boss fight against some giant monstrosity. If you survive the whole maze you get to take home your pile of cash and fabulous prizes such as toaster ovens, sports cars, etc. that you've picked up along the way. During all this the perverted Wink Martindale lookalike host keeps popping up to egg you on with his digitized proclamations ("Big money! Big prizes! I love it!"). The graphics are not as spiffy as some of your other choices here, but the game certainly has the most personality.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : A very good port was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Published by : Popcap Games
Original Release : PC, 2004

Popcap's modus operandi has been to take old established game formulas, repackage and maybe add some small twist to them, and then plant these idiot-proof versions at mass traffic portals like
Yahoo where hoards of people are guaranteed to pass through, thus generating a whole bunch of money for them in advertising deals and such. Microsoft's modus operandi with Popcap games thus far on the Arcade has been to put up the "Deluxe" versions for download at around $8 a pop or so, even though the freeware Flash versions of these games have been (and still are) available all across the web for some time now. In most cases, "Deluxe" Popcap games don't add a huge amount to the experience - a few new levels, couple of little new character sprites, "enhanced graphics", all that type of thing. These games don't really seem to be an attractive draw for the Live Arcade - I don't know any longtime gamers who play Popcap games (presumably because we're familiar with all the original games that Popcap derives their formulas from and are either playing those or have run them into the ground by now), and the casual audience that makes up most Popcap players seem mostly to play them because they're free and on the web an can easily be loaded up while at work or school or at the library. So I don't know if Microsoft sees something that I don't here with dumping all these games onto Live Arcade, perhaps they're actually selling like hotcakes for all I know, but my tendency is to think that they're here as padding in the hopes of making the Live Arcade roster seem like it can compete with the spate of stuff released for the Wii Console .... but hey, I'm cynical by nature, so take that for whatever it's worth.

Anyway, this particular game is basically Magical Drop, with the usual Popcap few small tweaks to avoid being sued. Like nearly every other Popcap play games , it's basically OK but not very exciting, and really not something I'd reccommend spending money on.

YOUR OTHER OPTIONS : There's a free Flash version at various places on the web