Monday, July 25, 2011

XBLA Weekend: Torchlight, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, and others

Torchlight is an excellent dungeon crawler.

Saturday evening turned into a bit of an XBLA proving ground. I downloaded a whole host of titles in my continuing mission to find a game worthy of my 800 points. In and amongst the games were a few choice highlights and a very certain lowlight. Winner of the night – Torchlight.

Torchlight has got to be the most fully realised XBLA title that I have seen on the marketplace. It puts most other games on the service to shame, and is the first title I’ve seen that strongly argues its 1200 points price position well. Most XBLA titles, to me, feel like they should be capped at 800. In fact, while I’m indulging, I still maintain that 400 point purchases would drive the XBLA market exponentially, but I can only assume that Microsoft have their reasons for the typical 800 price point.

This interface should be familiar to most RPG players.
Now, I have never played Diablo, but it comes from Runic, members of whose team were involved in the development of previous Diablo titles. As a result of that, Torchlight heavily resembles, in almost every way, the play-style and appearance of its ancestor, right down to the use of a seemingly endless dungeon capped by a small town. Having little experience in the way of dungeon-crawlers, the game strikingly resembles a cut-down, single-player World of Warcraft which, as far as I’m concerned, sounds like a pretty good thing. Even the cartoon-medieval visual stylings draw these two close for comparison. The demo is huge, too, and lasted just over an hour, giving yet further weight to that earlier statement on the game’s quality bar.

The Dishwasher: VS is a bloody mess
A real curioso was The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, from Ska Studios. I saw this game ever so briefly at PAX East, although at that point I believed it to be a black-and-white puzzle platformer. This is not the case. The story is pretty obfuscated and seems to suggest that your protagonist is insane and prone to hallucinatory episodes. The game essentially involves travelling from room to room, slicing up anything and everything in your path to sanguine abandon, on a quest for vengeance and/or escape. The main attack/button-mash is X, and upon dying the option to unlock the game is also X. This had one result: I ended up blowing my 800-point load on a game on which I wasn’t entirely convinced. An accidental purchase whilst button mashing was a little frustrating, mind. However, in as far as it goes, I intend to finish what I’ve started, and not to turn my back on my shiny new game, even if it isn’t what I would have ideally wanted.

Anime art? Check. Flying Dragon? Check. Cuteness? Check.
Yep, that's a Japanese game alright.
Another title of note is the serially bizarre Islands of Wakfu – an extremely Japanese RPG adventure game that, after around 30 minutes of play, was still mostly unclear to me. It is apparently based on or upon the world of two MMOs, which may perhaps be required reading before anyone gets fully involved with this game. Over the thirty minutes or so that I watched, I couldn’t really get a grasp on anything that was happening, except that I was a girl and also my brother who happened to be a flying dragon (while I was humanoid),. Oh, and we met a platypus. If that sounds Japanese enough for you, get on it.

Oh, one final discovery: the Yar’s Revenge reboot is abysmal. It possesses an horrific control scheme, married with boring gameplay. An on-rails shooter that you could most certainly do without.

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