The annual Summer of Arcade promotion always presents some of the best downloadable games to be released in a calendar year. Previous highlights include the fiendishly-addictive Trials HD - released in 2009 - and indie darling Limbo which dropped during last year's festivities. Not every title released during this campaign is a winner though. Turtles in Time at a premium price was a bitter pill to swallow, and multiplayer-centric Castlevania: Harmony of Despair was released to mixed reviews.
All things considered, the 2011 iteration of Summer of Arcade has been the most inconsistent in terms of quality: Bastion was easily the best game of the five released, while Fruit Ninja Kinect was lacking in longevity and brought the surprise back injury that's been missing from previous years' offerings. From Dust was a technical powerhouse that delivered frustration in spades and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet's loose shooting mechanics was also cause to swear under your breath. Toy Soldiers: Cold War was cheesy, unadulterated fun by myself, but any attempt to bring other people to my toy box resulted in my Xbox 360 shedding bandwidth-flavoured tears.
While I've already spoiled the revelation hinted at above: Bastion was a real treat, and easily one of the most enjoyable games that has been released so far this year. The seemless blend of familiar Action RPG play mechanics, touching story and innovative narrative mechanics stole my heart and has become somewhat of an obsession. I've since bought the soundtrack and a copy of the game on PC. I'm also desperately hoping for some other opportunistic merchandising to appear in the near future. Seriously, someone look at creating action figures of The Kid, the pet pecker, and Zulf; I can promise that one set would sell at the very least.
Imagine this scene, faithfully re-created using action figures *squeals*
I'm also glad that Microsoft have opted for the "free" game instead of the points rebate that was previously the norm. I have a tendency to spend Microsoft Points as soon as they're added to my account, and my recent choices have not been great. Rush n' Attack: Ex-Patriot: I'm looking at you.
If I had to boil my experience down to a set of purchase recommendations, it would read as follows:
Buy - Bastion.
Definitely try - From Dust and Toy Soldiers: Cold War.
Skip - Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet for now and pick it up when it is eventually subject of a "Deal of the Week" promotion.
Throw to the wolves - Fruit Ninja Kinect. Pick up Fruit Ninja for your smart phone or tablet device -at a significantly lower price -instead; because the developer, Halfbrick deserve at least some of your money.
Did you pick up all five Summer of Arcade releases? What was your favourite?
Summer of Arcade 2011 coverage:
- Bastion: Innovation in Narration
- Bastion Review (X360) - Tell me how the world ends
- From Dust Review (X360) - The gods control the elements, but can't reign in the people
- Post-scripts and Amateur Video
- Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Review (X360) - Inviting. Short. Tedious. Pricey.
- Fruit Ninja Kinect Review (X360) - You'll want a tablet for your back
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review (X360) - Passive-Aggressive Tower Defense starring Sylvester Stallone