Thursday, 27 January 2011

Kittens with blades and boys of meat?!

I'm taking a break here on my blog from the main release games and taking a look at Xbox Live Arcade games I've played lately. Just want to mention that the whole idea of the Arcade store which Microsoft started with the Xbox 360, later used by Sony in  PSN store and Nintendo in WiiWare, is fantastic. It gives small developers a change to sell games on a huge scale. Some of the most inventive titles are in fact released this way, and it lets games take a break from the mainstream ideas. 2D games, which are more or less gone from the main market, get to live freely on the online game market. I love the fact that Xbox Live Arcade lets you try every single game before purchase too!

I’ll start off with a look at Blade Kitten, a 2D platformer and beat ‘em up featuring a cute pink haired girl with cat ears as the main character. It kind of takes the fun out of Japanese anime figures in it’s  funny cutscenes, with some cool small touches like every time you open a secret treasure the main girl says something the line of “win get” etc.

The plot is simple, the main heroine gets a vital item for her spaceship stolen and she goes on a manhunt to get it back. She’s kind of a mercenary and gets tangled up in missions along the way. The game has a cellshaded style to it and the cutscenes really look cartoony and flashy.

Gameplay wise it’s a 2D platformer with fighting elements. Add in the ability to climb vertical walls, ceilings and double jump and the game controls great! The levels are huge and have a ton of side routes and treasures to find. You can play the game like a Sonic the Hedgehog beginner by just racing through the maps, but then you are missing the point. You should can play it calmly like a true platformer and explore and find secrets, this is where the true entertainment of Blade Kitten lies.

I like the artstyle, the comic and funny storytelling, the controls are good and the exploring is rewarding and exciting. The game lets you upgrade your abilities with treasure money and the levels are actually very varied. There are some issues though; the framerate is low and sometimes it dips considerably, I would also have liked more variety to the fighting and variation of enemies. All in all I was surprised and impressed by this game. It feels like a 2D platformer from the old PC days rather than an old console platformer, mainly because of the more advanced exploring, animations and control style.



You know a game is good when the title screen shows a huge red smiley face and the words: SUPER MEAT BOY are shouted through your speaker system! This game is really simple. Super Meat Boy, a bloodsoaked, square piece of meat with tiny legs and arms and a huge smiley grin of a face, needs to get his girlfriend Bandage Girl back from the evil Dr. Fetus. It sounds bizarre, and it is! The cutscenes have this early 2000’s internet flash player cartoon style and violence to them, and they are very funny.

The simple story aside though, this game is about the gameplay. Except the left right buttons, there are two things meat boy can do. Jump and run, these two combined make up for some insane long jumps. The aim of each level is to get to bandage girl without dyeing. A simple, yet sometimes , impossible task.

You see SMB (that abbreviation isn't a coincidence by the way!) probably has some of the most nightmarish levels for any 2D platformer fan. It’s like that “Mario from hell” video off youtube. The controls are fantastic and they make this game so addictive. SMB is ultra-responsive when you control him and it doesn't take long before you are doing impressive platforming around on the really difficult stages. When you finally reach Bandage Girl on the end of a level you are shown all your previous failing attempts. Which is a nice touch, since you will constantly be dying and giving each difficult level that “one more go before I give up”.

SMB is addictive, the controls are fantastic and the cutscenes and story is hilarious. It shows modern gamers what classic 2D platforming is about in a unique, yet classic way. Try out the demo and I’ll guarantee you’ll love SMB.



(This article was first published on Friday, November 12, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)

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