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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews two offerings from this year's XBLA Summer of Arcade.

TranscriptEdit

After Limbo one year and Bastion the next, I've come to look forward to the X-Box Live Summer of Arcade the way a child in a small town can look forward to when the carnival arrives so he can spend all his money and learn a harsh lesson about reality and spiders. It's like a little opportunity for some indie games about big-headed children exploring grim environments to come within earshot of AAA console gaming and be allowed to stand in the corner of the banqueting hall occasionally ducking the odd chicken bone.

And yet I have to say I'm disappointed by the showing this year. It started badly when the first release was an HD remake of Tony Hawks: Pro Skater. How does that invoke the indie spirit of the XBLA? Tony Hawks' head isn't even particularly big and he could hardly be said to be exploring a big scary world, he's just farting about on a bit of wood being paid too much money for not getting a proper job.

Yeah, alright, glass houses.

But since then, it's only been downhill. First a Kinect-only game then a zombie apocalypse, but let's take a closer look at them anyway. Maybe they figured out how to make Kinect fun and zombies original and maybe I'm about to poo out a Cadillac Escalade.

Wreckateer

The Kinect one is Wreckateer, a physics game in which you fling a certain amount of projectiles with various different properties at loosely constructed buildings at the expense of small round green sods. And this might strike you as familiar if the front page of the iPhone app store has ever been hurled past your front window so that you caught a glimpse of it for one-tenth of a nanosecond. Yes, it's Angry Birds but in full 3D, except with the suicide sparrows replaced with good honest traditional rocks because this is the XBLA and we don't tolerate that quirky mobile device nonsense.

At the encouragement of two guys who look like they were rendered in the late 90's, you have to operate an imaginary ballista with hand movements and stances that would make you look like you're preparing to catch a rugby ball from someone being attacked by a crow. Unlike Angry Birds though, you also make course corrections midflight by slapping the missle like... like there's something directly in front of you, say, at around waist height that for one reason or another you want to give a good hard spanking.

I will say this, I think Kinect is the least obnoxious he's ever been in this game. He's still wearing a lampshade and burping at my gran, but at least he's not hammering nails into the soles of my feet. I think because it never tries to call upon quick reflexes. You have all the time in the world to position yourself for the right firing angle and more importantly, the Kinect has all the time in the world to figure out where in the room you have moved to and how many limbs you currently possess, which is not to say that I and my spine wouldn't prefer to play it with a normal controller or indeed on a mobile device for about eight thousand levels and counting.

See, I do like to play Angry Birds and what I like about it is that I can whip it out while I'm waiting for a file to process or for a lady to reach orgasm and just kill a few moments, and I felt the same thing when Fruit Ninja Kinect came out. The sort of game I dig out and liven up the bus ride is not the same sort of game I'd turn on my electronics and sit through three opening screens for, especially not when it expects me to dance about like a spazz. That's something upon which the public transport authority holds a very dim view, or at least that's what the guy behind me said.

And the other thing I like about Angry Birds is picturing the face of the person who carefully assembled each level brick by painstaking brick as I smashed it up and laughed at their tears. And there's something kind of janky about the physics in this that takes me out of it. I can't get hard if the rubble keeps fading away when it hits the ground, it feels like I'm smashing up ghost castles, and there's no satisfaction in evicting ghosts, they just go walk through someone's wall and live there instead.

Deadlight

But on the subject of dead things hanging around smashed up buildings, let's move on to our second game, Deadlight. This is the game that looks like someone at Castle Cuhs-blah [XBLA] (who I imagine resembles J. Jonah Jameson) said "Where are the indie spirited unrelentingly-grim platformers? Take this checklist and find me a game with more tics than a mangy dog!" It's like something that the XBLA spontaneously generated one day when it had enough titles rubbing together. So it's a linear silhouetted platformer like Limbo that controls kind of Shadow Complex-y with the merest hint of 'Splosion Man and a story channeling I Am Alive narrated by a bloke with a voice like he smokes entire rolled-up carpets. Oh yeah, and it's set in a zombie apocalypse which is the point where the indie-o-meter starts ringing bells and emitting confetti.

The game opens with a hairy tramp named Randy standing over the corpse of an attractive woman, which sounds like a promising beginning I know, but the actual plot turns out to be about Randy-Pandy searching the ruins of Seattle for his wife and daughter by parkouring about the place and shooting zombies. Or avoiding zombies, the game can't seem to decide which one it prefers. Sometimes I'd flee from bastards only to get rugby-tackled by back of bastards I was supposed to shoot, sometimes I'd blow all my ammo clearing out an area to find they were guarding fuck-all and that the game was politely asking if I'm ready to do the big dramatic escape scene they'd got all planned out. There was a bit near the end where a lengthy unarmed sequence led into a shooting sequence but the game didn't tell me that it had sneakily given me my guns back in the transition so I died fifty million times trying to sprint my way through Bullet Boulevard with a white flag in one hand and my bollocks in the other.

With wonky controls and a visual style that makes figuring out the actual platfom layout of the background debris akin to looking at one of those Magic Eye pictures, it's a very trial and error game. Limbo was like that, but it made me too depressed to get angry about it. Deadlight just frustrates me and it's almost insulting in the way the story hasn't an original concept and thinks it's cleverer than it actually is. Okay, I guess I'd better give an ending spoiler warning at this point so attach distressed bats to both your ears if you don't want to hear it but honestly you don't have to be Jonathan Creek to have this shit figured out from near enough the outset.

If I mentioned that no other character ever admits to having seen Randy-Gandy's family since the outbreak, that he occasionally hallucinates them as if, say, his subconscious mind is trying to tell him something that he doesn't want to confront and that he keeps finding collectable ID cards that all bear the names of famous murderers just to give you absolutely no credit whatsoever, then you can probably connect the dots yourself. Yes, we're dancing that old chestnut, the Memento mambo, the Silent Hill samba. You'd think you'd remember doing something like that, wouldn't you? I mean, it's not like forgetting to leave the milk bottles out.

AddendaEdit

Once ate a man's head: Ben "Yahtzee' Croshaw

The only supressed memory my subconscious tries to confront me with is the time I walked in on my dad in the bath

I destroy and destroy but it never fills the void in my soul

Extra: JamEdit

So the Escapist Expo is still in September and you should still totally come, but also in October, I've got a second novel coming out! It's called Jam, and you should preorder it from Amazon and tfaw.com . It's about an apocalypse, with jam in it!

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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