Summer always means the return of two sacred institutions: Hoagiefest and Summer of Arcade.
Microsoft's Xbox Live Summer of Arcade 2012 starts July 18, with one game released each week for five weeks. This year's releases bring lots of variety: shooting, skateboarding, demolition, zombie extermination, and action role-playing.
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD – What’s old is new again in this semi-compilation taking the more popular levels from the first two PlayStation THPS titles and giving them a touch of current console generation love. Some of your favorite songs and characters from the games will be there as you ollie, grind, and grab air through challenging levels, looking to collect S-K-A-T-E letters. Better lighting and physics than what was possible when these games came out more than a decade ago make the levels feel fresh, and you’ll collect DVDs in some levels instead of tapes, but the controls have been left as they were in those two games without any of the newer moves added later to the series. (available July 18 from Activision for 1200 MS points/$15; rated pending, but the original titles were E)
- Wreckateer – If you lived in a world with goblins and castles, there might be a company to help eliminate them. That’s where you’ll come in when playing this bombastic title where a king hires your company to destroy goblin-infested castles. Those old enough may remember a tabletop game called Crossbows and Catapults, and this title that aims for casual players is very close in terms of objectives and gameplay. There is, unfortunately, one major buzzkill about this game; it requires the use of the Kinect motion control system, so those without it are out of luck. Those with Kinect will use their body to simulate pulling back a ballista and firing six types of ammo at drawbridges, towers, and castle walls to bring them down. Some ammo will even be able to be given after touch or will morph in mid-air into controllable projectiles. (available July 25 from Microsoft for 800 MS points/$10; rated E10+)
- Deadlight – No matter how many already exist, there always seems to be room for yet one more zombie apocalypse game. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this 2D sidescroller combines gun slinging with platforming and puzzle-solving in a survival tale set in a mostly bleak environment. Whether out in the wild or in an all but abandoned city, you’ll walk streets and paths, climb ladders, enter buildings and go hand-over-hand as you conserve ammo just trying to stay alive. The neat effect of a 3D background behind the scrolling 2D play gives the game a visual ‘pop’ that makes it stand out, and if you get the chance you can forego your gun and just plant a hatchet in the head of the nearest undead nasty. And the decaying surroundings will provide their own dangers and obstacles like fires and downed power lines that will require dealing with or avoiding. (available August 1 from Microsoft for 1200 MS points/$15; rating pending)
- Hybrid – A game that’s solely online multiplayer is a risk, but that’s exactly what this wild third-person shooter will be. Set in a world where two factions (the Variant and the Paladins) are in constant war, a main difference between this and other shooters will be that you don’t so much walk or run through the game as move from cover spot to cover spot. Instead of running and strafing, you’ll highlight the next cover spot you’d like to move to and press a button, sending you sprinting or flying over, and prompting GameSpot to say it’s “one part third-person shooter…one part chess.” That’s right, “flying” since everyone’s got a jetpack, and with a focus on having a true 360° of gameplay, you’ll be using it to get to ceilings and hide behind fragments of blown away wall. And to discourage camping, one special gun will fire a bubble that dishes out damage over time to those within its confines; those pesky hunkered down snipers will have to find a new vantage point if you can get a bubble next to them. Expect mostly standard modes in the Deathmatch/Capture the Flag/Base Defense realm. (available August 8 from 5th Cell for 1200 MS points/$15; rating pending)
- Dust: An Elysian Tail – Compared by Kotaku to the lauded PS2 title Odin’s Sphere, this RPG had a small design team: one person, who describes it as a “sidescrolling action-rpg, with an emphasis on crazy combo-based action.” You’re playing as a person named Dust who has a cute, furry companion that aids in combat. You’ll be using X and Y to swing your sword in various combinations as your bread-and-butter, basic attacks, and as you progress you’ll pick up special attacks. Additionally, your companion can fire magic bullets, that when combined with some of your special attacks can deal great devastation and in some cases will be the only way to damage more powerful enemies. Also critical to success will be properly parrying some enemy attacks; they’ll be stunned and leave themselves open to a counter-attack. Wrapped up in all this are typical RPG trappings like upgrading skills and acquiring better equipment as you advance the game’s plot. (available August 15 from Microsoft for 1200 MS points/$15; rating pending)
As in previous years, there’s also a discount to be had. Purchasing any three titles will get you a 400 Microsoft Point refund.
Jeff is currently playing Dragon Quest IX: Sentinel of the Starry Skies; follow him on Twitter at JKLugar.