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When all else fails, lower your expectations

March 15th, 2007 · No Comments · Gaming, Reviews, Xbox

Microsoft has been rolling out a steady supply of arcade “classics” to Xbox Live Arcade. These offerings are more or less straight ports, exactly what you’d see using MAME, except on your Xbox 360. They add in some achievements and occasionally, Live support for arcade games that offered some kind of multiplayer, like Gauntlet or Joust.

For the most part, these games only appeal through nostalgia and low price, especially since with little exception, none of the games see any kind of improvement or additional modes. Perhaps the only additional selling hook are the few titles that do use Live in some fashion. Otherwise, why not just use MAME? These arcade titles look pretty dated on an HDTV anyway, and the controller is usually poorly suited for arcade titles.

At first, it seemed the recent release of an arcade favorite, Paperboy, might actually up the ante with some actual innovation, based on this blurb on the Xbox site:

Multiplayer: Play with a friend online or off with co-op multiplayer modes in both split screen and Xbox Live modes.

The arcade game didn’t have a co-op version, so perhaps this is the start of a new trend. Let’s look at a review on Planet Xbox 360:

While the game adds nothing new in terms of general gameplay, sound, or graphics, it does a solid job of incorporating Live.

Wow! Sounds great! Tell me more!

The only snag in the Live modes is the fact that gamers will not actually see the other player on the screen. Rather, the screen remains looking the same as it does in the offline mode, with the exception of seeing the opponent’s score in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. (My emphasis)

I’m sorry, but has this reviewer gotten so beaten down that this kind of half-assery counts as a “solid job of incorporating Live”? That’s a pretty low bar if you ask me. But maybe we can go even further and make up some excuses for this drek? Sure, keep reading:

The awkward camera angle and potential for lag to disrupt the timing of a player’s throws actually makes not seeing the other player a blessing.

So it’s a feature that you can’t see the other player. After all, co-op play is really just about voice chat and a common score, right? That potential lag issue is clearly insurmountable. Even if other games have figured out how to deal with it, I’m sure the sheer complexity of Paperboy’s rich and nuanced gameplay would just be too tough a nut to crack. At least for the developers at Midway.

If you are a huge Paperboy fan, and you are really dying for any type of Live co-op play, no matter how weak, than Midway has squeezed out something for you. But really, let’s call this what it is: a very lame co-op in yet another lame MAME port. Reviewers should stop making excuses for this kind of crap.

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