Craftimals: Build to the Sun is a game in which you take control of a small, cute animal of your choosing and (as the title suggests) begin building your way to the sun. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t sound like a really fun premise, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t addicting. The game starts off easily, putting the goal just outside your reach and then gradually moving it farther and farther away. It may sound boring, but after the first couple of times you reach the goal, you become driven to reach the next one. A big part of why it’s so addicting are the unlockables that range from a higher block carrying capacity to new hats for your animals. Another great thing about the game is that, if you get bored playing single-player, you can make the jump to multiplayer, which allows two players to play however they want and is totally fun. My only real complaint about the game is that sometimes it feels like you’re spending too much time climbing your “Stairway to Heaven” and not enough time building. It is a small gripe, however, and I cannot suggest Craftimals highly enough.
Burger Jack is an Xbox Live Indie Game that puts you in the shoes of this guy who becomes a server at his local burger joint so he can earn money for some awesome thing. The game has slick controls that work wonderfully with the joysticks being used for pretty much everything. Another thing that is surprisingly cool is how the game actually has a nice, minimalistic story. It’s not mind-blowingly great, but it does a good job of helping you understand why you’re working for a boss that will fire you without a second’s hesitation. Speaking of which, the difficulty can be absolutely terrible. If you let just one customer get up to the counter, then GAME OVER. This doesn’t start out as a problem, but as you move up through the levels, the game spits so many customers at you, it feels like it’s impossible to keep any from reaching the counter. Outside of the gameplay, the game also boasts great music and character design, but these are both made hard to enjoy by the severe difficulty.
There are only two things that make brick breaker games like Arkanoid fun: a cool visual style or a really unique gimmick. Paddle Wars has neither. The graphics are bland and are actually worse than the original Arkanoid, and the gameplay is your standard brick breaking. Well, okay, there is a level-up system that lets you increase your strength, speed, and recharge. However, I found improving these skills to be a boring reward for accumulating the necessary points. Power-ups will also occasionally rain down from the bricks, though it’s hard to tell which ones are good and which ones are bad. The power-ups that give you a temporary gun are nice but aren’t visually exciting to use and simply don’t do enough damage. The real kicker here is how the ball has a very limited range. Many times, I was down to my last life with one brick remaining, but it was stuck in the corner, and the ball would never bounce there. In those instances, I had to start the level over. Even if you like brick breakers, there are already so many better ones available on XBLIG.
How silly of me to think I was going to enjoy Playing in Traffic. At first, it’s a fun take on the Frogger formula where you have to run back and forth across the street a certain number of times. Your character’s movement feels a little loose, but narrowly dodging cars can be exciting. Some levels even let you push objects out onto the road, causing traffic to swerve unpredictably to get around them. Four-player support is also a nice touch, which just increases the madness. Alas, there are too many fundamental problems with Playing in Traffic that keep it from excelling as a party game. There are only seventeen levels, most of which can be burned through pretty quickly. They have to be played in order; no level select here. Many of the levels feel like repeats of previous ones. The game overuses train tracks, where walking on them slows you down to an annoying crawl. And the inclusion of an outer space and swimming level just feels out of place. If you’re a die-hard Frogger fan, you might find some fun here, but I felt it was lacking and really missed its mark.
I get what Mommy’s Best Games was going for with this jab at the new Xbox dashboard, but I feel the people who need to see it won’t, and the people who just want to play the game will get irritated with the pseudo-dashboard it emulates. Game Type is named after the new “Game Type” tab on the Xbox, stars the same mismatched “hoodie girl,” and makes you find the actual game by scrolling through several Xbox-like panels. It’s amusing the first time but really detracts from the solid shoot ‘em up hidden inside. I’d rather they trim down the commentary and focus on making this a better game. The shooter itself works well but features no level progression, only a handful of enemy types, and two weapons. It’s a huge step back from their previous (and very excellent) Shoot 1UP, with or without the satire. In fact, what really makes this feel like a rushed effort is that the high score lists are broken. Every time I scored above 3,000,000 points, it failed to record it, either locally or globally. Download the trial for a quick laugh, but spend those points on one of Mommy’s other games.
The developers put a lot of work into Perkunas’ Dragon, a 240 MS point XBLIG release. There is a detailed intro slideshow complete with voiceover and a long and deep game with multiple difficulty modes and several mechanics. Unfortunately, despite the solid presentation, Perkunas’ Dragon’s gameplay is sorely lacking. The major portion of this shmup/RPG/puzzle hybrid revolves around the player controlling a red dragon and laying waste to the countryside. You have standard fireballs as well as an arsenal of special abilities (4 ready at a time) to combo at your disposal. These abilities can be leveled up, giving you some flexibility in your play style. However, the tutorials are confusing, and the “tips” pages stay on screen just long enough for you to see the word “tip.” The game’s difficulty, especially given the steep learning curve, is extremely off-putting, and it made it very hard to want to fight through to see if there was any pay-off. If there was, I didn’t find it. The controls were too complex, the puzzles too random, and the RPG elements just not satisfying enough.