2008 was the year where Microsoft continued to assert its position in the market of downloadable games using Xbox Live Arcade. Having been first off the starting block, theyve continued to put a lot of time and effort into attracting developers, both big and small, in to developing for their service. Its something thats paid off in spades because this year gave us a steady stream of titles.
Whether youre playing old school arcade titles that have been given a HD makeover like Galaga Legions, conversions of classic fighters like SoulCalibur, or an interesting experiment in matching the XBLA to a full retail game like Fable 2 Pub Games, theres been something in the last twelve months for everyone.
And the number of games is whats made compiling this list so difficult. So after much arguing, sulking and quite a bit of pushing and shoving, weve come up with our top five games of this year.
5. Castle Crashers
After what seemed like an eternity, this summer brought us the latest game from The Behemoth. And what a game it was.
Knights of Old, damsels in distress, hairball vomiting amphibious cats, deers with severe diarrhoea and an ending that either made you guffaw with laughter or just sit and wonder what the hell was going on. All of it done in their own inimitable style.
Harkening back to the scrolling beat em ups you used to find in your local arcade, Castle Crashers was more than a nod and a wink to a genre thats all but vanished. A blast with four players online, the game was well worth the wait and the asking price.
We reviewed it and you can see what we thought HERE.
4. Bionic Commando Rearmed
This year Capcom stuck the boot in, showing other developers how much time and effort they should be putting in when it comes to making downloadable games. Rather than just releasing any old thing, they took the time to remake the old NES game from the ground up new art, remixed music, vastly update visuals. The whole thing was polished within an inch of its life and thoroughly entertaining. Even if it was rock solid on times and kicked our arse, it reminded us all just how hard games used to be.
For a full on account of why the game is so good, read our full review HERE.
3. Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved
Sequels are often far to easy to cobble together without any real effort. Throw something together thats bit like the first, tart it up a bit and away you go.
Not Bizarre Creations. They took one of the first games that put XBLA on the map and turned the dial all the way up to eleven.
Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved is bigger, better and far more entertaining that the first. Clever use of leaderboards and multiple game modes meant there was a real reason to splash out the Microsoft Points on this one.
If you havent already, why not check out our review HERE to find out in detail what makes the game so special.
Those in the know had been talking about Braid for some time and 2008 was the year when everyone got their hands on it. The question had to be asked, could it live up to the steady undercurrent of hype that had been circulating? Thankfully the answer was yes.
Beautiful to look at whilst displaying an intelligence and subtext that was mind blowing, Braid showed that downloadable games on XBLA could be both mature and original.
No idea what the game is about? For shame. But you can read out review from earlier this year HERE.
Another release from the early part of 2008, N+ was the game that kept on giving. Not only did it see continued support throughout the year, which increased its life span immeasurably, the game itself was completely addictive and utterly compelling. Due to being so finely polished, it ably straddled the fine line between punishing and entertaining and firmly cement itself at number one in our list.
As usual, weve reviewed it and you can read it HERE.
That isnt quite the end though. In 2008 Microsoft also launched their Community Games section, a spin off from the sucess of Live Arcade that allowed developers to show off their XNA creations. Although still in its infancy having only been officially launched to the public in November, Community Games is already starting to provide some quality titles at Console Arcade Towers there was 0ne in particular which stood out.
Honorary Special Mention Weapon of Choice.
Old school blasting action with a unique art style, lots of big guns and lots of big monsters. Weapon of Choice was an amazing introduction to Community Games because it showed just how things could (or even should) be done. For that reason it garnered a lot of attention against some of the other launch titles for the section which felt like little more than freeware in comparison. For setting such a high benchmark so early on, Weapon of Choice really deserves its own special mention.