At this year's E3, Microsoft revealed its newest addition to Xbox Live, offering gamers a broad-appeal of classic games directly to your Xbox. Aptly named Xbox Live Arcade, all you need is an Xbox unit (check), an existing Xbox Live account (check) and finally, the Xbox Live Arcade disc...
Wait, something's missing.
Ok, so you've got 2 out of 3 items. To complete the process, you'll need to get hold of the disc. So how do you get one? Well, you could try bumming off a copy from your friends at the local Gamestop or EB, but that may lead to a lifetime of servitude you could live without. Thankfully, there's another way. For a limited time, you can get the "player" directly from Microsoft. All you have to do is be willing to fork over $4.99 for shipping and handling. OMG, I have to pay?!? Well, yes. Shoot, I did (for a change, no press promos this time); the delivery took less than a week to reach my doorstep by regular mail. In the near future, the disc will be included with Xbox Live Starter Kits and select Xbox titles.
Now, for those of you with an itch to get in on the fun now -- well, it's pretty obvious what you have to do!
Moving on, I took the opportunity to try out the Xbox Live Arcade disc this evening and see if was worth spreading the word. (Obviously it was, lest this feature wouldn't have materialized.) So without further ado, here's some quick impressions...)
Essentially, the disc acts as a hub allowing you to download, compete, and play a variety of familiar classic arcade games. Like any XBL-compatible title, you'll naturally have to sign in first with your Gamertag. From there, you can check out who's on your friends list, explore the latest arcade releases for download. Contrary to what some may believe, the arcade games are not free. And no, unlike Smash T.V., you can't buy these for a dollar. Prices run from $9.99 to $19.99. The $9.99 tag is most respects is an introductory price, while some of the presumably more popular games require you to shell out a bit more. (I've noted how much it costs to purchase each of the available games below.) Players also have the option to play demo versions of any of the available games before committing to a purchase.
Once you've purchased the content, you'll have immediate, unlimited access to the game stored on your hard drive. As an added convenience, each purchase will be billed directly to your Xbox Live account. You've paid those holiday credit card purchases off by now, right?
To reiterate, Xbox Live Arcade offers a broad range of titles designed for all gamers types and age groups. Here's a brief summary of what you'll currently find available:
Dangerous Mines - A clone of the exceptionally popular Mindsweeper which comes pre-loaded with your Windows OS. An addictive one-player game, perfect for when you those times you're getting owned up in Halo 2 and need a change of pace. Price: $9.99 (US), $14.99 (Canada)
Fuzze Fever - A chaotic version of Tetris, where players ultimately try to fit their pieces together. And when all else fails -- play dirty by tossing your blocks at your opponent's "fortress". Supports up to four 4 players. Price: $19.99 (US), $24.99 (Canada)
Hardwood Solitaire -- Great game for diehard Solitaire fans. Features over 100 variations of the classic game. Plus, the game supports custom soundtracks. Strictly a one-player gaming affair. Price: $9.99 (US), $14.99 (Canada)
Bejeweled -- This game has been graced everything from mobile phones to the PC, and now, the puzzle phenomenon is available on Xbox. Swap gems of two or more colors, or create more elaborate combos for major point bonuses. It's easily one of the most addictive games since the heyday of Tetris and Columns. Price: $9.99 (US), $14.99 (Canada)
Namco Vintage -- Now you can enjoy some of Namco's greatest arcade titles including Pole Position, Dig Dug, and Galaxia. Supports up to 2 players. Price: $14.99 (US) / $19.99 (Canada)
HD Ricochet Lost Worlds -- An Arkanoid clone. In case you're wondering, the HD is short for High Density. Yes, that means you can enjoy the game in either 480p and 720p. Xbox Live Aware support is also included. Price: $9.99 (US), $14.99 (Canada)
Super Collapse II - An backwards type of Tetris game meshed with Columns. Players align up to 3 or more colors bricks to clear the board as they fall from the top of the screen. Seems fun for puzzle addicts. Price: $9.99 (Introductory Price expires Jan. 31, 2005
Each of the highlighted titles above are divided into categories -- retro classics, action & arcade, card & board, puzzle & word, social sports and strategy & sims. Currently, the last two categories don't have any available games at this time. In the near future, Xbox Live Arcade will featured upcoming games like Alien Sky, Joust, Robotron, and much, much more.
Of course, this report wouldn't be complete without taking the time to talk about Ms. Pac Man. For anyone who's been curious, it's a solid arcade perfect translation. Every sound effect and pixel recreates the classic arcade experience, ultimately reviving the classic arcade experience, sans the need to shell out the silver coinage. Options include configuring the number of lives, score multipliers for extra lives, or toggling the arcade border on/off. I didn't care for staring too much at the Pac Man and co., so I turned the option off. It should be noted that if you care to get listed in the scoreboard, you'll want to leave your number of lives left to the default setting (3). But c'mon, we're talking about Ms. Pac-man here. Surely you can place in the top 100 or better.
I've gathered the nearly most, if not all of the titles will offer individual online leaderboards, ultimately creating a players to get their names high up on the ranks with friends, family and other online competitors. There's no doubt in my mind that this will be an instant hit with old-school and mainstream gamers alike. Now, if they can get some more of my classic titles like Tron and Contra in the mix, I'll be eternally sold, spending many hours reliving the good ol' days.
So what are you waiting for? Order your copy, today!