By Robert VerBruggen
Easy Golf | Dev: Barkers Crest | Score: 3.8
It doesn't take many words to sum up this title: the golf game from Wii Sports, Xbox-ified. The graphics and animation style seem taken straight from Nintendo's casual classic (some new physics glitches aside), with a happy, cartoonish golfer walking through green courses on a sunny day.
The music is nice and relaxing, and the controls are pretty standard for a non-Wii golf game. You press the A button to start a meter, hit A again to set the power, and hit A a third time to make the ball curve or fly straight. Other buttons change your view, add backspin, and permit you to see the course's elevation. These techniques will get you through the game's well-designed courses on all three difficulty settings.
Two features set Easy Golf apart. One is its level creator, which allows for a lot of imagination and permits you to share your creations. Unfortunately, you can't set the parameters in real time. For example, to make a bump, you have to place an elevation indicator on the grid, then hit A and let the computer think for a little bit. This slows down the process, and it gets fatiguing trying to create more elaborate courses. The second is online multiplayer (for some reason, there's no local multiplayer). It won't be too useful in creating random matches until the game builds up a solid user base, but it's a great way to square off against people you know. Rather than taking turns and watching each other play, you just play through the holes independently, and the computer matches your scores at the end to see who won.
All told, it's Wii Sports golf for the Xbox 360, at the price of $10, with a well-functioning if not user-friendly course creator. We're not seeing the downside.
Exisled | Dev: L0STlogic | Score: 4.5
This game is, to put it simply, awesome. In some ways it's a basic two-joystick shooter; you move with the left joystick and shoot with the right. But, there are countless innovations that make it not at all a Geometry Wars knockoff: You're piloting a helicopter, not a spacecraft; your primary targets are buildings you can bomb; the game has a story that unfolds in levels, as opposed to having a score-attack setup; you have an energy bar you can refill by returning to your base, instead of dying with one hit.
You can play the series of missions with or without time constraints. The plot is that you're fighting an enemy called The Smog. In each stage, you'll have to bomb several enemy headquarters buildings, which are protected by larger and larger numbers of aircraft, ships, and ground-based guns.
However, don't mistake our enthusiasm for an assertion that Exisled breaks new ground: it doesn't. The music is OK, the graphics aren't particularly realistic, the story is far from captivating, and despite its departures from the two-joystick shooter formula, it's not exactly the first game to have players pilot a military helicopter. What this game has is the "it" factor; it's simply a joy to circle around an enemy headquarters building, firing away at the guns protecting it until it's safe to make a bombing run. For any gamer who likes blowing stuff up, this is a must-buy.
Fruit Attack | Dev: ScrumThorax | Score: 2.5
This is pretty much a paint-by-numbers, Tetris-style puzzle game. A vertically arranged stack of three pieces of fruit falls from the top of the screen; you change the order of the fruit and guide the stack to its resting place at the bottom. When you get three identical pieces of fruit in a row (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally), they disappear, and if the fruit on top of them falls to make another three-in-a-row match, you get bonus points. Gradually, the stacks fall faster, and when they reach the top of the screen, you're dead.
On the plus side, the graphics and music are fairly pleasant. Also, the game features multiplayer competition and a challenge mode (in which you attend to such tasks as making a given number of apples disappear, or constructing a given number of diagonal matches).
At $5, this isn't a terrible buy for someone looking to kill some time with a quick and easy-to-learn puzzle game. It's quite short on innovation, however, and unlikely to have much staying power.