AfterBurner Climax: Highway to the Danger Zone!
Platforms: PSN | XBLA
Brendan's recent preview has whipped our office into a state of slack-jawed, slobbering anticipation for After Burner Climax... and it doesn't disappoint. AfterBurner's classic 15 minutes of gameplay has been given the full HD makeover, making it one of the finest-looking games on the service as well as a very slick port.
For those who don't know: AfterBurner is a rail shooter that resembles Panzer Dragoon or Rez... but twice as fast and three times as mental. A single stick controls both your plane and reticle, allowing you to dodge incoming fire as well as paint targets for your homing missiles. Deal out enough punishment on the huge enemy swarms and you can activate climax mode (which allows you to lock onto and dispatch dozens of fighters). The triggers slightly alter your velocity, but you'll spend most of your time careening through valleys, beautiful landscapes and tight tunnels at unbelieveable speed. It's a simple formula- but it's absolutely timeless.
Having said that, timeless is the operative word here. Whilst the quality on offer is pixel perfect, each playthrough only lasts around 15 minutes (assuming that you don't crash and burn). Don't get me wrong, you'll probably need a few tries to beat the ferocious final levels; after all, the game was originally designed to separate gamers from their hard-earned pocket change as fast as possible. This could've resulted in appallingly bad value (especially with the lack of multiplayer modes)... but SEGA has an ace in the hole. The EX Mode.
Completing challenges (such as gunning down a certain number of planes or completing playthroughs) in the arcade mode unlocks loads of new options including extra continues, powerups and easter eggs. This creates an arcade experience that unfolds organically and requires multiple playthroughs to complete. Final Fight: Double Impact got this completely wrong last week by offering infinite continues right off the bat, resulting in some fairly poor value even with two games in the bundle. Take note, Capcom! Don't get me wrong, though: AfterBurner Climax is still fairly light on content and certainly isn't for everyone.
Presentation-wise, AfterBurner Climax is absolutely fantastic. The HD graphics run at a whopping 60FPS and the feeling of unadulterated, mad, crazy speed needs to be experienced to be believed. As mentioned previously, it's one of the shiniest games on XBLA. The sound design is still fairly generic, mind- though it's reminiscent of a cheesy low-budget action movie. In a good way.
A score attack mode, leaderboards and achievements round out the package. The Score Attack doesn't really bring anything too substantial to the table: in essence, you'll just be playing through the same levels yet again. The achievements provide a nice balance between skill and grind, though.
Second Opinion: I'll make no bones about it, I absolutely love this game. Everything from its accessibility to its cheesy soundtrack is absolutely top notch. Jon mentioned Panzer and Rez, but the game this most reminds me of is Lylat Wars. Imagine Starfox on speed and you're pretty much there. The arcade experience is pretty tough on your first playthrough, but that's what EX Mode is there for, rewarding each attempt you make with cheeky little trophies, unlockables and in-jokes for SEGA die-hards. I didn't mind that I crashed out 3 levels before the end on my first run through because the game suddenly gave me two extra continues for my next attempt, encouraging me to do it all over again. And I will. This is a game I'll keep coming back to time and time again because it's sheer joy to play. It helps that the graphics are beautiful, that the immediacy of the controls makes them simple to pick up, but above all else it gives me a little 10-15 minute burst of adrenaline that puts a massive stupid grin on my face. Crank the Kenny Loggins to 11 and hit the skies! 8 - Matt
- It's drop-dead gorgeous
- Tons of unlockables
- Classic gameplay is beautiful, timeless and untouched
- It's still only 15 minutes long.
- Repetitive sound design
- Might make your eyes bleed after extended sessions
The very short version: AfterBurner Climax is the current Top Gun of XBLA games. If you crave insane visual stimulation and thrive on stiff challenges then you should drop the points right now. It'll take you riiiight innnn tooooooo theeeeee danger zone! Cue air guitar.
Puzzle Chronicles: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Platforms: PC | PSN | XBLA | NDS | PSP
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Oh yeah, Puzzle Chronicles also came out on the online marketplaces yesterday.
- It's a lot like Puzzle Quest
- Puzzle Quest is much better and costs half the points.
The very, very short version: See pros and cons.