Demo/Buy (240 MSP)
Many Xbox Live Indie games enjoy taking us back down memory lane; to a simpler time when gaming was all about fun little arcade diversions and a massive jingling stack of loose currency. Juggle, from Scotland-based boutique developers Denki, takes this concept to extremes. The premise is simple. Housed within the authentic arcade machine (complete with 10p coin slot, no less) lies a Breakout paddle without any blocks to smash. Rather than brutalising some inanimate blocks, the objective is to juggle an increasing number of balls within a set time limit. Successful successive bounces earn points, and you'll soon zone into a soothing blissful trance as that belies the manic action.
In terms of presentation, Juggle is absolutely spot-on. Its difficult to believe that Juggle isn't a port of an existing arcade game as both the cabinet, sounds and graphics are absolutely spot on. Even the marquee/concept art and fake adverts on the site have genuine 80s cred! The visuals are crisp and clean, with an astounding attention to detail. It's not often that you get to see your avatar reflected in the glass.
Charming presentation and soothing core gameplay aside, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this might seem to be an overly (if insultingly) simplistic premise for a 240 MSP title. Luckily, Juggle also has some truly excellent two-player game modes up its sleeve. Two singleplayer games can be run concurrently in splitscreen for competitive point-scoring... but the volleyball minigame pits two combatants against each other in the manliest of sports. A net, two score zones and loads of balls make for frantic matches that come right down to the wire. Put simply, it's Pong's true next-gen successor.
But what if you don't agree? What if the 240 Microsoft Point price tag doesn't provide you with "enough" value for money to be worth a purchase? Reviewing is always an inexact science... but if you find yourself wishing that you hadn't followed my recommendation and spent your hard-earned points, Denki guarantee to donate the entire purchase price of the game to the World Child Cancer Charity if you're not satisfied.
That's a class act, folks- and a classy game to match. Highly recommended.
Developer: Team Legendre
Upon booting up the game, most people will instantly quit out of Jewel Dervish in disgust thanks to some of the most hideous menus in all christendom. Stick with it, however, and gamers will discover a neat little puzzler that adds a genuine twist to the classic 'match three' formula. A rotating mass of gems is attached to a pivot in the middle of the screen, and subsequent gems are aimed and fired out of a cannon. Matching three gems causes them to explode and break off huge chunks of the titular dervish, but the impact also causes the assemblage to rotate (allowing access to other parts of the wheel). Gems can also be bounced off of walls for valuable trick shots- and Jewel Dervish successfully manages to toe the line between immediately accessible and successfully deep.
Two main game modes allow it to be played as a complentative puzzler or an insanely stressful timed challenge; and weak GUI aside, Jewel Dervish is a competent and worthwhile game provides excellent value for money. The core gameplay feels like a potential smash hit- and it might well surprise you.
The phrase "twinstick shooter" is bandied about a lot these days... but Pure Carnage takes the concept to the very, very literally. Each stick controls the fire direction of a separate gun turret that has to defend against enormous hordes of incoming alien wireframes. The action is fast, brutal and unrelenting; requiring gamers to develop with razor sharp reflexes and an impressive degree of ambidexterity to succeed. Failing that, you can also rely on up to three other players to man the extra turrets, resulting in one of the most rewarding (if tricky) cooperative multiplayer modes I've played in a while.
Seven stages provide a fairly lengthy campaign and some insane difficulty spikes, with smooth and functional graphics that allow players to instantly size up the situation. If you love furious action and don't mind getting your ass kicked once in a while, I strongly recommend at least trying the demo.