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On the DL August 2010

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On the DL: August 2010

For many years, downloadable games have been viewed as nice little distractions when compared to their retail brethren. However, with these games increasing in sophistication year after year, more consumers are beginning to discover the joys of a lean eight-hour experience over a retail release with a 60-plus-hour playtime. So, with this monthly feature, we hope to shine a light on a few downloadable titles, from various platforms, that have impressed us in the past month.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

With a major motion picture and a renewed interest in the graphic novels, chances are if you had never heard of Scott Pilgrim before the month of August, you have now. And with this revived interest in the Scott Pilgrim franchise also brings a downloadable title from Ubisoft called Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game for the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. The game plays very similar to the 1990 NES classic River City Ransom, which the Scott Pilgrim universe consistently makes references to.

While Scott Pilgrim can be enjoyed as a single-player experience, the game shines most when played with friends. It’s in this setting where the game really comes together, harkening back to simpler times when arcades were popular and an afternoon could be wasted pumping a dozen quarters into an early-’90s beat ’em up. Also, with the game’s clever yet subtle references to the Scott Pilgrim (its aesthetic seems taken straight out of the graphic novels), fans of this franchise should be appeased as well.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

A few years ago developer Crystal Dynamics took the Tomb Raider franchise, which many had considered to be shovel-ware, and resurrected it by taking a “back to basics” approach that revitalized the combat system and brought the focus of exploring exotic environments back into the series. In Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for Xbox Live Arcade, Crystal Dynamics takes a similar approach by presenting the game in an isometric perspective, stripping down both combat and exploration down to its basic components.

In terms of combat, the action is similar to a twin stick shooter in which you use the left analogue stick for movement and the right for the direction you want to fire your weapon. As for the exploration sections, the game throws at you a plethora of environmental puzzles to solve, and though they’re smart and imaginative, some of the puzzle sections in the single-player mode were clearly designed for co-op play. But even with the game missing the primary component of online multiplayer co-op (the publisher is promising a free online patch in the next few weeks), this arcade re-imagination of the Tomb Raider series is a fantastic download.

Shank

If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is a call back to River City Ransom, then it’s safe to call Shank the modern-day Double Dragon. Shank is a 2D arcade-style beat ’em up brought to you from the minds of Klei Entertainment (an independent development studio that created such cult classics as Eets and N+) for the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Even though Scott Pilgrim does play in the same vein as Shank, the latter really focuses on a deeper fighting mechanic, which in turn makes the game seem less like “button mashing.” This in turn brings an element of strategy to Shank which Scott Pilgrim seems to be missing. And while the game does provide a deep gameplay experience with a complex fighting mechanic and a plethora of weapons, the star of this game is undoubtedly the excellent art direction. As brutal as it is beautiful, the game stylistically is a cross between a John K. cartoon and a Robert Rodriguez grindhouse flick.

And Yet It Moves

And Yet It Moves is an indie puzzle-platformer from first-time development studio Broken Rules. The game revolves around the novel concept of rotating the world around the main character to overcome obstacles or traps that are in your way. Initially, And Yet It Moves started its life as a PC downloadable game on digital distribution services like Steam or Direct2Drive. Now console players can finally experience this indie gem on the Nintendo Wii.

In the game’s WiiWare release, a new control scheme is implemented that involves twisting the WiiMote to rotate the world. This gives a more intuitive feel to the turning mechanic that adds to the immersion of the game. While And Yet It Moves is most notable for its unique controls, it’s how the game intertwines the various concepts together, from art style to sound design, which creates for an intriguing package.

Monday Night Combat

Monday Night Combat (or MNC) is a third-person online team-based shooter for Xbox Live Arcade. With a mix of class-based character system, similar to that of Valve’s Team Fortress 2, and objective-style goals, like those of Defense of the Ancients, MNC brings a very unique multiplayer experience that is currently unavailable on the Xbox 360.

What’s even more impressive with MNC is that the Xbox Live community seems to be playing it weeks after release, which is rare for a purely online multiplayer based game. For $15 you can get one of the best multiplayer experiences on Xbox Live. Which for a downloadable title is quite impressive.