Xbox Mines, Ranches, Whips Its Hair in August’s Games With Gold
Last month’s Games With Gold took an uncharacteristically disappointing turn for Xbox consoles, offering up games similar to previous month’s freebies and others with less-than-stellar reputations. The positive to this, of course, is that the following month will automatically appear better and more satisfying by default … right? Microsoft puts that assumptions to the test with a second month of shrug-worthy free titles, again imitative and middling-reviewed, propped up by one very strong, satisfying — last-generation — game. It’s a marginally better slate, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Let’s check out what’s available this month.
Ever notice how there aren’t many kid-friendly games from the first-person perspective? That’s because most of them involve operating a weapon of some form or fashion, and, of course, it’s hard to imagine too many E-rated, first-person type of games where the main character runs around and aims a gun-like device, due to the inherent violence involved. Hoping to till ground in the same proximity as that of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Slime Rancher presents a vibrant and soothing experience where the main character navigates a beautiful Western atmosphere — on a distant planet — and wrangles little globs of sentient jelly. A ranching simulation game, the player also maintains the “livestock” with food and upgrades for the farming equipment. This is, in essence, a point-and-shoot game without much violence that’s a good substitute for kids, released on August 1st for Xbox’s Games With Gold.
The Trials series stuck its landings in the last console generation while attempting something novel, producing a consistent run of stylized, trick-based games hinged on completing elaborate courses while riding a dirt bike. Trials: Fusion brings the familiar formula to current-gen hardware with a new slate of tracks, a retooled storytelling atmosphere based in a futuristic environment, and some beefed-up functions involving level creation and multiplayer. At its core, however, Fusion plays to the strengths of the previous iterations, garnering satisfaction through the completion of levels and doing so with style. Some critics have said that it feeds too much off the successes of the other Trials games, delivering more of the same without enough added on for a newer generation, but those who found themselves enthralled by the breathless tricks and platforming progression will find much of the same here.
Almost a decade ago now, Platinum Games started its development endeavors with a real bang. While Mad World garnered moderate praise for its harsh grayscale aesthetic and visceral aggressiveness, it was the furious, challenging hack-‘n-slash combat and confidently embellished style of Bayonetta that put ‘em on the map. An exaggerated, nudge-nudge wink-wink heroine combats the forces of evil in this upgrade progression brawler, where innovation in the combat mechanics aren’t as much of a draw as how blitzed and demanding the action becomes within each boldly-designed level. A big part of the fun of Bayonetta comes in how bonkers everything continues to get throughout, where Bayonetta gobbles down lollipops and lashes her hair while double-jumping, slowing down time, and earning medals based on the player’s performance. After conquering the insane, metaphysical final climax, Platinum Games cemented their reputation as a studio who’s in the game to really make games.
Red Faction: Armageddon
The Red Faction shooter franchise has been demolishing environments with its “Geo-Mod” game mechanic since the early 2000s, bouncing between Mars and Earth throughout roughly a century of storytelling. Jumping ahead 50 years and descending underground due to the hostility of Mars’ terraformed surface, Red Faction: Armageddon shifts its perspective to a third-person shooter while telling the story of the grandson, Darius, from the previous Red Faction installment, Guerilla. The sci-fi atmosphere and destructive mechanics of the gameplay remained true to the series, but critics had a difficult time unearthing many noteworthy elements from the plot or the remainder of the linearized design.