Weak With The Force Are Xbox’s September Games With Gold
When the most noteworthy title in a subscription service’s roster of included downloads for a month turns out to be a LEGO title for last generation’s console, you know it’s going to be a rough month. That’s what we’re working with in the September offerings for the Xbox, though, populated with marginal indie games for the One and nostalgia-dependent ones for the 360. Enthusiasm isn’t running high this month, but there’s one thing to be said for the majority of the titles: they’re certainly outside-the-box selections that’ll give gamers a true variety of stuff that wasn’t on their radars. Well, except for Star Wars, of course. Let’s take a closer look.
Some might be surprised at the literal nature of this simulator’s title, in which the player creates and manages a high-security prison. Operating from an overhead two-dimensional perspective, Prison Architect allows the player to fully construct and maintain the facility, making decisions about cell layout, staffing, even operational stuff like overseeing utilities and maintaining prisoner morale levels. Gameplay – and even graphical presence — is vaguely reminiscent of classic SimCity games from its earliest days, but the game gets its hands dirty with some of the complicated, perhaps even existential aspects of managing a prison. In that regard, Prison Architect has been considered a more engaging experience than what’s on the surface, though certain graphical and textual stumbles keep its reputation locked up.
Twin-stick, top-down shooters are a dime a dozen nowadays; perhaps not literally, but many can be found for a buck a pop – or less – at many digital destinations. Therefore, merely executing that concept “well enough” without telegraphing a unique gameplay presence wouldn’t seem like it’s enough to succeed within that subgenre, but Livelock aims to prove that assumption wrong. The mixture of futuristic neon and post-apocalyptic aesthetics aren’t anything new, nor are the straightforward controls themselves. However, the combination of these elements along with the quickness and intensity of their execution makes for an explosive, familiar-in-a-good-way composite of shooter and dungeon crawler, drawing comparisons to the likes of Diablo in a positive way. The absence of couch co-op is a bummer, but at least the joy of the shoot-‘em-up mayhem can be shared online.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Several layers of franchise branch-off adaptation are going on with this iteration of Lego Star Wars. Instead of being based off the movies, like most other games in this franchise, it adapts from the popular Clone Wars animated series that takes place between the second and third prequel films. Therefore, it’s a videogame adaptation of an animated series midquel positioned between two feature-length films … a show that sports a loyal following that frequently touts its superiority to the much-maligned prequel movies. It’s more interesting to talk about these adaptation facets because just about anyone who’s picked up a modern console controller knows what they’re getting into with a Lego title: easy third-person controls engineered for all ages, semi-open exploration, tons of collectibles and unlockables, and goofy cutscenes in the LEGO block style. Fatigue seems to have set in with this one, though, receiving shrug-worthy reviews for the sameness and repetition that often skates by in others.
Sega Vintage Collection: Monster World
This retro collection from SEGA ends up being one of those funky trios of games that doesn’t include the original in the series, jumping ahead to Wonderboy in Monster Land, Wonderboy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. All released for the classic SEGA consoles, they begin their reign in the late-‘80s, telegraphing fairly basic action-RPG controls in a slower-paced yet more mythical environment that, in certain ways, hybridizes Mario and Zelda. Only the devout retro enthusiasts will probably get wrapped up in the first two installments of this collection, which are functional but stiff platformers. However, the Genesis-era Monster World IV switches up protagonists to a spirited girl, spruces up the visuals, expands the RPG-like aspects and — perhaps most importantly — picks up the pace and tightens controls, making it a viable source of fun even in the modern era.