Every week Cyril Lachel comes down from his giant castle in the hills to provide the final word on all of the classic downloadable games and retro compilations. This is the Retro Round-Up, your official guide to the best (and worst) in classic gaming for the Nintendo Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Join us as we shed some light on what games are worth your five or ten dollars, and what games you should avoid at all costs. For more information about these games (and retro gaming in general) we invite you to check out Defunct Games
It's another predictable week here at the Retro Round-Up. Up first we have the Gradius spin-off, Life Force, followed by a Worms-ish action game called Death Tank. Talk about an exciting name. Then again, that's what I said about Super Metal Crusher and what a letdown that one was. Anyway, you should just ignore me and check out this week's exciting episode of the Retro Round-Up!
(Virtual Console/Nintendo Entertainment System/$5)
What Is It?
For as popular as they were, the U.S. has a spotty history when it comes to classic 2D shooters. Today we think of Konami's Gradius franchise as one of the biggest names in shoot-em-ups, but in truth America only saw a few of the sequels. And don't even get me started on the spin-offs, which either didn't get localized or were given brand new names and stories. Life Force is a perfect example of the latter, a game that was based on a popular Gradius spin-off that was renamed and given a brand new plot. The game known as Salamander became Life Force, a game set inside a giant alien life-form which is infected by a strain of bacteria. Regardless of whether it has a silly name or not, Life Force is another phenomenal action game from Konami, the masters of making great 2D shooters. What sets this game apart from the more-popular Gradius is the fact that this game features both vertical and horizontal 2D action, something you don't see many shooters doing. Unfortunately that's about the only original thing about this game. Fans of the Gradius series will no doubt notice a number of the franchise trappings, which is a good and bad thing. But considering that this is a five dollar game, you really shouldn't pass up this classic shoot-em-up.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Like most shooters, Life Force is a pretty basic 2D action game. The game looks and plays almost exactly like Gradius, which is mostly a good thing. One big issue I have with the game comes in the way of the level designs, which feel like they're aping other Gradius games. At most there is only one or two memorable levels, while the rest feel like they have been recycled. Still the rest of the action is top notch and it's easy to overlook some of the more redundant level designs.
Is It Worth the Money?
It's a great shooter for five dollars; it's hard to dispute that. While it's true that we just had a good shooter last week, Life Force is different enough to warrant your money. And who knows, you may discover that this is one of those Gradius-inspired games that you missed the first time around. This is a great shooter, but I hope that we get some more diversity on the Virtual Console next week.
This Week in Xbox Live
Last week we introduced the world to the new Point/Counterpoint review style, which narrowly beat out our other idea, reviews through interpretive dance. This week we're keeping the argument alive with a debate over the merits of Death Tank, which sounds like a must-own game if you ask me. But that's what I said about Legendary: The Box, so who am I to decide? Let's see what our combatants have to say about this doozey of an Xbox Live Arcade game.
(Xbox Live Arcade/$15)
You know what's great about this game? It's a fleshed out version of a game found on Power Slave and Duke Nukem 3D. That makes it like Geometry Wars, only without the dual-stick shooter stuff. Instead Death Thank is a $15 Worms rip-off with snazzy graphics and online play. Fans of competitive action games will flip over this game, especially if they've gotten sick of the limited Xbox Live Arcade version of Worms. Death Tank is definitely worth a look.
I know you didn't just compare this Worms wannabe to Geometry Wars. While that was fresh and exciting, this is kind tired and niche. And did I mention that it's hideously overpriced? Fifteen bucks for this? The pricing is especially ludicrous now that Worms is down to $5. It's not that Death Tank is a bad game, but just because Braid and Castle Crashers can command the extra Microsoft Points doesn't mean that every game can. Save your money until somebody gets some sense and lowers that price!