So Far, I’m Pretty Disappointed in This Year’s Summer of Arcade

Yeah, I said it. With three games released and two more titles on the way, I’m more and more disappointed in XBLA’s 2012 Summer of Arcade.

When the announcements were first made, it looked fairly promising; an HD remake, a seemingly functional game for Kinect, and three new games with unique features that gave them an interesting and individual identity.

So, why am I disappointed?

When it first came out, Tony Hawk was the game to own between my friends and I. I sat for hours breaking through glass in the mall and shredding up the halfpipes in the warehouse as I mastered combo chains and collected video tapes. And for a twelve-year-old, I didn’t do so bad, if I may say so myself. It was a game I loved to play, and definitely one that made my eyes glaze over as I sat in front of it for hours on end.

So why did I feel a little let down by the announcement of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD? Probably because it’s something I’ve already seen and experienced before, and I don’t have the burning desire I once did to return to it. My memories of the game are sweet, but I’d like to keep them as just that: memories.

Sure, the game looked great, and even peppered in levels from the other Tony Hawk games. And yeah, lots of people were excited about it. But with all the great indie games on XBLA that get released frequently and slip under the radar, is an HD remake the best we can really do to kick things off?

Wreckateer was…Wreckateer. It’s a Kinect game that’s gotten some fair reviews and seems to be functional, which unfortunately is a complement to Kinect games, given the peripheral’s wonky control history. Described by one of my co-workers here on Leviathyn as “Angry Birds with rocks,” it’s a game that tasks you with destroying structures with various objects, including rocks. Players control the angle and power of the objects as they’re fired into the air, and your goal is to completely destroy whatever’s in front of you. You know, like Angry Birds or Catapult or what have you.

Why was this underwhelming? It’s a known fact here that I’m not a fan of Kinect games. They’re unreliable, they lack depth, and I don’t enjoy looking like an arm-flailing advertisement at a car dealership when I sit in front of my TV. Now, again, Wreckateer is a completely functional (and sometimes moderately fun) game, but when there are better options out there, I have to question why this was shoehorned into the Summer of Arcade.

Probably the biggest letdown for me was Deadlight. Being a big fan of both zombie apocalypse games and 2D platformers, it looked like  something right up my alley that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. And once I did, I was met with some pretty overwhelming disappointment.

It ended up being a wonky platformer with weird mechanics that lacked precision and a shallow, typical story. I tried really hard and made it through the game, but it was not without much frustration and a complete lack of fun.

And it’s too bad; the art style was cool, the sound design and atmosphere really created something eerie and special that gave the game a personality of its own, and it was an overall treat to immerse yourself in. It just fell apart for me once you actually had to play the game.

The next game to be released as part of Summer of Arcade is Hybrid, and the promotion ends with Dust: An Elysian Tale. Hybrid is an interesting multiplayer-only cover-based shooter from the development studio that brought you Scribblenauts. It’s fast and frantic and looks impressive at a glance. And of course, we won’t know how good it really is until its release. But it’s an interesting concept to consider nonetheless, especially coming from the makers of such a tame hit as Scribblenauts.

Dust is a 2D sidescrolling RPG featuring artistic touches such as hand-painted backgrounds and fluid animation. It centers around Dust, a character charged with a twofold mission of saving a village and learning more about his past, all with the aid of a magic sword and a faithful sidekick. Again, it looks promising and nothing if not interesting, and I’ve definitely got 1200 Microsoft points ready to go for it once it hits the XBLA.

But these two games are going to have to be something fantastic to make up for the lackluster showing we’ve had so far with this year’s Summer of Arcade.