Co-written by Kaitlyn Chantry
Now that our trip to video game heaven has come and gone, it's time to give you the run-down on the very best XBLA titles from E3 2011. We spent five hectic days getting our eyes and hands on every XBLA game possible and we've picked out fifteen games that stood out from the crowd.
XBLA Fans presents E3 2011's Best…
…Game to Watch: Amy
If you haven't heard of Amy, we don't blame you. This little-known title from Lexis Numérique hasn't gotten the buzz it deserves. The survival horror gameplay is gripping and unique. Amy looked and played like a full retail title that—if it sells as well as we hope—could herald a new trend in XBLA.
…Reason to Have Friends: Awesomenauts
We played a lot of games at E3 with co-op and competitive multiplayer, but nothing was as fun as Ronimo's Awesomenauts. Class combat is always a good time, but the neutral NPCs and characters' special abilities made this game the most awesomely anticipated couch-crusher on our 2011 radar.
…One-Way Conversation: Bastion
There's a lot of innovation in the upcoming Summer of Arcade game Bastion. It's a game that defies classification as much as gamers themselves. With dynamic surroundings and reactive narration, there's never been a better reason to lose yourself in your TV and watch a strange world being built around you.
…Makeover: BloodRayne Betrayal
WayForward is giving Rayne a whole new look: beautiful hand-drawn animation that isn't as slutty as Raynes of the past. Sure, they desperately needed some grace and class to breathe new life into the franchise, but it's the smooth-as-butter brawler gameplay that we liked the best.
…Take on History: Deadliest Warrior Legends
The original Deadliest Warrior surprised us with quick battles that could end at any moment, and the second game has expanded on that formula making the combat a little more balanced while maintaining the visceral, unforgiving nature of the first. Oh, and it now includes a Risk-type game too.
…Geology Lesson: From Dust
We weren't surprised to see the breathtaking visuals of Eric Chahi's From Dust: the game looked amazing before it even had an official title. But we were happy to find that the game controlled well and that it was surprisingly fun to play in this giant sandbox of water, earth, and lava.
…Vegan-Friendly Combat: Fruit Ninja Kinect
No animals were harmed in the destructive flurry of ninja moves that we unleashed at E3. Fruit Ninja Kinect was way more fun than it had any business being. This summer, geeks, kids, and geek kids can pretend they're ninjas using hands and feet to send flying food to an early grave—or kitchen.
…Marriage Made in Heaven: Ms. Splosion Man
'Splosion Man was a fantastic title, but the XBLA gods at Twisted Pixel weren't content. They fashioned a woman that could do everything they wanted in the original game. They took the original, stuck 10 tons of dynamite in it, and Ms. Splosion Man was born. Thankfully she's more attached to XBLA gamers than 'Splosion Man. Expect her to make a big bang come release.
…Supporting Cast of Minions: Orcs Must Die!
Thousands and thousands of Orcs and other fantasy creatures are rushing toward the rift. If only there was a Warmage with awesome magic powers, super cool weapons, and dozens of epic traps ready to stop them. Oh wait, there is? Then why the heck am I typing this, give me that game!
…Way To Sabotage Your Friends: Skulls of the Shogun
Feudal Japan and zombies? Of course! Haunted Temple Games has cooked up an exciting twist on the Advanced Wars formula with a crazy story concept, deep strategy gameplay, and excellent visuals. But the best thing about Skulls of the Shogun at E3 was the ability to team up with our friends and betray them later. There isn't enough backstabbing on XBLA.
…Use of Living Haute Couture: Skull Girls
I'm no fashion expert; I can barely dress myself. In fact, I had to double check that haute couture was the right word. But the art direction and design to Skull Girls is so flawless that even I can appreciate it. While not every character will have a deadly symbiotic creature as a hat on their head, they will be an original. No duplicates from this team.
…Toy for Grown-ups: Toy Soldiers: Cold War
As a child, who didn't imagine army soldiers coming to life? Epic firefights and explosions everywhere as the good guys defeat the Nazis, Communists, or even the evil babysitter that won't order good pizza (could totally be the next sequel). Toy Soldiers gives the ability to relieve those childhood moments in a way that is oh-so-satisfying.
…Diet Plan: Trenched
When it comes to tower defense games, they sometimes seem to just play themselves. And that's the point when the munchies set in and it's time to head to the kitchen. Chips, sandwiches, and even gourmet four course meals are often fair game between levels. But not with Trenched; you won't even have time to unscrew the lid on the mayo.
…Geek Dream Come True: War of the Worlds
So, take a century-old beloved science fiction property. Add writing by a well-known British horror writer and voicing by a master thespian and starship captain. Put it on Xbox Live Arcade with luscious graphics and atmospheric puzzle-platforming gameplay. That's Other Ocean's upcoming War of the Worlds, starring a script by Chris Fowler, narration by Patrick Stewart, and a whole lot of wonderful. We're sold.
Best of the Best: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet combines some of the best elements of the game industry with highly stylistic animation. It's impossible not to stare at the screen as the game unfolds. It is so fluid that the entire thing could feel like an animated film. Well, if it weren't us playing it — we kept dying. Still, this game is a work of art and totally worth the five years it took to develop.