When Microsoft first announced the ID@Xbox program, Spectra was one of the many games that briefly showed up in the announcement trailer. I thought to myself, 'Wow this game looks pretty cool; I can't wait to try it.' Having now played it, though, it was not like what I expected. Spectra may as well be an endless runner since the player has no control over the acceleration of the ship. Not only that, there is no finish line that would be typical for a normal racing game. Success occurs in a level if the player manages to survive the timer, but the goal was initially unclear, and my first experiences simply devolved down to, 'Here is a level, have fun.' Fun can be had, but one question begs to be asked when playing this title: Have you ever wondered what it's like to drive through gridlock traffic at breakneck speeds? I haven't before but now we have Spectra: 8 Bit Racing to fill that void.
Monster Jam Battlegrounds was developed by Team 6 and published by GameMill Entertainment on Xbox 360. It was released on June 10, 2015 for $14.99. XBLA Fans' Michael Cheng purchased a copy out of pocket for review purposes.
Monster Jam Battlegrounds is easily a contender for the worst game covered by XBLA Fans of 2015 and is possibly the front-runner. Never have I felt as hoodwinked by a game and had as much buyer’s remorse on an Xbox product before as I have now, and I have made many extravagant purchases such as multiple Xboxs and collector’s editions for games from different regions and brand new, out-of-print Xbox 360 games like Dead or Alive 4 and Rumble Roses. I’d venture to say this is a sick and cruel joke by Microsoft to state that the XBLA platform is dead, and everyone should move forward to Xbox One and ID@Xbox. How, in 2015, can anyone justify one minute and 10 seconds of loading time and then having another 15-second period of filler with a stadium cutaway before finally being able to play a level that lasts about 15-45 seconds? As if that isn't bad enough, there is another 30 seconds of load time after finishing and leaving the level. This is only scratching the surface of Monster Jam Battlegrounds's world of problems.
Sparkle Unleashed was developed and published by 10tons on Xbox One. It was released on June 3, 2015 for $7.99. A copy was provided by 10tons for review purposes.
In a competitive market with many games vying for consumer purchase, I can't find a single major fault to Sparkle Unleashed. Every feature is well-crafted, and there isn't a wasted step in its motion. The graphics are aesthetically pleasing, and the music reminds me that a magical world can exist right at home. So can I cut this review short and recommend you buy it right now? Not quite.
Sparkle Unleashed is a puzzle game in which the player shoots colored balls into matching, moving colored balls to remove them from the play area. The balls on the field are constantly moving forward and will try to reach an end (that varies per level) to cause the player to lose. Some level layouts will feature multiple tracks from which moving balls may appear. As you complete levels, you'll eventually reach scripted locations that allow you to choose to upgrade power-ups. It's a simple but solid system that invites players to keep, well, playing.
Mega Coin Squad was developed by Big Pixel Studios and published by Adult Swim Games on Xbox One. It was released on May 20, 2015 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Big Pixel Studios for review purposes.
You know you’re playing a special game when you are actually standing up out of your seat and cursing out loud at the creature that just killed you, but you can’t wait to hit continue and try again. Mega Coin Squad made me do that — a lot.
Big Pixel Studios' platformer distills everything you like about platformers down to the bare essentials. You run and jump, you shoot, you dash, you collect coins and you die. A lot. And it’s also a lot of fun.
Spy Chameleon was developed and published by Unfinished Pixel on Xbox One. It was released on May 21, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
If you would have asked me what kind of game I wanted to play before Spy Chameleon was on my radar, my answer would not have included a chameleon stealth game. So when Unfinished Pixel's game was announced, it was with a raised eyebrow that I mused, "What is this nonsense?" and expected the worst when it came time to review. To my surprise, Spy Chameleon is unexpectedly fun and well designed (barring moments of chagrin while streaming on the XBLA Fans Twitch channel). I'll venture to say the game will be underrated; many have been quick to dismiss the title without giving it an opportunity to prove its worth. The stealth genre isn't for everyone.
Spy Chameleon has the player controlling a chameleon through many levels in the name of completing objectives. Naturally, those objectives don't factor into the gameplay and are simply excuses to play. Every 15 levels a specific objective ends. Each series introduces more environmental hazards that threaten the safety of the protagonist. Fear not, though, the chameleon has an ability to change into four different colors to blend into the environment and avoid detection. Armed with this talent, the player sets forth to survive another day in the world of corporate espionage. (Note that all of my following comments are tailored to gameplay on hard difficulty; normal difficulty has slower-moving light beams, which makes it feel like a different experience.)