Celebrating the season by encouraging gamers to stay indoors and play videogames, Microsoft rolled out its downloadable arcade lineup on the show floor at E3 last week. Last year’s “Summer of Arcade” brought us hot titles like Shadow Complex and Trials HD, and 2010 is looking to deliver the hits again. Here’s a glimpse of the games that will keep you out of the accursed sun starting this July.
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
Proving that internet rumors aren’t ALWAYS wrong, Konami pulled back the curtain on Harmony of Despair, a 2D side-scroller in the tradition of franchise classic Symphony of the Night. The brainchild of SotN producer Koji Igarashi, Harmony of Despair will feature six player online co-op and a competitive mode dubbed Survival.
Promising the return of five slayers from previous Castlevania iterations, Harmony of Despair will look to revive the “Metroidvania” gameplay that made Symphony of the Night so compelling. Players will scour a vast castle for hidden offensive and defensive items and upgrade spells and abilities, though Igarashi made it clear that the game doesn’t include a traditional experience points mechanic. The map, a honeycomb of dozens of rooms linked horizontally and vertically, can be viewed at three levels of zoom, the furthest out of which allows players to view the entire castle at once while retaining control of their character.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane
The follow up to a decade-old franchise created by now defunct pub/dev Midway, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is an arcade-style boat racer with some impressive looking water physics.
Indie developer Vector Unit is looking to pump up the crazy across eight themed tracks, including an ice level, a gaudy temple, and a speed run through the always entertaining Area 51. The game’s frenetic pace is amplified by speed boosting power-ups and the ability for boats to leap off the surface of the water to access shortcuts such as elevated caves. We’ve had hands-on with this one, and fans are in for a treat – it feels just like an evolved take on the original game, and most of the boats are returning favorites (with new paint jobs). Best of all, Hurricane promises support for up to eight players online and four players locally, and offers the intriguing option to blend local and online multiplayer – so you could have two people playing split screen on the couch, but simultaneously competing online against a full field of online challengers.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light
Lara Croft’s latest tomb-delving adventure is a radical new direction for everyone’s favorite busty corpse robber, a top-down isometric platformer that’s heavy on co-op mechanics and gunplay. When Ms. Croft’s artifact looting endeavors are interrupted by a gang of heavily armed mercs, a relic called the Mirror of Smoke is disturbed and an evil entity unleashed, prompting Lara to scamper alluringly around temples and shoot a bunch of human beings and undead creatures in the face.
Aside from being the first Lara Croft game that doesn’t feature the words Tomb or Raider in the title, it’s also the first in which Lara works alongside a partner – specifically, the titular Guardian of Light, a 2,000 year old Maya gentleman named Totec. The perfect accompaniment to Lara’s acrobatic shenanigans, Totec can fling spears that stick into walls and act as platforms, or even become a platform himself by giving Lara a boost. And though spears are clearly useful, Totec will eventually have access to all kinds of modern firearms and remote-denoted bombs, all of which he handles with impressive ease considering he should be beguiled by anything more complex than a bow and arrow. Lara can get her hands on the same arsenal, and can also deploy a grappling hook to scale up or swing off pieces of the environment, or tether herself to Totec to pull him up after her. Physics!
GamesRadar is the premiere source for everything that matters in the world of video games. Casual or core, console or handheld - whatever systems you own or whatever genres you love, GamesRadar is there to filter out what's worth your time and to help you get even more from your games. We deliver the best advice, the most in-depth features, expert reviews, and the essential guides for all the top games.