Game developer PopCap's works translate so well to Xbox Live Arcade, it's scary. Heavy Weapon is their latest in a series of 360 upgrades to their popular PC time-wasters. This arcade shooter - originally released in 2005 - is the sort of pick-up-and-play, highly addictive original content Microsoft's Live service needs much more of.
Heavy Weapon is a side-scrolling shooter that will remind older players of games like Moon Patrol or 'Nam 1975, or the Atari 2600 classic Air/Sea Battle. As the screen moves from left to right, you trundle along in your atomic tank, using the right analog stick to shoot enemy planes passing overhead. It's all so easy at the beginning it's almost soothing. But it doesn't take long for the challenge to ramp up.
On the later levels, the screen becomes choked with missiles, bombs, planes and helicopters of every description, as well as the occasional blimp or artillery-blasting land vehicle trying to blasterate your from the side. You'll be dodging more than firing; something most shooter fans will really be able to appreciate. Your selection of upgrades is typical shooter fare: guided and unguided missiles, lasers, a lightning gun, shield, and defensive orbs that soak up bullets - but you're given a choice as to which ones to beef up each time you enter a level.
Visually, Heavy Weapon isn't the most amazing looking game on Xbox Live Arcade, but it's a step up from the PC game it's based upon. Colors are vibrant, and everything moves at a nice, smooth frame rate. Some of the end-level bosses are huge, and animate very nicely. The gigantic mushroom cloud that appears in the background every time you set off a nuke (the game's version of a smart bomb) is incredibly satisfying, as well.
And when the single-player mode gets boring, there are a few multiplayer game options to take advantage of, including a mode where you can drop in and respawn endlessly, so long as at least one player stays alive at all times. It's bombastic, but undeniably fun.
PopCap have another great Live Arcade game on their hands. Heavy Weapon is the type of brief, brainless fun the service is built for, without looking and feeling like a crusty old arcade game. It's easily one of the 360's best downloadable games yet.