Small Arms - Xbox Live Arcade review

  • That lovely old Smash Bros. feeling
  • Fast, frenetic action
  • Online multiplayer is loads of fun
  • Constantly running out of ammo
  • Characters all play the same
  • Coming to grips with the controls

The Robotron/Smash TV syndrome is running rampant over both Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. So many of the games coming out seem to be clones or knock-offs of those classic dual-stick shooters, and few of them are all that good.

Small Arms takes that formula and mixes it with a healthy dose of Smash Bros. Melee (the early GameCube title from Nintendo), coming up with a somewhat unique experience that, unfortunately, doesn’t really live up to either pedigree. But it’s still a decent way to spend 10 bucks.

The idea behind Small Arms is simple. Choose one of a handful of little, furry mutants (each character has a weapon grafted onto his or her arm), and blow the hell out of every other little, furry mutant in your path. All of the fighting in Small Arms is done almost exclusively through the use of weapons. While you can lay into someone with a more conventional punch, your physical attacks are so weak they’re almost not worth using.

Two aspects of Small Arms keep it from being an instant classic, though. The first and least irritating of the pair is the control scheme itself. Since moving and aiming are done through the two analog sticks, it can be a real pain in the ass to have to let go of your right stick to access commands like physical attacks or jumping using the face buttons. It doesn’t destroy the game, but it takes a bit of getting used to.

The more annoying downside is that each of your weapons has a ridiculously small amount of ammo, which can only be replenished by finding a battery somewhere on the level, or picking up an entirely new weapon. The idea is obvious – to keep the action from becoming a long-distance bullet-festival with only one or two weapons. But in practice, it turns way too many fights into a frantic armament scavenger hunt. Not as much fun as it should be.

Still, as an original Live Arcade game, Small Arms is a good time when taken in small doses. The multiplayer mode is where the action really shines, so here’s hoping the community builds a bit more. As it is, finding an online game can be difficult; the servers are pretty bare as of this writing.

More Info

Release date: Nov 29 2006 - Xbox 360 (US)
Nov 29 2006 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Fighting
Published by: Gastronaut Studios
Developed by: Gastronaut Studios
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence


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