E3 2011: Xbox Live Arcade E3 Round-Up Feature

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It's not all massive retail games at E3, y'know. So with that in mind we took some time during the show to run off and play a few of the smaller downloadable titles on offer in and around the publisher's booths.

We found a potential Kinect gem in Leedmees, an Xbox 360 exclusive remake with Guardian Heroes and a pair of strong-looking Atari titles that will be hitting XBLA later this year. Read on for the full deets!

Leedmees (Konami) – We're somewhat surprised that someone is only just stepping forward now with the Leedmees concept. It's been briefly touched upon in Dr. Kawashima's Body and Brain Training in a way, with its traffic directing mini-game that required getting cars and buses from one point to another with your arms, but Leedmees is a fully-realised Kinect title for the Xbox Live Arcade, with loud echoes of Lemmings in its gameplay that tasks you with safely escorting cute little automatons that look like the ghosts of LEGO men, from a blue portal to a red one.

It's a deceptively simple conceit that in the five or so stages we're given to sample, gets increasingly tough as it adds new obstacles and mechanisms to further convolute transporting the little block-headed characters from one side of the stage to the other. At first, it's as simple as letting the leedmees walk along your outstretched arms to get from A to B, but as the stages progress, you'll need to use platforms, raise your hand to block or reroute the leedmees and ensure they don't fall from a great height and die. Later stages, require you to push platforms on springs down to reveal the hidden portals, giving you more things to do with your flailing arms and legs, while you create impromptu bridges and lifts for the leedmees as they emerge from the blue gateway in small groups.

There are levels where the leedmees begin on the ground too, so you'll need to reach right down until they hop up onto your hand. Jerking up too quickly will drop them and it's all too easy to accidentally kick them across the screen and kill them. Of course, the callous among you will have great fun squashing and booting the little men around. Just don't expect to be rewarded for torturing the poor little fellas. Escorting the leedmees is just part of the game's challenge and to achieve a perfect level completion rating, there's stars peppered around the platforms for your leedmees to collect too, just to help spice things up a bit.

Gaining perfection on each and every level will likely take some time then, as you strive to collect every star and get every leedmee into the red portal without stamping on them or flicking them into a wall. There's something intrinsically endearing about Leedmees too, with its bright colours and bold design, and when you add testing two-player co-op stages to that brew, it looks like Konami could be onto something unique for Kinect and the Xbox Live Arcade.

Leedmees is out on the Xbox Live Arcade in summer 2011.

Guardian Heroes (SEGA) – An Xbox Live Arcade exclusive HD remastering of the 1996 SEGA Saturn classic, Guardian Heroes is a beloved side-scrolling hack and slasher developed by Treasure. Telling a story that takes place during the Time of the Sword, for our hands-on demo of Guardian Heroes, we take control of Han Samuel, the dashing blonde protagonist of the game (who is of course one of several protagonists in Guardian Heroes) who starts out with the sword of the Undead Hero. With Serena Corsair in tow, we march into the fray, brandishing the fabled sword, dispatching foes with multiple hits, smashing barrels and jumping into and out of the foreground and background.

It's Guardian Heroes alright, that's for sure, from the humorous dialogue to the charming visuals, the light RPG aspects, and cleaving through enemies as Han will be instantly familiar to fans of the original game on the Saturn, as will awakening the Undead Hero, who reclaims his sword and joins your band of swashbuckling adventurers. You'll remember that at this point, you have to take on the game's antagonist and leader of the Black Knight Valgar and his robot minion, at which point the Undead Hero, adorned in his golden armour rises to help you, destroying the robot. Turning on you and your party, the Undead Hero takes back his sword and attempts to attack Serena, before Nicole tells him to stop. To the gang's surprise, he does stop and from then on he'll obey your commands.

You'll remember Guardian Heroes as a multi-stranded narrative with RPG elements, and the first of our decisions, after two linear stages takes us to the dark forest where there's more fighting against the forces of darkness with the Undead Hero at out side and the loyal following of Ginjorou, Serena, Randy and Nicole, all of which should also be playable too, as in the original. Guardian Heroes is a faithful HD remake of the 1996 original, and as such has redrawn sprites, character portraits and more in terms of presentation, but beneath the high-definition veneer beats the heart of Treasure's side-scrolling classic. In short, the fans will love it.

Gamma World: Alpha Mutation (Atari) – Based upon the tabletop role-playing game, Gamma World: Alpha mutation is a third-person shooter with a twist. Using the Unreal Engine 3, the game presents you with five different character origins to choose from and a whole range of permutations to mix and match in creating your own hero. In the hands-off demo we're taken through, we're shown a cross between a yeti and a radiation man, which lends this particular character the claw swipes and stomps of the former and the unique powers and resilience of the radiation aspects.

Of course, in the full game you'll be able to build your own cross-breeds from the human, yeti, radiation, android and cockroach origins and shoot your merry way through all manner of weird and wonderful enemies, from the porcine porkers who regularly squabble over weapons, to the hoops, weird rabbit guards with sirens affixed to the tops of their heads. The game's look and its character design is certainly different, and the devil's in the details, like the salvaged road signs and scrap from the environment that make up the hoops' armour or the cel-shaded comic book style to the visuals. “You won't see the same thing twice,” says Producer, Joel Slabo.

Set upon Terra Nova in the wake of a massive catastrophic event that's caused widespread mutations, Gamma World's setting might be dark, but the look is bold and colourful and there's plenty of humour to be had during the single-player campaign's 8-10 hours or so of gameplay. There'll be side quests and other missions to tackle too, as well as a competitive multiplayer component. Developer Bedlam Studios has even crammed a weapon-crafting mechanic into Gamma World, meaning you'll be able to use alien weaponry and other technology to build something distinctive. The powerful Omegatech weapons seem to pack a punch too, as we see in the game's subway stage, as our irradiated yeti hero boards a train and fights off 'Visitors': Gamma World's extra-terrestrial foes.

Gamma World: Alpha Mutation looks like good fun, and based upon our first look at the game, it seems to have a little more going on than you're average Xbox Live Arcade shooter, but we won't know how well it plays or whether it'll be worth a punt until we manage to actually get our hands on it. Gamma World hits XBLA in fall 2011.

Warlords (Atari) - A remake of the 1980 Atari 2600 game, anyone even slightly familiar with Warlords will know exactly what to expect here. As far as the basic rules are concerned that is, because to look at, Warlords has been changed significantly, with bold characters, chunky arenas and even some fresh gameplay thrown in. It looks a damn sight more appealing than the previous 2008 remake of Warlords, although the core remit of defending your fort from fireballs and projectiles with a pivoting shield remains intact.

Boasting both single-player campaign and multiplayer modes, Warlords invariably centres around the same defence and strategy, with your assigned colour and side of the screen prone to attacks from the other forts in each corner of the arena. For the purists, there's the classic Warlords mode, which retains the old-school gameplay of the original game, albeit with the quirky new HD visuals that succeed in injecting some character and colour into the game. And if the game's elemental dark spirit, nature, fire and ice characters aren't to your liking, you can always use your Xbox Live Avatar instead.

Playing the game, we're instantly back into the swing of Warlords, bouncing fireballs off the walls with our shield and aiming at the other forts. There's an extra layer of strategy and tactics as you control your avatar with the right analogue stick while moving your shield into position with the left, making the chaotic fun even more entertaining, as you have your avatar performing certain actions in the arena like capturing control points or grabbing power-ups while keeping your defences up with the arcing shield. There's a variety of differently-shaped arenas to try out too, and several different game modes to add some additional longevity to the game.

There's a free-for-all game type, 1v1, co-op and 2v2 modes to play, all of which offer their own twist on the Warlords concept, but with a brand new visual 3D high-definition overhaul that's tinged with a cartoony medieval flavour that should help attract newcomers and Warlords fans alike. Fundamentally, its the classic Warlords gameplay that will reel you in, complete with its unhinged havoc and healthy dose of tactics.

Warlords HD will be coming to the Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network in summer 2011 for 800 Microsoft Point/$9.99.

Look out for separate previews of XBLA games Bastion and Gotham City Impostors from E3 soon.


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