Who says the only good arcade games come out in the summer? Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade promotions have produced some great XBLA action in the past, and Microsoft is hoping to recapture some of that magic this March. The so-called Block Party will kick off March 3 with the release of Toy Soldiers and will be followed by Scrap Metal, Perfect Dark, and Game Room (the exact order is still unannounced). While we had a chance to get our hands on a couple of these games during CES earlier this year, we took a tour around X10 to check up on these titles and get a feeling for just how jumpin' this Block Party is going to be. Here goes!
First out of the gate is Toy Soldiers, a tower defense game that takes the horrible weaponry and battlefield carnage of World War I and crams it into a diorama in your childhood playroom. It's a strange juxtaposition, but when you see soft pastel furniture looming in the background as your exploding Howitzer shells cause the invading German forces to disintegrate in a burst of springs and sprockets, it works surprisingly well. Our in-depth CES 2010 hands-on with Toy Soldiers has a more detailed explanation of the gameplay specifics. That article also explains some of the game's novel twists on the tower defense genre, such as being handsomely rewarded for taking first-person control of your gun emplacements. We did manage to glimpse a tidbit at X10 about the Toy Soldiers Facebook game, which will apparently communicate with the XBLA game somehow. While they were stingy with details, we did glimpse a white map of Europe, seemingly waiting to be filled in with colors indicating the progress of the two factions (British and German). Toy Soldiers is scheduled for release on March 3 and will cost 1,200 Microsoft points ($15).
Release dates haven't been confirmed for the remaining three games, so the next few paragraphs will just take us clockwise around the X10 demo kiosks. Scrap Metal is a fast-paced top-down racer with serious destructive tendencies. This slick-looking game is priced at 1,200 Microsoft points ($15) and features a whole bunch of car-related mayhem, from races to demolition derbies to GTA-style escape-the-cops fiascos. Monster trucks, hot rods, buggies, airboats, and more are at your disposal, and each can be upgraded with a range of deadly power-ups. For a full rundown of different gameplay modes, including multiplayer and support for 3D glasses, be sure to read our Scrap Metal Hands-On from CES 2010.
Rounding out the Block Party are two trips down memory lane. The first is Perfect Dark, an updated version of the much beloved Nintendo 64 shooter. We're happy to say the game is looking sharp in high definition, though it hasn't abandoned those adorably polygonal N64 limbs. Fans will be happy to learn that Perfect Dark will boast all the original modes of play that made it great, including two-player cooperative and counter ops available locally and over Live. There is also four-player split-screen multiplayer and eight-player online. That all adds up to a lot of great nostalgic action, all for a cool 800 Microsoft points ($10).
For the second retro blast, we have to travel even further into the past. Microsoft is rolling out Game Room, which isn't so much a game as it is a virtual arcade. Players take their avatars and stroll into an online arcade hall, similar to Sony's PlayStation Home. The Game Room will be stocked with classic titles like Centipede, Asteroid Deluxe, and Tempest, but don't just expect to roll in and play to your heart's content. There's an interesting pricing structure in place that allows a few different levels of financial commitment. You can purchase a game outright for play through Xbox Live or Windows Live, while buying it for just one platform will cost a bit less. You can also pay to play just a single game, but when your virtual quarter/token is up, so is your play time. Microsoft plans to release a steady stream of new old-school titles to Game Room, making it a potentially appealing new spot to strut your avatar's stuff and get a taste of gaming history.
So there you have it, the lineup that will be making a bid for your Microsoft points this March. With some promising titles and a diverse range of appeal, this Block Party might be worth checking out. What do you think?