This game, despite its hair-tearing difficulty, and its criminal balance issues, has found its place in my heart.

User Rating: 7.2 | Small Arms X360
Small Arms is a Smash Bros./Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble styled game with an interesting twist: Instead of just pummeling your foes with your hands and feet, blow them to bits with guns! The premise works. To play Small Arms, you navigate a 2D gameplay styled arena and battle other foes to the death using a myriad of rather clever weapons, ranging from a crossbow that fires exploding apples to a sword that can be flung like a boomerang.

The controls in the game are also pretty intuitive, though they certainly take some getting used to. You use the left stick to move your character about the arenas, the bumpers to jump and double-jump, the Y button to do a charged dash that helps you redirect in the air, and the triggers to fire the primary and secondary functions of the weapon you carry. Also, using the right thumbstick, you can aim independently from the direction you're moving, adding to the control flexibility.

This game is also very pretty for a 43 MB game. The characters are some of the strangest and quirkiest thought up, including a feline mercenary whose financial standing in the black market makes him the 3rd richest of his kind, and ninja girl who was chased off and hunted by her clan when they found out she was a mutant, and there's also a saw-wielding tree angry about its own existence. The characters themselves use all sorts of nice graphical effects, such as light fur shading, bump-mapping to emulate tree bark, and relatively high-quality models all the way around.

The environments are quite beautiful to behold. They range from the top of a freight train running through a canyon, to a serene waterfall, to the inside of a tornado while fight atop the random debris floating (rather peacefully, oddly enough) throughout. The environments are sometimes hit or miss, with the treehouse equipped with a broken rope bridge being one of the most bland, but other arenas, like the volcano and the adobe, make up for it with amusing design and gorgeous structure.

Best of all, it's multiplayer over Xbox Live, something Nintendo fans are no-doubt clamoring for upon the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. One of the achievements in this game is unique in that it can only be obtained by facing another player who has the achievements. Bizarre.

So, if all of these things are true, why am I not scoring this game higher? It's broken on many levels. Mind you, that doesn't make it bad, but outside of multiplayer, this game will slap you down every time you try to get up.

You will die roughly every 15-20 seconds on average. Why? The CPU constantly hounds you every step you take, they don't miss their shots often, and when more than one enemy are on the screen, it's not a free-for-all, it's them against you. When you die, they'll stop firing until you're back, and the only time they'll hurt one another is when they get between each other and you. This may not be true 100% of the time, but it happens frequently, especially in the latter stages of mission mode.

That's not the half of the problem. Many of the weapons in this game are either too weak to be of much use, or too strong to compete against.

On the low end of the weapon power scale, there are weapons such as dual revolvers whose primary fire consists of 12 concurrent shots and then a reload, and whose secondary fire is two 30 degrees burst shots to the left and right of the player, but at no other angle. Also, a crossbow that shoots slow moving arrows at a medium rate, and also projects exploding arrows that have an awkward half-second lag before firing.

On the top end of the power scale, you have an electric cannon that reaches an entire screen in length and fluctuates its angle, giving it an area effect, a sniper rifle (yes, sniper rifle) which deals a quarter of health in damage per shot and drops barely visible proximity mines as a secondary, and last, but certainly not least, the flamethrower/Molotov launcher, which will set your character on fire and render them unable to control themselves as they run around the pitfall-laden arenas with wild abandon, typically causing you to lose a life.

The AI in this game has a penchant for being ruthlessly cunning, diabolically resourceful and pitifully stupid, all within a span of 3 seconds. It's not unusual to see an enemy break away from assaulting you head first to suddenly chase down a piece of valuable food that spawned off screen, while still pounding you with its weapon and not missing a shot, only to consume the food and fling itself to its own death immediately after. If anything, the best strategy is to hide and let the AI kill itself if you can't seem to kill it fast enough. It will likely do so eventually.

All in all, this game is creative, fun, pretty, and when your opposition doesn't gang up on you with 99% accuracy and an acute sixth-sense for cooked turkey (Happy Thanksgiving) it's a very enjoyable experience...just plan on making friends over Live and avoiding the single player AI if you want the enjoyment to last for more than the first 2 minutes of each single player run.