- Publisher: SouthPeak
- Price: 800 Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
While there's something inherently infantile about the idea of sorting colourful shapes through appropriate holes, don't be fooled into thinking that Roogoo is some sort of easy-peasy kids game. Quite the opposite - it's a fiendishly fast-paced puzzler. Beneath the gentle pastel exterior lurks the heart of a beast.
There's a very skippable story to explain what's going on, but the guts of the matter is this: coloured shapes drop from the sky and you have to rotate a series of discs to line up the correct shaped holes. For the majority of the game, you're simply using the left and right bumpers to swizzle things around, and it's this simplicity that enables to game to start ramping up the challenge fairly quickly.
You'll often have to stack up a certain amount of shapes before they'll drop through to the next disc, for instance, and the amount varies from level to level. The higher the stacks get, the less time you have to move things around to catch the next lot. Each shape you miss brings you closer to Game Over so, rather than battling against the clock, your biggest enemy is your own lack of coordination.
If blocks come to rest on a disc with flowers, butterflies swoop in and carry them back up again - forcing you to essentially play the game in reverse as you shuttle the discs around to allow the ascending blocks back through. Evil Meemoos will also block the holes, and can only be removed by speeding up the blocks with the A button. Later in the game the coloured blocks start appearing in different shades, which must be sorted together using the B button to switch them around in the stack.
There's not much more to it than that, but it's a surprisingly solid basis for a puzzle game - though it's more of a reaction test than a brainteaser. Minor alterations to the speed of the game, or to the number of blocks tumbling down, is enough to produce considerably different challenges. It's all wonderfully designed as well, with your eye subtly tugged in the right direction by simply visual cues, so that even when things get really hectic you never feel overwhelmed.
The multiplayer options are a tad limited, with only the option to replay levels against a friend to see who can shuffle shapes the fastest, and some may find they rattle through the 45 levels quite quickly but that's hardly a deal-breaker. Roogoo is an original and beautifully presented addition to Live Arcade, and that's something worthy of praise.
Aces of the Galaxy
- Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
- Price: 800 Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
There have been so many top-down twin-stick shooters on Live Arcade that it's something of a novelty to get a straight-forward-into-the-screen blaster where you pummel the fire button rather than gently directing a constant stream of fire with your thumb.
Aces of the Galaxy is a shoot-'em-up of the old school - an unashamed rollercoaster of excessive bloom lighting, insane amounts of enemies and scores that rack up into seven figures. This makes it both an exhilarating blast and an eye-watering game of luck. Yes, luck. The great shoot-'em-ups give the illusion of inescapable chaos, but are actually driven by poise and grace. Aces of the Galaxy is the other kind - a shooter where skill is essential to progress, but not always a guarantee of success.
Key to this unbalanced feel is the slightly twitchy control. Even after sliding the sensitivity up and down, I never quite found a response that felt natural or fluid. It was either too sluggish or too slippery and, in a game that moves as quickly as this, anything that gets in the way of hand-eye coordination is a problem. This is compounded by the game's misleading camera, which leaves you unsure as to which hazards are actually headed your way and which will pass you by, and the habit of stringing such obstacles in a way that doesn't give you much chance to recover from mistakes. If you hit one, chances are you'll hit at least some of the others because of the exaggerated screen shake.
To compensate you have the ability to go into slow motion, using a recharging meter at the bottom of the screen. It's just one of several borrowed ideas that leave the game with a rather second hand feel. Some elements do work, though. The branching mission structure allows you to hop between three parallel routes through the game, provided you find the warp icon in each level, while glowing enemies will open up different paths when destroyed. Throw in basic but effective co-op play, both local and online, and you've got some incentive to replay the game a few times at least.
If Aces of the Galaxy were a fighting game, it'd be an unapologetic button-masher.
There are moments where the noise and fury onscreen coheres into an honest and intuitive arcade rush, but there are also too many where you get the impression that it simply isn't playing fair. Whether or not this is actually the case, such suspicions crank up the frustration and make the full 800-Point purchase less desirable.