- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Xbox Live Arcade online service continues to give the Xbox 360 owner an easy way to digitally download classic games reconfigured to take advantage of the entertainment console’s graphics power.

Once players tap into their broadband connection and establish an Xbox Live Silver Membership (free with the Xbox 360), they can purchase points to buy the Arcade’s games, available at the online Marketplace, which cost between $5 and $15. The points are purchased via a credit card online or through prepaid cards bought at electronics or video-game stores; one point equals about 1.25 cents. Those who also purchase a Gold Membership ($50 per year) can take advantage of any of the game’s online multiplayer functions to challenge folks around the world.

With almost 50 titles to choose, including stalwarts such as Joust and Ms. Pac-Man; casual challenges such as UNO and Jewel Quest; and hard-core favorites such as Doom and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, players are sure to find something to enjoy.

Xbox 360 owners hesitant to take part in the fun should know the purchase and downloading of games (stored on the owner’s hard drive or memory card) is painless, and the ability to get online and play someone is immediate.

Here’s a review of some of the latest releases.

Alien Hominid HD (developed by the Behemoth, rated: Teen, 800 points).

Artist Dan Paladin’s hand-drawn artwork vibrantly comes to widescreen, high-definition life in this update to the violent side-scrolling title from 2004. The cartoony adventure requires playing a feisty alien armed with heavy firepower and sharp teeth who crash-lands on Earth and must battle waves of Men in Black and robotic opponents to find his spaceship.

Sixteen missions loaded with bizarre humor combine with seven minigames to offer a challenge with no easy wins for the lost alien.

The frenetic pace at which the little fellow can chomp off heads, immolate agents and slice them in half is mesmerizing as the blood spurts on the screen and a player’s pulse rate rises.

The generous multiplayer modes allow immediate entrance to the action anytime as two aliens locally take on the government agents in the main game and up to four extraterrestrials compete offline or on Xbox Live in minigames.

It’s well worth the money for the player in need of a colorful, stress-relieving experience.

Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank (developed by PopCap Games, Rated E10+, 800 points).

More side-scrolling action places the player in a potent armored vehicle as he takes part in some classic shooting action to stop the Red Star forces.

Within the vehicle of mass destruction, he can move left or right on level environments and use a turret to launch a variety of missiles and lasers at incoming planes, jets and bombers along with massive boss ships and aircraft that unleash shock-and-awe tactics.

Up to four players can tackle 19 missions together in a game with a feel similar to a pumped-up version of Atari 2600’s Air-Sea Battle.

Through an online co-operative mode, commanders get an immediate, lag-free spectacle as they work together to eliminate the enemies and simultaneously discuss tactics through their headsets.

The assault on the senses from the explosive sound effects and fiery pyrotechnics (I reference the occasional use of a nuclear weapon and its mushroom cloud for an extreme example) is only matched by the adrenaline rush delivered via the on-screen devastation. Yeah, another dandy of a stress reliever for Xbox Live Arcade.

Worms (developed by Team 17, Rated E10+, 800 points).

The turn-based, humor-loaded combat game from the 1990s gets upgraded to the Xbox Live arena and still pays tribute to the struggle between opposing teams of heavily armed annelids.

The premise is simple but difficult to master. In each timed turn, move a worm, select his weapon and fire at an enemy. Last slimy creature alive wins.

“Looney Tunes”-style devastation amidst malleable environments and plenty of silly sound effects and helium-enriched dialogue combine with the use of weapons such as a blowtorch, banana bomb and dynamite to tickle every strategist’s funny bone.

Solo commanders get 20 missions to master while up to four players online or off-line can participate in skirmishes.

Worms is a virtual board game well suited for the Stratego fan with Tex Avery sensibilities.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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