Best Xbox Live Arcade games

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Puzzle and platformer

Super Meat Boy — $15

Super Meat Boy is virtual proof old-school game mechanics and shimmer die hard. Not in the Bruce Willis-John McClane sense of the phase, but in terms of the staggering number of 2D levels available in which you purely run, jump and squander your way to the top. Though the controls are simple and straightforward, the variety of levels and numerous obstacles make for wide-ranging gameplay that is both utterly time-consuming and altogether infuriating given its sheer level of difficulty. Still, homages to the classic platform titles of yore run amok amid the salt factories and hospitals, subsequently reminding you of why the genre endures. The cut scenes are crudely hilarious, the animation pixeltastic and the chiptunes top-notch. And then there’s the fact you play as a rancid cube of meat.

Super Meat Boy

N+ — $10

Who says a good platformer needs a complex, thought-provoking storyline or robust gameplay features? N+, the console port of the  Adobe Flash-powered N, is a remarkably plain-sailing title that allows players to do little more than run, jump and showboat your ninja skills on more than 400 individual levels. There’s no backstory, other than you’re a ninja with a thirst for gold like a pirate, but it still delights in its expansive leaderboards, achievements and local multiplayer with a dully-colored finesse. Levels are merely completed by flipping a switch and exiting through a door, but you’ll undoubtedly get derailed by the numerous enemies and intricate puzzles along the way. Don’t worry though, you can always fall back on the custom level editor when you’re on the brink of pulling your hair out.


Limbo — $15

Few trials are as somber, cerebral, and eerily beautiful as the one the young boy faces while in Limbo. It’s there, in the uninviting white-and-black nether regions of a dream-like landscape, where players must trod down a dark with no answer or direction. Despite the lack of context, the game’s visuals and phenomenal sound design perpetually thrust you through the title’s three-hour duration, offering a bevvy of clever puzzles and looming, ambiguous hurdles around every corner. It’s executed in such a manner that makes you cautious and extremely apprehensive about the world around you, and though short, there are enough hidden elements and rewards to warrant a second romping. Still, it will always leave you wanting more.


Braid — $10

It’s hard to account for all the philosophical ruminations and thoughts swirling around Braid. Yes, in a way it’s your standard save-the-princess platformer in the vein of Mario, but it’s also driven by a peculiar story and unique gameplay mechanics that rival titles beyond the game’s water-colored, 2D animation. Players must ultimately run and jump through a series of worlds, collecting puzzle pieces telling of protagonist Tim’s woeful regrets in the process, while solving admirable puzzles adrift in sea of melancholia and moody background music. Additionally, Tim possesses the ability to reverse time, allowing players to wash away their literal pitfalls and poor precision decisions moments after they occur. If there ever were any doubts regarding how talented rising indie developers are becoming, Braid will provide the answer.


Fez — $10

A new perspective can make a world of difference, especially when that perspective comes in the form of a third dimension attainable through a magic hat. With Fez, players don the role of a sprite named Gomez, tackling a series of puzzles and obstacles built within a crumbling 2D environment that can quickly be flipped on a vertical axis at any given moment. The game is visually stimulating, serene and sprawling — no matter if you’re traversing towering ivy-clad buildings or trudging through dimly-lit halls — and the accompanying music is finely crafted to fit any scenario you may encounter as you search for various cubes scattered across the world. The puzzles can be exceedingly tough, but the world-turning novelty offers a welcome spin that’s impossible to ignore (metaphorically and literally). Check out our Fez review for more.

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