I'm not quite sure if there's a word to define the sort of games in the Arkedo series, so I'm going to say it's New Retro. This phrase will be used to describe video games that are based on old 8-bit styles, but use modern visual technologies to spruce them up. Immediate examples would be Pac-Man: Championship Edition and Space Invaders Extreme. More recently released on the Xbox Indie channel are a pair of games by Paris-based developer Arkedo, JUMP! and SWAP!.
I first fell in love with the developer's visual styles when I played a little DS gem that released earlier this year called Big Bang Mini. It was a simple premise, use your stylus to "toss" fireworks up into the top screen to blow up your bad guys, while navigating a little sphere from stray bullets.
Those same visual styles return for JUMP!, and the title pretty much sums the game up. You play a man in a sweet cowboy hat who hops platform to platform defusing bombs before the 100 second timer runs out. It's a simplistic concept made better by the brilliant retro visuals and sense of humor. Every thing has a very blocky, solid look to it with plenty of neon lighting and edges to help really brighten the whole screen. Each level come with a cute title and game over messages range from "Here's a cookie!" to "Blame the game pad!" It's super simple, and super cute.
The second game in the series, SWAP! is a classic tile-switching puzzle game akin to Bejewled or Planet Puzzle League. Multiple brightly colored tiles slowly rise to the top of the screen and it's your job to connect 4 or more horizontally or vertically. Here's the clever twist to the Puzzle League format: you only get one cursor, and when you hover it over a tile you can slide it any direction by using the right thumbstick. Unlike Puzzle League, which only allows horizontal movement, you're given complete free reign on your tiles. If you want to take a tile all the way from the bottom right to make a line in the top left, it's all yours. It even comes complete with power ups to blow apart the field!
What's remarkable about these games, aside from being very clever twists on familiar concepts, is just the visual and audio components that accompany them. It's bright and friendly, without feeling childish. Gameplay is quick and simple, but with a certain amount of mastery involved. In short? These are retro, "old school" games for people like me who have been playing since the days of Tetris and Mario. They come with new visual technologies and crisp styles, but are very reminiscent of the older days. But even if you didn't grow up during those times, I think there's plenty for you to enjoy in the uniqueness of these titles amidst the fairly "meh" realm of the Xbox Live Indie scene. Heck, I'd go so far as to say they're pretty great against most Xbox Live Arcade titles.
Did I mention each game is just 3 dollars? (That's 270 Microsoft Fun-bucks) Not a bad deal for some surprisingly complete packages. I can't recommend that you support this amazing developer enough by picking up these two games, and Big Bang Mini is probably still sitting on store shelves at your local GameStop.
Have you tried any of these games out already? Any impressions you'd like to relay to your Examiner community? Don't forget to subscribe if you want to know all about what's going on with video games in a different light than you'll find anywhere else!