Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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Sore Thumbs




Electronic Arts

Xbox 360

With their stupid banter and eye-rollingly macho attitudes, Salem and Rios weren’t the most affable of avatars. But at least the titular duo of the first two “Army of Two” games had personalities, which is more than can be said for their replacements in “The Devil’s Cartel.” With the appropriately generic monikers Alpha and Bravo, these two co-op partners run and gun their way through some of the least memorable third-person shooter maps in the series (or any series, really). And apart from giving each other the occasional boost to an otherwise unreachable area, there isn’t a whole lot for this pair to do together. Considering this is a series built entirely around the idea of cooperative play, the fact that you can go through most of the campaign with little to no regard for your human- or A.I.-controlled companion is a bad thing.

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

The gunplay itself isn’t faulty — it just isn’t anything special. With the press of a button, you can slide in and out of cover, from which you can carefully target your criminal adversaries. But since enemy A.I. carries some heavy suicidal tendencies, you can typically wait for the bad guys to get foolishly close and then easily pick them off with blind fire. The weapons crafting system has returned and is as robust as ever, but like the game’s protagonists, it too has been robbed of personality. Quirky features like soda can silencers have been replaced with standard military gear. Even the morality choices of the earlier games have vanished, leaving you with nothing to do but point and shoot, which you can do in any number of better games.




Cyberfront Korea Corp

Xbox Live Arcade

If you’re a fan of the recent ‘80s nostalgia trip, “Double Dragon: Neon,” don’t be tricked into thinking “Wander of the Dragons” is a sequel. This is actually an unrelated remake of “Double Dragon II” — the dark second chapter in the old school brawler franchise, in which Billy and Jimmy Lee set out to avenge their murdered girlfriend. Retribution has never come at so great a cost. Infuriatingly unresponsive controls invariably lead to you getting surrounded by assailants. Actions as simple as turning around to face the guy pummeling your back are needlessly complicated. And once you’re knocked down, you can only get to your feet long enough to get knocked down again.


spidybox‘ALIEN SPIDY’ (E)



Xbox Live Arcade

2D platformers have had a long tradition of punishing players for failure, but “Alien Spidy” greatly broadens the definition of “failure.” Simply navigating your adorable arachnid to the end of the level without getting squished isn’t enough. You need to collect a massive amount of glowing orbs along the way, and you need to do so swiftly, as your score drops with each passing second. At the end of each stage, you’re graded with a star rating, and those stars are the currency with which you buy increasingly expensive additional levels. Even the most enjoyable levels tend to get tedious when you’re replaying them for the eighth time in a frustrating effort to raise your score. CV

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