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Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Xbox 360

Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Various
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £24.99

One of the most appealing features of the Xbox 360 is its superb online marketplace. The ability to download game demos, purchase themes, gamer pictures and above all Xbox Live Arcade games from the comfort of your armchair is a wonderful thing indeed.  What if you can't connect your Xbox 360 to the Internet though? Until now this has meant you'll have been unable to sample some of these great Xbox Live Arcade games. Thankfully the Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged series is now here and Volume 1 has quite a nice selection to begin the series with.

So what's Volume 1 got to offer then? Well there are six games in total and they are as follows:

Bejeweled 2
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved
Wik: Fable of Souls
Texas Hold'em Poker
Outpost Kaloki X
Hardwood Backgammon

In addition to the games you also get a free one month Xbox Live Gold subscription. You have until the end of June 2007 to redeem this one month voucher so even if you haven't connected your Xbox 360 to the Internet you'll have plenty to time to do so and take advantage of this offer.

Many will consider Geometry Wars Retro Evolved to the best game in the package and it's a game that provides superb arcade style action. You'll control a single space craft as you plot a course through deep space. You'll be attacked by green squares, purple squares, serpentine lines and red circles that change into black holes. The space ship is controlled with the left analogue stick whilst you simply move the right analogue stick to the direction you want to fire in. You also have several bombs at your disposal which can be used as a method of wiping out all of the onscreen enemies. The game is as addictive as can be and is actually very difficult to fault.

Bejeweled 2 is a game where you have to line up, vertically or horizontally, at least three of the same jewel types and doing so will make them disappear.  Should you match four of a kind you'll earn an explosive power gem and five of a kind will earn you a hyper cube that clears all of the same jewel types on the grid. It's one of those puzzle games that are difficult to pull yourself away from once you start playing. There are four different modes in total, Classic, Action, Puzzle and Endless. In short it's still one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games and an excellent inclusion in this package.

So that's the best two titles in the package covered then but how about the other four titles? Well Wik: Fable of Souls is a platform game of sorts where you have to jump around collecting grubs and giving them to your creature at the bottom of the screen. You'll have to fire acorns, rocks and berries at enemies that are trying to steal the grubs away from you. Wik can tongue latch and suck/spit his way around the levels and whilst it might not initially seem like an enticing title it soon becomes quite addictive and you'll find yourself coming back for more. We've already reviewed Outpost Kaloki X (you can read our review here) and it's an enjoyable tycoon style strategy game. Hardwood Backgammon is an enjoyable Backgammon game that can be played against a friend (online or offline). That leaves Texas Hold'em Poker the game that was free for the first 48 hours it was available. In truth Texas Hold'em Poker is meant for online play against friends. When played offline it's OK but it's not quite as enjoyable. That said you can take part in scenarios and tournaments and playing against the AI is certainly a great way to learn the game.

None of the games are going to cause deaf gamers any problems and all of them look good when viewed on a standard TV or a HD display. All of the games simply run off the DVD and no installation process takes place. On inserting the disk you're taken to the Xbox Live Arcade screen and the games will appear in the selection menu. Despite there being no installation load times are only slightly slower than if you had downloaded them onto your hard disk drive which is good to see.  In fact this is an all round solid compilation that is good value for money if you don't own any of the included games.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

If you haven't yet experienced the Xbox Live Arcade, for some reason or other, then this is a great way of seeing what all the fuss is about. Two of the best Xbox Live Arcade games have been included in the package and the rest are more than worthy of your attention. Of course if you already own several of the games in this collection then you're probably better off simply purchasing the others you're interested in directly from the Xbox Live Arcade.