by Joseph Leray
Xbox 360 spokesbro Major Nelson has kindly detailed his company's Summer of Arcade promotion for us: it starts on August 7th and will feature four games that cost between 800 and 1200 Microsoft points (i.e., between $10 and $15).
'Brothers: a Tale of two Sons' launches August 7th for 1,200 Points
'Charlie Murder' launches August 14th for 800 Points
'Flashback' launches August 21st for 800 Points
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' launches August 28th for 1,200 Points
"Brothers" is an adventure game by Starbreeze Studios, the team behind the "Chronicles of Riddick" series, the first "Darkness" game, and the most recent "Syndicate" reboot. Players will control both of the titular brothers at the same time -- one on each analog stick -- guiding them through a series of puzzles and NPC interactions on a journey to save their dying father.
Starbreeze's contribution to the Summer of Arcade might be the most impressive of the bunch: praising the game's mechanics and storybook feel, our preview notes that "'Brothers' trims the fat so that players can enjoy the meat."
"Charlie Murder" is Ska Studios' punk-themed beat-'em-up, which follows up "The Dishwasher"'s signature black-and-white ultraviolence but not, seemingly, its pace or fluidity. I liked -- but wasn't crazy about -- "The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile," and the most recent trailer for "Charlie Murder" doesn't speak to me, either.
"Flashback" is a remake of Delphine Software's 1992 platformer of the same name. Lead designer Paul Cuisset snatched up the license when Delphine went belly-up in 2004, formed another company called VectorCell, and approached Ubisoft about publishing a remake.
Dubbed a "cinematic platformer," "Flashback" is in the same vein as Jordan Mechner's original "Prince of Persia" or Eric Chahi's "Another World," but with updated graphics, skill trees, aiming, and dialogue.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a Red Fly-developed, Activision-published brawler that ostensibly ties into the Nickoldeon reboot of the classic graphic novel series, even though it eschews the cartoon's vibrant, expressive characters for more "realistic" designs. "Out of the Shadows"' most attractive quality might be its four-player online co-op.
I haven't played any of these games, but it's fair to say that they haven't exactly captured media or fan attention. There seems to be a lack of confidence -- or, obviously, a lack of marketing support -- for the 2013 iteration of Summer of Arcade, which doesn't exactly bode well.
That''s a shame, considering that Summer of Arcade is the program that previously brought us games like "Braid," "Castle Crashers," "Trials HD," "Bastion," "Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet," "From Dust," and "Marvel vs. Capcom 2."
Oh, also? "Charlie Murder" is the only independent game in this year's Summer of Arcade, which does little to dispel the idea that Xbox Live is becoming a less attractive platform for small-budget games in the face of Steam, PlayStation Network, iOS and the Nintendo eShop.