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Catching Up: 10 downloadable games to beat the summer drought
by Andrew Testerman

After a reasonably active June for game launches, the summer drought is finally in full-effect, with nary a major triple-A title in sight. Fortunately, 2011 has seen the rise of several quality downloadable titles for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and even WiiWare, providing options for even the most play-starved of gamers.

To celebrate the recent release of Ms. ‘Splosion Man (which seems to have garnered a decent critical reception), Gamer’s Guide to has a list of ten must-have downloadable titles guaranteed to carry you through these game-depleted months.

Editor's Note: The prices contained in this article refer to the cost of the games in the North America region. Prices worldwide may vary.

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile

The sequel to James Silva’s previous indie darling, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, Vampire Smile ups the ante on the previous title’s stylish, bloody action with more weapons, new enemies and a second playable character. Players can also team up to tackle Vampire Smile’s brand new co-op mode, controlling the eponymous Dishwasher and his step-sister Yuki. Unchanged are Vampire Smile’s tight, responsive combat controls, oft-times punishing difficulty level, and unique, Johnny-The-Homicidal-Maniac-meets-Kill-Bill art direction. Fans of Devil May Cry and God of War’s furious, combo-driven action, and old-school beat ‘em ups like Golden Axe or Streets of Rage, should schedule The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile for a double shift.

Xbox Live Arcade: 800 Microsoft Points (MSP)

Magic: The Gathering – Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012

With the release of the Magic: The Gathering’s new 2012 core set comes Magic: The Gathering – Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012, a refinement of Stainless Games’ 2009 adaptation of the popular card game from Wizards of the Coast. Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012 retains the previous iteration’s pitch-perfect Magic: The Gathering play mechanics whilst adding new decks; a new, smoother interface; and several new campaigns and modes. Gamers wary of Magic: The Gathering’s prohibitively expensive play costs would do well to give Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012 a look.

PlayStation Network: $10
Xbox Live Arcade: 800MSP
Steam: $10

Gatling Gears

Ever since Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved first graced the Xbox Live Arcade in 2005, the twin-stick shooter has seen a renaissance in the downloadable space. Gatling Gears adds to the roster, placing players in a steampunk, bipedal mech and asking them to blow up anything that moves. What separates Gatling Gears from a host of contemporaries - other than the obvious appeal of piloting a steampunk, bipedal mech - is its drop-in, drop-out co-op play, complete with scaling difficulty. Of course, the usual mainstays of the bullet-hell shooter genre are along for the ride, including massive bosses, continually-upgrading weapons and more firepower onscreen than can reasonably be kept track of.

PlayStation Network: $10
Xbox Live Arcade: 800MSP


A rare entry for the shortlist of quality WiiWare titles, Fluidity is a quirky blend of 2D sidescrolling and puzzling. In Fluidity, players control a sentient mass of water, and attempt to cleanse the land of the ooey-gooey Influence by collecting various Rainbow Drops. Control in Fluidity is handled by using the Wii Remote to tilt the environment, similar to games like Super Monkey Ball or Marble Madness. Additionally, players can change states to solve puzzles, by freezing to become a block of ice or evaporating into a cloud of steam. Tasks range from transporting gears in water form, to activating switches in ice form, to blowing balloons around as a steam cloud, and many challenges require juggling between the three forms. Inventive and enjoyable, Wii owners will be all wet if they miss this creative downloadable title.

WiiWare: 1200 Wii Points


A product of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine studio, Stacking is a cross between point-and-click adventure games of yore (Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, etc.) and modern gaming sensibilities. As Charlie Blackmore, a Russian stacking doll, you must rescue your family from the clutches of the evil Baron. Charlie is able to stack inside other dolls, gaining their powers and using them to solve the many puzzles posed by the game. Each puzzle has multiple ways to solve it, letting impatient players cruise through the game with a single solution whilst still giving meticulous gamers a chance to search for every possible answer. Coupled with the charming 19th century setting and silent movie cutscenes, Stacking offers gamers one of the more unique, amusing experiences of 2011.

PlayStation Network: $15
Xbox Live Arcade: 1200MSP


Making its second appearance on a GGTL list, fans of 2009’s Shadow Complex take note: if you can buy only one game from XBLA or PSN this year, make sure it’s Outland. In true Metroidvania fashion, players are tasked with platforming through an expansive, interconnected environment, earning new abilities and discovering new areas with them. Outland adds a new component to the mix, implementing the light/dark shifting mechanics from Treasure’s Ikaruga. Players are able to switch between light and dark polarities, absorbing projectiles of a similar colour, whilst only able to damage enemies of the opposite colour. The polarity mechanics even extend to the platforming, only allowing players to land on same-coloured platforms, and creating opportunities for mid-jump polarity shifts. The game’s colourful, nearly-tribal art style is positively breathtaking to behold, and the controls are smooth and responsive. Those pining for an HD Super Metroid- or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night-esque experience should waste no time in booking a ticket to Outland.

PlayStation Network: $10
Xbox Live Arcade 800MSP

Section 8: Prejudice

Gamers with a penchant for online FPS' have several months before the release of either Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but clanners and campers alike may find a bit of respite for their itchy trigger fingers in Section 8: Prejudice. The original Section 8 was a promising concept mired by poor execution, but developer TimeGate Studios have made several mechanical improvements that turn Section 8: Prejudice into a playable and surprisingly fun experience. Players still airdrop onto the battlefield, à la Starship Troopers, vying for control points and buying high-tech weaponry with points accrued during gameplay. Since its launch, Section 8: Prejudice has seen the release of a new game mode, as well as a smattering of new maps. If this level of post-launch support is upheld, players could potentially be playing Section 8: Prejudice well into the shooter-heavy holiday season.

Xbox Live Arcade: 1200MSP


One of the many success stories of the Steam platform, Torchlight - Runic Games’ little dungeon crawler that could - has made its way onto the Xbox Live Marketplace. Torchlight is a loving homage to the Diablo school of action RPGs, with players infiltrating old, forbidden tombs in order to gather sweet loot, strengthening the player and enabling them to progress further into the dungeon for even sweeter loot. Lather, rinse, repeat. The game’s light, cartoony art style helps it stand apart from many standard 'dark' fantasy titles of today, and there’s something primordially appealing about grinding through waves of giant spiders in the hopes of netting epic gear.

Xbox Live Arcade: 1200MSP

Hard Corps: Uprising

Speaking of homages, Hard Corps: Uprising is an homage to Contra’s brand of 2D, sidescrolling shooters. Actually, it basically is Contra in everything but the name. Frantic co-op play? Check. Arsenal of powerful weapons, including the almighty Spreader? Check. Borderline-masochistic level of difficulty? Ohhhhh check. For players less inclined to brutal levels of challenge, Hard Cops: Uprising offers Rising mode, which allows players to use points earned during play to buy new weapons, health power-ups, and extra lives, making the game slightly more manageable. Arc System Works, developers of the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series of fighting games, give Hard Cops: Uprising a beautifully-animated look, perfectly capturing the animé feel of the game’s story. Gamers who can recite the Konami Code by heart should look no further than Hard Corps: Uprising for their 2D shootin’ needs.

PlayStation Network: $15
Xbox Live Arcade: 1200MSP

Beyond Good and Evil HD

Beyond Good and Evil HD is fairly self-explanatory: an up-res port of Michel Ancel’s cult classic from 2003, giving players who missed it another opportunity to experience one of the more imaginative titles from the PS2 days. Beyond Good and Evil casts players as Jade, a photojournalist bent on uncovering a conspiracy from the local, tyrannical government. Gameplay is an odd, appealing mixture of The Legend of Zelda dungeon-crawling and Pokémon Snap picture taking, with smatterings of open-world free-roaming. One of Beyond Good and Evil’s major charms is its characters, specifically Jade, a strong-willed, well-characterised female protagonist - the likes of which are often unseen in gaming - and Pey’j, an anthropomorphic pig who refers to himself as Jade’s "uncle": it makes sense when you play it. The quirky, fully-realised world is also incredibly charming. The game is hardly less unique now than it was when released almost eight years ago, and still holds up quite well, making it worth players' time to experience this hidden gem from last generation.

PlayStation Network: $10
Xbox Live Arcade: 800MSP

Are there any favourite downloadable titles from the past calendar year that I've missed here? Sound off in the comments, or tell us on Twitter, via @ggtl.

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- Andrew Testerman

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