• Xbox Live Arcade has proven to be a huge success for Microsoft. And with the long lineup of great titles to come, there’s no doubt that the service is here to stay. With that in mind, wouldn’t it make sense for the folks in Redmond to put together a collection of their best Arcade titles for a compilation box set? Of course it does and that’s exactly why Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 was created.

    Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1

    This first, in what would appear to be a series of Arcade “Greatest Hits” discs, includes the early Arcade titles Bejeweled 2, Geometry Wars Retro Evolved, Wik: Fable of Souls, Outpost Kaloki X, Hardwood Backgammon and the instant classic Texas Hold ‘Em.

    You might be thinking, “Why should I go out and by a boxed copy of games that I could easily purchase right from my living room on LIVE?” Most of us take the Xbox Live services for granted, but what about those folks who don’t have a broadband connection? Maybe you have a core unit sans hard drive? Or maybe you’re new to XBLA and have found yourself caught up in some of the more recent offerings like Dig-Dug, Galaga and Lumines Live without ever having given some of the debut titles a run? No matter what the circumstances are, Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 gives everyone a chance to experience the games that helped make the service a success.

    Another thing to consider is cost. If you were to download all of the games that come included in Arcade Unplugged it would set you back 4000 Microsoft Points which equals roughly $50.00 USD. Arcade Unplugged volume 1 retails for $39.99 saving you ten bucks which you could then put towards buying me something really nice for Christmas! (I’m not kidding here. I really love presents!)

    Here’s another reason to contemplate Arcade Unplugged Volume 1: Hard drive space. My hard drive has had no more than 50% capacity available to store new content for a very long time and keeping that space available is a challenge. Arcade Unplugged runs the games from the DVD thereby saving you at least a little bit of hard disc space which may prevent you from needing to delete all those Jessica Simpson videos. Pop the disc into the drive and you’re brought to the Arcade blade of the dashboard. The games are then “added” to your My Arcade Games where you can select them just as you would a true downloaded title. Keep in mind that once the disc is removed the games will disappear, which may annoy the true couch jockeys out there, but for the rest of us it’s really no big deal. Exercise is good.

    And now for the games themselves. Without a doubt, Bejeweled 2 and Geometry Wars are instantly addictive and fun with the former being a Tetris-clone of sorts where you’re challenged to create strings of identical jewels and the latter being a reminder of the classic Asteroids in which space boulders have been replaced by geometric shapes coming at you from every angle. Both games are easy to pick up and play, offer great strategic challenges and test your ability to stay calm.

    In Wik: Fable of Souls you take on the character of Wik and his journey to reunite himself with his lost family. Levels are presented as single screens where you negotiate Wik by jumping and swinging using his long, sticky tongue. Collecting is key as you attempt to collect all the coins that appear as well as grubs that you feed to your “mule” Slotham in order to keep him from wandering away. Horde flies attempt to thwart your efforts by grabbing grubs and flying off with them, but your ability to slurp up loose acorns and fire them at the enemy will keep them at bay. Think of Wik as being very similar to Nintendo’s Yoshi only with big eyes and a funky haircut.

    Outpost Kaloki X is a small scale “tycoon sim” where gamers are challenged to maintain a futuristic space station by building money making expansions such as lemonade and newspaper stands, manage energy consumption by adding new power sources as needed as well as providing the station with scientific upgrades that allow for a number of high-tech expansions.

    Both Hardwood Backgammon and Texas Hold ‘Em are pretty much self explanatory. I will admit that I had never played Backgammon before, but the tutorial within the game had me understanding the rules and strategies in no time. Texas Hold ‘Em however is a game that I have a great deal of experience in. In fact, I’ve been getting together with a group of friends monthly for the past couple of years and have done fairly well overall. The Arcade version is a great deal of fun, especially on LIVE. While the single player AI becomes somewhat predictable after a while, most of the people that I have played with online understand the game and play it respectfully which was a concern I had since there is no real money being wagered.

    All of the games contained within Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 are high quality, entertaining games that cover a number of different genres. With the cost value and non-commitment of valuable hard disc real estate, this is a great title to add to your collection.

    Score: 9/10

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