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Apr 06 2012

Review of Anomaly Warzone Earth (XBLA edition)

Well capping off the week we have today’s release of Anomaly Warzone Earth. A PC (and mobile) indie favorite from last year that is now making its way to the XBLA. The big question though is how well does this adaptation fare in terms of controls? The original versions relied very heavily on mouse and  touchscreen controls, so a switch to the XBLA means an interesting fate is in store. At least it’s not Kinect enabled though so it has that in its favor. What’s going to our  verdict with this title consolification? Read on and find out.

Starting off with the controls I can thankfully say things still work great; some of the elegance of the PC version has been lost but a new deftness has been gained. The PC version used primarily just the mouse and using the mouse wheel to zoom out to the game’s tactical route screen always felt very nice and smooth, put simply it was a very fluid control scheme. The XBLA version however uses direct control for movement and a more menu like approach to the tactical route screen and use of abilities. While this doesn’t feel as natural or intuitive as the PC controls did, the direct movement of your character allows for better on the fly control in some of the game’s hairier situations. It might just be me, but I’ve always found click to move style movement clunky compared to a good old analog stick. In the end both controls methods have their merits and it ends up being an equivalent experience across both platforms.

I love how video game shorthand for super advanced simulation is just showing as little visual definition as possible.

In terms of additions to this game aside from the controls, things are a little on the light side. The only actual gameplay addition is a new set of six missions called Tactical Trials which are virtual simulations along the lines of Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions. They provide new levels with interesting new rulesets and goals that allow for some neat experimentation on both the player’s and the developer’s behalf. The other additions are all Xbox live infrastructure stuff like avatar awards and unlockable gamer pics. Personally I really like that stuff in a game, I love that feeling of having rewards persist even after I’m done with a game, but that stuff doesn’t really matter to lot of people.

Other than all that though, little has changed and qualitatively it’s still the same awesome game. The gameplay is still the incredibly fun and unique reverse pixel junk monsters style game it’s always been. The visuals still have that neat military overhead map look to them with what feels like a cool

In situations like this , where the enemy is turning your units against you, having direct movement is a godsend.

AR tinge. The VO and dialogue is still gratingly awful and stilted but in the funniest way possible. And lastly the story remains a somewhat convoluted but non-essential mess in my eyes, especially as I kept accidentally skipping cutscenes by trying to go back to the tactical route screen just as they were starting. This game remains a very worthwhile experience and as far as I can tell it is an equivalent one across all platforms. My only complaint is that the story campaign seems a little short as I got through it in only 3-4 hours. It’s not a bad length but it felt like it wrapped up a little too quickly and made the end point within the story feel like it was a kind of arbitrary cut off; it’s like they just said “this is as good place for a final boss as any” and then went to lunch. That’s a minor complaint though and what with the three other modes and replaying levels for better scores there’s plenty to do outside of the campaign.

Final word here is that this is a great game that’s been ported well to a new system. It’s certainly not a drastically different experience but still a damn good one and if you haven’t played it before on other platforms this a great way to experience it. However if you have played through game before on PC or a mobile device then this new cut doesn’t really offer much you haven’t seen before. So for a continually fulfilling experience that is unique within its genre, Anomaly Warzone Earth (XBLA edition) gets  4 out of 5 stars.  If you’ve never played it before then this is a great way to pick it up and it gets my full recommendation but if you’ve already got it on another platform then this really isn’t a necessary purchase, just redownload it and play through it again.

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