As convenient as DLC can be for both publisher and consumer, there's nothing quite like having the classic box, manual, and disc package. To that end, Atari is offering up three very popular Xbox Live Arcade titles, all from game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The included titles are RezHD, Lumines Live, and Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4), and if that weren't compelling enough, the $20 price point should be.
The Games - RezHD
Rez was first released on the Sega Dreamcast in Japan, and was very well received back then. In January of 2008, it was re-released as RezHD on XBLA (exclusively). RezHD featured the same great gameplay but in widescreen format with improved 5.1 surround sound, and there was much rejoicing.
The addictive, trippy rhythm game casts players as an infiltrator into an enemy data network. Floating in a wire-frame world in a third person view, players control the action with simple gestures of the left stick and buttons A and B (primarily A as B is for Overdrive, a sparingly used power up). The goal is to hack your way through four areas, each with ten levels, so that you can enter a fifth, final area. Along the way you'll zap many viruses and defeat firewalls. Ten levels per area may sound like a lot, but the pace and general brevity of the game means you'll zip through these levels quickly, although that's not to say Rez is an easy game.
As you work your way through the enemy network, shooting blue orbs count towards leveling-up your character. Taking damage from enemies reduces your level, which corresponds to your health as well, so if you take damage while at a level zero, it's game over. Quick reflexes and accurate aiming keep this from being too much of a problem, and the resultant cacophony of wildly colorful visuals and pulse pounding trance music that you create as you shoot and destroy enemies is really something to behold.
Modes include Regular and Score Attack, in addition to Beyond modes like Direct Assault, Lost, and Trance Mission, as well as a Boss Rush mode. There is even a Traveling mode, which is like free play. Leaderboards and Achievements may motivate you to keep coming back if the sheer fun and mesmerizing appeal of this game doesn't. The only hitch to the experience is that the initial load of the game takes several seconds, as Qubed will warn you whenever you select RezHD from the hub.
Ultimately, Rez or RezHD, both of which are included within RezHD, are classics and everyone should check out. If you weren't able to via Dreamcast, PS2, or XBLA to this point, Qubed is your best bet.
Lumines Live! first debuted on XBLA in 2006, and was an updated port of a PSP game. Since then, the Lumines franchise has been ported to a variety of platforms. Lumines is a Tetris style puzzler with light and sound gameplay elements that add plenty of strategy and fun to the experience. The goal is to match as many colored blocks together as you can. A bar that sweeps across the screen periodically to the beat of the soundtrack cancels your matched blocks. The game ends whenever your unmatched blocks fill up the screen.
Lumines Live! brought with it alternate skins for gameplay that not only changed the appearance of the game but also the music. Graphics were bumped up to 720p and 5.1 surround sound was featured too. This disc-based release includes several additional content packs that are separate purchases on XBLA including: Advance Challenge Pack, Rockin' Holiday Pack, VS CPU Pack, Puzzle/Mission Pack Puzzle, Tokyo Club Mix Pack, Heavenly Star Skin, and Breeze Skin. The game plus this content alone accounts for much of the $20 price point of Qubed, although obviously with Qubed you get two other great games.
Lumines Live! is probably my least favorite of this compilation, but that isn't saying much -- I really enjoy all three of these games.
Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4)
The third and final Mizuguchi title in Qubed is Every Extend Extra Extreme. This addictive puzzler is all about blowing yourself up at just the right moment to take out as many foes as possible, but it's done in a very colorful and exciting way. Players have unlimited lives, with the clock being their only foe. Whenever the timer reaches zero, play ends, but destroyed enemies will often drop time extension power ups, as well as several other powerups. Players can choose to play the Unlimited Mode or the Game Limited mode, whereby the latter has preset timers like ten, fifteen, and twenty minutes.
Playing E4 is simple, and very addictive. Players control movement with the left stick, and detonate with A. Pressing B will cancel out of a chain reaction sequence, allowing you to get back in control to recover powerups that destroyed enemies have dropped. These powerups will disappear after a short period of time, but part of being a skilled player is not rushing out of your chain reaction to capture them. Players also have a shield that is on a short timer to help them navigate around the busy screen. Normally, without shields, coming into contact with any object destroys you, but shields prevent that from happening. Whenever you start a new life, you have a few seconds of shield power, and destroyed enemies will drop shield extension powerups, too.
After you detonate and let the chain reaction run its course, or cancel out of it early, it's time to setup a new detonation. Scores can get into the trillions, and chain reactions can number into the thousands. It's pretty wild to press a single button and then sit back for several seconds to just watch a massive chain reaction as one group of enemy bursts causing a neighboring group to burst as well and so forth. Timing your detonations to the beat of the music causes much more damage, and with the help of multiplier powerups, even newbies like myself can get high into the billions of points quickly.
Support for Achievements, your own music to play to, and online head-to-head competitive play fleshes out the addictive single player mode.
I enjoy compilation sets like these, where you get three great, formerly DLC-only games for a good price. I would have liked the ability to switch between the three games on Qubed without having to exit back to the Dashboard, however. Plus, popping in a disc isn't as convenient as loading off of your hard drive, but I can appreciate the value of having a separate disc copy for several obvious reasons.
To sum up, if you already have these games, Qubed doesn't offer anything new or compelling to warrant a re-purchase, but if you've held out on getting these great, addictive, and beautifully presented puzzle games, Qubed is a great value.