I downloaded Band of Bugs last week from XBLA and finally started playing it yesterday. It's a turn-based strategy rpg, not unlike Fire Emblem or Advance Wars but with bugs. Lots of different bugs. Bugs with swords and crossbows and the ability to cast magic. The bugs also speak in some sort of alien-Chinese language that one can't help but chuckle each time they hear it. I've only played a half-dozen scenarios so far in the main story mode, enough to know that the gameplay is relatively simplistic and that the camera is mildly annoying but that I do enjoy the game anyway and it's easy to see why Ninja Bee, the developers, have so quickly ammassed a cult following among perusers of the Xbox Live Arcade service. I never did end up playing their other games, Cloning Clyde and Outpost Kaloki X, but my limited time with Band of Bugs has convinced me I need to. And who can say no to the idea of running a lemonade stand in space?
Another game I've had sitting around that I hadn't played yet is the re-envisioning of the Colin McRae series, DiRT. I've been waiting for my wrist to heal a bit as playing any game that requires constant use of the R Trigger seems to cause additional inflamation. As such, I've had to take some time off from Forza Motorsport 2 and leave DiRT, which I purchased on release day, in the drawer until now.
As a huge fan of the Colin McRae Rally games, I was looking forward to DiRT for a long while. And that's why it's disappointing to say how mixed my feelings are towards it. On the one hand, everything about the presentation, structure, and overall design of the game is absolutely fantastic. Yes, I too hate the decision to overwhelm the player with Travis Pastranan's overly cheery voice every time you enter a new menu screen (and if I hear him say, "Go get 'em tiger" one more time at the start of a race, I'm going to throw up), but I can forgive them thanks to the use of Recci's voice for co-pilot navigation. That said, there is a longtime complaint about the series that is particularly troublesome in DiRT and that is the steering of the cars. The cars don't turn from the front as they should, but rather from the car's center which makes no sense at all. Tilting the Left Thumbstick left or right doesn't result in a realistic turning motion like it should, but rather a herky-jerky sudden snapping of the entire car's orientation.
For example, imagine a slalom course. You steer the car left and right to navigate the cones and you have to maintain careful throttle control in order to actually get the car to stop turning in one direction and turn back in the other. Not so in DiRT. Here you can snap the Left Thumbstick back and forth as fast as possible and the car's front end will instantly shift back and forth like a bratty kid shaking his head no in the mist of a temper tantrum. It's absurd and it really puts a serious damper on what is otherwise a very, very respectable driving game.
I'm not ready to give a total thumbs up or down on the game just yet and I do admit that I have to fiddle with the controller sensitivity (if possible) to try and tone down the neck-snapping behavior of the car's steering, but so far the game looks like something that could be truly special, if the actual driving of the cars doesn't get in the way.