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Meteos Wars

Score: 83%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Q Entertainment
Developer: Q Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Arcade/ Online/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Xbox LIVE Arcade is home to many good games, a few breakaway hits, and at least one or two superstar titles. The top rankings will depend somewhat on personal preference, but most people agreed in 2008 that Braid was a great game, and others like Castle Crashers or Geometry Wars have found a seriously devoted fan base. The payoff for a company that can crack the LIVE Arcade nut is huge, so it's no surprise that many developers are trying. Gamers know from experience that with a high volume of games comes a larger chance that they will find a few stinkers, so "caveat emptor" applies in a big way to LIVE Arcade. We'll answer the looming question of, "Is Meteos Wars worth my 800 credits?" with a resounding "Yes."

You'd expect the creators of games like EveryExtendExtra, Lumines, Rez, and Gunpey to put out a quality product. Meteos Wars isn't without precedent, since the DS saw two Meteos-brand releases within the past few years. The appearance of Meteos Wars on Xbox 360 is a nice surprise, and fans of the originals will be glad to see that the look of the game is relatively consistent with its older siblings. The distinct difference comes by way of the superior graphics' processing capacity this console has compared to the DS, allowing more detail in every part of the game. Backgrounds and lighting and the designs of individual Meteos really pop on the larger screen, and you'll love the sounds and music. The variety across all these aspects of Meteos Wars is outstanding and makes for many nice surprises as you encounter new "planets" populated by new opponents, new Meteos, and a new soundtrack.


Did any puzzle/casual title ever have as deep a backstory as Meteos Wars? Chalk it up to this being a fairly mature series, giving the developers plenty of time to think about what might make little blocks fall from the sky... as if we really needed to know that, right? While unnecessary, it is totally endearing to read several pages of explanation on the Meteos scourge threatening the universe. Lucky you, getting to take charge of the important mission to protect all races of the galaxy by sending Meteos flying back into space, ultimately reaching Planet Meteos, where you'll be tested against the ultimate threat. There are some games out there that feel a bit like Meteos Wars, but not many; it's largely an original concept.

Easy comparisons are available to ball/jewel matching games out on the market, and you can take your pick from a long list of contenders. Unlike a Tetris model, where you match and build on shapes, Meteos Wars features uniform cubes that are matched by the shapes imprinted on them, or simply by their color. Where comparisons to any of the Bejeweled clones may spring to mind, Meteos Wars doesn't just explode matching sets. Instead, the matches you create give inertia to an entire block of Meteos, launching them into the air. Based on the size of the pile and the rules of gravity, you may have to launch a sequence of Meteos in order to move the mass of Meteos from your side to your opponent's. Once you are successful, the poor guy on the other side is the recipient of your unwanted Meteos. The round ends when you or your opponent have too many blocks stacked on your side, or is determined by score once the timer runs out.

It's a very addictive little formula with lots of permutations. In the single-player modes, you can either face off against the computer in a straight VS. COM Mode, or run through a series of planets in Mission Mode. Players looking for more casual play can explore three varieties of Attack Mode. 1-Minute Time Attack is a short rush for points, where the 100-Meteo Attack Mode tests your ability to score high with exactly 100 Meteos. The Challenge Mode available under Attack is really what most games called "Endless," where you can play away to your heart's content for score and practice. There are two options for multiplayer, either the Local VS. in your living room, or Matchmaking VS. on Xbox LIVE. Leaderboards display the ranking of top players, and there are plenty of Achievements available for ambitious players. Other than ranking and Achievements, additional incentives provided in Meteos Wars are accessories you can attach to your character that seem to do absolutely nothing...


The worst thing about downloading games versus boxed product is the inconsistency of online manuals. Meteos Wars probably thinks it has more than enough explanation of how to play, and there are several areas where you can view instructional simulations and visual aids. There isn't anything in the way of a playable tutorial, which is a serious handicap. There are too many new mechanics and gameplay concepts here to assume that gamers will just "figure it out." There is no doubt that Meteos Wars is a pick-up and play game, as long as you've played previous Meteos games. Those of us left out of these DS-only titles have to learn how the whole concept works, and there's not enough rope provided before you have to go out and do things by yourself. The nice thing about this approach is that you learn quickly. The downside is that you have no earthly idea what you're supposed to be doing for quite a while; even after you learn the ropes, there is plenty that just doesn't make sense about the interface, scoring, or conditions for a win.

Adjusting the standard difficulty setting and various controls helps make Meteos Wars accessible, but this is fundamentally a hard game to win. Scoring is obscure and impossible to care about when you are scrambling to keep blocks from piling up on your side of the screen. The A.I. opponents are really smooth, even on the easiest setting, but have limited endurance. Learning to read patterns on the screen helps lower the difficulty curve, but the controls aren't all that helpful. Compare the use of the Xbox 360 controller to something more intuitive like the DS stylus for a game like this, and there's no contest. We'd point to a game like Pokemon Trozei that had a very similar play mechanic for moving blocks around, but was much more accessible due to touch-screen controls.

Game Mechanics:

There aren't many times we'll discourage use of analog controls, when control matters. After all, analog became popular largely because it provides more finesse and nuance in control during a game. Sensitivity works both ways, of course. If you read comics and remember the Daredevil origin story, you'll recall that his newly gained powers to hear, touch, and smell in lieu of seeing nearly overwhelmed him. Too much sensitivity can be a bad thing if what you really need is fine control. Meteos Wars isn't impossible to play with two analog sticks, but we found it worked much better with just one. It's weird to only be able to slide blocks up and down, but that's what you get. Once you slide a block into a row of three, vertical or horizontal, the blocks launch. Since you can't go wrong with the vertical, the analog stick works well. The side-to-side movement requires more finesse, or else you risk overshooting columns constantly. Adjusting speed in the game works reasonably well to avoid feeling bogged down, once you learn the ropes. For veteran players, using both sticks may be a nice option, but newbies will find it incredibly frustrating. The only other elements you'll be concerned with in the controls department are launching special attacks on your opponent with the press of a button, or speeding up the rate at which Meteos fall, also with the press of a button.

Meteos Wars is a great example of casual games morphing into something halfway between "casual" and "hardcore." Some elements of the gameplay are accessible to the most casual gamers and will appeal universally. Others, like completing Mission Mode on the Hard difficulty setting, are feats reserved for a special group of twitchy, puzzle gamers that probably also have Geometry Wars on their list of top games. Managing to walk this line well is difficult and the fact that Meteos Wars pulls it off means you'll be happy investing 800 credits in a download. The replay value once you complete Mission Mode on Hard is somewhat limited, but there are a few Achievements to keep you going, and the chance to see your name at the top of the leaderboards. Not to mention saving the galaxy... and isn't that why we all play games, anyway?

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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