While there are lots of things to like about the new flashy Xbox Dashboard, there’s also one glaring problem. Okay, there are tons of problems, but let’s just pretend there is only one: you need a goddamn road map to find where to go to buy games. Microsoft seems so focused on chowing down on the Doritos dollars and cramming UFC down our throats that they’ve neglected to provide a convenient way to give them money for actual games. It’s frustrating as someone who enjoys playing games, but apparently more infuriating for those who depend on selling them for a living.
All downloadable games have been relegated to murky corner of the Marketplace behind an obscure “Game Type” tile depicting a girl in a hoodie hopping in the air. That same girl stars in Mommy’s Best Games’ latest game, which is one part side-scrolling shmup, one part parody of the new dashboard, and five parts bonkers. The game was created in just a few days in reaction to the new dashboard, and while it’s impressive that the developer was able to rush it to the Marketplace in such a short timeframe, the truncated development schedule shows. Neither the cynical parody elements, nor the gameplay of the shooter buried beneath the fake dash feel complete enough on their own to warrant adoring praise, but combined they create an unique package that is worth experiencing.
When you first boot up the game you are taken to the dashboard of a fake console called the MediaBall, which has more than a few similarities with the new Xbox Dashboard. The fake dash prominently displays an enormous advertisement that obnoxiously dominates the center of the screen. Oddly, the game that was cobbled together in a week or so makes better use of the TV’s real estate than Microsoft’s actual format. The fake ads are amusing and do their best impression of GTA’s mocking take on consumerism. Most of the typical targets receive their moment in the sun, such as reality TV, cheesy action movies, and tons of fattening foods. Mmm…Donut Slammers. Some of the channels jump to screens with a few jokes, but most of the ads are not clickable and don’t take you anywhere. Because the same ads appear in the same spots every time, there really isn’t much reason to look at them more than once, which kid of makes it feel like a one-and-done kind of affair.
Underneath all the cynicism and bitterness is an actual side-scrolling shooter where you play as the aforementioned hoodied girl. It’s pretty amusing that all of the enemies are the characters from the ads on the dashboard, which means there is a total hodgepodge. It basically feels as if they dumped out a child’s toy chest to come up with the enemy design. Football players soar through the air, enormous crabs shoot burst of pink bullets and flying cars descend from above. It’s not the most amazing shooter ever, but it’s quite competent and aided by its absurd premise.
Your hoodied heroine has two attacks to dispatch the mishmash of enemies. She has a standard (boring) shot that fires rapidly, but is about as effective as whacking a tank with a a feather duster, as well as a super parkour attack that blasts the screen with an attack beam similar to Ryu’s fireball in X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Of course that means you’ll want to spam the death ray as much as possible, but it does also significantly cut down on your mobility, so there is a constant trade between normal attack and monster blast.
You’ll reach the end of each level in just a few minutes, but it restarts at an accelerated pace each time you finish. That’s not much of a reward. Additional enemies appear on subsequent rounds, making for a hyper, chaotic experience. Playing the game from the beginning resets the speed, which made it feel like I was running with cement boots compared to the cracked-out speeds of later levels. The problem is that there is only one level to play through. Sure it changes as you go on, and the amped up speed makes for an intense game, but the experience is still very dependent on your thirst for a high score.
It’s a bit of a shame that Mommy’s Best Games wasn’t able to spend a bit more time refining the mechanics and adding a bit more content, because Game Type has a lot of potential. It ultimately feels a bit disposable since there are only a handful of fake ads and the game, although fun, doesn’t have much lasting appeal. While it doesn’t come anywhere near the polish of their previous games, it’s still impressive that they can crap out a shmup in a week that is better than 90 percent of the shooters on XBLIG.
Game Type was purchased for 80 MS points ($1). You can download a free demo on the Xbox Marketplace.