Is XBLA Microsoft’s Saviour In 2011?

Many of you commented on this article we published several days ago. The general train of thought behind it was that Microsoft had announced precious little retail games for 2011 to get the fans excited, whereas the PS3 was really going to hit its stride.

It was a fair point, but having a look at the digital download scene changes the landscape drastically.  On the horizon are some stunning looking titles for LIVE, and we take a look at the ones that have caught our eye.  It should be noted that several of the titles will also be headed to PSN.


Radiant Silvergun

I could wax lyrical about Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun all day, and it is still the yardstick by which other vertical shooters are judged.  At its core lies an interesting weapons system whereby all seven weapons are available to you from the start, and can be used at any time.  These weapons level up the more you use them, earning you additional points.  Heading exclusively to Xbox LIVE this year, it will feature online or local co-op, and still looks as hard as the offspring of Wolverine and a Geordie lass.

Video Source: YouTube

Dungeon Defenders

Heading to the PSN and LIVE this year, Dungeon Defenders is Trendy Entertainment’s cross between a Tower Defence game and an Action RPG.    Fending off wave after wave of monsters and protecting your crystal core is your task, by taking control of one of several character classes, each with a different way of attacking.  With customisation, multiplayer, and even Move support for the PSN version, it looks an absolute riot.

Video Source: YouTube

Necromachina (AKA Moon Diver)

Wow.  Heading to both the PSN and LIVE, this looks like what might be produced if Devil May Cry, Castlevania, and Metroid got put in a blender, and then the pulp formed into a videogame.  In terms of plot, I’ll let character designer Roberto Ferrari fill you in:

“It is the dawn of the 22nd century on the third planet from the sun. Humanity, broken free from its eschatological thralls, now watches as a lone boy stands before it. Within his hands, he controls the power of Mephistopheles – a force which can breathe life into that which has none. Animated machines devour the helpless; buildings shower the streets with storms of glass; cups, trains, bridges, whole towns – the remnants of civilization are transformed into bloodthirsty beasts whose only purpose is to wield the hammer of judgment.

The boy’s name is Faust, and he will not stop until he has cleansed the planet of humankind and claimed it as his own. Centuries have passed since his advent, and the world now holds its breath as the End of Days draws ever closer. Yet hope is not lost. Hidden among humanity’s last remaining survivors, an elite unit of specially trained ninja known as Moondivers has been lying in wait for orders from their Shogun to embark on one final mission to reclaim the planet. Today, those orders arrived.”

Video Source: YouTube


Announced a few months ago, Housemarque’s ‘Outland’ is described as a cross between platformers such as Prince of Persia and the colour-switching of shoot ‘em up Ikaruga.  Switching between light and dark forms is essential to survival, as the games protagonist will take damage from opposite-coloured bullets but will be impervious to those of the same polarity.  It also looks stunning.

Video Source: YouTube

Bangai-O HD Missile Fury

D3 announced a LIVE exclusive HD remake of ‘Bangai-O’ a while ago, promising the game will ship with over 100 levels and a level editor tool which will allow you to share your levels with friends.

On paper Bangai-O sounds like a simple shooter, but it is insane.  Defining the phrase ‘Bullet Hell’, the franchise is well known for demanding the impossible from the player, as hundreds upon hundreds of bullets fill the screen.  It’s niche, but looking oh so good.

Video Source: YouTube


Heading to LIVE this year, 5th Cell’s Hybrid is a bit of an unknown quantity.  Announced as a multiplayer online third-person shooter, it is set in a post apocalyptic world amidst a war between two factions: the Hybrid and the Paladin.  Rumours are rife regarding some form of innovative new gameplay mechanic.  Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Video Source: YouTube

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

I’d be lying if I said I fully knew what Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was about.  Details are fairly scarce, but this LIVE game is from the brains at Fuelcell Games, and looks amazing to say the least.

Video Source: InsanelyTwisted


Don’t let the fact that Fez looks like ‘Bionic Commando: Hello Kitty Edition’ put you off, as the LIVE game has already won the “Excellence in Visual Art” award at the Independent Games Festival in 2008.  A platform game at heart, it utilises optical illusions (such as those found in Echochrome) to help/hinder your progress.

Video Source: YouTube

From Dust

Heading to PSN and LIVE, Ubisoft’s ‘From Dust’ lets you play God, as shape an island as you see fit and protect its inhabitants.  It’s not plain sailing though, and you will be expected to fight off natural disasters (although this does grant you access to new powers).

Video Source: YouTube

Cheer up, 360 owners; suddenly things don’t look so grim.



  1. Thing is though, I cant see games that are on LIVE selling consoles (in any meaningful numbers) and they just dont have the same impact as a full retail game. For me personally, it takes a lot to get me to buy something from the PSN/LIVE. I just dont think it is enough from Microsoft.

    • same as above.

    • I’m not sure if 95% of games ever shift a console. We’ve seen juggernaut-sized titles barely shift anything extra – especially in the US and Europe. However, there are some strong titles for both digital stores with my heart set on Outlands and the phenomenal looking From Dust. Seriously… what a trailer! To take control of land creation like that. Wow! Lovely stuff.

      • Not individually, but as a whole. When the average customer walks into a shop looking to buy a console, what stuff Xbox have on LIVE will not matter one bit. What is on the shelves in the shop will.

      • Gamers have already bought at least one HD console by now… People are coming on board now thanks to things like SkyPlayer and Kinect or a Blu-ray players.

        GT5 may sell consoles because its something different, its a driving simulator, rather than a fun racer or something and a lot of fans of cars buy it, buy a console for it and only it.

      • AG – ah, right. Now I get you. It happens (or at least influences) but only, I guess, with word of mouth. I showed my mate Flower, PJ Shooter, PJ Monsters and that was it! Within a week he’d bought a PS3. He knew about great Blu-ray games but these were the tipping point for him. I’m guessing it’s a super-low percentage of folk that get influenced by the PS Store, though. Spot on.

    • I’m with you on this. Quality PSN titles are just an added bonus for me, retail games are the main things I buy and play. From the PSN, the only games I’ve spent a good amount of time on are Wipeout HD and Deathspank, the others are really only there for a quick 10 minute blast on something fun.

      • From Dust looks amazing!

        I have downloaded a few PSN games, big part thanks to PSN+, and have enjoyed the majority of them. Trash Panic, Critter Crunch, Stardust HD, Wipeout HD, Uno and now Shatter are some of my highlights.

        But I agree that downloadable titles probably won’t shift high numbers of consoles. Where’s the advertising for the games, apart from sites like TSA, normally on the consoles respected stores. They don’t get the advertising love like retail releases, the best advertising for them is word of mouth. I love showing off the little gems to anyone who comes round!

    • Personally I buy a lot more downloadable games than retail games. If anything, I think downloadable games have recently displayed more originality and creativity than the frequently overhyped and overpriced retail games.

  2. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet looks amazing, like Pixeljunk Shooter crossed with Limbo. It does seem a bit strange though that this article is all about XBLA countering the PS3’s line up next year with downloadable titles, when quite a few of them are coming out on the PSN. It’s nice to see what we have to look forward to though, Dungeon Defenders, Outland and Insane Twisted Shadow Planet being the ones that really stand out for me.

    • Hi mate. Looking back I should have worded the intro better – I didnt want to counter the PS3’s line-up, rather just point out that Xbox owners will have some decent stuff to play via download(verses retail products).

      • No worries, I thought it was a great article apart from that, I’d not heard of many of those titles and now want several!

  3. Ok, I’ve got a few points to take from that;

    1. Necromachina, Outland, ITSP and From Dust all look superb. Visually and gameplay wise.

    2. Only one of those 4 games is XBLA exclusive, so from my point of view XBox still need to get some big hitters out in the open.

    3. Isn’t “Mephistopheles” the magic cat from Catz? ;)

  4. Dungeon Defenders link sends you to Wikipedia
    (ps3 browser user)

    not an xbox gamer, but would be good for the users to be able to look forward to an exstensive release list,
    as ps3 users are this year

  5. i know bad spacing last line, didnt look like that prior to submitting

  6. I’m waiting for Under Siege(ps3)that should come soon :)

    • We all can’t wait for a Steven Segal game to come out.

      • If that Playboy lass bursts out of the cake I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

  7. Was excited about Necromachina for about 30 seconds then I realised the game play was exactly the same as Blade Kitten so a no buy from me instead im going to wait for the stunning From Dust.

    • Except Necromachina is from the designer of Strider, which means it has a bit more pedigree behind it than Blade Kitten.

  8. Yep – Never heard of any of these titles! O_o

  9. necromachina looks like it’d be fun, kinda like a four player strider.

    outland reminds me of flashback, graphically at least, i’d like to see that remade for the psn and xbla.

    from dust though, that so sounds like my kind of game, always loved populous, i would love to see that downloadable, maybe a hd remake, not that ps1 game though, that was ok but there was one level later on where your shaman is imprisoned and you have to rescue her, with virtually no powers, never got past that level.

    anyway, from dust looks like it will be a worthy succesor to populous, been a while since we had a really good god game.

  10. With PS3 adding Journey to the PSN list its looking like a very good year to have the Sony console. Wasnt aware of the PSN goodness on its way. Hopefully theyll be some nice PSN+ discounts to help this along.

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