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Discover Microsoft's E3 XBLA Games

The upcoming slate of Xbox Live Arcade games has a little something for everyone. Check out our roundup of the eight games we played.

Xbox Live Arcade has had some big hits in recent months with titles like Trials Evolution, Minecraft, and Fez. However, Microsoft's Monday evening E3 showcase event proves there's plenty more to look forward to in the coming months. 

We learned that this year's Summer of Arcade lineup has been set to include Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, Dust: An Elysian Tale, Hybrid, Wreckateer, and Deadlight. We also got a chance to play most of those games, and several more equally impressive titles on the way to XBLA in the relatively near future; all the developers we spoke with told us they were targeting release before the end of the year.

Here's what we learned.

Dust: An Elysian Tale

Once a winner of the Dream Build Play game competition, Dean Dodrill stunning 2D action/RPG caught the attention of Microsoft, and the game is now set for a summer release. You play Dust, a warrior who uncovers a mystical blade and its protector, a strange little flying fox creature named Fidget. You set out into the world to confront evil, and get to enjoy all the trappings of a role-playing adventure as you go. Crafting, leveling, inventory choices -- all the fundamentals are in place to please the RPGer inside you. In addition, a deep, combo-laden battle system will have you confronting all sorts of strange enemies. The breathtaking visuals and animations, as well as the 2D combat system, call to mind the memorable games created by Vanillaware, like Odin Sphere and Muramasa. 

Happy Wars

Drawing immediate comparisons to Fat Princess, Happy Wars is a large scale medieval combat game pitting two teams of 15 players against one another in a fight to take each other's territory. The game can be played in a single player campaign, cooperatively against AI, or competitively in large teams. Players build towers across the battlefield both to claim territory and to create new respawn points. Each time you die, you'll be able to choose a new class, like the warrior or mage; each has different special abilities. The cutesy art style should make the game friendly to even young players, and the straightforward action combat is easy to pick up. We didn't get to play enough of Happy Wars to tell how it will hold up to extended play, but the large scale competitive battles are some of the biggest we've seen on XBLA.

Deadlight 

Mixing the terrifying combat of a zombie apocalypse game with 2D platforming in the style of classic Prince of Persia, Deadlight is certainly aiming to be a unique addition to the 360 catalog. You play as Randall Wayne, a lone man journeying through an alternate history version of the 1980s in which a mysterious plague has turned most of humanity into flesh hunting monsters. Smooth animations and atmospheric graphics help sell the experience, and every encounter drives home to the terror of the fight or flight response; sometimes you'll have to stand your ground and beat a zombie down, while other times their numbers are overwhelming, and you just need to make a run for it. 

Ascend: New Gods

The creators of the excellent Toy Soldiers game at Signal Studios are going in a brand new direction with their upcoming XBLA game. The title casts players in the role of a half-giant warrior on a strange fantasy planet upon which three gods (Light, Dark, and Void) all battle for supremacy against each other and the Titans that wander the earth. on the surface, you'll play the action/RPG game single player, exploring dungeons, fighting bosses, and collecting loot. However, as you travel you'll be able to interact with ghostly figures of other players in the game world by cursing or blessing them, depending on their godly alliances. An opposing character could be cursed as you send a pack of wolves into his game world. Meanwhile, you might send a loot drop or health pick up to bless a friendly player. Eventually, your hero will gain such tremendous power that you can choose to ascend them, transforming your character into an AI creature that your god will send into battle against other players in the game world. Meanwhile, you'll start a new character, but your hard work won't be for naught. Your subsequent characters will have additional ability slots, and you'll slowly work your way through a meta tier of levels that slowly unlock new abilities for all your characters. It's an intriguing concept -- here's hoping the ambitious social game experiment pays off when the game eventually releases. 

[ Next up: The return of Joe Danger and Tony Hawk, plus some new faces]

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