Everything You Need To Know About Summer Of Arcade

by Matt Miller on Jul 19, 2011 at 10:30 AM

With XBLA's summer promotion now beginning, we take a brief tour of each game to help you decide which ones you'll use to hold off the summer gaming doldrums.

2011's Summer of Arcade begins tomorrow, July 20th, with the release of Bastion. Traditionally, Microsoft has reserved some of the most compelling digital content of the year for five weeks around August, and this year is no exception. If you're still on the fence trying to figure out which games to purchase and play, we've pulled together a quick synopsis of each game and one of its trailers, all in one place, so you can figure it out. The games are listed by their release date on Xbox Live Marketplace.

Release Date: July 20
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)

Mixing action and role-playing with the thrill of discovering a new world, Bastion is a fantastic first game from Supergiant Games. Because it's only a day away, it's also the only one of these games for which you can read our full review right now. Think about what you might get if you mixed the exploration of a classic Zelda game with the combat of Diablo, and you'll start getting an idea of what to expect from the game. Gamers intrigued by the art of storytelling in games will be particularly interested in Bastion. An in-game narration tells the tale as you play it, and you feel like you're really part of the story while it happens. Bastion is a great start to this year's event, and not to be missed.

From Dust
Release Date: July 27
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)

It's been a long time since we've seen a good classic god game on PC, and now we have an entry for consoles. Ubisoft's From Dust casts you as the custodian of a tribal culture trying to hold off the the worst ravages of nature, from volcanoes to floods. You have no direct control over the people and their village, but rather you adjust the world around them, building up earth and water in strategic locations to help usher the people into a better life. Players interested in exploring a sandbox of creation will find a lot to love in From Dust. It's easy to get distracted by the simple experience of watching the way water erodes a riverbank and begins to change the whole dynamic of a landmass. Our early time playing the game has us highly positive about the final product.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Release Date: August 3
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)

What if you had a Metroid game all about flying Samus' ship through a strange and dangerous world, rather than having her run around on foot? That's pretty much the concept you get with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, a beautiful 2D exploration game from Fuelcell. Your ship gains new abilities as you progress, from increased weaponry to tools that can alter the environment. As you explore, you'll encounter huge bosses and strange creatures moving through a world of shadowy caves and brilliant colors. Shadow Planet may not end up having the depth of upgrades and progression found in games it is modeled after, but the stunning visual style and sense of discovery could be just the ticket for many gamers starved for this sort of fare.

Fruit Ninja Kinect
Release Date: August 10
Price: 800 Microsoft Points ($10)

We can hear some gamers crying foul from here. How dare a casual Kinect title invade our Summer of Arcade? Well, it turns out there's a whole lot of players out there who really like both Fruit Ninja and playing with their Kinect, so it was sort of inevitable the two would come together at some point. On the bright side, our editors who have played the game found it to be quite fun. Like the original, the concept is pretty simple: Chop up fruit with wild swings of your arms as they fly up onto the screen. Single-player options are present, but the real draw here is a two-player mode that is ideal for parties. Fruit Ninja Kinect may not be the most complicated game on this year's Summer of Arcade promotion, but expect the game to bring a lot of players into Xbox Live Arcade who have never been there before.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Release Date: August 17
Price 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)

We loved the first Toy Soldiers game that came out last year, and Signal Studios' upcoming sequel is hitting all the right buttons to be even better. Abandoning the World War I-era toys that started the series, the new Toy Soldiers fast-forwards to the '80s for an injection of machismo-laden toys from our childhood. You control units from the USA or USSR as the Cold War escalates into all-out toy armageddon.  Like its predecessor, players who enjoy a well-integrated mix of tower defense and action will encounter a lot to draw them in. Plus, it's hard to complain about the integration of both local and online co-op.

Crimson Alliance
Release Date: September 7
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points

It's not officially part of this year's Summer of Arcade, but it's worth mentioning Certain Affinity's great-looking new action/RPG because of a unique deal connected to the game. If you purchase all five Summer of Arcade games, you'll receive Crimson Alliance for free. To be clear, that means you'll need to spend $70 in order to save $15 several weeks later. Whether you get the game for free or not, Crimson Alliance looks like a worthy entry in the genre that spawned games like Gauntlet and Diablo, with up to four-player co-op and three different classes to choose from. Check out an extended sequence of hands-on gameplay in the video below.