In the glory days of arcade gaming it wasn’t uncommon for games to rely on gimmicky controllers to make them stand out. While this is certainly not the most ideal way to create games this day and age it really gave developers more avenues to explore when creating games. From using a fire hose to eliminate flames in burning buildings to staring down the scope of a sniper rifle the arcade was once a virtual breeding ground for originality.
This brings us to the latest release for Microsoft’s extremely popular Xbox Live Arcade Wednesday’s. Paperboy is the latest retro game receiving the HD treatment that other titles have for Microsoft’s service. But the question remains; even with some spiced up visuals, achievements, and included online support is this game really worth your five bucks?
Visuals & Sound:
While it is pretty standard fare for games appearing on Xbox Live Arcade to receive some graphical enhancements, the results are usually minor. Paperboy does get some nice HD backdrops and some improved textures, but for the most part the game looks almost identical to the arcade original. Unlike other retro entries though this one is sans the option to revert to the original visuals; while this is a small nuisance it does take away some of the retro feeling that other titles convey when you switch between visual modes.
The sounds however have not received an upgrade. In fact I would bet money that these are the original MIDI voice bytes from the original ROM. This goes for the music as well as you will immediately notice when you boot up the game. Overall this is one of the least impressive upgrades to the XBLA since its inception.
Anyone who played the original game knows that dealing with the weird isometric view was a giant pain in the ass. Now while it was easier to deal with using the arcade’s handlebar controller, translating that to a console controller has always posed issues and this version is no different. You will still wrestle with judging distance and avoiding obstacles while trying to maintain a good speed and deliver your daily news. I also noticed that our loveable protagonist has a weird tendency to lean to the right as he moves forward even when you lay off of the thumbstick. Needless to say the game retains the frustrating control of the original arcade version.
Now we all know that the best reason to download these retro classics is to score some more of those coveted Achievement Points right? Paperboy boasts the standard twelve achievements with a total of 200 points and just like the last few releases these range from effortless to nigh impossible. Most gamers will certainly snag three or four of these without even trying such as completing two days and gathering a score of 3,000 in the single-player game. While some of the more elusive achievements have you busting 30 windows in one day in a co-op game, which I am here to tell you my friends is not an easy task.
There are also a bevy of online achievements that most gamers have either come to love or hate. While it is nice to reward players who have access to Xbox Live, why punish the ones who only have a Silver account? There are a total of four online achievements and all of them outside of breaking the 30 windows are pretty manageable, but this still doesn’t help those without a Gold account. There is also a gamer picture to be earned with one of the Achievements which is nice, but to be honest most Arcade games usually include one from the start anyways. In the end the achievements are pretty standard as far as XBL Arcade games are concerned.
Paperboy also supports Xbox Live with both Leaderboards and Online Play in either co-op or vs. fashions. Playing online Paperboy is an interesting endeavor as both modes block you from actually seeing what the other player is doing. In co-op you can keep an eye on their score and lives remaining, but you will never actually see them onscreen. The Vs. mode is basically a score attack until someone loses all their lives and honestly grows stale fairly quick. While neither online mode ever feels fleshed out or for that matter very engaging, they are a nice addition to an otherwise stagnate affair.
Paperboy still remains a solid, fun experience even with these flaws, but I cannot recommend it beyond a trial download. The single-player is too frustrating to be fun on the harder levels and the multi-player feels tacked-on and useless. While the price is certainly right the game still doesn’t manage to hold water in the long run and will more than likely be just another reason to achieve 200 gamer points. If you are a huge fan of the original give it a trial run, but for the most part don’t spend the dough on this one unless you have to have the points like me.