Snackbar Games Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Xbox 360

December 5, 2011

Looking for a good game for yourself or someone else this holiday season? We’ve got you covered. Here are this year’s releases that have our stamp of approval on the Xbox 360.

Gears of War 3Aside from finishing the story, which has never really been much to talk about, what does Gears of War 3 bring to the table? It brings a campaign that (even if the story isn’t Oscar material) is well-paced, challenging enough to make success mean something, and full of situations that are over-the-top enough to make you want to play the campaign over again in cooperative mode with arcade scoring on. (Full review)

The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimAs you regain consciousness, you find yourself tied up in the back of a wagon traveling down a mountain trail. Looking around, you see other prisoners, bound and talking about a civil war. Upon reaching your destination of Helgen, each of you are declared traitors to the Empire and sentenced to death by beheading. As you approach the chopping block, a loud roar pierces the air. Just as you are about to be killed, a dragon appears and begins destroying the town. This is Skyrim, and only you can save it. (Full review)

Top Spin 4Top Spin 4 is a lot of fun. Top Spin 3 swung a bit too much toward unforgiving sim, and Top Spin 4 comes back with a much better compromise between sim controls and arcade controls. The physics are handled well, the create-a-player interface is top notch, and both the offline and online play are streamlined and fun. (Full review)

Deus Ex: Human RevolutionSet 25 years before the events of the original, Human Revolution follows Adam Jensen, a security officer working for a corporation that specializes in augmentations. After a horrific attack on the company, Jensen is nearly killed but brought back to life thanks to some augmentation implants, making him just a little more than human. Jensen is out to discover who led the attack and what the ultimate purpose was behind it, leading to many interesting twists and turns along the way. (Full review)

Assassin’s Creed: RevelationsUbisoft pulled off an amazing feat. They created a game with a great concept but flawed execution, took notes about what people did and didn’t like and then came back to us with Assassin’s Creed II, a game loved by just about everybody. WithBrotherhood, they added the ability manage a whole team of assassins and a more rewarding combat system. It should be no surprise that Revelations is a game full of incremental improvements over its predecessor, and when you’re following up a game as good as Brotherhood, you don’t need a monumental jump in quality. It is enough to revisit Ezio and Altaïr as the overarching story moves forward. (Full review)

L.A. Noire: You play as Cole Phelps, a war hero and fledgling cop who’s trying to make the streets of 1940s Los Angeles safer for the people. Cole starts out as a beat cop, but by the end of the tutorial phase is promoted to traffic detective. The goal of the game is to rise through the ranks until you reach the top desk, Arson. Rarely will you concentrate on the goal though, because the gameplay is so enticing and draws you in so much. (Full review)

Rayman Origins: It’s hard to talk about Rayman Origins without mentioning its gorgeous art design. Everything from the design of the enemies, the environments, the animations, and even Rayman and his friends themselves all look incredible. This is one of the most visually striking 2D games you will ever see, and simply watching videos of it does not do it justice, you need to see it in HD to believe it. Combine that with the soundtrack, which features some songs that will be stuck in your head for days. It’s just a charming package all around. (Full review)

de Blob 2After saving the Raydians from the INKT Corporation, Blob takes a vacation to Prisma City with his new friend Pinky. In what we’re sure is a coincidence, Comrade Black and his company made it there first, and has started to take over the populace. So… we get a sequel to de Blob. In all seriousness, the story has never mattered in this series. It’s about getting paint and slamming things and restoring color to buildings, all to an upbeat, fun soundtrack. And de Blob 2 has those things. (Full review)

Portal 2As you may have expected, Portal 2 is all about the puzzles, and it delivers on all fronts. Just like the first game, you are slowly reintroduced to the portal gun through tests that start out simple but get more difficult as you progress. And just when you’ve mastered one type of puzzle, a new element is slowly introduced to make things even more challenging. The puzzles are excellently-designed, as are the many levels you traverse, and the difficulty is balanced perfectly. You are never once lost or confused, and the game eases you into each new scenario rather well. (Full review)

Driver: San FranciscoIf you’re a petrol-head, then you’ll be pleased with the selection and treatment of the cars in Driver San Francisco. Multiplayer is well-represented as well. Vanilla racing works well because the great driving mechanics are carried over from single player, but the experience you’ll remember are game modes like Tag, with drivers shifting from car to car all the while. Driver is finally a game that you need to buy because it has stopped trying to be Grand Theft Auto and started being Driver – which, it turns out, is a very fun game. (Full review)

Batman: Arkham City: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better action game than Batman: Arkham City. Everything comes together so perfectly and the new open world lends itself well to the Batman universe. It’s essentially more of the same, but it’s expanded upon and improved in a ton of little ways that makes the overall package even more appealing than Arkham Asylum was. You don’t need to be a Batman fan to enjoy one of the finest action games of this console generation. (Full review)


Guardian Heroes: Most don’t remember the original Guardian Heroes, released 15 years ago for the Sega Saturn. Like all Treasure games, it was visually charming, featured some innovative gameplay mechanics and was, at times, just a bit too busy for its own good. Instead of operating with depth of field, you play on three 2D planes, switching back and forth between them to take on different levels of enemies. You can still finish a session of the game’s story mode in an hour or so, as any beat-em-up should be, but that didn’t mean you played all of it. The branching paths meant that most playthroughs only hit about ten of the game’s 30 levels, and the moment-to-moment experiences changed with which character you used. (Full review)

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HDClash of Heroes reminds me a lot of Othello’s tagline: “A minute to learn… A lifetime to master.” Clash of Heroes is deceptively simple, but the strategies possible when it comes to linking attacks (arranging to have several attacks fire off on the same turn which imparts a bonus on each of them), fusing attacks together (creating two attack formations of the same color in the same column, combining strength and firing at the earlier time), and strategically removing units from the field make for a great experience in both single player and multiplayer. (Full review)

Orcs Must Die!Instead of a good story, Orcs Must Die! is more about leaderboards and the pleasure of implementing the demise of hundreds of orcs. Even for someone who doesn’t like score-based games, Orcs Must Die! is enjoyable just for the sake of the playthrough, which takes about eight hours. If you really like competition or completion, there are separate boards for Nightmare difficulty, which is obtained by completing all levels on the basic difficulty level. (Full review)

Dungeon Defenders: We like tower defense games, but the formula is getting a bit stale these days. We also like multiplayer action-RPGs, but they’re all blurring into each other lately because nothing stands out. Why not mix the two, then? Developer Trendy Entertainment did just that with Dungeon Defenders, a hybrid game that, despite some peculiar elements, cures the ills of both genres. (Full review)

Crimson AllianceJust last year, we remember bemoaning the disappearance of the co-op dungeon-crawler. Crazy, huh? Since then, we’ve seen quite a few attempts at the genre crop up. Generally, though, these have followed the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance mold, focusing on character progression, looting and atmosphere. Crimson Alliance went the other direction, looking to revitalize a style we haven’t seen since Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. (Full review)

OutlandOutland may not do anything new, but it combines elements from great games to great effect, creates a challenging campaign, and looks great while it does it. Outland is challenging without feeling cheap, artistic without feeling pretentious, and fun without being expensive. (Full review)

NBA Jam: On Fire Edition: It’s simple, really: last year’s Jam was a great game, and this year’s iteration takes out the weak parts, works on the strong ones and hits a price point that largely negates the complaints you could have. If you don’t like Jam, we’d guess that you may not have fun, but we’d also guess that you no longer have the capacity to experience joy and live in a world of perpetual sorrow. (Full review)

Stacking: Double Fine Productions are well-known for their offbeat, quirky humor.  Their latest offering, Stacking, is a departure from the typical adventure genre, with Russian stacking matryoshka dolls serving as the inspiration and basis for everything in the game. One controls Charlie Blackmore, the youngest son in a family of chimney sweeps, as he uses his ability to stack into larger dolls to save his family from an evil baron. (Full review)

Fruit Ninja KinectLike the mobile version of the game, Fruit Ninja Kinect is based around the idea of slicing fruit with a blade. Classic, Zen, and Arcade modes are included and function largely like they do on your mobile device. In Classic, you earn points slicing fruit for as long as possible. The game ends when you slice a bomb or after you miss three fruit. Zen is a 90 second game without any bombs, where you attempt to score as many points as possible. Arcade gives you a minute to slice as many fruit as possible, with bombs deducting 10 points. The Kinect version of the game also features a Party Mode which is essentially either head-to-head or co-op play. (Full review)