[i]Super Smash Bros.[/i] is probably one of my all-time favorite game series, so many games that try to emulate it usually take a lot to get my attention. For what it’s worth, though, [i]Small Arms[/i] for Xbox Live Arcade is a decent alternative. Although I’ve heard it more likened to [i]Power Stone[/i] (a game which I’ve not played), [i]Small Arms[/i] resembles [i]Super Smash Bros.[/i] and is basically a four-player brawler. However, while the idea to release a game with these qualities on Xbox Live Arcade seems like a no-brainer, the game isn’t executed as well as it could have been. While [i]Small Arms[/i] proves to be an entertaining multiplayer game, the single player is both dull and frustrating, and some poor ideas hinder the general game play.
[i]Small Arms[/i] has no story, or at least, not an overall one. There are eight players to choose from, with four more being unlocked later on, each with a brief background story that is fairly irrelevant aside from getting a chuckle at the surreal origin stories. There’s Marky Kat, a… well cat with a machine gun, Fox Claw, a disowned ninja with a blade, and Unit 51, a parody of the Doom guy if I’ve ever seen one, among other players. While there isn’t anything to really hate about any of these characters, none of them are particularly memorable, either, save for maybe Pector El Pollo, a Mexican wrestling chicken. I might not ever forget Billy Ray Logg either, who is the world’s first mutated tree and is pretty angry about it.
Each character also has a unique weapon that they start out with. This is probably where the first of [i]Small Arms[/i]’ problems come into play, because while Marky Kat has access to his machine gun at the beginning of a match, the same gun may very well drop from the sky later on for another player to pick up and use. This applies to just about every character’s weapon. Therefore, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between characters, aside from maybe physical abilities. At the same time, the weapons are about the only thing available to attack with, and since you will run out of ammo pretty quickly, the only thing left to do is wait for batteries to drop from the sky or desperately hit your opponent with the mostly ineffective melee attacks.
I should take a moment to mention the level design, which ranges from new and inventive to bland and boring. Stages like the tornado and train levels are certainly entertaining because the players fight while the camera scrolls across the expansive level. In the case of the tornado, you will fight while jumping to and from all sorts of debris, from homes torn from their foundations to planes sucked into the vortex. Other stages also have traps such as poisonous gas chambers to trip up players. However, while some levels are fairly well designed, others like the simple outhouse level aren’t as fun to play on, and some levels seem to promote claustrophobia and pure chaos with four players.
The single player game in [i]Small Arms[/i] is over pretty quickly. Once you play through the mission mode, which allows you to gain access to the four unlockable characters, there are only a few other game modes thrown in to try and make it last. Couple that with the fact that the computer A.I. for other characters is dirt poor, and you’ve got one dull single player mode that only leads to frustration. The A.I. is programmed so badly that enemies will literally jump all over the map, sometimes flying straight off the sides. Not only that, but if you’re fighting against multiple players, they all focus their sights on you, and when you’re not on the map, they stand around until you respawn, not so much as touching each other.
Nope, [i]Small Arms[/i] was definitely developed to be a multiplayer affair, particularly over Xbox Live, although you can still go old school with four players on the same box. For the most part, the online multiplayer is much more enjoyable, although the chaos still makes it difficult to make out what is actually happening sometimes. Clearly, online multiplayer was what the developers had in mind with this game. Still, there are some problems, like the erratic camera that sometimes decides it wants to zoom-in on a different player, although this only seems to happen on larger maps. For the most part, though the multiplayer is presented well and is easily the best reason to purchase this game.
In the end, [i]Small Arms[/i] squeaks out with some fun online multiplayer. There’s no question that this game wasn’t designed as a single-player game, and the single-player only serves as a device to unlock additional characters and achievements and not much else. If you don’t have Xbox Live Gold, or at the very least can’t find others to play with, [i]Small Arms[/i] isn’t worth your time. With its online play, as well as a fairly affordable price, though, [i]Small Arms[/i] is a decent addition to Xbox Live Arcade.