Small Arms Review

Small Arms comes to the Xbox Live Arcade as a breath of fresh air. After seemingly becoming nothing more than a platform for selling retro titles, Small Arms is the first original title to be released for the Arcade in quite some time. Obviously drawing some inspiration from Nintendo’s beloved Super Smash Bros. franchise, Small Arms has a unique perspective with its gunplay and online mode.

The major attraction of Super Smash Bros. is the ability to duke it out with and against your favorite Nintendo mascots. This is an immediate problem that Small Arms faced: you’re playing with unknown characters. However, developer Gastronaut managed to do a wonderful job of creating imaginative and interesting characters, each with his or her own very mini-backstory. The roster includes a robot which serves food on cruise ships, an angry mutant tree and a suit-wearing assassin who is, naturally, a pig. Each has his or her own weapon that they begin with, which is just as diverse as the characters who use them. Lightning guns, snipers and flamethrowers — one for each of the game’s 12 characters — sporting unique primary and secondary fires that allow some room for you to at least think before pulling the trigger.

When describing Small Arms’ weapon system, the usage of the phrase "real-time weapon change" is actually justified, although after spending just a short time with the game you’ll see that it’s unfortunate. Being able to swap weapons when one of the other 11 is dropped on the ground seems like a natural change. But, in a game where the combat is entirely based on shooting (hitting your opponents isn’t a great plan, even if you are out of ammo), giving characters access to any weapon eliminates any depth the game had. Characters all handle exactly the same, and starting weapons aside they are no different from one another. While strategies could be developed and executed in Smash Bros., Small Arms is much more mindless and chaotic, and that lack of depth hurts its quality as a title worth playing for more than a few days.

At its most basic level, Small Arms plays very much like Smash Bros. mixed with Metal Slug. You’ll battle against up to three other combatants on a variety of unique and equally-beautiful levels, using your weapons to try and finish off your opponent(s) before they finish you. The single player game is composed of a series of battles up until the big boss, with a few side-modes tacked on to give the game some extra weight. What would have been a nice addition are unlockables; some characters do need to be unlocked, but all of them can be unlocked extremely quickly and after that there’s nothing left to achieve outside of, y’know, achievements.

Luckily, online play and leaderboards help to provide Small Arms with some very much needed replayability; it’s essentially the same exact game online as it is offline. The game manages to be more chaotic when playing against other humans, almost to the point where it makes it difficult to keep track of your character. Players can drop out of the game and new players can take their places seamlessly, without requiring the match to stop. Never once did I encounter any lag, and this multiplayer aspect is definitely the big selling point of Small Arms.

Hands-down, Small Arms is the best looking game on the Xbox Live Arcade. It’s amazing that Gastronaut was able to cram all of the game’s pretties — from the excellent character models to the awesome level designs — into the Arcade’s 50mb limit. The same goes for the game’s soundtrack, which is a nice mixture of music you’d find in an action title, while truly remaining ‘background’ music. Weapons are each identifiable thanks to the efficient and crisp-sounding effects. Everything sounds great, which is certainly unusual for an Arcade game.

Ultimately, what you get with Small Arms is a good game that falls just short of greatness. While it certainly is balanced, that’s only due to the fact that the characters lack any real definition. Online multiplayer is a huge boost, but loses much of its appeal because of the game’s heavy lack of depth. Super Smash Bro. fans will likely find that to be a huge turn-off, but if you’re looking for a game that’s fun to play and isn’t about who has the best character, Small Arms is worth a look. If not for its one major fault, this would have certainly been a contender for the best game on the Arcade.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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