Over the next 30 days, I’m going to delve into my collection of original Xbox games, if only so they get a little play time. First up, a game inspired by a game inspired by a classic MAD comic strip.
I was inspired, I’ll admit, by the news that Microsoft has made 13 original Xbox games backwards compatible with the Xbox One, after working for some time to make an increasing quantity of the Xbox 360 games library backwards compatible. As someone who likes to think he’s all about playing the games, I have to applaud that kind of thinking.
It’s a fascinating move from the company, not least because it took its first foray into console gaming with the Xbox. It then all but abandoned it in favour of the Xbox 360… which then lasted as a console “generation” way longer than anyone expected.
As a result though, the Xbox is a retro game system that seems to have little or no love around it. OK, maybe a little more than the Gizmondo.
Why is so much videogame advertising awful? Answers on the back of a postcard, please.
It’s also because the original Xbox sits at an interesting time in my own personal gaming history. It was released when I was working as the reviews editor at ZDNet, a job that later transformed into launching the local version of CNET, but along the way, I also donned the Gamespot editor’s cap, albeit for a hugely different version
of the site than exists today.
However, as a result, a lot of what I played on the original Xbox was review code, not stuff I’d spent my hard-earned money on. Games reviewing beats digging ditches, but it’s never paid well. You’ve always got the issue that even the ordinary or bad games need reviewing… at which point you’re looking at the pointy end of 10+ hours playing something woeful way beyond the point you’d persevere if you had the choice.
But I rarely throw anything out, which means I’ve got a lot of Xbox games on the shelves. Games which, if I’m honest, I haven’t really touched much since the Xbox was current. So this is an attempt to play through a few slightly-more-dusty games to see if they’ve held up any real value at all. I may play some for a few hours, but it’s more likely I’ll play for a few minutes, depending on the game at hand. I may write a little or a lot, depending on my mood. If you’re very unlucky, I’ll write poetry.
Spy vs Spy
Spy vs Spy was (and is) a classic of the 8-bit age. I think I first played it on a Commodore 64, but the version that my heart holds dear is the Sega Master System version. I played endlessly (back when I had that kind of time) in multiplayer bouts and increasingly tough single player.
How could you not love this?
That’s the basis that the Xbox game takes. Naturally enough, there’s no online multiplayer, because while Xbox Live is still a thing, it’s no longer a thing as far as the original Xbox is concerned. That means I’m thrown into the story mode (there’s also a classic mode, but hey, I may as well check the out the “new”… erm… “old” stuff, right?)
And it’s… not great.
It looks good, what with being proper 3D where the classics were isometric with sprites, and there’s some effort at classic Spy Vs Spy humour with the way you can trap areas as you wander around. But it’s all just too floaty, too imprecise and ultimately not enticing enough. I played for… around 20 minutes maybe?
Anyway, I ended up at what I’m assuming is the end of the first level, facing off against the white spy in a balloon. I’m meant to hurl bombs at him, but it’s horribly imprecise, and ultimately not fun. Fun is what I’m after with my limited time, so, while I’m sorry that it’s not held up, but this is my swansong with Spy vs Spy for now.
Which brings me onto the 30-day-challenge part of the equation.
I’m not a huge fan of “scoring” games, but I’m perfectly content to rank them, especially considering they’re now quite retro.
Yes, the original Xbox is retro. Shut up. Anyway, as I go, I’m going to rank the games I’ve played relative to each other, based on how much I enjoyed the experience, and how likely I’d be to return to the game.
Being first, Spy vs Spy gets to be the top of the ladder. Let’s just say that, well, it’s unlikely to stay there.
Fat Duck Tech Retro Xbox Game Rankings
I guess technically, that also means it’s bottom of the list too. That feels a little more appropriate.
Tomorrow: I take a shower… after a fashion.
(Yes, I’m being deliberately obtuse. My challenge, my rules. See if you can guess which game I’m planning to play.)