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New Arcadia: 2013's weirdest, most wonderful XBLA games

Nine of the most promising downloadables

Not enough new Xbox games on the way, you say? Microsoft keeping everything under wraps till its next generation console's good and ready, is it? Nonsense, my dear fellow. Turn your eye away from the store window, and apply it to the gleaming New Edenic majesty of Xbox Live Arcade.

Even discounting such noteworthy specimens as Terraria (now available, review shortly), State of Decay and Ascend: New Gods, the service should be an embarrassment of riches by the end of the year. I've singled out nine games for extra-special attention.

1. The Wolf Among Us (TBA)
Frankly, all you need to know about this one is that it's an episodic adventure title from the creators of The Walking Dead XBLA, otherwise known as last year's most intelligent, affecting game narrative. OK, it's possible you need to know more than that. The Wolf Among Us is based on fantasy noir DC comic series Fables, and casts players as Bigby Wolf - a New York detective with a decidedly, shall we say, lupine personality.

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His job is to keep fairytale characters safe while they visit our world - or depending on how you play, commit acts of unspeakable violence. "Through an evolution of our approach to choice and consequence, we can further explore the complexity of each and every iconic character in a universe rich with untold history from the darkest sides of the storybooks," Telltale CEO Dan Connors explained in a release. Should give you plenty to chew on while you wait for The Walking Dead Season 2...

2. Battleblock Theater (3rd April)
A massive, murderous mix of block-related brain-tickling and co-op action shenanigans, in which players bop, bounce and explode their way around various 2D theatres of war/puzzling. As the latest Behemoth blog post puts it, "for 1200 Microsoft Points, or approximately $15 USD, you will be able to experience technologically evil cats, friendship, betrayal, co-optional justice, and several other forms of visual and audible stimulation." Amaze! It's out tomorrow after close to four years in development, would you believe, and there's a launch trailer below.

3. Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (April)
Not, in fact, a bizarrely indirect declaration of war on one of Europe's richest and most venerable city states, but a top-down heist game in which you lead various flavours of burglar through a shadowy maze of guard rooms, lobbies, offices and vaults. Which class of robber you pick shapes how you tackle the trials ahead - hackers get along famously with security lasers, for instance, while lookouts can track guard movements when they're out of view, motion-sensy style. With one player in the field, the feel is stealthy with a side order of Bomberman-style twitch play. But when four players come together, chaos appears to be the inevitable result. Check out this video for more.

4. Ducktales: Remastered (summer)
On 22nd March, there was a great roaring and stamping of feet - an unholy wistful screeching, verily, and a tumultuous donning of rose-tinted glasses. The cause, it transpired, was DuckTales Remastered - an expanded, sharper-looking version of an Nintendo Entertainment System platformer often heralded as one of the genre's foundation stones. How does one herald a foundation stone, you ask? By tweeting endlessly about Scrooge McDuck's super-tight handling, it seems. The game's in development at WayForward Technologies, developers of BloodRayne: Betrayal and literally no end of handheld platformers; besides new 3D backdrops, it introduces new areas and boss patterns. The trailer below is the raw stuff of happiness translated into noughts and ones.


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