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Joust


Continuing the trend of releasing mediocre ports of classic arcade titles, Midway released Joust for the Xbox 360 with a modicum of new features and upgrades. Similar to Gauntlet and Robotron 2084, Joust has been given a slight graphic overhaul and few online features to attract potential Live Arcade junkies.

For those unfamiliar with Joust, the game is based around a group of warriors that ride freakishly large birds and battle each other to the death. The object of each level is to eliminate the spectrum of riders by ramming them with your jousting stick or just landing on top of their pixilated heads. There are multiple types of enemy riders varying in difficulty and speed. Additionally, an incredibly fast dragon will appear when you are taking too long on a particular level and usually kill instantaneously.

Gameplay:
Conquering the various levels of Joust requires a mastery of the control system as well as an understanding of the physics system in place. The control feels floaty and unresponsive at first, but hours of practice can increase jousting accuracy and overall length of life. Increasing your height on a particular board will require rapid pressing of the red A button. The left stick will control the direction of the jousting soldier. Many times, a successful joust will send your tiny bird-rider flying across the screen due to the wild physics. Levels are set-up so passing through the left side will bring you around the opposite side, similar to Pac-Man.

Midway did include a couple variants incorporating Xbox Live multiplayer into the mix. The versus mode pits you against an online opponent via a time trial of sorts. The cooperative mode allows you to compete with a friend along the regular single player game. Both modes run very smoothly without lag, but it's tough to find an opponent. Joust isn't a popular game, so searching for someone can easily take up to ten minutes. Along with the two online modes, a leaderboard is also available to compare yourself against the best in the world.

The 160 gamerscore points are awarded by accomplishing 11 insanely tough achievements. Why eleven? Unfortunately, the level 100 achievement for 40 gamerscore points is currently broken since finishing level 99 takes you back to level 1. The points are split approximately 75% / 25% between single player and multiplayer. Perhaps it's just my lack of control skill, but I found the achievements to be overly difficult and far too frustrating to acquire. Midway did a poor job using the gamerscore system to reward Live Arcade users.

Graphics:
Visually, Joust has been upgraded for high definition televisions, but the advances in graphical prowess are far too few. The models and backgrounds are sharp, but they suffer from an ancient dated look that plagues all of Midway's offerings. The color scheme is still bland and unappealing.

Audio:
Sound effects are few in number, but they do accurately represent the 1982 classic. The most useful, and perhaps dreaded effect, is the screech of the speedy dragons lurching for their prey.

Conclusion:
Joust just isn't worth 400 Marketplace points unless you were in serious love with the classic. It's an old school game suffering from its own dated look and style of play. I can't understand why Midway doesn't reinvent these games instead of churning out the same tired 20-year old game. Stick with the arcade offerings made specifically for Live Arcade and its users. Joust should be avoided by everyone.