E3: Xbox 360 as a "fun game" machine works

  • Santa Monica (CA) - Scene It, Bomberman, and Viva Pinata were just some of the titles Microsoft showed off at a special "Social Fun" suite in Santa Monica's Viceroy hotel.

    We just came back from a meeting with Microsoft, where we test drove some of the new and upcoming casual games that it hopes will give it a push into the Wii market.

    Though Microsoft has tried to tout its Xbox 360 as a game machine for everybody from day one, its casual games line-up was largely built on multi-platform releases.  More than ever, it's trying to push this genre as a selling point for the 360.

    We spent a nice amount of time lounging around and trying out the new Scene It game, which was announced at Microsoft's Tuesday night briefing.  The new controller feels like similar remotes that have been offered by DVD trivia games.  All the Xbox 360 buttons are on hand, and the D-pad is replaced with a large "buzz-in" button.

    Controllers are color coded, and the color is automatically linked to the game players who are designated as the "red player", "blue player", etc.  Normal Xbox 360 controllers can also be used, and are given a random color that's not already in use.

    The build we tried had five different mini-games similar to the Scene It DVD games.  For example, some challenges asked players to fill in the blank of a famous movie quote, answer a series of questions after watching a video clip, and guess a movie from a "kid's drawing" of a famous scene.

    We also took a quick peak at the new Bomberman title that's coming out for the Xbox Live Arcade.  Not much can be done to an 18-year-old party classic, but the new version does have a ton of customizable options for the Bomberman characters, and there are a handful of different modes beyond the basic survival competition.

    Finally, we got a glimpse at Viva Pinata: Party Animals.  As much of a kiddie look as the original Viva Pinata had, there was a lot of depth to it and not exactly perfect for first-time gamers.

    Party Animals takes the fun-looking papier mache characters and puts them in a much more easy-to-play setting.  It was the only game that had its own dedicated screen in Microsoft's casual games area.

    It's partly a party game and partly a racing game.  The controls were easy to pick up without any sort of explanation.  It was verging on being a bit too simplistic and thus maybe alienating the hardcore Viva Pinata crowd, but we didn't even get a chance to check out all of the mini-games, so it's early to pass on that kind of judgment.

    It will be an interesting holiday season for the 360, with guns and missiles alongside pinatas and movie trivia.  It's still lopsided with intense hardcore games, but the Xbox library is showing some of the first big steps to expansion.

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