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Happy Wars
Happy Wars has been released to the Xbox Live Arcade, and is the first free to play style title to be offered on the system. Sure, there have been free games, but not one based around the pay for premium concept that many casual social media titles have going for them now. Knowing it was free, I decided to grab it and spend some time with it. Little did I know, at this point, it would be incredibly, unbelievably limited…

This isn’t because I haven’t pumped any money into it or anything. No, this is because of how horrible the game is set up for progression, and the server issues the title is currently experiencing. First of all, there’s a Tutorial Mode, which isn’t long, but seems to take forever just to explain the core elements such as the camera, how to attack and block, and how to map your special moves. After a good little while with that, I booted up the single player campaign since I much prefer that over multiplayer or co-op (being a child of the Nintendo Entertainment System era and an outcast with no friends willing to come over, or at least be seen in public with or anywhere near me) and tore through the first stage.

The casual artistic style of the graphics was enjoyable, and the small squad I had to race across the first stage helped on Normal difficulty. The other two harder modes were rough, and I didn’t even make it to the castle given the shortened time for each, as well as harder enemies on the screen. I picked up some new weapons, took down the enemy fort, all in decent time. I greatly enjoyed my experience until I saw that I needed to win six games in Quick Match in order to unlock the next stage.

Yes, you read that right. You have to play versus on-line matches to unlock the rest of the single player story mode. This wasn’t too much of a bother since I knew the game itself was free, including that mode of game play. So, before I did that, I messed around with other options. The card game requires real money by using happy tickets you purchase with it, so I haven’t touched that and probably never will, but the roulette wheel option was fun and earned me some new armor and weapons. I killed some time by replaying the first stage for Happy Coins, which I used to level up my weapon and armor a little bit before going to find a match to play on-line for the first time.

In Quick Match, you basically are thrown into a thirty-five on thirty-five player match where you have to take down the enemy castle in the span of twenty minutes. Obviously, the lobby is going to take some time to fill, though with this honestly being a fun game (from the Single Player experience at least) and free, it filled up quicker than I thought. And then, two minutes of waiting, the room was dropped. Annoyed, I did it again. Same thing. And again. And again. And again. And so on. And so forth. Until I wasted thirty minutes of my day trying to get into an actual game. In disbelief, I rage quit and loaded up Rock Band Blitz and played a few songs.

It’s not until the next day that I came back. And again it happened. And again. And again. And again. Until the eleventh try when I finally got into a match to play for sixteen minutes. For a free title, this was a blast, even though the teams weren’t too evened out. My group was greatly outnumbered by higher ranked players, yet we still came out on top. This also caused me to move up in one rank. Yay! Five more rounds to go! But after screwing around for so long, I had to leave to go to work. I wasted a good hour of my day trying to get into rooms and control my breathing from going off like a sailer to nobody in the apartment caring in any way about what I had to say regarding the title’s servers.

When I got home, I tried again. Forty more minutes of my life wasted, and I gave up. It was then I noticed that there is now a warning on the Play Game page as soon as you get to the screen that they are aware of the server issues and it taking forever to get into a game. Apparently they are workiing on this, but hopefully that also means they are working on the issue of people constantly being dropped. On top of all that, before I left for work today, I wasted yet another twenty minutes on four attempts before giving up and walking away again.

So, as it stands, I’ve put a good 7 hours into the game. I have played stage one on normal mode a good twelve times for coins, spun the wheel five times, and wasted three and a half hours (listed above and other random attempts not mentioned) in lobbies, only to be dropped every time but one. Any consideration I had to pumping money into this title is now gone, and even for a free game I seriously don’t even want to play it anymore. Happy Wars is a good idea, and clearly a test run for pay for premium, free to play games in the future. I like this concept, I fully support it, and I hope more games that are as fun as this one (when it works) happen to hit the console in the near future. However, I also hope that lessons will be learned from it, and issues like trying to connect to over fifty games in a span of three days will be addressed and remedied right from the start.

For now, I can’t suggest getting this game. I haven’t tried Co-Op or Public Matches yet, but what’s the point? You can’t do anything until you work on Quick Match and rank your characters up. Wait until the patch is addressed, and then spend time with the game, otherwise you’ll probably end up kicked out of more rooms than you can count. For someone who hates Halo, Gears of War, and the on-line community for the Call of Duty titles, I’m seriously considering buying one of these titles used for a few bucks just to finally get to play on-line.

Digital review material for this article provided by personal funds