The best, most enduring multiplayer gaming experiences keep it simple. They boil down mechanics to their most basic, staking out the middle ground between twitch reflexes and player strategy. The old-school incarnations of Warlords are fondly remembered as great early multiplayer games: In arcades, and more notably on the Atari 2600, up to four players could simultaneously duke it out in Pong-style battles, trying to defend their corners from a deadly blip that could chip away at their battlements and, eventually, kill their king. The new, updated version of Warlords re-creates the same simple vibe in the living room, recruiting the massive Xbox Live community to the battlefield.
Tweaks to gameplay are minor. Castles are made of more individual blocks, which stretches battles and makes them more siege-like. The best new wrinkle tickles the risk-vs.-reward nodes in the gamer brain: In older outings, players could catch and hold the fireball, releasing the projectile at their leisure, which frequently led to dull stalemates. Now, grabbing the ammunition has consequences. A destructive blast of plasma eats away at the player's own defenses every second they bogart the hot potato. There's really only one downside to the new version: Retro versions of Warlords were played with a paddle controller, a dial that allowed for finer, more nuanced movement. Warlords suffers slightly from the less-precise play forced by analog sticks.
Beyond the game: In Japan, Nintendo DS owners who bought Arkanoid DS also scored a paddle peripheral that could be plugged into the bottom of their handheld. No Western game-makers have attempted to re-create that kind of control on consoles.
Worth playing for: Players can opt to try out the arcade version of the game, which is brutally difficult in comparison to the new "evolved" mode.
Frustration sets in when: Inclusion of the Atari 2600 game would have been nice. The Xbox Live masses are still engrossed by Grand Theft Auto IV and Call Of Duty 4. It's pretty tough to scrape up four players for an online match.
Final judgment: Total "Games of Our Lives" material.