The Nintendo 3DS gets a couple of major releases this week. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a nifty adventure/exploration game. I really enjoy the playful haunted house production values, the gradually unfurling gameplay mechanics, and the chaotic ghost wrassling. It helps immensely that I don’t find Luigi as annoying as Mario. I don’t know what my problem is with Mario. Maybe because Luigi is a ridiculous character played for comedy, yet Mario is a ridiculous character played as if he wasn’t ridiculous. Why does that guy annoy me so much? I’ll have to explore that further with my therapist. But since Mario isn’t part of Luigi’s Mansion, it’s that much easier to enjoy.
I’m less fond of the latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game, subtitled Gates to Infinity. I’m still mired in the interminable Pokemon exposition, with squealing Pokemon imparting life lessons in colorful unskippable cutscenes. The ratio of squealing Pokemon to mystery dungeon is, at this point, about 3:1. I’m running out of steam. I can’t take it much longer. I know from playing the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon that there’s going to be a deep and involved dungeon crawl deeper down in here. I just don’t know that I have the endurance to reach it, particularly since there are so many other alternatives for deep and involved dungeon crawls. The first Mystery Dungeon, for instance, which was entirely free of Pokemons.
The Nintendo 3DS release that I’m most enjoying is Harmoknight. I don’t know what to make of that name. It’s clunky at best, and misconstrued as a slur at worst. But this rhythm based game is friendly, colorful, enthusiastic, and carefully perched at the intersection of simple and challenging. I’ve also tried to play a bit of Gaijin Games’ Bit Trip Runner 2 recently, which is similar to Harmoknight, but often more frustrating. Harmoknight feels more cinematic, more catchy, like a bona fide musical crossed with a platformer. Runner 2 is just a straight up platformer that has no compunction about making me do stuff over and over again. Harmoknight is seeing Les Miserables. Bit Trip Runner 2 is reading the Victor Hugo novel.
Xbox Arcade gets a port of Terraria this week. I’ve sampled Terraria on the PC, and I can’t help but feel it would be right at home on the Xbox 360. Electronic Arts is releasing a new Tiger Woods game. I follow just enough sports to know it’s probably a dating sim. Electronic Arts is also releasing a new Army of Two game in case your army of two in the latest Dead Space isn’t enough.
Also Bioshock Infinite is out this week.
I might go so far as to say Lego Undercover City — WiiU only, I’m afraid — is the best Lego game I’ve played. Don’t hold me to that just yet. I’ll have more to say in the review later this week, but suffice to say Undercover City strikes me as the purest expression of Traveller’s Tale’s gleeful Lego gameplay so far.
For all intents and purposes, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is also WiiU only, but it has limited connectivity with the moderately gimped 3DS version. I skipped the last-gen Wii version of Monster Hunter (this is basically the same game, but with extra content, HD graphics, and full multiplayer support), so it’s all new to me. But having played Monster Hunters, I’m experiencing an overwhelming sense of “here we go again”, equal parts dread and excitement. Getting deep into a Monster Hunter game is as easy and nearly as dire as falling down a sinkhole.
Also WiiU only is the WiiU version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which features unique multiplayer shenanigans involving the gamepad. I’m hoping this will compliment ZombiU as a go-to game for people on the same couch who are a little too dignified to resort to party games.
If you’re interested in action heroes the size of refrigerators and with about as much personality, Microsoft has a new off-season Gears of War release, this time created by the folks who made Bulletstorm. And if you want a platformer that demands skill, Alien Spidy is incredibly gratifying when you get it right and incredibly aggravating the rest of the time.
I’ve been jumping back into Starcraft II and discovering it’s a muscle you need to exercise or it will atrophy. So what do I do after building a spawn pool? But regardless of how bad you suck, you can’t shuffle units around in this game without re-appreciating that it’s a finely tuned RTS that couldn’t possibly be more finely tuned. Or could it? We find out this week. And we also get one of those campaigns with crazily elaborate production values to distract you from the fact that you’re just flinging blobs of units at a mostly passive AI. But frankly, I think I care less about Heart of the Swarm being a Starcraft II add-on than I care about it being a Blizzard game.
Also out this week, a $10 add-on for Dead Space 3 called Awakened makes this almost infinitely replayable sci-fi shooter/meat stompin’ sim even more playable. You had me at telemetry spike, Dead Space 3. Just give me more weird things to shoot and new ways to shoot them.
Also, Sony’s taking one last half-hearted Playstation 3 stab at the God of War franchise. Remember that one? The angry bald guy with the tattoos who yelled “Zeus!” a lot?
Tomb Raider, one of the best games of this generation and a reboot every bit as exciting as Arkham Asylum or Skyfall, is a dire threat to all wallets. The game diary starts here. It’s one of the few games I’ve ever 100%ed and now that it’s over for me — the multiplayer is pretty much a non-issue — I look forward to vicariously re-enjoying it through your comments.
I’m not sure what to make of Sim City yet. It’s clearly taking a page from the Anno 2070 book, which is a great book to take pages from. But for better and worse, it leans heavily on EA’s forced social gaming shenanigans by presenting tiny pocket cities that rely on other nearby pocket cities, either your own or those of other players. Is this really the best way to do a city builder? Stay tuned.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate can’t make up its mind about whether to use colons or dashes, but it sure knows how to use the Nintendo 3DS for some classic Castlevania. Here’s one of those rare 3DS games where I really like keeping that 3D slider dialed all the way up. And it doesn’t just look great. I wasn’t sure what Konami and developer Mercury Steam were doing with the previous Lords of Shadow other than God of Warring it up. But this handheld version I can really get into for how it feels like a traditional Castlevania with latter day production values. I like the 2D movement (ironic!), the relatively simple combat, and the exploration. Now this is more like it!
The University add-on for The Sims 2 is a gold standards for add-ons. It inserted a new age stage between children and adults, creating in that new stage a rich playful world of college life. Can University Life do the same for The Sims 3, which is already piled high with playful add-on content? Will college be lost in the shuffle with spellcasting, winter wonderlands, and nightclubbing?
Speaking of nightclubbing, the Citadel add-on for Mass Effect 3 is a single-player adventure that gives Commander Shepherd more adventuring on everyone’s favorite space station MacGuffin.
This week’s wallet threat is seriously elevated due to the release of three Star Wars themed tables for Pinball FX. Two of the tables are superlative, and arguably among the best developer Zen Studios has ever made. And the third is, well, still pretty decent considering that the Clone Wars cartoon theme is about as appealing to me as a Rocky and Bullwinkle theme. I’ll have more details tomorrow, but you should put your wallet on standby for about ten bucks.
Also, batten down your wallet’s hatches if you have any interest in old school, party-based, stat-heavy RPGs where you get to draw maps on your Nintendo DS. The basic summary of Etrian Odyssey IV: Something Something the Titan Something is that Atlus has done it again! And this time the new skill trees make character builds less inscrutable, the zeppelin overworld offers more non-linearity, and the casual difficulty level is always there if you find yourself against a brick wall (I haven’t needed it yet!). Etrian Odyssey IV is still a lot of grinding, but that’s just a fact of Etrian Odysseys. I’ll have a full review up after I’ve made more progress, but I can safely say that fellow Etrian Odyssists won’t be disappointed.
I should also warn you that Brutal Legend, my choice for best game of the year in 2009, is out this week for the PC. In case you didn’t know, it’s not just a wondrous open-world game, even for people like me who aren’t into heavy metal and who find Jack Black uniquely grating. It’s also a damn fine real-time strategy game. Don’t come whining to me about how there are no new real-time strategy games until you’ve gotten your mouse and keyboard on Brutal Legend.
I don’t think Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, which is also out this week, is real. Developer Rebellion is probably pranking us. I’m not going to fall for it. But if there is a Nazi zombie army, I can think of no better man to defeat it than an elite sniper. Wait, can zombies tell the direction they’re being sniped from? Someone should make a game that explores that question.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is out this week. I’d like to say I’ve played it. Technically, I have. But only the first thirty minutes or so, and then about an hour of the next five minutes. Look, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I’m no stranger to brawlers. I understand precise timing. But I can’t get past your robot puma that has a chainsaw on its tail. You’ve obviously put that battle in here to teach me parrying, which I’ve accomplished several times successfully in the tutorial mission that I’ve replayed a couple of times to make sure I understand it. But after no less than 20 attempts at this puma with a chainsaw on its tail, I’m just going to assume that you’re not for me. Which is fine, since I still have Devil May Cry.
Crysis 3 is out this week. It’s very Crysis 3.
Finally, Paradox’s March of the Eagles focuses on combat during the early 19th century, when combat was one of the least interesting things happening.
Aliens: Colonial Marine is out this week. I’ve played through the campaign, about half of it co-operatively, and I’ve sampled some multiplayer. The review won’t be posted until tomorrow, so the wallet threat level will have to stand in until then.
Also, Paradox is publishing yet another Dungeon Keeper clone, this time developed by Cyanide, called Impire [sic].
Also out this week is a free 2.0 update for A Valley Without Wind that completely overhauls the graphics and gameplay for this boldly weird endless Metroidvania action RPG, which I really liked. I haven’t tried this overhaul yet, but no one refuses to leave well enough alone like Valley Without Wind developer Arcen Games.
This week it’s time to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights in space. Not only will you bear arms in Dead Space 3, you’ll build them, customize them, and take them apart to build new ones. Although this might sound like a gimmick, I can attest that it’s one heck of an effective gimmick. As far as horror games go, Dead Space 3 is about as effective as Resident Evil 5. That’s not a compliment. But as far as shooters with weapon progression and meaningful two-player co-op go, it’s also about as effective as Resident Evil 5. That is a compliment. A big one. I can understand that folks are irked at EA’s usual microtransactional meddling in the Dead Space economy. Yeah, it’s pretty crass. But it’s also easy to entirely ignore.
Fire Emblem is one of my least favorite SRPGs for how a story I couldn’t care less about is baked into a tactics system I couldn’t care less about. Does a lance trump a sword or an axe? Or vice versa? Even though I get to make my own character, Fire Emblem: Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS feels like any other Fire Emblem game. Make of that what you will.
A new Sly Cooper game — Thieves in Time, from the folks who made Secret Agent Clank — is out simultaneously for the PS3 and the Vita.
The Cave is the first game from Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert since he hooked up with the folks at Double Fine. It’s out this week.
Shootmania, the shooter from the folks who made Trackmania, is intended to be a flexible construction kit for players to make a variety of different game types. But if I know online shooters, it will be a bunch of dudes free-for-all deathmatching, first to fifty frags wins.
The PS3 exclusive JRPG Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a collaborative effort from Studio Ghibli and Level-5. I would have played it by now if the Playstation 3 that I got to replace my dead Playstation 3 hadn’t died within days of getting it. If this happens eight more times, it’ll rival my failure rate with Xbox 360s.
You can only mutter “well, it’s no Bayonetta” to yourself so many times before you have to grudgingly admit that the new Devil May Cry from Ninja Theory, out this week, may not be so bad after all. Then you realize there are still 17 chapters to go.
Also out this week is new DLC for Boderlands 2 and Crusader Kings II. One game gets an add-on called The Republic. The other game gets an add-on called Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt. For ten points, guess which title goes with which game’s DLC!
Okay, so you probably know this as the week Far Cry 3 comes out. Which it is. And while Far Cry 3 is a perfectly fine open world game, I wouldn’t call it a substantial wallet threat. Instead, my wallet is in danger from the prospect of a Defense of the Ancients clone by Monolith featuring characters from Lord of the Rings. Balrog, I chose you! Guardian of Middle Earth will only be available on console systems, so Awesomenauts has some competition.
Also, the Dragonbone expansion is out for Skyrim. Just imagine Max von Sydow intoning, “Dragonbone!” Sold.
I’m technically not supposed to say this until midnight tonight, but I really like the latest installment in a certain long-running series of games, hence this week’s wallet threat.
Rift gets an add-on called Storm Legion that consists of a new continent, player housing, a new type of rift, and new skill trees for each class. I dropped into the game last week and was surprised at how spoiled I am by the visuals in Guild Wars 2. I didn’t remember Rift looking so, well, rudimentary. But it sure did run smoothly! And the character system is as effective as ever if you like to mix-and-match skills to come up with your own play styles.
The Sims 3 gets seasons. I was tempted to take a cheap shot and say that EA is selling each season separately, but I liked what they did with the Supernatural add-on. And I really appreciate when seasons figure prominently into games. Assassin’s Creed III and Bully, for instance.
Also new this week is Paper Mario for the Nintendo 3DS, which might be the most ironic game ever made.
Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is an uncanny Unreal 3 remix of the original Painkiller, which is my favorite Doom game of all time. It’s every bit as good as it was in 2004. Actually, better. I forgot how awesome it is to play a shooter that doesn’t need a reload key. And this time it’s got co-op support. If there’s one thing better than replaying Painkiller, it’s replaying Painkiller cooperatively.
Cargo Commander is an indie space dungeon exploration game. Think of it as a sci-fi Rogue-like with unique space-based qualities and the catchiest space honky-tonk aesthetic this side of Starcraft 1. Here’s how it plays.
The last few Assassin’s Creeds are kind of a blur for me. Kind of like they were a blur for the folks who made them. Zing! So I had very little enthusiasm going into Assassin’s Creed III. After playing for a while, I still had very little enthusiasm. Assassin’s Creed III starts slow, despite an interesting idea for how to do a prologue. It’s ponderous and familiar. It features way too much Desmond (at this point, any Desmond is way too much Desmond). For those of us burned out after a few years of cavorting around cities that weren’t as good as Venice, Assassin’s Creed III feels like just another Assassin’s Creed, but with dishwater dull Colonial architecture. Here we go again. But then you get past the first five or six hours and, holy cats, the Assassin’s Creed series is good again! At this point, I couldn’t be happier with how this is turning out. Consider your wallet imperiled.
After an extensive beta period, Natural Selection 2 finally goes live this week. This team-based aliens vs marines multiplayer shooter/strategy hybrid has a following from the first game for a reason. And lest you worry what you’re getting into, this is no free-to-play grindfest. It’s a straight-up, two-asymmetrical-but-equal-teams-against-each-other, reset-to-zero-when-you’re-done complete package.
And speaking of team-based multiplayer shooters with a twist, Guns of Icarus launches this week. This release doesn’t yet include an intended adventure mode where your airships fly around trade routes to make money and buy upgrades. Instead, it’s an airship vs airship skirmish game in which players crew the airships. Considering the dearth of airship deathmatches since Flying Heroes, I’ll take what I can get.
Electronic Arts releases Need for Speed: Most Wanted. No telling how long the servers will be up, so hurry up and race before it’s sunsetted!
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is some sort of Kinect fighting game that poses the question “who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Wolverine?”. The correct answer is “Spiderman and Woverine aren’t Avengers”. I also would have accepted, “I’ve already played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and I didn’t need a Kinect to do it”.
The better part of my weekend was spent with the final version of Fallen Enchantress, mostly losing against the AI. Stardock has really outdone themselves this time. If you like turn-based strategy games, if you like fantasy, even if you like RPGs, don’t miss this one.
A Game of Dwarves is publisher Paradox’s version of Dwarf Fortress with a 3D tileset and, presumably, a under-friendlier interface. Dwarf Fortress for Dummies? That doesn’t sound like a bad idea for those of us who’ve been standing at the base of the Dwarf Fortress learning cliff, staring up and wondering how we could ever get up there.
Forza Horizon is a perfectly cromulent caRPG with a laidback open-world conceit where the no-frills campaign mode used to go. Skylanders Giants is this year’s iteration of Toys for Bob’s and Activision’s Spyro-themed collectible toy/videogame series (look for a review later this week and coverage on the next games podcast). Oh, look, Medal of Honor: Fightwarrior, the latest in Electronic Arts attempt to answer the call of duty.
Lord of the Rings Online finally comes to Rohan this week. At this rate, the One True Ring will splashdown in the Crack of Doom sometime in 2017. Go Frodo, go!
007 Legends is a box of chocolates approach to celebrate fifty years of James Bond movies and 10 years of mostly forgettable Eurocom tie-ins. The Jewel of the Nile add-on for Serious Sam III adds Egyptian themed levels to a game that consists entirely of Egpytian themed levels. Furthermore, Serious Sam III itself comes to Xbox Live. The Legacy of Rome add-on for Crusader Kings II will get Byzantine on your ass. Dance Central 3, aka “the only reason to have a Kinect”, is out this week.
Finally, a Japanese RPG called Mugen Souls is out for the Playstation 3. It would have been out earlier, but publisher NIS had to edit out a sequence in which you grope women to level up. I am not making that up.
The Japanese version of the game contained a mini-game in which the player had to scrub/grope 2D depictions of female characters in a variety of bath scenes. The characters and surrounding audio/visual elements were extremely sexualized, and a number of the characters were depicted as potentially being pubescent or pre-pubescent. We decided to remove this content out of concern for the potential of receiving an AO rating from the ESRB, which would prevent us from releasing the game. In addition, as a company, we did not want NISA to release or be known for content that could be seen as sexualizing or objectifying children in this way. As this system contained no real story elements or gameplay (it was used to level up your characters, but the player’s inputs had no impact on the final stats) we felt it was not a substantial loss of content. Note that your characters will still level up as if you had viewed the scenes, so no gameplay functionality is lost.