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Monday, Apr 6, 2009
New releases for the week of 2009-04-05...

Yes, it’s been out for a while on other platforms, and yes, it’s a sequel, but I have to admit that the one thing I am most looking forward to this week is Puzzle Quest: Galactrix‘s bow on the Xbox Live Arcade.


The first Puzzle Quest is one of the games I spent the most time admiring over the last year, for the ways in which it bucks traditional RPG and puzzle game design principles, combining them to create an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  What looks interesting about Galactrix is that it’s changed the game that its puzzling is modeled after; where Challenge of the Warlords was all about putting Bejeweled in a big, fancy frame, Galactrix is more like Xbox Live Arcade’s own Hexic.


This is a scary thought.


While Hexic is certainly an excellent game, it’s a very difficult one as well, the sort of puzzle game that will chase away outsiders due to the high learning curve it presents when one pursues mastery of it.  The question is whether having to think so hard about the puzzles during battles will take away from the enjoyment of the overall game.  The question is also whether developer Vicious Cycle has addressed the long load times that have reportedly plagued the DS(!) version of the game.  Regardless, giving it a spin is high on the priority list this week.


Elsewhere, Capcom is doing something different this week with its own downloadable offering, a little something called Flock.  You’re a little spaceship flying around a beautifully-rendered isometric world trying to herd animals into a big spaceship.  It sounds easy, but the obstacles that have shown up in even the short little trailers for the game look absolutely infuriating…which is perfect for this sort of “puzzle-action” (read: it’s sort of like Lemmings) game.


Ninja Blade, for the Xbox 360

Ninja Blade, for the Xbox 360


The big consoles have The Godfather II showing up alongside Riddick, the nintendo consoles have a possible sleeper in the form of Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity, and the PC is finally getting its version of Xbox Live Arcade discussion piece Braid.  The oft-delayed Ninja Blade is finally seeing release on the Xbox 360 as well.  For such a slow week, there’s a lot to look at - what will you be playing?


The full release list and a trailer for Puzzle Quest: Galactrix are after the break.


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Text:AAA
Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
New releases for the week of 2009-03-23...

Yes, it’s true, I wasn’t a huge fan of Guitar Hero: World Tour.  Honestly, there’s not much that can make up for when a peripheral breaks as quickly as the World Tour drums did, and the fact that Rock Band 2 had been doing what it does for a full month before World Tour came out worked against it as well.  Despite my misgivings, however, I’ve played the game plenty, and it’s come on a bit as a favorite that I’ve pulled out even more than Rock Band in recent days—granted, that might just be because I’ve played its collection of songs less, but still.  It’s not an awful game; it’s just no Rock Band 2.


That said, any fan of the Guitar Hero or Rock Band series—at least, any of those fans who have managed to graduate to Expert—should be positively stoked for Sunday’s release of Guitar Hero: Metallica.  Having played through the Death Magnetic tracks on the guitar in both Guitar Hero III and World Tour and enjoying them more than pretty much everything else in either game, the prospect of playing 30 more Metallica songs is awfully, awfully appealing.  Of course, when the demo came through, I had more fun playing Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” than either “Sad but True” or “Seek and Destroy”.  I mean, Freddy Mercury was singing along, and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Still…I desperately want to play “Fight Fire With Fire.”  Desperately.


Also on the console front this week is Legends of Wrestlemania, in which we’ll finally be able to answer the age old (?!) question of who would win in a fight between The Rock and The Ultimate Warrior.  Honestly, just seeing the Big Boss Man on the roster brought back memories of playing the old arcade wrestling games that I used to get routinely killed in.  Even if you’ve been out of the whole video game wrestling thing for a while, THQ might be able to rope you back in with this one.


In the “Interesting Ideas” category, we have Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time coming out this week as well, which is notable because it’s the first game that will offer complete interaction between the Nintendo DS and the Wii.  The upside is that it has the potential to bring console and portable players together in a way no game has ever done.  The downside is that it could well be the worst-looking Wii game to be released at least from a purely polygons-per-square-inch viewpoint.  It’ll be fascinating to see what the response to this approach ends up being.  If nothing else, it’s another notch in the wall for innovation on the Nintendo side of the aisle, thanks to the fine minds at Square Enix.


The whole release list is after the jump - let me know what I missed and tell me what you’ll be grabbing this week.  Just don’t tell me that the rumored Guitar Hero: Van Halen is going to be better than this week’s Metallica release—I may just have to give you a piece of my mind.  You will also see something that I will never, ever be able to do on drums.


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Monday, Mar 16, 2009
New releases for the week of 2009-03-16...

Oooo, tough week for the consoles.  Maybe the big console publishers are assuming that most of us are going to be out partying it up and pounding Guinness for St. Patricks day instead of sitting in our houses playing video games.


Or, maybe it’s March, and the publishers just don’t care that much.


Nintendo really has the reins this week, as the most interesting releases we’re going to be seeing are all coming out for the DS and the Wii.  Of course, right off the bat we see Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, which has been drawing press for the Drug Wars-esque side game that it seems to contain.  This has been a huge year for Grand Theft Auto (can you believe GTA IV came out less than a year ago?), and Chinatown Wars has the potential to be one of the biggest-selling iterations of the series yet.  Initial impressions have been positive, the graphics are solid considering the system it’s playing on, and who hasn’t wanted to bring GTA with them when they’ve been locked into a particularly long session?  The only question, really, is whether Chinatown Wars can break through to the DS’s highly casual-leaning audience.  Even if it doesn’t, though, there are probably plenty of hardcore DS owners to make the game a surefire success.


Of course, the DS is competing with itself, as this week also sees the release of Pokémon Platinum—perhaps not as big a deal as a new Pokémon game typically is simply because, well, it’s not strictly “new”.  Pokémon Platinum is an update of Pokémon Diamond/Pearl, with some new junk thrown in for the sake of convincing people to buy the same thing twice.  Of course, if you haven’t bought Diamond or Pearl, Platinum might just be the version you want.


A little game for the big console is also drawing a lot of attention: BIT.TRIP BEAT, which looks a lot like one-player pong crossed with Frequency.  The player has to knock back a nearly endless parade of dots, which hit the “paddle” at a speedy, highly rhythmic rate.  This means that if you play well, you’ll create a song as you go.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the few gameplay videos that have been released before today look like a ton of fun—and the tunes aren’t bad, either.  At a mere six bucks, what do you have to lose?


But mostly, it’s the DS’s week—I haven’t even mentioned Henry Hatsworth (who I’d love to see brawl with Professor Layton) or the excellent DS port of Trackmania, both also on the way this week.  What do you think?  Are you playing anything other than DS this week?  Let us know!


The full release list and a trailer for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars are after…the jump.


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Text:AAA
Sunday, Mar 8, 2009
New releases for the week of 2009-03-09

When Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Glaser and their friends got together to make The Running Man back in 1987, there’s a good chance that none of them had any idea how prescient it would seem 20 years later.  Is there anyone, at this point, that doubts that killing in the name of sport hasn’t crossed the mind in a very real way of at least one major television executive at this point?  The Running Man, with the benefit of hindsight, is now more of a satirical statement on the direction of television than it is a gruesome sci-fi fantasy; while both elements certainly existed when the movie was released, the balance in emphasis between the two has shifted.


Of course, nobody could have predicted that the runner and the biggest, baddest stalker in the movie would go on to be governors less than 20 years later either, but perhaps I’m getting off topic.


Madworld, coming out for the Wii (of all consoles) this week, is for all intents and purposes a 21st-century update of The Running Man—that is, it centers around a sadistic gameshow on which mayhem and death are leveraged for entertainment purposes.  Of course, it’s a little different this time around, as the “game show” is put on by terrorists, and most of the participants are simply the unwitting inhabitants of a fictional city, but it’s the same idea, more or less.  It’s The Running Man as drawn by Frank Miller, with a little bit of Gears of War thrown in for chainsaw-related purposes.  I’m almost ashamed to say it also looks fun as hell, even if you’re not into violence for its own sake.


Will the satirical elements be as strong as those in The Running Man? Probably not, given that it’s more of a “save the city” narrative than a “save your ass” narrative (with a subtext of “look what entertainment has come to!”).  Regardless, I can’t wait to find out.


Also releasing this week is, of course, Resident Evil 5, which I haven’t wanted to talk about at all, quite frankly, but I suppose I can’t ignore it any more.  It looks like Resident Evil, except that it’s in Africa, and it’s all shiny and smooth, thanks to the current generation of hardware it’s been developed for.  You still can’t move while you’re shooting, but people are bound to love it anyway.  As for the elephant in the room, I just want to say that racist intent is not a prerequisite to racist product.  I haven’t seen the game (or even the demo for that matter), so I can’t make a judgment on it, but the single most ridiculous argument I’ve seen as to why parts of Resident Evil 5 can’t possibly be racist is because its developers didn’t intend for them to be.


You see? This is why I never want to talk about it.


Elsewhere, we get a boardgame (Trivial Pursuit), some rehashes (Nintendo’s New Play Control! series), high-powered dirtbikes (SBK), and a whole pile of DS shovelware.  Hooray!


Tell us what you’re playing this week, or try and bait me into a Resident Evil 5 conversation.  Your pick.


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Text:AAA
Sunday, Feb 22, 2009
New releases for the week of 2009-02-22...

This is it, people.  This is the week we’ve been waiting for, the week that’s been on our minds since last year, the week we sit outside the GameStops and GameCrazys of the world waiting impatiently for the doors to open as we finally have the de facto game of the year within our sights.  For many, the tears of joy have already started.


50 Cent: Blood on the Sand arrives on Tuesday.


(long pause) Too much?


All right, so perhaps I’ve allowed my own preconceptions to get in the way of, I don’t know, journalistic integrity or something, but there is no way I can take 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand seriously.  Here’s the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia:


“50 Cent and his G-Unit crew finish completing a tour of shows in the Middle East. Rather than receiving cash, G-Unit is offered a diamond-embedded skull of legends. When attempting to return home, 50 Cent and his entourage are attacked, and the skull is stolen by local gangs. 50 Cent will risk whatever it takes to get his skull back.”


I have got to think that the ridiculousness of this whole premise is intentional, because the sheer ridiculousness of it is what’s got everybody talking about it.  Nobody is taking it seriously, really, but everybody seems to want to play it, because let’s face it, it actually sounds kind of fun romping around the desert as 50 Cent, taking out thugs and trying to find the


Crystal

Diamond Skull.  If Indiana Jones makes a cameo, I’m totally buying it, and I wish I was less serious than I actually am.


If I wanted to be totally truthful, it’s Killzone 2 that sticks out on this particular list.  It feels at this point like Killzone 2 has been out forever given that they lifted the embargo on reviews a full three weeks before the game is actually going to arrive on store shelves, but FPS fans who’ve had about enough of Resistance on their PS3s are about to be loving life.  Word is that the latest Killzone is pretty light on the whole “story” thing, but it gets the shooter mechanics pretty much perfect.  Here’s to finding out.


The Wii has a Dead Rising remake on the way, the 360 is seeing the new Star Ocean, and the DS gets Ys, the new Puzzle Quest, and Peggle!  It’s a light release week, but there’s truly something for everyone on the way.


Who else is oddly transfixed by the Blood on the Sand phenomenon?  Who’s going to finally turn off Flower in favor of some Killzone?  Let’s hear from you in the comments!  The full release list and trailers for Killzone 2 and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand are after…the jump.


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