With the shift of my column from the Sunday paper to the Friday paper, I’m going to start writing about new releases a couple of days after they’ve been released, rather than the Sunday before. I’m also going to rework the idea behind the feature a bit to include games with new downloadable content, or older games that might somehow be relevant in any given week. (For example, this week, I’ll use the arrival of Valentine’s Day as an entry point to talk about games couples can play together, a topic I devoted a column to last year.)
You should by no means consider this a comprehensive list. I’m going to highlight games I think are worth at least a look, not tell you that “My DoItAll” hit the DS.
With all that out of the way, here’s what’s looking good for this weekend, starting with games you might play with your valentine. Now before you blow off the idea of gaming on Valentine’s Day, retailer Game Crazy (an admittedly biased party) would like you to know that a survey it commissioned found that nearly 80 percent of Americans would enjoy playing games with their significant other. That said, I’ll probably skip gaming myself in lieu of more traditional Valentinesy activities, but these recommendations hold up for any day of the year:
“Rock Band 2” (rated T, available on Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at a variety of prices) and “Guitar Hero: World Tour” (ditto): These mass-market music games are not only great party games, they’re great family and couples games to boot. If one of you is too timid about picking up a guitar controller, grab the microphone. If you’ve got “Guitar Hero: World Tour,” The Shins’ excellent “New Slang” is one of the downloadable tracks this week. (See how many album covers you recognize from the video, below.)
“Lips” (rated T, $70 on Xbox 360 for bundle that includes two wireless microphones): If you’re both too timid to pick up a guitar controller, Microsoft’s karaoke game ships with two awesome, motion-sensitive mics that light up. Two people can sing at the same time, in either co-op or versus mode. One game type features the two of you trying to sing in harmony well enough to make an animated couple smooch. Aw. The diverse song list includes John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Ah-Ha’s “Take On Me” and Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss,” a personal guilty pleasure. Own a PlayStation 3? You’ll get similar mileage out of “SingStar” (rated T, $60 for bundle that includes two microphones). The mics aren’t as cool as the ones from “Lips,” but it’s a better game, for sure.
“Wii Sports” (rated E, included with the Wii): If you own a Wii, you already know how great a couples game this is, but it’s worth mentioning.
“Super Mario Galaxy” (rated E, $50 for Wii): If one of you’s a gamer and the other one not so much, this title is perfect. One player controls the majority of the action while the second can use the Wii remote to point at collectible items and zap enemies.
“Fable II” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360): A similar but more advanced version of “Super Mario Galaxy.” One player controls the main character while the other plays as the first player’s henchmen. There’s a lot of buttons to press, though, so it works better if both of you are gamers. Better yet, your significant other can help you pick out your virtual spouse and house in the game. You could easily have your first argument about what to name your children while playing “Fable II.”
“LittleBigPlanet” (rated E, $60 for PlayStation 3): Just about the sweetest thing you could do for your significant other is use “LittleBigPlanet’s” robust editing features and the PlayStation’s Eye camera to build her a custom level of the game. It’s a little bit late to get started on this for Valentine’s Day, but there’s always birthdays, anniversaries or just plain old rainy days.
“Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” (rated E, $30 for Xbox 360): “Trouble in Paradise” expands greatly on the first game, adding co-op play that lets two people team up on one console to cultivate a virtual garden and raise several species of brightly colored papery animals.
Now, onto the non-Valentine’s Day stuff:
“F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” (rated M, $50 on PC, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, released Tuesday):This paranormal first-person shooter stars a creepy girl who looks a lot like Samara from “The Ring,” out to avenge past wrongs. You play as a sort of paranormal special ops soldier. In the first “F.E.A.R.,” much was made about your ability to slow down time, which makes a return in the sequel. Note to developers: “The Matrix” was made 10 years ago and this gimmick is played out. Regardless, this should be good and scary.
“Flower” (rated E, $10 PlayStation Network download, released Thursday): This isn’t really a game so much as an interactive experience. The PS3 creates a series of six gorgeous, natural settings. You use the DualShock 3 to play as the wind, doing things like blowing flower petals across the landscape and interacting with the environment. Think of it as the gaming equivalent of a chill-out room.
“House of the Dead: Overkill” (rated M, $50 on Wii, released Tuesday):This is a Wii Zapper games. You’ll point the Wii remote at the screen and shoot waves upon waves of advancing zombies. Frankly, until they come up with a “surround vision” setup that lets zombies truly advance on you from all sides, forcing you and your co-op buddy to stand back-to-back, I’ll never understand the appeal of these kinds of games. But they have their fans. You know who you are.
“LocoRoco 2” (rated E, $20 on PlayStation Portable, released Tuesday):It’s a cute, highly stylized puzzler/platformer. It isn’t every week that a decent PSP game comes out, and this one’s only $20.
“Deadly Creatures 2” (rated T, $50 on Wii, released Tuesday): If you’ve ever had a “Who would win a fight between…”-type discussion that involved various fights of deadly animals, this is your game. You play as either a scorpion or a deadly tarantula (Really? Those exist?) and go toe-to-toe with Gila monsters, black widow spiders and other animal kingdom baddies.
What I’ll be playing this weekend: Like pretty much every weekend, I’ll probably sneak in at least one game of the year-old “Culdcept Saga” (rated T, $20 on Xbox 360). I may squeeze in a little “Left 4 Dead” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360) tonight if my buddies are game, but otherwise it’ll be all new releases. A review copy of “Halo Wars” (rated T, releasing March 3 on Xbox 360) arrived this week, and I’m also working on “LittleBigPlanet,” “Fable II,” and “MLB Front Office Manager” (rated E, $40 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC). My wife gave me a copy of “Okami” (rated T, $40 on Wii) for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, but that one might have to stay on the backburner until I get caught up on new releases and games from the fall glut. All gaming, of course, will take a backburner to spending some quality time with Mrs. GameWit on Saturday. If the two of us game together, we may give “Lips” another go. Expect a review of that soon.