Welcome to an extra-long version of What to Play. Writing this during my Saturday shift at the paper will surely test my endurance and patience, so we’ll skip right to the new releases without any sort of “What it all means” paragraph. I’ll start with this weekend’s what to play list, then hit the highlights from the previous two weeks, omitting temporary gems such as sale games that are no longer being offered at a discount price. Without further ado, this week’s top titles:
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” demo (rated T): “Arkham Asylum,” one of this summer’s most hyped titles, won’t hit stores for another couple of weeks. But you can while away the hours to release day by playing the free demo that hit Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network this week.
“Call of Duty: World at War” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, $50 on PC): The third map pack for Activision’s blockbuster World War II shooter adds four new maps for $10, a better deal than some games offer. As seems to be becoming common, Nazi zombies return in “Der Riese,” one of the maps that’s set in a factory.
“Fallout 3” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360, $50 on PC): The last piece of downloadable content for Bethesda Softworks’ postnuclear role-playing game came out this week. “Mothership Zeta” features an alien abduction/escape storyline and lots of cool extraterrestrial weaponry. My wife and I have been working our way through “The X-Files” thanks to Netflix, so I’m looking forward to this one. The “Fallout 3” add-ons haven’t hit the PlayStation 3 yet, but the first should be arriving in a few weeks.
Indie PC games: Valve’s downloadable PC game store, Steam, is offering several classic indie games for the combined price of $30. Included among the bunch are “Braid,” “Crayon Physics Deluxe,” World of Goo,” “Blueberry Garden,” “Darwinia,” “Gish,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Path,” “Everyday Shooter” and “Audiosurf.” “Braid,” “Crayon Physics Deluxe” (video above) and “World of Goo” alone are worth the combined price, and I’ve been curious about “Blueberry Garden” ever since seeing screenshots of it. The sale ends Monday.
“Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $50 on PC): The Old West map pack adds four new multiplayer maps for $10 to this Western-themed shooter. At the time of posting, Amazon had the console versions of this game on sale for $40.
“SingStar Queen” (rated T, $40 on PlayStation 3, $30 on PS2): Like karaoke? Like Queen? Here you go. As much as I’m looking forward to “The Beatles: Rock Band” for its artistic direction and music-game innovation, I still don’t quite get what lasting appeal single-band music titles could have.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Reshelled” (rated E10+, $10 Xbox Live Arcade download): If you’re looking for some four-player arcade beat-’em up action and haven’t played “Castle Crashers” (rated T, $15 Xbox Live Arcade download), by all means, buy that instead. But this looks like it’s well-made enough to scratch that nostalgic itch.
“Rock Band 2” (rated T, prices vary): When a handful of brand new Spinal Tap songs showed up as downloadable content for “Rock Band” and “Rock Band 2” recently, sensible fans griped that they wanted the songs from “This is Spinal Tap,” not some new stuff. You asked for it, you got it. These are rerecordings, which means the original masters were probably lost to time. If you want to play “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” or “Big Bottom,” this is your best shot. The last few weeks have also brought songs from Weezer, Kiss, Blink 182,
Now, onto the older stuff from the past couple of weeks.
“Wii Sports Resort” (rated E, $50 on Wii, includes one Wii MotionPlus): The first official sequel to “Wii Sports,” “Wii Sports Resort” comes bundled with Wii MotionPlus, Nintendo’s controller plugin that makes the Wii remote a lot more sophisticated of an implement. Like “Wii Sports,” “Wii Play” and about 100 other Wii games, this one keeps it simple, presenting several different minigames. I’ve messed around with the title a bit, and so far it looks like a worthy successor to the game that really made the Wii. Full review forthcoming.
“Gears of War 2” (rated M, $40 on Xbox 360): The $15 downloadable content pack called Dark Corners adds seven new multiplayer maps plus a whole new chapter to the game’s campaign. If you haven’t picked up any of the previous “Gears of War 2” downloadable content, you’ll want to pick up the All Fronts pack. It’s just $5 more than Dark Corners and includes that expansion, plus another dozen maps that have been previously released.
“Halo Wars” (rated T, $40 on Xbox 360): The Historical Battle Map Pack adds four new arenas to the Halo-themed real-time strategy game.
“‘Splosion Man” (rated, $10 Xbox Live Arcade download): This side-scrolling adventure stars a superhero who can explode (or ‘splode, using the game’s vernacular) at will. If you’ve played “Cloning Clyde,” you can see where this one might be going.
“Tales of Monkey Island Chapter One: The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal” (rated E10+, $10 WiiWare download or $35 for six installments on PC): Don’t confuse this title with “The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition” on the PC and Xbox 360. That title is a remake of a classic adventure game. This is the first of a planned six installments of a whole new adventure from adventure mainstays Telltale Games (“Sam and Max,” “Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People”).
“The East India Company” (rated T, $40 on PC): This PC game got decidedly mixed reviews, but I’m a fan both of strategy games and of games that actually teach you something. A title that lets you re-create one of the world’s most massive trading empires does both.
“Fat Princess” (rated T, $15 download from PlayStation Network): This PlayStation 3 exclusive has taken a little bit of flak for its treatment of girls and weight issues, but if you can put all those surface feelings aside, there’s apparently a fairly deep, capture-the-flag-type strategy game underneath.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 2” ($15 download from Xbox Live Arcade): This reworking of a 10-year-old arcade fighter brings together more than 50 characters from the Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, etc.) and Capcom (Ryu, Guile, etc.) universes. The fighting game fiends on my Xbox Live friends lists have been playing this a ton since it released, so it must be decent.
“Little King’s Story” (rated T, $50 on Wii): This Wii game, in which your a child king wielding the power of suggestion over your subjects, tasks you with acting as a benevolent leader, while also attacking rival nations to absorb them into your kingdom. A nice blend of strategy and simulation, if reviews are anything to go by.
“Killzone 2” (rated M, $60 on PS3): The Napalm and Cordite Map Pack features a couple of new maps that let you blast your opponents with the flamethrower and the bolt gun, easily the two coolest weapons in that game.
What I’ll be playing this weekend: Despite its leaving an initial bad taste in my mouth, I’m actually starting to enjoy 2K’s arcade baseball title “The Bigs 2” a bit. I snuck in a bit of “Wii Sports Resort” on Friday night, as well as “The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.” All are titles I hope to review, time and patience permitting. So yeah, I’ve actually been a good boy.