“Batman: Arkham Asylum” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3): Don’t get confused and think this game has anything to do with “The Dark Knight” movie, other than featuring Batman and The Joker. It’s got its own story that kicks off when our hero delivers his nemesis to Arkham Asylum, Gotham City’s home for the criminally insane. Upon arrival, The Joker soon escapes, traps Batman and enlists the inmates of the asylum in his sinister plot. The game features writing from Paul Dini, who’s worked on “Batman: The Animated Series” and Season One of “Lost,” as well as voicework from Mark Hamill, who plays the Joker on “The Animated Series,” as well. The Collector’s Edition sells for $100 and includes a plastic Batarang replica, exclusive bonus content, behind-the-scenes DVD and 50-page character encyclopedia. The PS3 version of the game gets the Joker as a playable character in some modes. This is getting buzz as the greatest license tie-in game ever, and I think it’s directly related to the fact that it’s not tied to a movie or DVD release, and it’s got its own, independent script.
“Metroid Prime Trilogy: Collector’s Edition” (rated T, $50 on Wii): I’m not really sure why they’re calling this a “collector’s edition” and selling it in a metal tin when there doesn’t seem to be a standard, lower-priced version to begin with. Nonetheless, this compilation is a fabulous deal. The single game disc includes “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption,” already one of the Wii’s best titles. What’s more, you’ll get “Metroid Prime” and “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.” Both games were originally released on the GameCube, but the versions on this disc have had their control schemes revamped to match the third game in the series. It’s a shrewd move by Nintendo, as folks like me, who haven’t played any of the games in the series, can get the whole shebang in one shot. In each game, you’ll take on the role of Samus Aran and explore a full 3D world, gaining access to new areas as you unlock new powers and solve new puzzles. They’ve got a bit of a blend of first-person shooter and “Tomb Raider”-style adventure/puzzle gameplay. IGN’s review of this package suggests you could get as much as 80 hours of play out of the three titles. Not bad.
“Cursed Mountain” (rated M, $50 on Wii): There haven’t been a heck of a lot of survival-horror games on the Wii, so this dark horse game is worth a look for fans of the genre. You’ll head off into the Himalayas in search of your missing brother, only to encounter lost souls trapped between this world and the world of the dead. The combat of the game revolves around a series of prayer-like rituals designed to free the imprisoned souls, so folks with strong religious sensibilities may want to investigate further before playing.
“Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” (rated E10+, $30 on DS): This single-player mystery game is heavy on puzzle-solving and intrigue and light on reflex-based challenges. Like its predecessor, “Professor Layton and the Curious Village,” this one should be a hit with commuters, older gamers and even folks who might not call themselves “gamers” at all. Though it’s rated E10+, the murder-mystery plot, logic puzzles, and Sherlock Holmes flair mean it’s best suited for adults.
“Dissidia Final Fantasy” (rated T, $40 for PlayStation Portable): This PSP title is a fighting game, but with role-playiing game style leveling and unlockable equipment. Don’t expect the story to reinvent the wheel, but if you don’t mind long, Japanese-style games that require endless grinding and leveling, this’ll be up your alley.
“Mass Effect” (rated M, $20 on Xbox 360): It’s pretty rare for a 2-year-old game like “Mass Effect” to get fresh downloadable content, but with this week’s release of the Pinnacle Station add-on, that’s exactly what happened. The $5 download features a series of “Fight Club”-style battles and is clearly meant to stir up some buzz before the release of the sequel.
“Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy” (rated T, $40 for PS2): Speaking of Japanese games with lots of grinding and leveling, that’s what you’re in for with “Mana Khemia 2.” The game’s a sequel to “Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis” and part of the same “Alchemy” series as the “Atelier Iris” games. Still drawing a blank? Me, too. It’s Japanese, set in a wizards school and features turn-based battling. None of the games in the series have set the world ablaze review-scorewise, but this looks to be competent Japanese RPG. Fans of the genre will dig this. You know who you are.
What I’ll be playing this weekend: My mom and nephew are visiting over the weekend, so we’ll be out and about a lot. Keondre, my nephew, loves video games almost as much as I do, though, so we’ll be firing up a few. So far we’ve played a lot of “Burnout Revenge” (rated E, out of print on Xbox 360, although it just became available as a $20 Xbox Live download this week), a great boy’s game with fast cars, big explosions, loud music and zero foul language or blood. We’ve also spent some time with my review copy of “The Beatles: Rock Band” (due out Sept. 9) and played a smidgen of “Bomberman Live” ($10 Xbox Live Arcade download). Going forward, there’ll be more “Burnout” and “Beatles,” plus “Wii Sports Resort” (rated E, $50 on Wii) and maybe a smidgen of “Rock Band 2″ (rated T, prices vary on Wii, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2). I’m hoping we’ll have time to squeeze in a bit of “LittleBigPlanet” co-op (rated E, $60 on PS3), as well.