“Scribblenauts” (rated E10+, $30 on DS): This inventive puzzle/adventure game features one of the coolest game mechanics ever conceived. As you journey through the game’s world, solving puzzles as you go, any word you write will come to life in the game. Need a ladder? Just write “ladder” on the touch screen with the DS’ stylus. Honestly, the Electronic Software Ratings Board summary of this game says it all (italics added for emphasis): “This is a puzzle game in which players navigate a series of traps, puzzles, and enemies to collect stars scattered throughout the colorful levels. Players have the ability to summon different objects by writing/typing in the word (e.g., bike, spaceship, lion) and watching it come to life. If multiple words are entered in a sequence, different whimsical scenarios can be triggered: a bicycle can be used to jump over a baby; a bulldozer can clear away a shark; and cabbage can be fed to dinosaurs. Players can elect to summon “cartoony” versions of bats, bombs, guns, and flamethrowers. These types of items can be used to destroy objects or even other summoned items (e.g., a club can be used to hit an animal; steak can be attached to a baby to attract lions; rockets can be lobbed at a man). These triggered animations are minimally depicted and are usually accompanied by popping, musical sound effects; bright, star-shaped flashes; or small puffs of smoke. If players wish to, they may type in the word vomit, which causes a beige-colored lump to appear on the screen.” The game’s dictionary purportedly contains upward of 20,000 words. The game’s been dinged a bit for its control scheme and gameplay mechanics, but fans of the medium owe it to themselves to at least try “Scribblenauts.”
“Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story” (rated E, $35 on DS):Mario and Luigi find themselves on the inside of their nemesis, after he eats some kind of magic mushroom and inhales the two heroes. Action flips back and forth between the Italian plumbers, trying to get out from Bowser’s belly and from the dragon-thing’s quest to rid his castle of a rival. In other words, it’s a classic Nintendo adventure game, featuring the company’s iconic characters.
“NHL 10” (rated E10+,$60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3): Considering several critics dubbed “NHL 09” the greatest hockey game ever made and a few even went so far as to call it the best sports video game of all time, all Electronic Arts has to do to make this game great is make incremental upgrades to last year’s title without breaking anything that worked. Judging by reviews, they’ve accomplished that.
“NHL 2K10” (rated E10+, $50 on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, $20 on PS2): What do you do when going up against an opponent who, year after year, outperforms you? In the case of 2K’s NHL franchise, you make like the New York Islanders and give it the old college try. It helps that 2K’s game is available on the Wii and PS2. That’s probably where it’ll sell the most copies. Over the years, 2K’s also done its part to be friendly toward new players. That and the $10 cheaper price tag might make it worth investigating for sports game noobs. I’ll post impressions of this title, but probably not a full-fledged review (I’m just not a big enough hockey fan) soon.
“Need for Speed: Shift” (rated E, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, $50 on Wii, $40 on PlayStation Portable): Earlier this year, I suggested EA’s decade-old “Need for Speed” franchise was in desperate need of a hiatus because of a string of lackluster titles that had left gamers indifferent. (I, apparently wrongly, said the same thing about the “NHL” franchise, but for the opposite reason, that “09” was so good, there was no point trying to top it after just a year.) While EA did take the title out of the hands of Black Box, the Canadian studio behind some of the series’ more recent entries, the world’s second-largest video game company is actually planning not one, but three new entries. “Shift,” focused on realistic, “Forza Motorsport” and “Gran Turismo”-style high-performance racing is the first of those titles. I’ve had a chance to spend some time with “Shift,” and it seems like a solid racing title. Early reviews would agree. However, racing is still an incredibly over-saturated genre. With “Dirt 2” having debuted to positive reviews, plus “Forza Motorsport 3,” “Gran Turismo 5,” and Activision’s “Blur” do out, this game will live and die based on how good it is relative to its competition.
“Wet” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3): Don’t let the Bethesda Softworks label fool you. While this game is published by the same company that published “Fallout 3” and “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” it’s being developed by Artificial Mind and Movement, a company responsible for a lot of movie games and outsourced cross-platform ports of games developed by other studios. That said, “Wet” looks like a must-try title for fans of the films of Quentin Tarrantino or the grindhouse aesthetic. You play as an acrobatic killing machine named Rubi Malone, who performs crazy acrobatic feats in slow motion as she guns down and slices up baddies. A stylish soundtrack and over-the-top action make this one an appealing , B-movie style game. Unfortunately, there’s no “B” market for games, and “Wet” costs the same as the newest, deepest, most cutting-edge titles. It might be a candidate for purchase after a price drop or two. I’ll know more when I get my hands on a review copy in the next couple of weeks.
“Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $30 on PS2 and DS): The latest in Activision’s superhero role-playing franchise is inspired by Marvel Comics’ Civil War story line. Fellow PD blogger Trevor Reece writes about the game on his Four Colors blog.
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” (rated T, $50 on PC), “Resident Evil 5” (rated M, $50 on PC) and “Red Faction Guerrilla” (rated M, $40 on PC): These three have already been out for a while on consoles. But they’ve received generally favorable reviews and hit the PC this week.
What I’m playing this weekend: While I wait for review copies of “Wet” and “Halo 3: ODST” to arrive, I’ll be catching up on “The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition,” plus playing for achievements on several older titles. “Need for Speed: Shift” and “NHL 2K10” might get some time, as well.