We’re in the middle of an avalanche of top-flight video game releases that has May looking more like October.
Here’s a look at some of the top games that have either hit stores in the past two weeks, or are due out by the end of next week. Despite my handful of posts, I was “on vacation” last week and missed my usual weekend What to Play post. Consider this a bit of catching-up.
“Super Mario Galaxy” (rated E, $50 on Wii, due out Sunday): Nintendo turned around this sequel to the Wii’s highest-rated game quickly, but it’s looking like anything but a quick-and-dirty money grab. The gaming press I follow on Twitter has been posting short raves about the title for a better part of a week now, saying there’s more innovation packed in the first world than in other entire games. So, looking good. My strong preference for story/narrative-given games means I have no idea when I’ll get to this one, but it sounds great.
“Red Dead Redemption” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, released Tuesday): The latest open-world game from Rockstar is the studio’s first title to match its popular “Grand Theft Auto” series’ review scores. You’ll guide former outlaw John Marton through an early 20th century landscape featuring frontier towns, harsh elements and even harsher characters. Yikes. That sounds like marketing copy, but it’s all me. If you can’t decide which version to buy, the PS3’s comes with a smidgen of extra content, though commenter James (below) and others have pointed out that the 360 version apparently runs at a higher resolution.
“Alan Wake” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360, released Tuesday): This suspenseful thriller inspired by TV shows like “Lost” and “Twin Peaks” could end up being the best-written game we see this year. If you missed my review, it’s here. Gamers on tight budgets might balk at spending $60 for a 12-hour title, but new copies come with a coupon to download the game’s first add-on episode, due out July 27. That should add another hour or two.
“Split/Second” (rated E10+, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, released Tuesday): Disney’s arcade-style racing game looked pretty good when I played it at the Game Developers Conference in February. It has you racing in a game-show like setting that allows you to trigger massive explosions and set traps for your fellow racers. One review I saw called it the video game equivalent of the Millennium Falcon’s escape from the rebuilt Death Star in “Return of the Jedi.”
“Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow” (rated E10+, $35 on DS, released Tuesday): It’s funny that a series that started off as an Xbox 360 exclusive is now seeing sequels released on Nintendo’s handheld. Regardless, this looked like a solid, kid-oriented role-playing game when I played it at GDC.
“Skate 3” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, released May 10): I’m not really sure why Electronic Arts keeps cranking out a new “Skate” title every year like it’s one of the company’s sports franchises, but they’re so far adding enough new wrinkles each time out that fans of the genre aren’t complaining. A large number of this year’s innovations seem geared to online play, so if you’re a solo gamer, you can afford to wait.
“3D Dot Game Heroes” (rated E10+, $40 on PS3, released May 11): This budget-priced homage to the early “Legend of Zelda” games should appeal to gamers of a certain age.
“Lost Planet 2” (rated T, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, released May 11): This shooter’s been getting middling review scores, but my memories of the first game are fond enough that I’ll be giving this a look at some point.
The first game’s grappling hook and smartly designed multiplayer maps gave online play a certain “Spider-Man” feel as you’d use the grappling hooks and tiered arenas to get the drop on your opponents in fairly inventive ways.
“ModNation Racers” (rated E, $60 on PS3, $30 on PSP, releasing May 24): I’m eagerly awaiting my review copy of Sony’s mashup of “LittleBigPlanet”-style level creation with “Mario Kart”-style racing. I spent some time playing both versions of the game and chatting with the developers at the Game Developers Conference. My impressions of the title are here.
“Blur” (rated E10+, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, releasing May 24): Another arcade-themed racer, complete with powerups. It’s releasing riskily close to “Split/Second,” but everything I’ve heard from folks who participated in the recent online beta test has been positive.
And that’s just looking at what’s good in late May. Early June brings us “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” for the PlayStation Portable, “Green Day: Rock Band” and “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.”
If money is tight and new, full-priced retail games are a bit out of your price range, consider signing up for Valve’s PC and Mac game-downloading service, Steam. Players who sign up before May 27 can download the excellent “Portal” for free. Head over to steampowered.com for more info.