A crazy fall has given way to a mellow winter, so I’m going to resume doing these weekly pieces recapping new games and deals worth jumping on. Here’s a look at what’s going on for the weekend of Jan. 21-23.
“Mass Effect 2” (rated M, $60 on PlayStation 3) [review of Xbox 360 version]: One of gaming’s greatest sci-fi epics, previously exclusive to the PC and Xbox 360, makes it to the PS3 this week. The PS3 “ME2” contains three huge pieces of extra content that were downloadable add-ons for us early adopters, as well as an interactive animated comic that recaps the story of the first “Mass Effect” and lets players make a few of the key decisions from that 2007 blockbuster. That’s as close as PS3 owners will ever get to that first game, which was published and funded by Microsoft. If you’re a PS3-only owner who’s missed out on BioWare’s space franchise until now, there aren’t many games on the market for a PS3 that tell a more satisfying story. “Mass Effect 3” is currently scheduled to arrive at the end of the year for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
“LittleBigPlanet 2” (rated E, $60 on PS3): We PS3 owners who’ve already blazed through “Mass Effect 2” are likely all playing the second game from Media Molecule. Like its predecessor, “LBP 2” is platform-jumping game that equips its players with powerful level-creation tools and gives them a fantastic online architecture for sharing their creations and soliciting feedback. Thanks to a fantastic licensed soundtrack that’s married to the PS3’s crisp, high-definition visuals, the “LittleBigPlanet” games have some of the best art direction around. A word of caution, though: So far, online co-op for “LBP 2” is a glitch-filled mess. I fully expect a downloadable patch in the near future, but in the meantime, if your hope is to play online with friends, temper your expectations.
“Spare Parts” (rated E10+, $10 download for Xbox 360 and PS3): I previewed this downloadable platform-jumping game at an Electronic Arts press event back in July. The light puzzling and handling of the characters reminded me a lot of the “Lego” games (“Lego Star Wars,” “Lego Indiana Jones,” “Lego Harry Potter”) but with some nice refinements. Players control Mar-T and Chip, a pair of cute cartoony robots who’ve been marooned on an unfamiliar planet. The two robots need to traverse the surface of the planet looking for the bits and bobs they need to fix their ship. While the robots can fend off attackers with cartoon-style fisticuffs, I enjoyed their projectile attacks, in which they seemed to just rip little gears and pieces off their body that they then flung at attackers. The game looked to play better with a friend, or perhaps a small child, as “Spare Parts” has plenty of co-op moves that are performed in tandem with your fellow robot. Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) provides the voice of the game’s supercomputer.
“Plants vs. Zombies” (rated E10+, $20 on DS, on sale for $10 on Xbox Live Arcade): I’m not sure why anyone would pay $20 for the DS version of a game that’s on sale this week as a $10 Xbox 360 download, but I suppose if the only gaming device you have is a DS and you’re longing to play Pop Cap’s silly tower-defense game, this is your best shot. If you have an iPad or iPhone, you’re better off spending $3 for it on those platforms.
“Dead Space” (rated M, $20 on Xbox 360 or PS3, on sale for PC at $6.80 through Steam) [review]: The sequel to EA’s gripping, frightful space shooter is due out Tuesday, so if you haven’t played the original “Dead Space,” time’s a wasting. Steam is making things extra tempting with a sale for PC gamers.