Here’s a look at what games I’ve been playing, ranked roughly from most-played to least-played. This allows me to offer some thoughts on some titles that I may not devote a full review to, plus sound off on some ideas that might not have made it into full reviews of the games I play. Games are listed roughly in order of most- to least-played, with assistance from my Raptr profile.
“El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron” (rated T, $60 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3): Despite some pretty nettlesome flaws, this mix of platform-jumping and “God of War”-style action game was a nice palette cleanser before a fall filled with shooters and big budget role-playing games. If you missed it, here’s my review. The Associated Press’s main games reviewer, Lou Kesten, referred to “El Shaddai,” “Catherine,” “Shadows of the Damned” and “Child of Eden” as part of the game industry’s summer of Japanese strangeness. All four titles came out during the slow months of June, July and August, and all offered a break from the played out “modern warfare,” “swords and magic” and “space marine vs. bugmen” titles that dominate sales charts, retail shelves and advertising budgets. I played (and reviewed) all of these, and I’ve gotta say they’ve done a lot to recharge my jaded game reviewer batteries, even if none of them ultimately ends up on my games-of-the-year list.
“Catherine” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 and PS3) [review]: When I started playing this fusion of David Lynch-inspired soap opera and puzzle game, I failed to heed the warnings about how difficult I’d find it. In general, I tend to fare better at puzzle/strategy games than my game-reviewing peers. (Conversely, they’re often better at competitive multiplayer shooters like “Call of Duty.”) But man, I wasn’t prepared for what a meatgrinder “Catherine” was going to be. After struggling a bit on a couple of puzzles, I had to juggle my review schedule to give myself some extra time to conquer “Catherine’s” tower of blocks. Oh, and for the record, I ended up getting the best Katherine ending.
“Borderlands” (Rated M, $40 or $20 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $30 or $20 on PC): In between the past two weeks’ garden of Japanese delights, I sneaked in a few co-op sessions with a couple of friends. Even though “Borderlands” is nearly 2 years old, I’ve yet to finish all its downloadable content or my second playthrough of the campaign. We polished off most of the core missions of the final piece of downloadable content, “Claptrap’s Robot Revolution.” Who knows if I’ll get all 1,750 achievement points for this game? In any case, I can safely say I’m ready for “Borderlands 2.” (Warning: Bleeped language in the video below.)
“Brink” (rated T, $30 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $20 on PC) [review]: I teamed up with a friend to tackle the two/four new scenarios and unlock some achievements. Even though “Brink” isn’t for everyone, I really dig the objective-based multiplayer and the way the game rewards players for being a good teammate. It has plenty of flaws, sure, but by the end of the year, I’ll probably have spent more hours playing it than any of this year’s more high profile, “better” shooters. “Agents of Change” features two new maps, with two scenarios pitting the Resistance against the Security forces, but you can play both sides of each conflict, so the game treats it as four missions.
“Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012″ (rated T, $10 download for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): I refuse to pay $1 or 50 cents or whatever they’re charging to unlock all the cards for each deck. Instead, I’m slowly playing through matches against the computer unlocking a card or three with each win. It’s sort of how I unwind at the end of the night, so “Magic 2012″ is now the second-most-played game on my relatively young Raptr profile.
“Dungeon Siege III” (rated T, $50 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $40 on PC) [review]: Clocked another hour or so of co-op on a friend’s game. This is another one of those allegedly middling games I’ve played a lot more than I expected to, thanks to its co-op play.
“Trenched” (rated T, $15 download for Xbox 360): A friend of mine and I teamed up to help Bennett, who’s commented here a few times, earn some gold medals on a couple of levels. “Volcano,” though, mystified us. Another friend of ours is pretty much a “Trenched” ninja, though, so I’m hoping we can find a time when we’re all on to help Bennett get the last trophies he needs.
“Alice: Madness Returns” (rated M, $60 for Xbox 360 or PS3, $50 for PC): For my next column, I’m tackling my Pile of Shame, aka the stack of review games that I haven’t gotten to yet.” I gave “Alice: Madness Returns” a pass when it first showed up because I had just reviewed a glut of Electronic Arts-published games, most of them favorably, and I wanted to branch out and give other publishers some love. But I really regretted missing out on “Alice” because of its Tim Burton-esque rendition of Wonderland and the fact that it’s one of few video games with a female lead character. I can easily see myself going back and playing more “Alice” if time allows. Even better: New copies of the game included a code to download the original “American McGee’s Alice,” released on PC back in 2000.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (rated T, $60 for Xbox 360 or PS3, other versions available for PlayStation Portable, 3DS, DS): Another game I played for my next column. I had requested this for review because of the glowing reviews given to last year’s “Transformers: War for Cybertron.” I figured that with the same team tackling “Dark of the Moon,” we’d at least get a solid multiplayer experience, rather than the usual shallow, half-baked movie-game cash-in. But reviews for “Dark of the Moon” started to trickle out before I got a chance to play it, and the general consensus was that it featured a forgettable 5-hour campaign and fewer multiplayer modes than “War for Cybertron.” I spent a couple of hours playing through the first two campaign missions. They weren’t horrible, but sticking a Transformer into a fairly linear, by-the-numbers third-person shooter level isn’t really a recipe for a great game. I might play through the rest of “Dark of the Moon” on a rainy afternoon, but only because I know I only have five relatively short missions to go to finish the game.