Backlog: Is January the cruelest month?

Truly, April may be the cruelest month, but January is getting damn close. After a respite granted by the holidays, the real world stings like the fog on a frosty January morning. Aaron's got the working man's blues, living for the weekend (whenever that may actually fall for him — it's like a shell game, you see), while Doug and Nick have the non-working man's blues. It's enough to drive a person crazy.

Plus the days are still crazy short around here. At least we have video games to keep us company! Time for the Backlog!

Aaron

I never thought I'd get around to beating Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, but I did. In the end it took about two hours of focused dedication to defeat the Katayanagis, NegaScott and the many evil forms of Gideon. Looking back after a couple of days since then, the game really wasn't that difficult...I'm just bad at beat'em ups.

It's been another solid week of LittleBigPlanet 2 action at my house, and my appreciation of the game continues to grow. The charm of the series has never been lost on me, but I've connected with the sequel in a way that wasn't possible with the first. Maybe that's because I own my own personal copy of number two and, in a way, I feel a legitimate connection to my Sackboy and his experiences — the clothes he wears and the items he collects. Sharing the brilliant level design and quirky British charm with my girlfriend has also made LBP2 my favorite game of 2011, which isn't really a big honor because I haven't tried Dead Space 2 yet.

Nick

Call me crazy, but I just haven't been in the mood for videogames this week. I'm pushing hard to find a job and figure out how I'm gonna move out on my own once again — am I sounding like a broken record yet? — but aside from that, I've mostly just been sleeping.

I plunged back into BioShock 2 with Minerva's Den, a self-contained story add-on. Look for some more on that once I wrap it up in the next few days.

I've barely scratched the surface of LittleBigPlanet 2 since the day I got it, and I think I know why: playing it alone just isn't much fun. I had the good fortune of having a friend around when my copy arrived and we blazed through the first world, having a great time of it. But since then I can only get through a level or two before I get frustrated or bored and shelve it again. Much like the first LittleBigPlanet, the real value of the game is in its creation tools and not its level design; unfortunately, the only way to get the tools for level building is by playing through the single-player mode.

But it's not all doom and gloom. I picked up Solipskier yesterday, an awesome little game that's well-suited to a touchscreen platform. It's available on iOS and Android, and there's also a web-based version on the developer's site. It's a simple concept: draw a path for a skier to follow with your finger, building up speed and hitting gates while avoiding pitfalls. I'll admit I didn't get the appeal when I saw it on a friend's phone, but that's probably because the sound was off. Solipskier features some great music, with its ridiculous guitar-shredding gameplay song that clashes beautifully with the quiet Chopin piano composition that accompanies the game-over screen. It's currently down to $.99 on the App Store; highly recommended.

Doug

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the times are lean, then, the gamer gets creative. Over the past few years I've noticed myself spending a lot of time gaming forward, consuming a bit of a game then buying another new one the next month. I can't do that right now, so it's time to burn through my backlog of games. Otherwise, I'm liable to go insane either by overdosing on Pro Evo Soccer or job applications, and neither is a great idea.

How this turned into a ringing endorsement for Super Street Fighter IV, then, is anybody's guess, but god damn have I forgotten how good that game is. Nick can still kick the ever-loving crap out of me at it — in ten online matches earlier this week, I won once, maybe — but I'm struggling to think of a good reason why I ever shuffled the game out of my regular rotation. It really is an amazing fighting game, matching a deep fighting engine with fast action and a great graphic style. I've noticed a few extra graphic flourishes of late, too, like the look of horror on your opponent's face during the windup animation for an Ultra. I'm still really bad at the game, but improving through sheer determination and practice.

Like Aaron, I've also spent more time on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Now that I know the best process for leveling up a character, I can avoid the frustration of being at a high level but without upgraded stats. The sprites, songs and beat-em-up gameplay are still fulfilling, and the DLC pack at least adds Knives as a playable character. So it's got that going for it.

Normally I'm the guy who's elbows-deep in sports game career modes, all worried about the dynamics going on within my soccer, football or basketball season. I enjoy story-based games, but I've always been really bad about justifying taking the time to complete missions. Right now, though, I'm in a real patch of single player goodness — I'm almost done with Assassin's Creed II and my second playthrough of Mass Effect 2.

AC2 has continued to impress me in almost every way possible. The game uses so many of the same basic ideas as its predecessor, but it paces and meters them in a much, much better way. I love the storyline, finding out The Truth, exploring renaissance Italy, and all the wonderful Italian cursing.

And what can be said about ME2 that we haven't already covered in detail? Still a great game. I think I'm going to find time next week to dive through the game's final mission. Can't wait for ME3.