Backlog: Love Me Do edition

Ah, it's that time again. The taste of romance is in every gust of air. It rustles each leaf with libidinous intent while its bedfellow, infatuation, pours itself into our potable water reservoirs from the back of some unmarked van rented at an Avis by foreign insurgents. We're talking about a biological terrorist attack of the heart here. That familiar, disgusting plague which incites both pleasure (a sudoric [read: sweaty] bedroom encounter) and pain (a three-course meal and expensive wine at a restaurant far out of your tax bracket) is back. A cruel holiday Valentine's is: lovers love while the lonely get lonelier.

But who gives a shit when you've got videogames to play, right?

With no real honor or cause paid to Valentine's Day (which is coming up this Monday, for those who are chronologically handicapped), I present this week's Backlog in stunning LOVE-O-VISION ©.

Basically, I colored everything pink.

Nick:

I am not a violent man by nature. When I’ve been shoved around or belittled, my first reaction hasn’t been to rise up with fists; instead, I try to take the high road and fire back with a wry insult or pithy rejoinder. What can I say? I have a way with words.*

But for whatever reason -- carnal instinct? buried ferocity? too many demeaning camping trips in my Boy Scout days? -- I get a whole lot of satisfaction out of a game that delivers raw, crunchy and, well, visceral combat. It’s related to the giddiness I get from watching a great ‘80s action movie, like the moment when John McClane sends Hans Gruber plummeting to his demise or when John Matrix (truly the golden age of brain-dead movie protagonist names!) throws an effing pipe through Bennett and urges him to “let off some steam.”

Genius.

That’s why Dead Space 2 has been such an absolute joy to play. Having devoured the first third of the game in one sitting, I’m finding very little fault in the experience. Putting a face and a voice to hero Isaac Clarke (truly the golden age of brain-dead game protagonist names!) helps give the player a more meaningful anchor within the game world. And thanks to a more-linear level structure, Dead Space 2 has honed its flow to a near-perfect pitch. Really, I think it was summed up best by @Casey_Malone when he said that Dead Space is to Dead Space 2 as Uncharted is to Uncharted 2. It really is that significant of an improvement.

But given that our theme this week is love, or whatever, I’d like to point out a game that I couldn’t help but fall for within the first ten minutes: Stacking. It’s the second of Double Fine’s quartet of downloadable new games, and it’s a strong successor to the witty and adorable Costume Quest. Pairing an industrial-age motif with Russian matryoshka dolls, Stacking is a clever puzzle-solving game filled with Double Fine’s trademark clever writing. I can’t wait to dive in deeper.

*And the muscle mass of a tiny kitten.

Doug:

I feel about a million years late to the party, but: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is now on iOS and is awesome. I'm kind of ashamed to say that I'd only heard of the Ace Attorney series until now, but can you blame me? My DS usually just gathers dust. I'm a terrible handheld gamer. Anyway, I'm halfway through the second case, and man, I kind of wish the difficulty ramp-up was a little gentler; you go from feeling really confident burying a guy in court to then having to investigate, find evidence, keep track of it, and begin to press for falsehoods in testimony. The second court case is a lot more complicated, but it's a fun challenge.

In any case, this is exactly the kind of game that should be on iOS devices — not terribly action-intensive, but able to take advantage of a touch screen and keep you interested. Compare this with playing the iOS version of Super Street Fighter IV on Nick's iPhone, or the copy of FIFA 11 I bought when it was on sale — games that put a d-pad and buttons on the screen — and while it's something that can be done, it's just not the way I want to play those games. The touch-screen D-pad is a particular problem, though it performed better in SSFIV than I expected. I still have Broken Sword that fits these general themes, too, and I should tackle that again soon, but right now it's Wright time. It's now back up to $5, which is a bit dear for an iPhone/iOS game, but definitely worthwhile.

I've also been spending a ton of time on Assassin's Creed II. I'm really close to the end, but I spent a bunch of time last weekend hunting for codex pages and pieces of The Truth. So I know The Truth now, but still don't understand it; I still have some other collectibles to find, and the last few assassinations to execute, so hopefully I'll understand everything by the time the credits roll. Nick's also kindly supplied me with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which is just sitting there, taunting me, and providing more reason to finish up its predecessor.

I'm also probably going to re-start my NBA 2K11 career (again) just in time for the Portland Trail Blazers to get healthy. Again. Maybe. Hopefully.

Aaron:

What a gorgeous week! The benefit to working a 10 hour shift for four days is that you get three consecutive days off. It's a price that's worth paying with the nickels and dimes plucked from the tired, defeated body you lug home after each day. Anyway, I used my last few days off to chow-the-fuck-down on my personal backlog of games.

I'm more than halfway through Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and everyone who said good things about the game was beyond right -- they were prophetic. And regardless of its sales, I'm happy to own a copy of Ninja Theory's digital opus. The facial animation and character development between Monkey and Trip is staggering, and even poetic to a degree. What a nuanced game Enslaved is, and one that deserves to be played by all gamers.

Stacking came out this week, and I don't know what to think about it. There's no doubt that I find it charming, but I get a strange sense while playing it that I'm not clever enough for the game. Don't ask me to explain that, because I have no idea what I'm talking about. I suppose, and this sounds harsh, that I'm not enough of a hipster to "get" Stacking.

Fallout: New Vegas was in my Xbox 360's disc tray for about two hours on Wednesday. Moving on....

Let me say something about Dead Space 2: the succulent meat and tender potatoes of my gaming habits this week. It has impressed me more in an hour than any game in recent memory. I can tell it's a masterpiece, all hyperbole taken into consideration, and I'm on the second chapter. Cinematic doesn't even begin to describe Dead Space 2, but that's what it is; Visceral Games has taken cues from film and injected them into an expertly paced horror title so damn well.