What Nick's been playing
I'm in a bit of a difficult situation here as a writer. Here's why: I've been playing so many games lately but haven't had more than a couple hours to myself every day for the last couple weeks. I'd love to be writing about a lot of them, and it'd be great to put out a few full-fledged reviews while I'm at it, but time and energy haven't permitted. By way of compromise, here's my pitch: I'll write a paragraph about every game I've been playing lately, and you can let me know which game(s) you're eager to hear more about. We'll take it from there. Sound good?
Shantae: Risky's Revenge (iOS)
This is my first WayForward game, a small studio renowned for its excellent, classically rooted platform games, and I'm having a blast with it. Originally released as a Nintendo DSi downloadable game, it was just recently ported to iOS as a universal app. The full game can be unlocked for a paltry $2.99, which I didn't hesitate to pay. Shantae features tight, responsive controls (a pleasant surprise on a touch-only device,) expressive animations and a clever, distinct game world. I can't wait to dive deeper and see everything it's got to offer, but if you're looking for a great iOS platformer (maybe the first yet?) I'd suggest giving Shantae a try.
Dead Island (Xbox 360)
It opens with what's unquestionably the dumbest intro video of this console generation. Disgustingly overwrought ethnic stereotypes curse up and down while a zombie outbreak casually takes place before your intoxicated eyes. You don't give a shit because you're hammered and popping pills. There's nothing wrong with building a world where every character is despicable, but it just doesn't fit Dead Island. If you don't empathize with the human characters in a survival-driven game, what's the allure? Despite its frustrating scenario, Dead Island features a surprisingly deep and addictive drop-in/drop-out cooperative experience that combines an addictive melee-combat system with Borderlands-style collaborative questing. It's an odd game, and it's certainly not for everyone, but I can already tell I'm gonna be spending a lot of quality time with Dead Island.
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
Absolute brilliance. I shouldn't have expected anything less from the sequel to our 2009 Game of the Year, but Rocksteady delivered a superb sequel with Arkham City. Play this game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)
I'm about ten hours in at this point, and Human Revolution is proving itself time and again to be a true sequel to the original Deus Ex. It's a good and bad thing, though, as the gameplay mechanics and relatively empty decisions you make feel pretty antiquated by today's standards. Still, the world is engrossing enough and the combat satisfying in its own way that I'm looking forward to seeing everything this game's got to offer.
Jetpack Joyride (iOS)
Halfbrick, makers of iPhone classics like Fruit Ninja and Monster Dash, served up a pretty fantastic $.99 game with Jetpack Joyride. I don't know that I've played a more addictive iOS game all year. Few games do one-button controls this well, nor are they packed with so much personality. Check it out.
The Gunstringer (Xbox 360 Kinect)
Yeah, I got a Kinect. And it was good timing, too, because Twisted Pixel's first retail release, The Gunstringer, had just come out. Dan Teasdale, designer of the Rock Band series and renowned Australian, has been working on this game since he came to Twisted Pixel about a year ago. The result is not just the most fun Kinect game I've seen since Dance Central but also Twisted Pixel's most polished game yet. Sure, retail packaging and a $40 price tag probably warrant a little more QA work, but it's nice to see that the TP team can deliver a seriously hysterical and memorable experience that's also admirably polished. I haven't unlocked The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles, but the notion of a free FMV shooter in the style of Mad Dog McCree is just...I don't know. The best thing ever? Yeah, let's go with that.
Dance Central (Xbox 360 Kinect)
It's a little awkward playing Dance Central by yourself, but it's also the best way to learn how to play it well. The game's Break It Down mode is an excellent tutorial system that scales to your performance by intelligently either assigning additional repetitions of a move if you're sucking at it or letting you skip over it entirely if you nail it the first time. That, coupled with a pretty impressive variety of dance songs, makes for what's still the showpiece standout of the Kinect platform.
Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3)
Masochism, thy name is Demon's Souls. I can't say I've ever been so addicted to punishment, but this game is just so hard to put down that even an agonizing death is quickly reassembled by my brain into a memorable learning experience. Sure, it's tough and unforgiving, but it's rare that you'll ever take damage or die and not feel like you're to blame for it. It's one of the most rewarding experiences to be had in gaming this generation, and if you're looking for a good challenge you won't be disappointed.