Move over, Mario brothers. In this week’s new videogames, Cybertron falls and robots (mercifully not of the Michael Bay variety) go in disguise. Plus, ‘Counter-Strike’ is back along with ‘Dark Souls’ and some meaty downloadables.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (360, PS3, PC)
‘Fall of Cybertron‘ is the sequel to ‘Transformers: War for Cybertron‘, which proved that some people (not named Michael Bay) actually understand the ‘Transformers’ property and have a vision for it worth sharing. By pulling together classic elements of the ‘Transformers’ universe along with modern third-person shooters like ‘Gears of War’, the Unreal 3 engine and a commitment to a high visual standard, ‘War for Cybertron’ achieved much, even if I still wish that a few things about it had been done differently. ‘Fall of Cybertron’ looks to continue with what was great about the first title, while discarding some of its issues. Where ‘War for Cybertron’ established the roles of Megatron, Starscream, Optimus Prime, etc. in prequel-like fashion, expect ‘Fall of Cybertron’ to escalate the conflict as the Transformers’ planet becomes uninhabitable. This one also has Grimlock, Bruticus and Metroplex. What else do you need to know?
New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
Years ago, Nintendo introduced ‘New Super Mario Bros.‘ for the DS. In concept, it was a Mario title that hearkened back to the ‘Super Mario Bros. 3’ and ‘Super Mario World’ era by featuring 2D gameplay, level progression via a world map, and incorporating everything and the kitchen sink when it came to levels, powers and mechanics. This ‘New’ take attracted Mario fans old and new, and led to the co-operative ‘New Super Mario Bros.‘ for the Wii.
As the series arrives on the 3DS (and before it comes to the Wii U), ‘New Super Mario Bros. 2‘ would seem to focus on coin collecting. One thing that really helps these games is that players already have a familiarity with the play mechanics from 25 years of Mario games and other imitators. This means that the designers don’t have to spend entire levels trying to teach players to press “A” to jump.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (XBLA, PSN, PC)
‘Counter-Strike’ is a competitive (and fun) online tactical FPS that was originally built as a mod for ‘Half-Life’. The countless hours that players have sunk into achieving or preventing the sound of “Counter-terrorists win” has spurned multiple updates to the game. The most notable, ‘Counter-Strike: Source’, was built from the engine of ‘Half-Life 2’.
‘Global Offensive’ is the latest update and reintroduction of ‘Counter-Strike’. I can’t help but think that Valve is targeting the console market of FPS players. The game will have eight classic maps, eight new maps, two new (mod-based) game modes, and a skill-based matchmaking system. Surprisingly, the PlayStation version will not only support the DS3 controller and PlayStation Move, but also mouse and keyboard.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die (PC)
‘Dark Souls: Prepare to Die’ includes the original ‘Dark Souls‘ that came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360 last year, plus the ‘Artorias of the Abyss’ DLC which is slated for the PS3 and 360 this winter. I have a full write-up on some of the many excellent aspects of ‘Dark Souls’ and why it’s a unique and rewarding challenge that I’ll put up on The Bonus View at some point. I’ll just say here that ‘Dark Souls’ is a game where the player cannot pause. Certainly, it has in-game menus like the essential inventory screen and gesture screen, but bringing them up doesn’t pause the game. Also, be careful not to haphazardly attack the NPCs, lest they became angry or, worse, die. The game will instantly save that fact. I accidentally hit the Pyromancy trainer while trying to free him, and appeasing his angered state took thousands of souls.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD (XBLA, PSN)
‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ is a manga that became a Capcom fighting game created by the team behind ‘Street Fighter 3’. The fighting pedigree, the zany art style, and some interesting mechanics brought ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’ out of the arcades and onto home consoles. Even so, this is an obscure title. This HD release is unlikely to win over the uninitiated with its visuals, but longtime fans can enjoy the new online mode.
The tagline for ‘Retro/Grade’ is: “Un-destroy the Universe.” The entire game occurs in reverse, ‘Slaughterhouse Five’-style. The gameplay involves maneuvering both out of the way of enemy shots, and into position to take shots that have already occurred in the future past. Many side-scrolling shooters have a rhythm to the gameplay, but since the player path occurs in reverse here, ‘Retro/Grade’ is even more rhythmic than most. This may explain why the player has the option to either use a normal controller, or a guitar controller with the colored fret buttons that match movement tracks.
Way of the Samurai 4 (PSN)
The fourth ‘Way of the Samurai’ takes place in Japan just after the easing of the nation’s isolationist foreign policy, and the beginnings of trade with foreign powers. It’s up to the player in this sandbox-style game to weed through the three factions (the foreigners, the anti-foreigners, and the somewhat neutral shogunate members) to guide Japan towards one of the game’s many endings. While this title is download only, it has some considerable depth. Also, despite the historical context and seriousness of the political situation, the game allows for a large level of freedom in player actions, and allows for some wry absurdity in many elements of the setting.