In honor of Labor Day, earth-shattering videogame releases took the week off. ‘The Sims’ becomes more like ‘Skyrim’, and ‘Skyrim’ does something that has to be seen to be believed. Also, we have a few vintage game commercials to go with this week’s assortment of downloadable titles and expansions.
The Sims 3: Supernatural (PC)
Not that long ago, ‘The Sims 3’ had a new content pack with a bunch of colorful Katy Perry-themed sweet treats. Now, in time for fall and Halloween, ‘The Sims 3: Supernatural‘ rises above mere content pack to full-blown expansion. All your favorites are here: werewolves, zombies, fairies, magicians and (newly revamped) vampires. They have new skills to build, and they all want crap to decorate their houses and themselves with. There’s a new town called Moonlight Falls full of these occult characters. As with other things that were formerly cool and refined, this content has been heavily influenced by ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’.
Launch copies of ‘The Sims 3: Supernatural’ include bonus ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ content. Having pea shooters on your lawn to keep zombies at bay does seem like fun. As always, ‘The Sims’ appeals to people of all ages. There’s also a ‘Sims 3 Plus Supernatural‘ bundle available for new players.
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Hearthfire (360)
The second expansion for ‘Skyrim‘, called ‘Hearthfire’, arrives on the 360 not with the noble savagery of a dragon cry, but with the warmth of a fire in a house designed by none other than you, the dragonborn. Presumably, ‘Mr. Dragonborn Builds His Dream House’ was too long a title for an expansion pack.
Bethesda has put together a nice trailer that carefully details the new features, which were reportedly inspired in part by the popularity of ‘Minecraft’. Ignoring for the moment that these features are reminiscent of another popular game franchise and really not like “Minecraft’ at all, the biggest new feature (the design and construction of homes) is handled by accessing the new drafting table. What starts with buying plots of land and constructing homes, continues with moving in spouses and servants and adopting children and pets, then growing gardens and otherwise decorating. If the first expansion pack is any indication, a PC version should follow in a month, while a PS3 version should be ready the day after kingdom come.
Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)
A ninja employs stealth, theatricality, precision, 2D gameplay and a pseudo drawn-art style. ‘Mark of the Ninja’ looks great, and by sticking with a 2D side-scrolling style, the game lets players employ light and sound to be neither seen nor heard. The player can hide in doorways, vents, rooftops and shadows, and can create noise to misdirect the attention of guards who can be either bypassed or eviscerated. The careful ninja will remain undetected, which will help to yield a high score of honor. In contrast, haphazard play will result in death from a few bullets and a return to a checkpoint.
Everyone Sing (360, PS3, Wii)
Even though ‘Everyone Sing‘ is being released on the three major consoles, I wasn’t originally planning to mention this game. Then I watched the trailer. There’s something about the ad that is at once a fair depiction of the game, and yet totally disingenuous due to the over-the-top excitement of everyone involved. It’s though Jack Nicholson’s Joker has been hanging around gassing everyone with slow-death, terrible-smile gas.
Zen Pinball 2 (PSN, PSVita)
The latest and theoretically greatest pinball game from Zen Studios finally comes out for the PS3 and PSVita after months of teasing. Cross-compatible between the PS3 and Vita, the game also brings in any table purchased for the original ‘Zen Pinball’ or the Marvel-flavored version. This is probably the single greatest way ever to try a ton of different pinball tables, which will never break or otherwise malfunction.
Dogfight 1942 (XBLA, PSN, PC)
Until about five minutes ago, ‘Dogfight 1942’ was in development to be released as a full console title called ‘ Combat Wings: The Great Battles of World War II’. The trailers look good, and the developers stress that the controls will be intuitive (arcade-style and fun, rather than realistic and difficult). Details are sketchy at best, but there should be over twenty different kinds of aircraft to fly.
Other than the ground assets (tanks, boats, etc.) looking low poly, the full console development history is reflected well. It already looks better than last week’s ‘Damage, Inc.’, and my hope is that this game scratches that aerial combat itch at a value price.
Kung Fu Strike (XBLA, PC)
‘Kung Fu Strike’ has been out on PC since July, but this is a game that needs Xbox Live. Taking its cue in part from the flowing, inky art style of ‘Street Fighter 4’, the game is a 3D brawler that starts simply but builds to demand more skill in order to attain the best scores.
One button attacks, one button deflects, and there’s one button to jump. Yet the onscreen prompts maximize the variety of moves that come from those inputs (like ‘Viewtiful Joe’ but in a 3D play space.) Some players will really get into climbing the leader boards and playing Versus. I found some levels to be exhausting, and subsequently started playing on Easy lest my hands deform and become useless.
Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan (PC)
The ‘Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan’ expansion raises the level cap from 80 to 85, adds some new areas, factions and gear, and adds a new dimension of mounted combat. If you’re familiar with ‘Lord of the Rings Online’, then you probably know if you want this expansion or not. I mention it here just so that I can include this live-action trailer. The trailer is not specifically terrible, but it isn’t Peter Jackson. Nor does it feature footage of the game, which is kind of telling in its own way.
I mentioned in a previous post how bad game commercials were during the heyday of the NES. That point is supported by an old ‘Legend of Zelda’ commercial at the beginning of this video. Game commercials can still be pretty bad, as evidenced by the infamous PS3 crying bay commercial featured later in the video.