Release Chat: Week of 21-9-09

I’ll confess that when I first saw Halo 3 : ODST, I thought we were all being swindled. Here is something in a stand-alone box claiming to be a new take on the franchise, with new lead characters, yet when the screenshots began to emerge, I saw something which looked just like the previous one, starring a string of lead characters who each look more identical to Master Chief than the last. But if you take this for what it is, an expansion pack, then you’ll probably find that ODST is one of the most comprehensive and intriguing expansions to any game you care to name. It tells the story through flashbacks scattered throughout a now ruined city, and with an emphasis on tactics and stealth rather than brute force. However, the fact that it’s begin released at full price means my original suspicions of swindling may have been accurate for another reason.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is an RPG starring Spiderman, and a bunch of other heroes and villains from the marvel universe. The first one played very similarly to the console renditions of Fallout and Baldurs Gate, and really came into its own if you had friends to play it with. It certainly features an impressive number of characters, and I guess when you’re writing a game for fans of Marvel, that’s something you absolutely have to get right, or they’ll be on the internet registering their disgust quicker than you can say “Peter Parker picked a pack of pickled peppers”.

We’re very lucky indeed to be seeing Cross Edge outside of Japan. It’s a tactical RPG mashup featuring characters from Namco Bandai, Nippon Ichi, Gust and Idea Factory… a list which to most people in the west probably reads like a who’s who of ‘who the hell is that?’ You either like this sort of thing or you don’t. It’s a deep, complicated and unashamedly retro looking piece of fan-service.

And of course, how can we not give a shout out to Professor Layton And Pandora’s Box on DS. The first one struck a lot of fuzzy chords with its charm and warmth. It also made you feel very clever without patronizing you like certain other brain-excising games I could care to name.

Wouldn’t it be great if Family Trainer: Extreme Challenge wasn’t just another exercise game for the Wii balance board, but actually a genuine simulation of the more challenging moments in family life? Try and stay in your parents good books, fight with your siblings or watch dad sweat as junior asks where babies come from. Unfortunately not.. it’s just another exercising game.

I’ve made a bit of a habit of highlighting the more odd releases over the last few weeks, since the DS has been helpfully laying me a steady stream of golden eggs. This weeks award goes to Dream Day Wedding Destinations, which has the bizarre premise of introducing you to couples and allowing you to decide how each of them met, fell in love and got engaged. In truth though, it’s just another hunt the pixel hidden object game.

– Stew