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Digital Blend: Awesomenauts channels the Saturday mornings of your childhood

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.

Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.

Making headlines…

* Rock Band fans had a scare earlier this week when a pop-up appeared for all of the iOS app owners stating that the game would “no longer be playable on your device” come May 31. With Harmonix and EA no longer partnered on the rhythm game franchise, many speculated that that was the cause. It turns out, however, that this was all a big misunderstanding. EA stepped up and admitted that the warning was issued “in error,” and that more news will be shared when someone gets to the bottom of exactly what caused the problem. [via Joystiq]

* Gaikai is going mobile. The video game-streaming OnLive competitor scored a big victory in nailing down a partnership with Wikipad, which will offer a glasses-free 2D/3D tablet. While OnLive already offers touch-based game controls for tablet streaming, Gaikai steps things up by offering a special analog stick-and-button-laden controller attachment to better enable the playing of high-end games. There’s no launch date yet, but we’ll be watching this one closely.

* While Zynga works on a way to integrate advertising dollars into its wildly popular Draw Something app, a report indicates that usage of the game is on the decline. Daily Facebook usage statistics apparently dropped from 14.3 million to 10.4 million between April 2 and May 2. This comes not very long after the social game publisher acquired Draw Something creator OMGPOP for $200 million. The report, which comes from WebMediaBrands via the BBC doesn’t account for all users, since it’s possible to play without using Facebook. That’s still a dramatic drop for such a new purchase though.

* The upcoming iOS version of the infernally challenging console platformer Super Meat Boy from Team Meat is not going to be a straight port. Edmund McMillen had revealed that much already, but now he’s filled in a few more details. The hit forever-runner Canabalt is apparently a big inspiration on this iOS Meat Boy, though in a way that is less “surface-level” than the other game. McMillen told Polygon, “[The original] Meat Boy was a twitch-based game about memorizing things. [iOS] Meat Boy is the opposite. That’s the foundation of its design. But it’s also on a touch device, so there’s that as well. We want to make a twitch-based platformer that’s not about memorization.”

* Harebrained Schemes Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun Returns has concluded with just shy of $1.9 million in contributions. That’s considerably more than the original $400,000 target. In other Kickstarter news, the stealth game République from Camouflaj and Logan just confirmed the addition of noted voice actors David Hayter (Metal Gear’s Solid Snake) and Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect‘s FemShep) to the cast. It unfortunately may be too late for the ambitious project, however; with just six days remaining in the funding period, the almost $225K pledged so far falls far short of the $500,000 target. The way Kickstarter works, none of the funding goes through if that goal isn’t hit. Check out or interview with the Camouflaj’s Ryan Payton for more on the game’s development. 

* The Internet is now home to a Flash game based on the ’80s sitcom Perfect Strangers. It’s simply, entirely free to play, and will take you only as long as the length of the show’s theme song to try out. You literally have nothing to lose here. Just go play it.

Top buys for the week…

Fable Heroes :: XBLA :: 800 MS Points
Kudos to Lionhead for trying something different with Fable Heroes even if the game isn’t all that it could have been. It’s basically a Castle Crashers-style brawler featuring cutesy renderings of characters, monsters, and locations in Fable‘s Albion. There are some good ideas that fizzle out over many hours of play, but Fable Heroes is nonetheless an okay game that could go over well at parties. Check out our full review.

Awesomenauts :: XBLA / PSN :: 800 MS Points / $9.99
All you need to know about Awesomenauts is right there in the title: it’s awesome. A 2D online battle game for 3v3 match-ups, it feels like a bizarre and frequently surreal adaptation of a Saturday morning cartoon that never was. That’s totally intentional. There are plenty of games like this out there already, but it’s Awesomenauts‘ unique sense of style that stands as its biggest selling point.

King of Fighters-i 2012 :: iOS :: $6.99
Your appreciation for King of Fighters-i 2012 will depend largely on how will you are to put up with virtual controls on a touch screen. Fighting games demand a high-level of control accuracy, and that’s one arena where virtual controls consistently fall far short. It’s an update on last year’s game; if you were a fan of the first one, and if more characters and new features like competitive match-ups over Wi-Fi sound like good things, you’ll probably want to give this one a look.

Brainsss :: iOS :: $2.99
Lonely Few’s iOS title Brainsss flips the script on zombie action. Instead of surviving an onslaught of the walking dead, you are in control of that onslaught. It’s like zombie-fueled, touch-based real-time strategy. Why no one thought of this sooner is a mystery.

My Little Hero :: iOS :: $0.99 (limited time pricing)
NCsoft brings its heavy hitter status to a mobile platform with My Little Hero. It’s an adorable 3D action game in which you control a little boy who steps into an open fantasy world armed with only a wooden sword and a cardboard helmet. There are collectibles, bosses, an inventory system, upgrades.. just the sort of deep gameplay a serious gamer might be looking for on a mobile platform. And for that price, how can you really go wrong?

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