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.
* Do you enjoy smacking the gooey bits out of zombies? Are you generally too active to spend much time in front of the TV blasting away at them in a video game? Game developer PerBlue is working on casting your zombie-smashing goals out into the real world with the upcoming, GPS-powered Android game, Parallel Zombies. It’s actually out now in the Google Play store, but we’ve got some more details on it straight from the developer, thanks to an interview with PerBlue’s Ellie Humphrey. Take a peek at our chat with the developer to get a better sense of the location-based zombie game and how it plays.
* Verizon Wireless is taking a forward-thinking crack at making some scratch off of the ever-growing mobile gaming market with the launch of the new GameTanium service. The wireless provider’s partnership with Exent has resulted in a subscription-based service that offers Android smartphone and tablet users the option of spending $5.99 per month for unfettered access to a library of 150 games. The monthly cost is on a per-device basis, however, so those with multiple gadgets and gizmos will probably want to weigh which one sees the most gaming time. These aren’t nothing games either; the library includes popular titles like World of Goo and Fruit Ninja. It’s not terribly different from Amazon’s GameCircle, which I told you about in last week’s Digital Blend, and Apple’s Game Center, though both of those are of course free services. GameTanium asks for your money, but it serves up a library of games to play in return.
* Fez is awesome. Just read my review. It took a long time to arrive, but the wait turned out to be worth it in the end. Only the launch wasn’t perfect. Polytron’s inventive platformer hit Xbox Live Arcade with a number of issues that needed to be addressed in a patch. Only the patch, once it was released, wiped out the save data for a small percentage of users. It was pulled quickly, and Polytron’s Phil Fish set to work on another patch. The problem, as Fish told Fez fans earlier this week, is that it costs an exorbitant amount of money for a developer to release a patch for one of its games on Xbox Live. How exorbitant? $40,000. The solution? The broken patch has been re-issued, along with Fish’s sincere apologies. The cost of patching the game is just too expensive, he said, and since the patch only affects one percent of all users, it boils down to “a shitty numbers game.” Too bad. Don’t let this unfortunate turn of events keep you away from Fez though. It’s a superior game, and an experience that only deepens the more that you play it.
* Queasy Games’ Sound Shapes will be here before you know it. The downloadable PlayStation 3/PS Vita game is part of Sony’s annual PSN Play program (think Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade, only for PlayStation products), and it’s coming our way on August 7, 2012. Our close proximity to the release didn’t stop Queasy and Sony from revealing yet another surprise from the game. Three of the levels in Sound Shapes will feature the music of quirky alt-rocker Beck. Unreleased tunes, no less. The levels were created by Pyramid Attack, the animation studio behind Guitar Hero 2‘s cutscenes. Check out Anthony’s report for more details.
* Valve understands that PC users don’t just rely on Windows. That’s why there’s a Mac version of Steam, and why there’s been an increased focus on releasing Mac-friendly PC games in recent months. Now, Valve is looking to explore the next frontier in PC gaming: Linux. The company confirmed plans this week to release a Linux version of Steam sometime in the near future. The initial release will only support the Ubuntu distribution of the open-source operation system, but the possibility for added support down the road is always there. Valve is also working to make its library more Linux-compatible, starting with Left 4 Dead 2.
* It was confirmed earlier this week that a major player at Epic Games left to head off in a new direction. Lee Perry, an industry veteran who served as senior gameplay designer on Gears of War 3, has struck out on his own to form BitMonster Games. The new studio is focusing its efforts for now on iOS and PC releases, with its first game — an iOS action-adventure called Lili — already lined up. Perry’s separation from Epic isn’t complete, however. Alongside the news of Perry’s departure, Epic confirmed that it has signed a multi-title deal with BitMonster that will allow the indie developer to build its games in Unreal Engine 3. Lili is a UE3 title, and it should be coming later this year.
Top buys for the week…
If you’re only going to buy one downloadable game this week, definitely make it DYAD. The gorgeous game defies explanation in many ways, amounting to equal parts on-rails shooter and puzzle game. Think Rez. There are some high-fallutin’ concepts built into the design of this audio/visual feast, and I highly encourage all PlayStation 3 owners to give it a look.
As you can see in Ryan’s DLC impressions, the “Arctic Strike” DLC pack for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier falls a bit short of “totally awesome.” That said, it’s still more maps, more weapons, and a new mode for what amounts to the best multiplayer shooter experience that we’ve seen this year. Ubisoft really outdid itself with the long-delayed Tom Clancy-branded game, a rare occasion when the wait turned out to be worth it. “Arctic Strike” offers players an opportunity to expand on that stellar experience. I’ll see you (and be gunning for you) online.
Gameloft has built up a reputation for releasing mobile titles that attempt to replicate a console experience. There’s the developer’s Uncharted game, the Halo game, the Grand Theft Auto game, the Zelda game, and plenty more besides. Now we have the Batman: Arkham City game, only The Dark Knight Rises at least falls under the same franchise umbrella that Rocksteady’s two releases do. The game is based on Christopher Nolan’s new movie, out today (check out our review), with players guiding Christian Bale’s Gotham Knight through key scenes using gameplay that looks very much like what we’ve all seen in the Arkham games. It’s not nearly as elaborate or advanced — there’s no progressively unlocked open world that reveals itself as you earn more gear and the combat is much simpler and less challenging — but it’s a slick-looking Batman game all the same. Some might prefer to wait until the inevitable price drop down from $6.99, but rabid fans of Nolan’s trilogy will have a hard time passing this one up.
Fieldrunners has long been must-own material for iOS device users. Subatomic Studios’ quirky tower defense game is as “classic” as an App Store title can get, having been one of the flagship games even back in the days of the first-gen iPhone. Now we’ve got Fieldrunners 2, a shiny, new sequel that adds all manner of new stuff to the game. There are new towers to build, power-ups, and an assortment of modes. The sequel is only released for iPhone right now, though Subatomic is presumably working on rectifying that minor problem. The good news, however, is that Fieldrunners 2 carries the same honor as its predecessor of being a mobile game that you really, really ought to pick up.
Free is a wonderful thing, especially when it applies to a fan-favorite multiplayer map release for what is arguably the most popular first-person shooter on the market right now. Fan-favorite MP map Terminal returns in updated form from its Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 debut for a repeat performance in Modern Warfare 3. The map is out now and completely free to download for all Xbox 360 users. PlayStation 3 and PC versions are presumably coming at some point, though no release date has been confirmed just yet.
Not enough free stuff? Well here’s some more. Mass Effect 3 multiplayer hounds get yet another content update, the latest in a string that have followed the game’s early 2012 release. The “Earth” DLC pack is all about the game’s co-op-oriented Galaxy at War mode, with three new maps (set on Earth), six new classes (humans only), and three new weapons to enjoy, plus an all-new Platinum difficulty setting for those who just aren’t feeling challenged enough by the already merciless Gold difficulty.