Digital Blend: Disney Infinity takes to the sky(landers) and The Cave gets a release date

Happy new year! 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 out there for 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…

* Starting next week, on January 22, 2013, CCP Games will swing the doors wide on the free-to-play PlayStation 3 FPS, Dust 514, with the launch of its open beta. The game’s EVE Online universe setting only recently hooked into CCP’s actual sci-fi MMO, which plays out on a single “shard” unlike other multi-server MMOs. This creates a unique cross-game dynamic, with players on the FPS side taking contracts from and being aided by players on the MMO side. The launch of the open beta is great news for fans who have been waiting to take the F2P action for a spin.

* Disney made a lot of noise earlier this week with the announcement of Disney Infinity, an upcoming game that sounds like it’s equal parts SkylandersLittleBigPlanet, and Minecraft. There’s quite a lot to it, so your best bet is to check out Anthony’s preview. While you’re at it, take a peek at our chat with Avalanche Studios CEO John Blackburn. Avalanche is handling development of Infinity and Blackburn offers up a lot of useful information about how the game works and what some of the future plans involve.

* The National Rifle Association made the questionable move earlier this week of releasing the NRA: Practice Range reference app, an info resource for the organization that also includes a shooting range mode that allows users to fire a variety of guns — with others available as microtransactions — at virtual paper targets. The release turned heads because of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s recent skewering of violent entertainment forms as one of the elements that led to Adam Lanza’s horrendous actions in Sandy Hook, Conn. Yes, there’s a world of difference between a game about shooting paper targets and a game about shooting people. Speaking as an ardent supporter of our Second Amendment rights, I still think it’s in poor taste that this shooting range wasn’t removed from the NRA app.

The Cave arrives next week! That’s right, Double Fine fans: Ron Gilbert’s Sega-published, side-scrolling adventure game is coming to a video game platform near you on January 22, 2013. PlayStation Network and Wii U eShop come first, followed on January 23 by an Xbox Live Arcade release. Not caught up on what’s happening with The Cave? Check out our 2012 interview with Gilbert!

* The Behemoth is back. Castle Crashers was first released for Xbox 360 back in 2008, and while the game has since been ported to a number of other platforms, we’ve seen little from the developer beyond a couple of iOS offerings. That all changes next month. Starting at some undetermined point in February 2013, a select group of players will be able take The Behemoth’s upcoming Battleblock Theater out for a spin, compliments of a beta test. You can sign up now, and you probably should since only 10,000 candidates will be selected. Check out Anthony’s report for a rundown of participation requirements and a link to the sign-up page.

Top buys for the week…

Borderlands 2 – Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt DLC :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points

very light week for Digital Blend-y releases is highlighted by the Xbox 360 launch of Gearbox Software’s latest Borderlands 2 DLC pack, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt. Travel to the Pandoran continent of Aegrus where you’ll hunt all manner of big game, take on a devoted Handsome Jack fan, and have your ass handed to you by a pair of new raid bosses. It’s glorious, and an easy choice for pick of the week. Just check out our review.

Temple Run 2 :: iOS :: FREE

Second verse, same as the first. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the fact that Temple Run 2 largely amounts to “more Temple Run,” though it’s hard not to be a little disappointed at the lack of evolution here. There are new characters and new character-specific abilities, along with some new environments, but one has to wonder why all of this content justified the sequel treatment. Oh, what’s that? Temple Run 2 is free-to-play and uses a microtransaction-based pricing model that allows players to spend money rather than time on content unlocks? There you go. Sequel justified.

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