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.
* Jane Jensen, the Sierra Entertainment veteran and creator of the Gabriel Knight games — as well as the more recent adventure game title Gray Matter — has turned to Kickstarter with an unusual new project. Kickstarter-funded games are quite popular now ever since Tim Schafer saw success with Double Fine Adventure, but Jensen is taking a bigger-picture approach with her own funding initiative. Backers will be spending their money on keeping Jensen’s new studio, Pinkerton Road, running. It’s part of what Jensen calls Community Supported Game, a concept inspired by real-world Consumer Supported Agriculture initiatives (a la food co-ops). The funds earned in this way cover a full year of studio operations and guarantee backers at a certain reward tier all of the games planned for release in that year. There are two on the block now, though more may be added if the funding money rises high enough. Check out our exclusive interview with Jensen here.
* This week, Epic Games finally released the long-awaited multiplayer update for Infinity Blade 2, the iOS-exclusive Unreal Engine-powered game that is equal parts Punch-Out!! and fantasy RPG. The new ClashMob feature offers an asynchronous twist on multiplayer. Instead of duking it out in real-time against actual human opponents, players will form up into gangs called “Mobs” and cooperatively chip away at million HP-plus uber-bosses in a series of challenges. The bigger the mob, the bigger the boss. And the bigger the boss, the bigger the reward for defeating it. The update also enhances the game’s Gem-based upgrade mechanics, allowing players to now combine older, less powerful gems together into new, properly useful ones.
* American McGee, of Alice and Alice: Madness Returns fame, is working at his Spicy Horse studio on an entirely new game based in equal parts on Little Red Riding Hood and feudal Japan-era folklore, with an action/role-playing framework wrapped around it. The game is called Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, with the word “akaneiro” translating roughly to “the color of anger.” As much as Little Red Riding Hood is a source of inspiration, it seems that the Japanese book The Lost Wolves of Japan is a key to understanding where the game comes from as well. Hear about the game straight from McGee in our recent interview. [via Kotaku]
* Sony’s PlayStation Vita is having a rough time in Japan. While it’s a stellar piece of hardware (read Ryan’s review), gamers in Japan don’t seem willing just yet to hop on board with Sony’s latest handheld gaming device. Sales of the device in Japan last week dropped to an all-time low of 8,931. This is partially due to the time of year. All hardware sales took a hit last week, and have been falling in general. The Vita has definitely underperformed, however. And for no good reason, really. It’s not like the launch catalog was so weak, or that games haven’t been coming to it so far on a semi-regular basis.
* Some Android users are reporting issues with certain versions of Angry Birds Space. Serious issues, in the form of the Andr/KongFu-L malware embedded into fully functional copies of pirated versions of the game. The offending code gives hackers root-level access to your device, which allows them to install more malware and take control of certain apps, such as the browser. The version of Space that you get from Google Play directly is fine; the problem comes in when you start looking for it on unofficial marketplaces. [via PocketGamer]
Top buys for the week…
Legend of Grimrock :: PC :: $14.99
Legend of Grimrock is a very neat, retro-styled first-person dungeon crawler from Finnish developer Almost Human. You’ll guide a party of four adventurers — from a pre-generated pool or rolled from scratch — through a massive dungeon hidden deep within the bowels of Mount Grimrock. The real-time combat and grid-based movement are reminiscent of gaming classics like Eye of the Beholder. It’s not for everyone, but it’s getting rave reviews from an adoring critical audience.
Skullgirls :: Xbox Live Arcade / PlayStation Network :: 1200 MS Points / $14.99
Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game from Revenge Labs that mixes beautiful hand-drawn animations with a complex set of combat mechanics. It’s easy to look at the game and immediately thing that it’s based on a pre-existing property, but the characters and artwork are actually original designs conceived by Alex Ahad. It’s a very barebones game in some ways, with a minimal number of modes to choose from, but the elaborately designed characters and tournament fighter-friendly combat depth make this a winner for those who treasure their Hori arcade sticks.
Fez :: Xbox Live Arcade :: 800 MS Points
The standout Digital Blend-selected game release of the week is, without question, Fez. The work of Phil Fish and Polytron Corporation, Fez first made a splash back in 2008 at the IGF awards. Now it’s finally out and available for anyone with an Internet-connected Xbox 360 and 800 MS Points to buy. You can go ahead and read my review, but you’re really better off just pulling the trigger and buying it. Yes, it’s that good.
The Splatters :: Xbox Live Arcade :: 800 MS Points
The Splatters, from SpikySnail Games, is in an unfortunate position this week, what with it being an action/puzzle game that arrives in the same stretch of time as Fez. It’s being understandably overshadowed by the Polytron Corp. release, and that’s a real shame. The basic premise has you flinging smiling, googly-eyed paint-filled bodies at bombs of the same color strung up around each level. When like-colored paint and bomb come together, an explosion is triggered. It’s a bit like Angry Birds in some ways, a comparison that only grows stronger when you factor in the bite-sized levels and three-star ratings you can earn in each one.
Lone Survivor :: PC :: $10
Technically, Lone Survivor was released last week. Shame on me for missing it too, since it’s one of the best indie PC games released this year. Lone Survivor is a 2D psychological horror game that’s cut from the same cloth as Silent Hill, only with SNES-era graphics. You can buy it straight from SuperFlat Games’ website for $10, but you can also get a free sampling of it with a free Flash demo available at Kongregate.
Max Payne Mobile :: iOS :: $2.99
What you see is what you get here. Rockstar Games’ classic cinematic shooter, Max Payne, now has a mobile edition available on iOS platforms. The last-gen game now features newly remastered HD visuals — including Retina support for the new iPad — and extremely responsive, completely customizable touch controls. You can tweak pretty much everything to suit your own particular play style. There’s also full integration with Rockstar Social Club. In all other ways, however, Max Payne Mobile is a complete reproduction of the original game, and a good way to pass the time with shoot-dodging action while you wait for Rockstar’s Max Payne 3 in May.
Death Rally :: Android :: FREE
Death Rally is old news for iOS users, a killer offroad combat racing game from Remedy that is played from an isometric perspective. It’s like R.C. Pro AM with a current-gen boost. You’ve got a range of vehicles to choose from that all feel different from one another, in addition to being upgradeable. Death Rally has been around on iOS for awhile, but this week marks its long-awaited Android release. And it’s entirely free. Which means you have no excuse not to go and play it immediately.