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.
* The iPhone 5 is official. Earlier this week, Apple held a press conference where it drew back the curtain on its next-gen iPhone. Pre-orders open starting today, September 14, and the new smartphone will be available in stores on September 21. Hidden behind the new 4-inch screen is some powerful tech centered around an A6 processor. This is the first of Apple’s phones to offer support for 4G LTE networks thanks to a new wireless receiver. Buyers can also expect to find an improved camera that shoots faster and performs better in low light conditions. We’ve got tons and tons and tons of iPhone 5 coverage, both from earlier this week and ongoing. Check it all out right here.
* It’s been another big week for Steam’s new Greenlight service, which is a crowdsourced platform where users can vote on which games should be sold through Valve’s digital distribution service. The first round of up-voted games has officially been approved by Valve for eventual release, which means 10 new Steam titles will soon be available on a gaming PC near you. There are some solid picks in there, as you might expect, including Black Mesa, the long-in-development HD remake of Valve’s classic FPS Half-Life. The list is pretty heavy on horror titles, notably including The Indie Stone’s inventive Project Zomboid. Anthony’s report has the full rundown. Also, be sure to check back in on Sunday, September 16, for Anthony’s interview with the developers behind the newly greenlit Greenlight title, No More Room In Hell.
* The guy who made Wing Commander is making games again. I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath. The long-ignored genre of space flight combat simulators was long, long ago led by Chris Roberts’ Wing Commander series. Featuring a rich fictional universe filled with memorable characters and a flavor all its own, the Wing Commander games quickly turned into what passed for AAA development at a time when PCs outpaced consoles much more than they do today. Now Roberts is planning a reveal for October 10, 2012, the same days as GDC Online, and it’s something related to his new Cloud Imperium Games studio. It sounds like he’s moving in more of an online-focused direction than a story-driven one, but we’ll have to wait until next month to learn more.
* Gamers want some flavor of Borderlands on their PlayStation Vita. Series creator Gearbox Software does as well. Sony? Probably, right? Borderlands is totally a big deal, with next week’s Borderlands 2 standing as one of the most pre-ordered games in publisher 2K Games’ history. The Vita platform is starved for content, and a Borderlands game would drive fans wild. Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford knows it too, but he’s not about to start putting his team to work on developing a new Borderlands for the Vita. He said as much in a recent interview, adding “I think Sony should step up and make that happen.” Pitchford explained that he’d be totally okay with his studio’s baby being ported to the Sony handheld, but it’s a project that would have to be taken on by another developer. Here’s hoping all of this talk actually leads to the reality of Borderlands gameplay on the go.
* The standalone version of Dean Hall’s Arma 2 zombie mod DayZ continues to be a thing that people are talking about. We already know that the plan is for the Bohemia Interactive-developed DayZ to embrace the same sort of release model than Mojang did with Minecraft, releasing the game in an early and unfinished state at a reduced price, and then using the post-release player base as a testing environment to fine-tune the way it all works. All of which is great, but producer Jan Kunt noted in a recent interview that the PC-focused team is nonetheless aware that there’s a big community of gamers who only play on consoles. Will DayZ make the jump? Nothing’s set in stone yet, but it’s definitely something they want to make happen at some point down the road.
Top buys for the week…
Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier just got a little bit larger. The newly released Raven Strike DLC pack adds three new campaign missions to the game plus an all-new map for Guerilla mode. The missions are the highlight, as you can read in my review. With support for one to four players, you’ve got what amounts to more of the same fantastically well-designed cover-shooting steath/action mix spread out over three sprawling environments. It’s a bit rough around the edges in some ways and there are missed opportunities for even better content here and there, but the overall package is totally worth it if you enjoyed the original May 2012 release.
WayForward Technologies has done a dynamite job in the past of tickling the game community’s love for the old days, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the newly released Double Dragon: Neon. The game is fundamentally the same as its coin-op predecessor on a mechanical level, but the graphics have been spruced up and the systems that tie everything together have been blown out in a big way. It’s still just two bro-dudes out to save a pretty lady from the clutches of an evil jerk, but now the action touches on everything from urban back alleys to outer space. It’s totally over the top and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This isn’t the first time Anomaly: Warzone Earth has been featured in Digital Blend, but this week marks the first time that the game is available via the PlayStation Network. It’s not entirely clear why this mobile-spawned gem of a game isn’t also available for the touchscreen-enabled PlayStation Vita, but Nex heartily approved of the PlayStation 3 port from 11-bit Studios in his review. For those who aren’t familiar, Anomaly is a sort of reversal on the tower defense genre, with players guiding a convoy around a series of maps and taking out various turrets and other emplacements while completing a variety of mission objectives. It’s not the most complex game of this sort that you’ll ever see, but it’s fun, well-designed, and eye-catchingly pretty.
This week’s lone PC offering isn’t a new release, but it’s new on Steam. Freebird Games’ To The Moon is a point-and-click adventure game with a visual aesthetic that resembles classic top-down RPGs like Final Fantasy. There’s no action in this game, however. To The Moon‘s main hook is its story, a well-written piece of fiction that explores the end of a person’s life through a sci-fi lens. If stories like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appeal to you, then this is a game you’ll want to check out. Those who already own To The Moon are entitled to a free Steam key. Freebird is also currently working on the game’s second episode, which will presumably hit Steam on day one now that its predecessor is there.
Stickman Base Jumper :: iOS :: $0.99
It’s a quiet week on the mobile gaming front as well, though Djinnworks’ Stickman Base Jumper makes for some great Kleenex gaming until the next $0.99 time-eater comes along. I tend to think that the best mobile games explain themselves more effectively through images than words, and this game is no exception. So instead of reading along as I talk up the game’s simple-yet-eye-catching graphics and straightforward, largely trial-and-error-focused gameplay, why don’t you just watch the trailer?