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.
* Apple stepped up and dropped the banhammer on Auroch Digital’s Endgame Syria earlier this week because of its violation of App Store guidelines. Apple’s policy states that no App Store offering can “solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation or any other real entity.” Endgame Syria violates that policy for putting players in command of the rebels challenging Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s rule; it’s part of Auroch Digital’s Game the News project, which seeks to educate by way of interactive experiences. Auroch spoke to Digital Trends about the situation, and how it reflects a larger issue with Apple’s closed App Store environment, in an exclusive interview that you can read right here.
* Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is due for some DLC. The first content pack for Treyarch’s latest – called Revolution – arrives on January 29, 2013 as a timed Xbox 360 exclusive, selling for 1,200 MS Points. Fans can look forward to four new multiplayer maps (“Downhill,” “Grind,” “Hydro,” “Mirage”), one new Zombies map (“Die Rise”), a new Zombies game mode called Turned (take control of a zombie!), and – in a first for Call of Duty DLC – a new weapon (Peacekeeper SMG).
* You’ve probably read plenty at this point about PowerA’s neat, Android-friendly game controller, the MOGA. Now the peripheral maker is back with a refreshed take on the pocket-sized smartphone device with the larger MOGA Pro. The new Bluetooth-enabled controller works a lot like the original version did, with one notable difference: it’s a full-sized gamepad. The MOGA Pro is unmistakably modeled after Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controllers, with a flip-up cradle in the center that you can seat your smartphone in.
* Nvidia is making a big push at CES 2013 for it’s newly announced Project Shield. This handheld device is a self-contained Android platform, shaped like an Xbox 360 controller but with a flip-up 5-inch screen covering its face. Project Shield is designed as a dedicated portable Android gaming platform, fitted with the latest Nvidia Tegra 4 GPU and capable of running apps from the Google Play store. The device will also make use of Nvidia’s Grid technology to allow gamers to stream full PC games to their Shield, as long as they remain within the range of their wireless network.
* 17-Bit Entertainment’s long-in-development turn-based strategy game, Skulls of the Shogun, finally takes its bow on January 30, 2013. What makes Skulls unique is the fact that it’s a Microsoft hardware exclusive that offers cross-platform saving and cross-platform play across the most current Windows platforms. That means Windows 8, Windows Phone, Windows Surface, and Xbox 360 consoles, with unique, platform-specific control options for each one. The game is a lot of fun and will only set you back $15 ($7 on Windows Phone). Definitely worth a look.
* Ouya, the little Kickstarter-funded Android console that could, is facing some competition in 2013, both from products like the GameStick and from the continued forward march of mobile technology that threatens to render the bite-sized console’s innards obsolete before it even touches down. Fortunately for Ouya, the company has some nice exclusive offerings to back up the hardware, and only more to come. The latest sees the console maker partnering with Kill Screen for Create, a 10-day game jam that sees developers competing for a $20,000 grand prize (along with a number of other cash prizes). More importantly, all finalists will receive an Ouya dev console, which is the key tool they’ll need to develop games for the new hardware.
* Big moves this week for EVE Online and Dust 514 fans, as CCP Games at last merged the former’s single-shard MMORPG universe with the latter’s free-to-play, PlayStation 3-exclusive community. The merging of the two games brings added benefits and a deeper sense of involvement to both communities, as EVE players can now contract Dust players to take on missions that, if successful, could adversely impact opponents on the MMO side. It’s crazy ambitious and really cool, and it makes Dust 514 considerably more attractive as a multiplayer shooter to pour hours into.
* Another subscription-based MMO has officially cut itself loose from monthly payment requirements. En Masse Entertainment’s Tera will ditch subscriptions for a free-to-play pricing model at some undetermined point in February. Subscription will still be an option for dedicated fans, with your monthly payout of $15 being put toward an assortment of bonuses that F2P gamers will have to pay for a la carte.
Top buys for the week…
Expect to see the adventure game genre surge in 2013 following Telltale Games’ success last year with The Walking Dead. Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero actually predates the Telltale game, having launched as a Kickstarter endeavor in January 2011. It successfully hit its funding goal and then missed the originally planned Fall 2011 release, but the game has finally arrived and – having played through the first episode – I can confirm that the wait was most definitely worth it. It’s best if you read nothing more and simply dive in, especially if you fancy yourself a fan of adventure game classics like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. The game isn’t available through any of the typical virtual storefronts, so head over to the developer’s website to try it for yourself. It’s an easy pick of the week.
Hundreds sort of defies description. I can tell you how it plays, but that in no way captures the actual act of playing this incredibly devious puzzle game. The goal is simple: in each round, you must press and hold your finger on any of several circles with a number in the center, usually starting at 0. The longer you hold your finger down, the larger the circle grows and the higher the number climbs. When the sum of the numbers in all of the circles equals 100, the round ends. The challenge ramps up as sawblades and moveable obstacles come into play. Again though, the best way to really understand the joys of Hundreds is to play it for yourself.
Joe Danger Touch! is a solid little iOS game, combining content from both of the previous Joe Danger titles and adding an assortment of mobile device-friendly features. The game puts you in the jumpsuit and cape of a stuntbike driver. Also, there are sharks. What more do you need?