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Digital Blend: The Walking Dead – Episode One finally shambles into release

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.

Making headlines…

* Jay-Z is coming to Facebook. The crazy popular rap artist has hired Happy Giant, a developer staffed by a few former LucasArts folks, to come up with a Facebook game, fittingly titled Empire. Work has been happening behind the scenes for the past nine months. The game allows you to build up your created character from his (or her) beginnings in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects to worldwide success. You can check out the open beta now if you like. [via Joystiq]

* Rovio’s iOS hit Angry Birds Space got a free update this week in the form of an add-on pack that brings 10 new ice planet levels into the game. This applies to all platforms that the game is available on. Apple device users get a bonus though, in the form of 20 free space eagles plus one more freebie every day for an unspecified amount of time. [via Rovio]

* You’ve seen it mentioned a lot here on Digital Blend, but big news this week for Leisure Suit Larry HD: the ongoing Kickstarter project reached its $500,000 goal with a whole week remaining for more people to step up and share the love. At this point, any money you put down is essentially a guaranteed pre-order. Get on it.

Minecraft-pocket-edition-screenshot* Big news for mobile Minecraft fans this week. Mojang’s Minecraft: Pocket Edition was FINALLY updated to include a crafting system. It’s obviously somewhat pared down from the PC version of the game, and the interface is completely different. But the second half of the Minecraft title now applies to the mobile version. That’s GREAT news!

* Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering, has a Kickstarter up and aimed at generating funds for a new game idea for iOS. Map Monsters aims to do location-based gameplay “right” by not actually requiring anyone to travel around (but rewarding those who do). The funding goal is $40,000 for an iPhone/iPad release.

Top buys for the week…

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet :: Steam :: $14.99
Shadow Planet Productions’ Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet hit Xbox Live Marketplace a handful of weeks before Digital Blend got started. If you missed it then, you can of course still get it there. You can also now nab it for your PC, via Steam. ITSP is a “Metroidvania”-style game in which you guide an increasingly well-equipped UFO through an open world 2D environment. The game is exceptionally well-designed and the art style is very eye-catching. Don’t miss this one.

Bloodforge :: XBLA :: 800 MS Points
Look, I’m going to level with you here: Bloodforge isn’t a particularly awesome game. It’s derivative and overly simple. The action looks pretty decent, but it gets old fast. Suffice to say, there are better games on XBLA. It’s also fun in its own way, if that’s the sort of game you’re into and are looking for, which is to say a run-of-the-mill beat ’em up highlighted by a unique art style and buckets of blood. Just don’t expect going into it to walk away having had a mind-blowing experience.

The Walking Dead: Episode One :: XBLA / PSN / Steam :: 400 MS Points / $4.99
Telltale Games finally has the first episode (out of five) for The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse comic book series. I could go into the many reasons why you should pony up for it here, but you’d be better off just reading our review. Also note that you can pre-order the full series on both PC and PSN; it’s $24.99 for all five episodes on Steam and $19.99 for all five on PSN, plus a premium theme.

Smash Cops :: iOS :: $2.99 (currently free)
iOS users: Stop reading right now, go to the App Store, and download Smash Cops from Hutch. Why the rush? It’s free for the moment. Get on it. This slick-looking, well-designed game of car smashing mayhem may remind some of the older players of the coin-op arcade classic, A.P.B.. This looks way nicer though. Snag it while you can for free, though that’s not to say it isn’t worth the $2.99 if you happen to miss out on the limited time promotion.

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