Welcome to Digital Blend, our new weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. I’ll be looking at mobile games, digital marketplace content available through your favorite gaming consoles and handhelds, downloadable content packs, and indie PC releases. There’s a wide world of gaming out there that isn’t being propped up on GameStop shelves week after week, and we want to make sure you know about what’s hot.

This is a brand spankin’ new effort here at Digital Trends, so growing pains are to be expected. Go ahead and tweet any feedback or suggestions my way @geminibros, or share them in the comments below. I want this to grow and evolve every week to suit what you all want, so please feel free to share your thoughts.

Making headlines…

  • This week’s biggest news item in the world of small-screen gaming is the release of Sony’s PlayStation Vita. The full North America launch is next week on February 22, but First Edition Bundle buyers got their new toy this week. Check out Ryan’s review of the device itself right here and our ever-growing library of Vita launch title reviews here.
  • This week marks the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade House Party 2012 promotion, with four marquee XBLA releases set to arrive over the next four weeks. The first contender is Warp. It’ll be followed next week by Alan Wake’s American Nightmare on February 22, Nexuiz on February 29 and I Am Alive on March 7.
  • In news confirmed just today, Yahoo! brings details of Angry Birds Space, launching on March 22 in a Rovio partnership with National Geographic and NASA. The latest bird-flinging game will take the action to other planets, complete with their own gravity. You can also naturally expect a new bird or two, though specifics have yet to be revealed.
  • Hasbro revealed a bunch of new and upcoming products at Toy Fair in New York City this week, and many of them are centered around iOS. Classic board games like Monopoly are getting the zAPPed treatment, integrating Apple’s touchscreen devices into the mix with associated free apps (The Game of Life is already available in stores). Hasbro is also reviving the Lazer Tag brand for the 21st century, with plastic zapguns that now include a built-in iPhone dock to be used in connection with the required app (via PocketGamer).

  • Whether they’re using an iOS device or an Android device, mobile gamers suffer from the same problem: Touchscreen controls tend to suck. iCade has put out some sweet peripherals so far, but the best one yet is the just-released iCade 8-Bitty. It’s a Bluetooth controller compatible with all iCade supported games on iOS and Android platforms. The best part though? It looks just like an old school NES controller. ThinkGeek is selling it now for $24.99.

Top buys for the week

Warp :: Xbox Live Arcade :: 800 MS Points
This week marks the launch of Microsoft’s House Party 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade, and the first release of the month-long promotion is Warp from Trapdoor and EA Partners. It’s a top-down puzzle game crossed with a Metroidvania-style framework, featuring an adorable alien protagonist that has the power to blow people up from the inside. Super fun, and highly recommended.

Dear Esther :: Windows / Mac :: $9.99
Dear Esther started life as a Source-engine mod released in 2008. It’s essentially an adventure game. No, scratch that. It is an adventure game. And a damn good one. You should really just skip reading anything more about it and just go see for yourself.

Super Stardust Delta :: Housemarque :: $9.99
After somehow managing to turn out a completely fresh take on twin-stick zombie shooting in Dead Nation a couple years back, Housemarque is returning to its roots with the PlayStation Vita launch title, Super Stardust Delta. It’s killer fun, and one of the best reasons right now to own a Vita. Don’t take my word for it here. Just read my review.

League of Evil 2 :: iOS App Store :: $0.99 launch price (normally $2.99)
Ravenous Games shouldn’t need any introduction for those who are familiar with the original League of Evil. The sequel, League of Evil 2, arrives in the App Store this week sporting an all-new hand-drawn look, thanks to the work of indie studio Bulletproof Outlaws. If you’re not familiar with the game but you’re a fan of Super Meat Boy, N+ and retro-style puzzle platformers, then this game is for you. Grab it now while you can at its reduced launch price.

BIG SALE ALERT: Grand Theft Auto III :: iOS App Store :: $0.99 (normally $4.99)
Rockstar Games’ seminal open-world action game Grand Theft Auto III made the jump to small screen devices late last year. It’s not so easy to control using virtual buttons and analog controls on the touch screen, but it’s a PlayStation 2 classic that you can now carry around in your pocket! The game is normally priced at $4.99, but Rockstar is running a sale until February 20 that will let you grab the game for $0.99. If you’ve been on the fence, now’s the time to jump off and get in on this action. Note that you can also get Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the same price under the same holiday weekend sale, so snatch it while you can!

I’ll be back next week with plenty more. We’ve got more Vita reviews headed your way. A full review of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Fanboy ravings about Tuesday’s Call of Duty Elite content drop for Modern Warfare 3. And plenty more! Have a great weekend, y’all!