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 Walking Dead is a pretty big deal. I mean… right? It’s a multiple Game of the Year-winning effort (including Digital Trends!) for Telltale Games, with the five-episode story amounting to the best execution of an interactive narrative that this industry has ever seen. What’s amazing about the game is how, even with the key story beats never changing, anyone who plays is going to have a dramatically different experience, with different interpersonal connections forged based on your interactions with fellow survivors. It’s a monumental achievement and a definite gateway drug for future gamers. It’s also a COMPLETELY FREE iOS download right now, for Episode One. This is a limited time offer, so grab it now while you can… and then prepare to spend whatever money is necessary to unlock the remaining eps.
* BioWare’s free-to-play MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to embrace a bigger galaxy in spring 2013. The Rise of the Hutt Cartel pack is the first, official content expansion for the game, adding a new planet, a new main questline, and a newly boosted level cap (from 50 to 55), among other things. Those who pre-order the $19.99 add-on pack ($9.99 for continuing SW:TOR subscribers) before January 7, 2013 can also look forward to five full days of early access to the expansion when it arrives on an unspecified date in spring 2013.
* The PlayStation Vita just moved up roughly 10 spaces on the “Awesome” scale this week with the news that downloadable PlayStation 3 game Tokyo Jungle now supports Remote Play. That’s still a step removed from a truly portable Vita version of the charmingly bizarre JRPG(?), but we’ll take what we can get. How many other games let you dress up a Pomeranian in ridiculous outfits and then send it off to wander a post-apocalyptic landscape, where it will hopefully (but probably not) be able to avoid being crunched between the jaws of a hungry velociraptor. THESE ARE ALL THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN IN TOKYO JUNGLE. Pretty nifty.
* Borderlands fans! Great news for y’all. Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt is officially confirmed as the title of the game’s third DLC expansion (out of a confirmed four), and it’s coming on January 15, 2013. You can get all the details from our extended hands-on preview, but here are your key bullet points: new environment as you explore the Pandoran continent of Aegrus, new enemies of various sorts (not just re-skins), a selection of new loot, and a pair of new raid-style bosses. There’s also another vehicle added in the DLC, a fan boat. Great stuff. In related Borderlands 2 news, Gearbox Software also confirmed plans to hike up the game’s level cap in Q1 2013. It’s not clear how big the bump will be, but it’s going to be enough to support a newly added third playthrough option that will be released in tandem. The important thing to note is that these are two separate items: the DLC is coming on 1/15 and the level cap boost/third playthrough is coming in Q1.
* Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is a feature-length documentary from 2Player Productions chronicling the success of Mojang’s blocky world-builder and the rise to fame of the game’s creator, Markus “Notch” Persson. The movie will finally makes its world premiere this weekend, on Saturday, December 22, 2012, via Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. You’ll need to be a Gold-level subscriber to check it out.
* Valve’s Steam service has grown in some important ways over the course of 2012, including the launch of Big Picture Mode, the upcoming Linux version (now officially in beta), the addition of non-gaming software to the service’s product offerings, and the well-received Steam Greenlight initiative. Still, mistakes are sometimes made. The War Z, a multiplayer-focused zombie apocalypse simulator that takes some cues from ArmA 2 mod (and upcoming standalone release) DayZ, arrived on Steam this week riding a wave of controversy. The game’s description made content claims that turned out to be untrue, and while Hammerpoint Interactive claims that the words speak to planned features, those who purchased the game — a large enough number to top Steam’s sales charts — are understandably peeved. The saga unfolded over a period of days, concluding with Valve removing the game from Steam until more work can be done on completing it. Those who purchased the game before it was pulled are free to keep it, though refunds are also being offered due to the falsely advertised content.
Top buys for the week…
Just Add Water’s superior enhanced HD remake of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath came to PlayStation 3 in late 2011, and now the game makes its debut this week on Sony’s portable platform, the PlayStation Vita. This right here is what we need to see more of. Maybe the Vita can’t run Uncharted 3, but with Sony shepherding so many HD remakes and HD collections into release, it’s shocking that few-to-none come to the Vita. Stranger’s Wrath is a welcome addition to the still-growing Vita library, being a killer game in its own right with some nice tweaks and improvements from Just Add Water. Well worth your time and money if you’ve somehow missed it until now.
Let’s get it out of the way: clear front-runner PICK OF THE WEEK right here. Infocom is one of the most important publishers in the history of video games, responsible in the early ’80s for releasing classic text adventures like A Mind Forever Voyaging, Planetfall, and, of course, anything bearing the title of Zork. The company’s two founders will be honored at next year’s D.I.C.E. Awards, and Activision makes good on the positive press this week with the release of the iOS-exclusive enhanced port of The Lost Treasures of Infocom. This collection of 27 games is a free app store download, though you only get the original Zork to start with. The rest of the collection can be downloaded in five-game packs for $2.99 apiece or as a full collection for $9.99. Developer Code Mystics went all out too, really enhancing the port with some cool touchscreen-specific shortcuts and features, as well as full access to virtual versions of Infocom’s Feelies. This is video game history, folks. Go get it.
The light release week is rounded out by Pudding Monsters, the latest iOS-exclusive from ZeptoLab, creators of Cut the Rope. The new effort is basically a sliding puzzle puzzle game. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in charm. You play by manipulating adorable little blobs of pudding around a game board, with the goal of aligning your gelatinous goobers on three star pads. It’s an eye-catching game, and a challenging one for those who put the time into nailing 100 percent completion for each of the included 75 levels. Check out our review for a more detailed rundown.
Our own Nex reviewed Double Fine Productions’ latest Kinect-loving toy, and while he wasn’t exactly raving wildly about Kinect Party, he also admitted that he’s not exactly the target audience. This is a family game, like Double Fine Happy Action Theater before it. It’s also more of a motion-controlled toy than a proper game. It’s completely free until the end of the year though, and definitely worth a look if you’re going to have younger family members around in the coming weeks.