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Digital Blend: Google announces its Nexus 7 tablet, a gaming-friendly competitor for the Kindle Fire

Google Nexus 7 tablet on Google Play

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…

* It’s been a surprisingly quiet week in the world of mobile/indie/DLC news, though it’s hard to top last week’s competing Microsoft Surface and Nintendo 3DS XL reveals. On the Nintendo front, company president Satoru Iwata confirmed during the annual shareholder’s conference that the 3DS XL will support Circle Pad Pro-enabled games with a larger version of the peripheral designed specifically for the super-sized gaming handheld. There’s no price, release date, or product image yet, but the 3DS XL arrives on August 19, so you can probably expect to hear more soon.

* Rovio’s done so well with spinning out different interpretations of Angry Birds that it’s hard to believe there’s another game coming from the dev that doesn’t use the words “Angry” or “Birds” anywhere in its title. Amazing Alex is an updated take on another developer’s game, Casey’s Contraptions, that Rovio picked up the rights to only recently. We knew it would be coming soon, and now Rovio confirms it: Amazing Alex, a game of elaborate Rube Goldberg-like constructs, is coming to iOS and Android platforms sometime in July 2012. It comes packing a level designer and sharing capabilities too, so expect plenty of replay value on this one.

* Phosphor Games did fantastic work with the mobile game Dark Meadow, delivering a first-person adventure with a level of ambience and character that had many people comparing it to no less an illustrious example than BioShock. The developer’s next effort is now confirmed to be Horn, a third-person action game that looks like it draws no small amount of inspiration from Team Ico, the developer behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The iOS and Android game doesn’t have a release date yet, but we’ll all be watching this one closely.

* Google is entering the tablet branding game with the reveal of its upcoming Google Nexus 7, sporting a seven-inch screen and a $199 price tag (for 8GB; $249 for 16GB) that puts it in direct competition with Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The Asus-manufactured mobile device will come packing the latest tech, with a Tegra 3 chipset that features a quad-core CPU and a 12-core GPU. The screen is an HD display with a 1280×800 resolution. The tablet will come loaded with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean!) and Google Chrome as its standard browser. For more details, check out Jeff’s Nexus 7 reveal report. Also, check out our full review of the Google Nexus 7

* This probably isn’t going to come as a surprise, but it’s news nonetheless. Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, the next-generation video game development engine that improves upon Epic’s widely (widely) used Unreal Engine 3, won’t be supported on current-generation smartphones and tablets. That confirmation came from Epic senior technical artist Alan Willer. UE3 has already been adapted to work in mobile and even browser-based environment, but apparently the current-gen mobile tech simply doesn’t meet the low-spec standards for running UE4. [via Digital Spy]

Top buys for the week…

Resident Evil Chronicles – The HD Collection :: PSN :: $26.99
Resident Evil Chronicles may be the most expensive offering of the week, but it’s also technically two full-priced releases that have been bundled together at a single, entirely reasonable price. What you’re getting is HD revamps of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles, both of which explore the happenings between the major events of the series, covering RE0, RE1, RE2, and RE3. The series has an undeniably complicated story, and these two games are a big help in tying all of the pieces together while also offering fun on-rails shooting action.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – Dawnguard :: XBLA :: 1,600 MS Points
Bethesda’s first full-tilt expansion pack for Skyrim is Dawnguard. In addition to adding an entirely new faction questline built around vampires, you also get neat additions to the game like crossbows and dragonbone weapons. The $20 price feels a little bit on the steep side, but that’s probably not going to stop you Skyrim addicts from flocking for another reason to return to the game’s rich, beautiful open world.

Marvel Pinball 3D :: 3DS eShop :: $7.99
The pinball games from Zen Studios should need no introduction for anyone who loves their smartphone and/or tablet. The 3DS eShop download Marvel Pinball 3D takes some of the developer’s coolest Marvel Comics-themed tables and re-renders them for a 3D viewing experience. The results are pretty astounding. You’ve got all of the features from the other platform releases, multiple options for controlling the flippers, and the ability to tilt the table, arcade parlor-style, using the analog pad. It’s a great-looking game too, as anyone who picked up Zen’s other 3DS eShop pinball game would expect. The difference with this one is the Marvel focus, of course: you get tables for Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, and Blade. The 3D really pops with these tables too; I can only imagine how sweet they’ll look on the 3DS XL’s bigger screen.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 :: PC :: $4.99
Zeboyd Games, the creator of Cthulhu Saves the World, applies its old-school RPG sensibility to the latest adventure starring the Penny Arcade duo, Gabe and Tycho. This is a more low-fi effort than the previous two episodes, but the quality of the writing and just the basic conceit remains solid. If you’ve been following the Rain-Slick Precipice games, then you pretty much have to pick this new one up, to see where the story goes next.

Bomb Monkey :: 3DS eShop :: $4.99
Bomb Monkey has a pretty top-shelf calling card: it was developed by Renegade Kid, the dev behind the great DS games Dementium and Moon, not to mention the equally great 3DS platformer Mutant Mudds. With Bomb Monkey, the studio goes in a little bit of a different direction, delivering a tile-matching puzzle game that offers simple yet wholly entertaining good times. To play, you hold your 3DS on its side — book-style — and take control of a tile-dropping monkey situated at the top of the screen. There are bombs and special blocks, satisfying chain explosions and a groovy take on same-system co-op play that has two people huddled around a single 3DS. There’s no 3D eye candy in this one at all — it would frankly be impossible to pull off in multiplayer — but the gameplay is solid and fun, and more than enough reason to pony up for an eShop download.

Cthulhu Saves the World :: iOS / Android / Mac :: $1.99
What’s this? Another Zeboyd Games appearance?! Good old Cthulhu Saves the World continues to take over the world, one platform at a time. Or, in this case, three. The game is newly available for both of the major mobile operating systems (sorry Windows Phone 7) as well as Mac computers. It’s no different, and it’s still awesome. If you haven’t played it, now you have three more options for correcting that grave error. Get on it!

Dead Trigger :: iOS :: $0.99
Madfinger created Shadowgun, the gorgeous mobile third-person shooter that somehow managed to not suck in spite of it using virtual analog controls. Now Madfinger is back with Dead Trigger, a gorgeous, zombie-stomping FPS. It, too, uses virtual analog controls. It’s only $0.99 though. How can you say no? You can’t. So don’t.

Mass Effect 3 – Extended Cut DLC :: XBLA / PSN / PC :: FREE
Easy choice here. The Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3 is totally free to download on all platforms. It tweaks and expands upon the endings laid out in the retail release following fan uproar over what many called an unsatisfying finale to the trilogy. Whether or not you agree with those complaints, you can’t possibly have an issue with more BioWare storytelling being added to the game. Snatch this one up and play through the game’s final series of missions to see the new content.

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