Digital Blend: Minecraft arrives on Xbox Live Arcade in all of its blocky glory

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…

* Jetpack Joyride, the iOS sensation from Fruit Ninja dev Halfbrick Studios, just flew in to land on another platform. The forever-runner (forever-jetpacker?) side-scrolling game is now officially a Facebook fixture. It’s a completely faithful re-creation of the mobile app and its persistent features like gadgets and jetpack unlocks, except for the fact that it’s Flash-powered and, as a result, won’t actually work on your iOS device. Play it now for free on Facebook.

* In other Facebook news, Ratchet & Clank dev Insomniac Games has revealed its first interactive social network effort, Outernauts. It’s an RPG-like game that involves capturing, taming, and training wild aliens beasts on a variety of planets, and then pitting them against one another in battle. Insomniac is looking to draw the core gamer crowd in with the game’s 3v3 grid-based battle, competitive and cooperative multiplayer features, and focus on exploration and collection. It’s always a gamble trying to draw the core gamer crowd into a Facebook-based experience, but if anyone can do it, it’s the developer behind the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series’. There’s no release date announced yet, but Outernauts is expected to kick off its open beta soon.

* Rovio has been fairly busy building an empire around Angry Birds, with the various games in the franchise now having been downloaded more than one billion times overall. The developer isn’t sticking to the bird-flinging action for its next game, but the physic-based puzzle-solving will remain. Gamasutra brings word that Rovio nabbed the rights to the iOS game Casey’s Contraptions from creator Snappy Touch. The plan now is to release a re-tooled remake called Amazing Alex. There’s no release date yet, but Rovio expects the game to hit iOS and Android device sometime during summer 2012, with other platforms to follow after that.

playstation-vita-main* The latest Sony investor call revealed that the company’s PlayStation Vita handheld, which arrived in Japan in December, 2011 and then in the U.S. and Europe in February, 2012, managed to move 1.8 million units in the time between the Japanese launch and the end of March, which marks the close of the fiscal year. Sony boss Kaz Hirai called the sales figures a “good start,” adding that “the software is the key to success.” Hopefully that means we’ll be seeing plenty more games added to the already-reasonably-solid Vita library in the coming months. [via Eurogamer]

* Space Quest returns! Sort of! Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the “Two Guys from Andromeda” creative team behind Sierra’s classic adventure game series, are returning to their roots with an upcoming game, SpaceVenture. They announced it a few weeks back, but the news now is that they’ve brought the project to Kickstarter in the hopes of generating some funds from an adventure game-loving fanbase. The goal is set at $500,000, a figure which seems to be within reach considering that we’re just two days in and looking at more than $125K in backer funds at the time of this writing. Details on the game are minimal, but we do know a few of the voice cast members: Ellen McLain, the voice of Portal‘s GLaDOS, Rob Paulsen, the voice of Pinky & the Brain‘s Pinky, and Gary Owens, the narrator from two of the latter day Space Quest games, to name a few.

Top buys for the week…

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition :: XBLA :: 1,600 MS Points
It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. The PC-based blocky world-building sensation Minecraft is finally available to play on your Xbox 360. Mojang handed off development duties to 4J Studios, which did a solid job of porting a very complex game to the Microsoft console. It’s an earlier version than what you can play on the PC, and it’s stripped down in some ways, but it’s still Minecraft. Want to know more? Check out our Minecraft review.

Datura :: PSN :: $9.99
Is Datura a puzzle game? An interactive storybook? A Move-powered tech demo? A total trip? It’s all of these things and none of these things, a bizarre yet compelling PSN release from Sony’s Santa Monica studio. You’ll use the Move controller to manipulate a disembodied hand (and other things) from a first-person perspective. Read Ryan’s review if you want to know more. Really though, you’re best off just giving it a whirl yourself and going in fresh.

Quest for Glory 1-5 :: PC, via :: $9.99
Good Old Games is a great service, offering modern day PC-optimized, DRM-free games for download at rock-bottom prices. This week brings the release of Sierra’s Quest for Glory series — that’s all five games — for $9.99. The first game is basically a cross between an adventure game and a proto-action/RPG, and the rest follow suit in one way or another. Don’t think, just buy. These games are classics.

N.O.V.A. 3 :: iOS :: $6.99
Gameloft continues to crank out it’s Halo-alike first-person shooter series for mobile platforms with the iOS release this week of N.O.V.A. 3. It’s optimized for Apple’s latest mobile toys, so it’s obviously the best-looking entry in the series yet. Your enjoyment of N.O.V.A. 3 hinges on whether or not you can get into console-style analog controls on a touch screen, as was the case in the previous games. This is a solid one though, and if you can stomach the thought of a touch-based FPS, it really doesn’t get much better.

Pac-Man Kart Rally :: Windows Phone :: $2.99
I don’t have a Windows Phone myself so I can’t personally speak to the quality of Pac-Man Kart Rally. It seems like a no-lose proposition though. It’s a kart racing game starring Pac-Man, and it can be yours for $2.99. It’s also the first game on the platform to support four-player online racing over a Wi-Fi connection, and you can earn Xbox Live Achievements for playing. See what I mean about it being no-lose?

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