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Calendar Man – Week of 9/24

Are you ready for some football, and by football I mean soccer. Sorry rest of the world, but we decided that our football was better than your football and now we just call it football. But hey, soccer is a perfectly nice name! And don’t worry, once we leave our shores, we’re pretty clueless, so feel free to prank us accordingly.

This week also has a new Dead or Alive game, a new Sherlock Holmes game, pandas running amok in Azeroth and other delights to go along with your footie.

New Releases

Maybe you’re a PES (PS3, 360) fan or maybe you’re a FIFA (PS3, 360, Wii, 3DS, PS Vita, PSP) fan, but either way, expect to spend a lot of time this week juggling ball–ok, this is a family site. Soccer. Expect to spend a lot of time playing soccer. I can’t play most sports, but I am particularly bad at soccer, both in real life and in video games. When I was growing up, they didn’t pump soccer loving hormones into the water like they seem to now. My co-workers spend their entire weekend at the pitch, a situation I find completely unacceptable, what with my fear and disdain of the outdoors.

I can understand making the pandas in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria have a far eastern flair, but I think it would have been funnier to make them something completely out there, like flying saucer piloting spacemen. I’m all about smashing expectations.

I saw The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (PC, 360, PS3) at E3 and came away impressed. I’m not one for gore for gore’s sake, but at the same time, the dude investigates grisly murders at times. There’s no reason the crimes can’t be tackled from a serious angle. Hopefully this one ends up being good and I can have another game in my back pocket for those quiet times.

I’m sure fighting fans can tell me how Dead or Alive 5 (PS3, 360) is more than just boob physics. I’m not sure I believe them, but I just won’t play the game and my life will continue, unchanged.

I honestly don’t know why you would spend forty bucks on the Angry Birds Trilogy (360, 3DS, PS3). Maybe if your kids are too young for a smartphone but old enough to tackle some of the harder levels of Angry Birds? Yeah, that makes sense. Well, whatever. Do your thing, Rovio. Speaking of Rovio, Bad Piggies comes out this week, for those anxious to experience this conflict from the porcine point of view.

In other releases, Tokyo Jungle releases vicious lions, tiger, bears and Pomeranian on to the streets of Tokyo, Darksiders II gets the Argul’s Tomb DLC, Hearts of Iron III gets an expansion, Marvel vs Capcom: Origins hits PSN and XBLA and Wipeout 3 (Wii, 360, 3DS) releases to the joy of those looking to make fun of people falling into pools of water.

Deals

Toys R Us – Get a free $25 gift card with purchase of a 160 GB PS3. Get a free $15 gift card with purchase of FIFA 13. Get any two of the following games for $40: Kingdom Hearts Dream: Dream Drop Distance, Angry Birds Trilogy, Lego Batman 2 DC Superheroes, The Amazing Spider-Man, Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue, Disney Princess: My Fairy Tale Adventures, Wipeout 3, Hotel Transylvania.

Target – Get a free $50 gift card with purchase of PS Vita system or PS Vita Madden bundle.

Best Buy – Get a free $10 gift card with purchase of a 3DS. Get a free $10 gift card with purchase of PES.

Biiiirds Innnnn Spaaaaaaaace

I don’t talk very much about my love of the Angry Birds around here, but hey, it’s Friday. Let’s do some confessing.

When I bought my HTC EVO last year, the thing I was most excited to do with it was play Angry Birds. By that time, everyone and their mother seemed to be playing the game and I wanted in on the action. Most of the time, I ignore mobile phone games due to the fact that they’re too simple, too interested in getting me to buy gems or stars or star-gems, or they involve spamming my friends with requests to by garbage cans or Werewolf spray or whatever. Note that I said “mobile phone” and not “mobile” as I don’t want to disparage my beloved iPad.

Angry Birds was different, though. It was simple yet it ramped up to fiendish levels of difficulty very quickly. It had a great sense of humor and an increasing stable of birds that allowed them to tweak the levels to increase the challenge without seeming cheap. Many the stages did I clear with three stars, often times repeating the same efforts on my wife’s phone.

So I played a ton of Angry Birds. When Angry Birds Seasons came out, I played a ton of it, going so far as to spend every working moment of the time between Christmas of 2010 and New Year’s of 2011 three starring all of the Halloween levels. I’m not going to say I was unproductive those days, but well, let’s just say it was good that nothing was expected of me. When Rio came out, I played it for like, one level, but I hear my daughter liked it more because it was easier. I wouldn’t know as I rarely let my kids touch my stuff on account of me being a horrible, selfish father.

Eventually though, flinging pigs lost it’s allure. It’s not that the game got bad, it just got vast and I was ready to move on to something else. Thankfully, Rovio was too and their move from the surly bonds of Earth to the glorious vastness of space was just enough to get me back into the pork destroying business.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re still flinging birds at pigs in Angry Birds Space, but as that’s the core gameplay element, that’s to be expected. If you boil it down, in Gears of War 3, you’re still shooting dudes from cover, but you’re supposed to. That’s kind of the point. Here, the point is to destroy pigs in a flurry of feathered destruction.

On the face of things, moving to space doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, and at first, as you’re lobbing birds into the gravitational fields of planetoids and using said gravity to curve the arc of your bird, it doesn’t seem much different. It’s when gravity isn’t there that you notice. What, I can’t dive bomb birds any more? No sir, you can’t. In space, not only is there no one to hear you scream, but there’s nothing to keep you from moving in a straight line for all of eternity. After taking gravity for granted for so long, its absence is sorely felt.

Before long though, you start seeing gravity as a tool in your arsenal, same as your birds and the geometry of the level. Strategically placed planetoids may offer what appears to be shelter for those dirty pigs, but the gravity surrounding those planetoids can be used to sling shot birds, or suck in debris, spelling porcine doom in the process. The addition of an aiming arc is a godsend, as is playing the game on the iPad’s huge screen, even if I have to pay three bucks for the privilege.

The same basic advancement structure is in place, meaning that a one star score is enough to progress, but those extra two stars will mock you mercilessly until you claim them. The mighty eagle returns, this time in the form of a black hole dropping ornithological avenger. Occasionally as you work toward exterminating pigs, a golden egg will catch your eye. Destroying it will suck you into an alternate level based on classic video games such as Mario Bros and Space Invaders. It’s a nice touch, and gives the level designers something extra to play with.

Pricing on this one is all over the place, with the iPhone version going for 99 cents, the iPad HD version going for $2.99 with no sharing between the two, a free, ad supported Android version, a 99 cent Android version and probably something else that I’m missing. At least on the iPad version there’s an extra set of levels that can be purchased for another buck or two, but based on Rovio’s track record of releasing more levels for these games faster than I can three star them, I’m confident that I can leave those extra levels unpurchased and never miss them.

A lot has been said in the past year regarding Angry Birds and what it means for traditional video games, much of which is outright hyperbole, and as much as I disagree with Rovio on that particular subject, these people are squarely in the know when it comes to the business of making bird flinging games. Moving to space is just the shot in the wing this game needed and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

This is a Warning

Congressmen Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have introduced a bill that would require video games to carry a warning label similar to cigarettes, only in this case the warnings would inform consumers that video games have been linked to aggressive behavior.

Finally! It’s high time the government steps in and lets consumers know that every game ever made, including those violence mongering Dora cooking games, can cause little Timmy to explode in a fit of rage at the slightest provocation. Also, it’s about time that Congress take time away from such trivial matters as unemployment, staggering wealth disparity, the growing surveillance state and dependence on foreign energy sources to tackle something that really matters, informing consumers of nebulous ties between games and aggression.

Unfortunately though, for all that the warning does, I don’t feel that it does enough. I think that games need specific warnings so that consumers can be shielded from unpleasant experiences as much as humanly possible. What kind of warnings you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Read Dead Redemption – WARNING: You may think you’re about to embark on an epic Sergio Leone style western, but instead, prepare yourself to pick lots and lots of flowers. Yeah, flowers. Also, we hope you like bears!

Dragon Age 2 – WARNING: Bethany’s boobs are not really as big in the main game as they are in the tutorial. I know, right? Such a let down.

Halo: ODST – WARNING: Upon completing this game, you may feel like Nathan Fillion is your very bestest friend and that he will totally help you move on Saturday. Neither of these things are true. Alan Tudyk, on the other hand, may be able to help out, but only for like, an hour.

BioShock 2 – WARNING: Playing this game and making choices based on your own notions of child rearing may uncover what a truly terrible parent you are. Please return your children to their womb of origin immediately.

Dark Souls – WARNING: Failure to complete this game will brand you as a worse player than Bill Abner. No greater shame can be imagined.

Marvel vs Capcom 3: Ultimate Edition – WARNING: All of your wins have been against the AI. You are not ready to go online. No, seriously, don’t—see, I told you. Man, that has to be some sort of record.

L.A. Noire – WARNING: Actually, there’s not much game here. Carry on.

Cooking Mama – WARNING: This bitch is crazy.

Mass Effect 3– WARNING: This game may do nothing to assuage your fears that every choice you’ve made has been meaningless and that the yawning chasm of unfulfillment that exists at your core has been excavated by a lifetime of poor decisions. Also, you may be inadvertently exposed to gay sex. Icky!

Angry Birds – WARNING: Involvement with this game in any capacity may make you prone to hyperbole and to proclaiming the death of any game that isn’t sold at the App Store for less than a dollar.

New Super Mario Bros – WARNING: You are no longer eight. Failure to adjust your expectations accordingly may diminish your enjoyment of and/or ability to play this game.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – WARNING: While playing this game, you may feel like you’ve played it before. That’s because you have, like nine times.

Left 4 Dead – WARNING: Todd will shoot yo–oh. You’re dead. Told you.

Braid/Journey/Limbo – WARNING: Failure to enjoy these games may cause feelings of inadequacies as you wonder if you’re just too stupid to “get it”. Enjoying these games may cause feelings of blind allegiance to common gaming tropes simply because they’re presented as being artistic. Eff it. Go play Call of Duty.