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Calendar Man Week of 2/27

Happy SSX week! If this were a just and kind world, the SSX release day would be a national holiday and we’d all get to stay at home and play SSX all day. Also, pie. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, and while I can certainly make a pie for Tuesday, a government sanctioned pie would be so much better. Mmmm, tastes like lies and wasteful spending.

This week also has the release of Binary Domain, a new Shin Megami Tensei game for the DS and, oh, who the hell cares? SSX baby!

New Releases
If it isn’t already apparent from my unbridled enthusiasm, I am quite excited for tomorrow’s launch of SSX (360 , PS3 ). My hope is that all of the events are open from the start, or at lease easily obtainable as my snowboarding skills are roughly on par with my arcade racing skills, namely not very high. This is a game that I can reasonably expect to get 200 to 300 achievements points in and that’s about it. I will certainly try for more but there comes a time when one has to recognize one’s limitations and work within them. Maybe I can get gold on a few events, but if the demo is any indication, I’m a long way off of getting gold on half of the events, much less all of them. No matter! It’s SSX!

When I saw Binary Domain (360 , 360 ) at E3, I liked the way that the robots would keep coming after you as you shot them, and how a head shot would cause them to go crazy and shoot their squad mates. After all, these are robots. They don’t get scared and run away, nor do they give up. They keep working towards their mission objectives until they’re successful or they’re destroyed. I wasn’t too keen on the setting and the conversation stuff seemed like it could end up being a big mess. I’m glad to see it reviewing well as I left the game thinking it was something I’d want to play if it turned out well, however that seemed like a pretty big “if”. I’m not saying I’m going to run out and buy this on Tuesday, but I will be adding to the list of games to play during the slow times.

Deep Black: Reloaded features both terrestrial and underwater combat and is widescreen certified, whatever that means. I had no idea you had to get certified for such a thing. I thought you just played games on a wide screen. Oh the things you learn!

Nexuiz, an arena based FPS releases on XBox Live Arcade this week, with a dynamic mutator system that allows players to change aspects of the match while playing. It also has “hostile environments bleeding with hatred” as opposed to most Xbox Live shooters which are bleeding with kindness.

WAKFU comes out of beta and launches this week, big headed MMORPG goodness in tow.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 comes out this week for the DS and if you listen really, really closely, you can hear Brian’s twitchings of excitement. I’ve always wanted to get into these games, but they seem too complicated for my ever deteriorating brain. Also, I know me and I will soon go down a rabbit hole of demon collecting and fusing, never returning to the main story. On a side note, how much does Nintendo wish this was coming out for the 3DS? So, so much.

7554 a shooter made by a Emobi Games, is the first video game to come out of Vietnam. The title refers to May 7th, 1954, the day the French ended occupation of the Indochinese colonies. The game places you in the shoes of a Vietnamese soldier fighting for Vietnamese independence. Unfortunately, the game’s main site is entirely in Vietnamese, so instead, feel free to read up on the game in this Ars Technica story from a few months ago.

If Marvel vs Capcom and now, Mortal Kombat are teaching us anything, it’s to not buy new fighting games at release and instead wait for the version with all of the characters made available in DLC. Mortal Kombat Komplete (360 , PS3) has new fatalities and new characters including everyone’s favorite pedophile, Freddy Krueger.

If you’ve ever watched the Thomas Crown Affair and thought that it was good but it needed more dancing then Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure may be for you. I’m not sure why this guy would steal stuff just to return it three days later, but I’m assuming that will be the least of my narrative concerns.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is the sequel to that JRPG where video game consoles were represented as combat ready anime ladies. The sequel has even more references to the video game industry which means there’s a girl dressed like a Vita who spends the entire game wondering why she can’t get anyone to stop hanging out with the less intelligent, uglier girl who represents the 3DS.

Toys R Us – Get a free $25 gift card with purchase of an Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle. Get a 12 month subscription to Xbox Live for $39.99. Get a Kinect sensor for $99.99.

Target – Buy an Xbox 360 4GB console (non Kinect) and for $179.99 and get a free $25 gift card.

Best Buy – Get the following games for $19.99: Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars 2, Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7, Red Faction: Armageddon, Homefront. Get the following games for $29.99: Disney Universe, Just Dance 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Island, Warhammer 4000: Space Marine. Get the following games for $39.99: Soul Calibur V, NBA 2K12, Saints Row the Third, WWE 12, Gears of War 3. Get the following games for $49.99: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Final Fantasy XIII-2, The Darkness II, Rocksmith, Kinect Disneyland Adventures. Buy an Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle and get a free copy of Zumba: Fitness Rush. Get a 12 month subscription to Xbox Live for $39.99.

Kmart – Buy an Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle and get a free copy of Zumba: Fitness Rush.

Can You Handle Dustforce?

I loaded Dustforce expecting a quirky and lighthearted platformer starring a nimble quartet of obsessively tidy janitors. Within 15 minutes, my ego had been voraciously manhandled and whipped into a delightfully frothy topping fit for Beelzebub’s Sunday pudding.

Playing Super Meat Boy, Trials HD, and Mirror’s Edge are still some of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon, so you know that I am no stranger to challenging games that require vast amounts of repetition. This side of a 1980s arcade, Dustforce is one of the most relentlessly difficult games I have played. It’s not unfair by any means, but the absolute perfection it demands…no, requires, is astounding.

The term, “platformer,” is slightly misleading, as you spend much of your time sliding along walls and ceilings to clean every nook and cranny of the world with a broom and ninja-like flair. At its simplest, Dustforce recalls the heyday of Sonic the Hedgehog in the 1990s. At its most sadistic (ie most of the time), you leap, dash, and slide through narrow corridors of airborne spikes with nary a centimeter allowed for error. Remember The Guy’s level in Super Meat Boy? Yeah, it’s like that.

The controls are incredibly responsive, but not lenient by any means. You can play with the keyboard or an analog stick, although Dustforce is best experienced with a ‘good’ d-pad (ie not the Xbox 360 controller). Most surprising is how complex the maneuvers can be, with hidden ways to perform seemingly impossible feats. Though difficult to describe, it’s the type of control-tweaking usually reserved for the fighting genre, in which players have intensely studied minute variations in animations to develop techniques such as plinking and frame traps.

The fighting game mentality of hidden strategies extends to the characters as well. Each has unique traits, although the game never mentions them. For that, you have to do your research on the forums. It’s a neat idea that encourages players to identify with a character, instead of choosing solely for abilities. But, it’s frustrating to discover that a character’s subtle ability, like a slightly quicker fall-speed, could have saved two hours or more of frustration.

I haven’t beaten Dustforce, and most likely never will. It’s an issue of incentive. There are 16 of 49 stages initially available, and more are unlocked through perfect runs – cleaning every speck of debris quickly and without taking a hit. There are no stories or items to collect, and close counts for squat. Dustforce’s system isn’t ‘wrong,’ but after spending 45 minutes to nail a stage, I’d like more than a “Thanks for playing. Try the next stage.” Actually, the game doesn’t even give you that much.

The time trials of Mirror’s Edge (my favorite part of the game) follow a similar path of progression. The only rewards for good performance are more stages to complete. But, the real challenge in Mirror’s Edge is not only perfecting, but rather, exploring each stage to find ‘your’ best path. In contrast, Dustforce’s stages have, almost exclusively, precisely predetermined paths. At the core, it’s a test of how accurately you can input a series of commands – like data-entry with a pretty interface.

Dustforce is an attractive game with simple, but delightfully illustrated characters and worlds. More than that, the soundtrack from Lifeformed has quickly become a favorite album. These factors alone make it difficult to turn my back, but try as I might, I can’t get into Dustforce’s extreme levels of repetition.

Indie Royale Gets Serious With Lightning

Indie Royale is mixing up its approach to the recent trend of indie games bundled for cheap prices. Introducing, the first Lightning Pack and its star, Serious Sam.

Lightning Packs will be more focused bundles of games offered at low prices for extremely limited periods of time (ie days, not weeks). Ushering in the first round is Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Serious Sam: Double D, Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack, and Serious Sam: The First & Second Encounter. Wow, that’s more steroid-driven testosterone than a women’s powerlifting competition.

If you’re new to Indie Royale, the concept is familiar, with a twist. As more people purchase the pack, the price goes up, while generous folks who pay over the minimum make the price go down.

This is exactly the type of focused deals that Indie Royale needs. Operated by and Desura, Indie Royale’s previous rounds lacked the punch of offerings from its spiritual ancestor, Humble Bundle, and the packages were erratic in tastes; lumping grand strategy games together with shmups and adventure games.