Every week new games come out. That's just a fact of life and the sooner we get used to it the better. But just because there are always new products hitting the shelf that doesn't mean that you can't be knowledgeable about each and every one of them. In this weekly segment I plan on posting short comments about each of the releases, based on what I've played of each game. Keep in mind that these previews are not based on me playing the entire product, but rather spending a few minutes with each of the titles at various game functions (conventions, trade shows, gamers' days, etc.). But enough about that, here's what's coming your way on the week of August 24, 2008 …
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (PC)
This is the prequel to the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but don't let the short development time (and change in developer) fool you; this is a stand-alone game that improves the graphics, sound, gameplay, missions and writing. Some fans of the first game may be disappointed that only half of the levels are brand new, however the new story more than makes up for it and actually segues nicely into the 2007 game. Throw in some cool online modes and a better graphics engine and you have one of the most promising computer games of the summer.
Mario Super Sluggers (Wii)
Mario Super Sluggers doesn't take a lot of chances, it's a no-frills arcade-style baseball game along the lines of Mario Strikers. This isn't the first time Mario has strapped on the helmet and walked up to the plate, which may explain why this game feels so familiar. There are a few added twists this time around, but Mario Super Sluggers isn't the kind of thing that will be winning game of the year awards a few months from now. Sports fans may enjoy this unique take on baseball; however I wish that instead of giving us sports games Nintendo would focus on giving us another "real" Mario platformer. Then again, it's not like the Wii is overflowing with amazing software this summer, so perhaps you should check this out just so you can see what it's like to actually play with Nintendo's console.
Based on the popular flash game, N+ comes speeding to the Sony PSP (and Nintendo DS) this week. In this action game you play a ninja trying to make it to the end of the level before the time runs out. Sound simple? Well it's deceptively complicated. The small graphics may not be ideal for the portable market, but N+ still manages to wow the judges thanks to a whopping 300 levels, a cool level editor and the ability to download other people's levels. For $20 you can't go wrong, especially if you're a fan of 2D platformers.
Castle Crashers ( XBLA)
The final game in Microsoft's "Summer of Arcade" promotion does not fail to deliver. Castle Crashers is by the same team that brought us Alien Hominid, one of the best Contra-clones available for the Xbox Live Arcade. This time around The Behemoth delivers a four player brawler, along the lines of Guardian Heroes for the Sega Saturn. With a unique art style and online play, Castle Crashers may prove to be one of the strongest games on Microsoft's download service. This game is definitely worth picking up.
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