I’ve actually played a few games lately, so rather than going in to depth I’ll just give some quick impressions:
- Penny Arcade Adventures, Episode 1 — otherwise known by its appropriately convoluted subtitle, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, the PA game what you’d get if a Lucasarts point-and-click adventure and a Japanese RPG made love and had babies. You click the mouse to navigate the world, and you do a lot of talking through dialogue trees, but when you come across enemies, you drop in to a hybrid turn-based/realtime RPG-style battle system. The combat is fun, and while the basic gameplay is straighforward — most tasks involve simple puzzle solving or fetch quests — the story is well written, and the dialogue is fantastic, especially if (like me) you appreciate dick jokes. Ep 1 is out on PC, Mac OS X, Linux, 360, and PS3 for about US$20; Ep 2 is out now as well for all but the PS3, for US$15
- Plants vs Zombies — this is the latest nicotine-laced crack from PopCap, and it’s great. It’s a very simple tower defence-style game, where you grow offensive and defensive plants to protect against zombie hordes that lurch in from the right of screen. In classic PopCap style, the early levels are simple, but the complexity and difficulty ramps up beautifully, keeping you challenged and interested right to the end. It’s also very, very funny, particularly when the zombies leave you helpful notes. It’s available on PC and Mac OS X for AU$30, which is a bit much I think, though you can also get it on Steam (PC-only, though I ran it under Wine) for US$10. It’s coming to the 360 soon, too.
- Dead Space — EA’s other big new IP for 2008 (the first being Mirror’s Edge), Dead Space is ostensibly a survival horror game, but it’s really more of a third-person action game. It’s an exercise in execution: the graphics, sound, and general presentation are phenomenal, the controls are smooth, and it does a fantastic job of creating a creepy vibe. The gameplay is solid, too, though it’s fairly by-the-numbers; enter room, kill everything, pick up everything you can find, and then enter the next room. Still, it’s good fun — I’m nearing the half-way point, and I’m pretty sure it’ll hold my interest until the end. It’s out on PC, 360, and PS3.