The gaming industry is in a mid-year slump, with few real blockbuster titles on the horizon until late August. But there are still a few titles that are worth a look while we wait for the likes of Gears of War 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Uncharted 3 to be unleashed on the market, writes TechCentral entertainment editor Lance Harris.
Puzzle Agent 2 — 7/10
Adventure game revivalist Telltale Games has another hit on its hands with Puzzle Agent 2, an enjoyable little puzzle game with a mood at the junction of Twin Peaks, Fargo and the Monkey Island games. Nelson Tethers, the puzzle agent of the title, returns to Scoggins, Minnesota because he is not quite satisfied with the way that his last case wrapped up.
To uncover a conspiracy involving gnomes, astronauts and government agents, he needs to solve a range of Professor Layton-style spatial and logic puzzles as well as talk to the rather uncooperative townspeople. The puzzles are inventive and the touch-screen controls are smooth and intuitive.
Puzzle Agent features great production values with delightful animation by Graham Annable of Grickle fame as well as crisply written dialogue and humorous voice acting. It’s one of the few games of recent months that have made me chuckle out loud.
Puzzle Agent is perhaps a little too easy with few real head-scratchers among its 30 or so different puzzles. That said, it’s a wonderful game to dip into when you have a few moments to kill and offers enough charm to make up for the occasional weak puzzle.
- Reviewed on Apple iPad. Also available for iPhone, Mac and Windows PC. Coming soon for PS3.
Child of Eden — 8/10
Child of Eden, the trippy new on-rails shooter from Lumines and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, is the single best reason to own a Kinect for your Xbox 360. The game is a prequel of sorts to the much-loved Dreamcast classic Rez and plays with similar concepts of synaesthesia to that game.
As you blast your way through the enemies populating its levels, the game responds with electronic melodies and beats that correspond to your actions. You can play it either with the Kinect motion control camera or with a traditional controller, with both control schemes offering distinct advantages over each other.
The Kinect motion controls allow you to immerse yourself in the ebbs and flows of the music and the psychedelic visuals. Rather than controlling the game, you orchestrate it by moving your arms and flicking your wrists. When you’re looking to build up your high scores, you’ll probably want to switch over to the precision of the traditional controller.
Child of Eden is a near-flawless example of its genre with gorgeous visuals, breath-taking sound and intuitive, relaxing gameplay. The only real drawback of the game is its brevity. You can breeze through the whole game in less than two hours, though the quality of the experience you have in every minute of that time is superb.
- Reviewed on Xbox 360. Coming soon for PlayStation 3.
Alice: Madness Returns — 6/10
Alice: Madness Returns is a sequel to American McGee’s Alice that reprises the cult classic’s Gothic imagery and third-person action gameplay. McGee’s dark take on Alice in Wonderland is just as compelling as it was back in 2000, with beautifully twisted and deranged visuals that evoke the reality of a broken mind.
The surreal art direction is the game’s strongest point, with the game managing to surprise throughout with its imaginative environments and sometimes funny, sometimes disgusting creature designs. The gameplay is not as visionary as the visual design, but it is enjoyable in an old-school sort of way.
Alice: Madness Returns plays similarly to its predecessor, with only a few concessions to current trends. Combat controls are tight, though movement is a little touchy for game that has so many parts that demand precision platforming.
The game is probably twice as long as most contemporary action games, so a sense of fatigue and repetition starts to take hold about two-thirds of the way through. Even so, it’s worth playing if you loved the first game or are a fan of the genre.
New copies of the game contain the welcome bonus voucher that allows you to download the original American McGee’s Alice for free.
- Reviewed on Xbox 360. Also available on PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.