Arts&Entertainment

sore thumbs

By Matthew Scott Hunter

 

‘3D Dot Game Heroes’ (E10+)
Explore a huge world

****
Atlus
PlayStation 3

Okay, old school gamers, close your eyes and picture this: You’re exploring a 2D fantasy overworld with a top-down view. You swipe at enemy sprites with your sword and open hidden caves by planting bombs at cracked walls. You find a temple filled with puzzles, treasure chests with new weapons (like a boomerang) and a massive final boss. Got it? Now are you feeling some vague “link to the past?” That’s right — we’re waaaay beyond homage here. This is an outright rip-off of “The Legend of Zelda,” right up to “A Link to the Past’s” “Pegasus Dash.” In fact, since you have the option to build your own character from the pixel up, a few carefully placed green dots can make a perfect replica of Link the star of your adventure. This blatant theft of intellectual property would be an outrage…if it wasn’t so fun to play a retro “Zelda” game.

In “3D Dot Game Heroes’” defense, it does have an original look. Every character and item in the kingdom of Dotnia is made up of tiny little cubes, like 3D pixels. The game also cleverly pokes fun at “Mega Man” and other classics from gaming’s 8-bit past. And with a huge world to explore, a dense population of characters to meet, and quite a few side quests to perform for them, this game is sure to keep you busy for a long time. Even though the bosses and puzzles aren’t quite as challenging as those you might find in the land of Hyrule, I think Link would approve.

 

‘Dead to Rights: Retribution’ (M)
**1/2
Namco Bandai
Xbox 360

Only three games into this series, we already have a reboot. At least the developers are acknowledging that “Dead to Rights 2” was an unmitigated disaster. The problem is that Retribution isn’t a whole lot better. The environments are bland, and the action is repetitive. Either you’re pummeling people as Jack because ammo is scarce or you’re performing stealth missions as Jack’s dog Shadow, who has a nasty tendency to target enemies’ throats and crotches. None of the gameplay is very memorable, but at least it isn’t as painful as being one of Shadow’s victims.

 

‘Iron Man 2’ (T)
**
Sega
Xbox 360

Even with his vast fortune, Tony Stark can’t buy his way out of the curse of the summer movie video game tie-in. Like its predecessor, this game bears all the telltale signs of rushed development: faulty collision detection, irritating controls and graphics that often look a whole console generation behind. This time you have the option of playing most levels as either Iron Man or War Machine, but no matter which suit you put on, you’re still going to feel like the engineers left a few pieces out.

 

‘Again’ (T)
**1/2
Tecmo
Nintendo DS

The developer that brought us the engaging “Hotel Dusk” has created another “Interactive Crime Novel.” I suppose all authors have their hits and misses. Unlike “Hotel Dusk’s” hand-drawn art style, “Again” uses stills of live actors. Really bad ones. But even laughing at the freeze-framed performances doesn’t provide enough entertainment to compensate for the slow, slow pacing of this serial killer mystery.

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