sore thumbs

February 3rd, 2011 |
By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘Dead Space 2’ (M)

Watch your back


Electronic Arts

Xbox 360

In space, no one can hear you scream. In your living room, however, family, friends, pets and neighbors can — and very likely will. “Dead Space 2” is meticulously designed to terrify you. It has enough jump scares for an entire “Resident Evil” franchise, creepy imagery to compete with the most disturbing “Silent Hill” games and a relentless atmosphere of unease. The sequel’s difficulty has been ramped up significantly from its predecessor, with new, faster types of Necromorphs, who tend to attack in packs and overwhelm you. After each grueling encounter, it never feels like you’re more than a couple steps away from another sudden ambush, which you may or may not have enough ammo to survive. Fortunately, you’ve been given a few new tools for dealing with space zombie outbreaks.


The kinesis ability from the first game returns in a much more useful form. Now you can pick up a Necromorph’s severed, pointy appendages and use them to pin other rampaging creatures to the wall. And when there aren’t enough amputated limbs to go around, you can always shoot out one of the windows, sucking all of your enemies into the vacuum of the moon’s surface. It’s an intensely exciting measure of last resort, which pays off beautifully, provided you can activate the emergency shutters before you join your discarded foes. The setting, in a colony on Titan, offers areas more interesting than the first game’s steamy, industrial corridors. The sound design consistently makes it feel like something horrible is skittering around just outside your periphery. And the story gives us a protagonist who is clearly losing (or has lost) his mind. “Dead Space 2” is easily the scariest survival horror game of this console generation.


‘Mindjack’ (M)


Square Enix

Xbox 360

“Mindjack” is a standard cover-shooter with the added gimmick of mind control. It allows you to possess the minds of weakened enemies and civilians, but gives you nothing to do with them other than use them as temporary cannon fodder (which is a bit disturbing when you force an innocent passerby to march to his or her death in your place). Aside from that, the graphics are boring, and awful dialogue is awfully delivered. It’s hard to believe that a game that lets you possess the mind of a machine gun-toting monkey could be mediocre, but, alas, it’s true.


‘Lord of Arcana’ (M)


Square Enix

PlayStation Portable

This shameless “Monster Hunter” rip-off could’ve gone by the only slightly more generic name “Portable Japanese Role-Playing Game.” As it is, “Lord of Arcana” does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself in the crowded genre. As the “chosen one” hero on a forgettable quest, you grind your way through enemy encounters. No matter how high you level up, even the weakest beasts take more time to slay than they’re worth, considering how stingy the game is with awarding spoils.


‘Two Worlds II’ (M)


SouthPeak Games

Xbox 360

Since the first “Two Worlds” was an unmitigated disaster, the existence of this fantasy RPG sequel is somewhat inexplicable. But somehow, it’s here, and surprisingly, it’s not half bad. There are a variety of attractive areas to explore, with African, Asian and Egyptian aesthetics, and many of the side-quests are (intentionally, I think) amusing — even poking fun at the awfulness of the first game. CV