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September 20, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter



Microsoft Game Studios

Xbox Live Arcade

The stealth genre has been decidedly less stealthy lately. Even “Splinter Cell’s” Sam Fisher charges at the enemy in broad daylight now like he was “God of War’s” Kratos. So it’s surprising to find a stealth game that remembers the advantages of keeping out of sight. And it’s even more surprising that that stealth game is a 2D sidescroller. After all, when you move left to right and your enemies move right to left, how can you slip past them unseen? “Mark of the Ninja” allows you to grapple to shadowy ceilings inches above enemy patrols, squeeze into dark vents moments before flashlight beams pass overhead and conceal yourself under good, old-fashioned cardboard boxes. The level maps, with their silhouetted foregrounds layered on strikingly beautiful backgrounds, offer a multitude of hiding spots but only milliseconds to reach them.

You play as a doomed ninja on his final mission. Upgrades come in the form of tattoos made from poisonous ink — each one granting you greater power but bringing you closer to madness. Hence the decision to commit hara-kiri upon arrival at that “mission accomplished” screen. In the meantime, it’s all about staying unseen and unheard. Your adversaries’ cartoonish appearances belie devilishly clever A.I., so it’s best to tread softly and hide dead bodies — assuming there are any. Although you’re free to silently skewer every poor bastard you come across, you also have the freedom to navigate each level without harming a soul. Either method offers its own unique challenges and rewards, so you’ll want to play all the way through twice. And then probably a third and fourth time.

‘DOGFIGHT 1942’ (T)


City Interactive

Xbox Live Arcade

As a flight sim, “Dogfight 1942” doesn’t exactly aim high and soar. Nor does it crash and burn. It reaches a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and offers mildly-diverting in-flight entertainment. The selection of WWII aircrafts maneuver in arcade-like fashion, keeping the dogfights simple (and even simpler if you use the “Ace Pilot” feature, which is basically an enemy plane-seeking autopilot). But from dogfights to air raids to rocket interceptions, the game offers a nice variety of missions, so casual fans of mid-20th century aerial combat should find occasional pleasure in shooting down “jappos” (as the in-game pilots say in authentically racist fashion).




Xbox Live Arcade

In the days before gamers’ living rooms were filled with plastic instruments, rhythm games were played with an old-fashioned controller. “Rock Band Blitz” returns musical gameplay to its antiquated roots, and while it’s harder to make believe you’re a rock star while shredding two analog sticks, you can still enjoy the challenge of what is essentially a reflex-driven puzzle game. You hop across multiple lanes of scrolling notes (each lane representing a different instrument) in order to reach special power-ups and point multipliers. And since the game incorporates all the music from your existing “Rock Band” library, the soundtrack is as big as your enthusiasm. CV

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