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Sore Thumbs

By Matthew Scott Hunter

9/28/2012

‘BORDERLANDS 2’ (M)

****1/2

2K Games

Xbox 360

It’s been three years since we last explored the wastelands of Pandora, and what was once desolation is now teeming with quirky characters, savage beasts and an abundance of sweet, sweet loot. Like the first game, “Borderlands 2” is a first-person shooter/role-playing game/loot collect-a-thon hybrid, but each aspect of the game’s multiple personalities has been vastly improved — particularly the story, which introduces a charismatic new villain named Handsome Jack among other memorable characters and features hilarious dialogue to rival that of the “Portal” games. Gone are the vast, empty expanses of the original. Now you can scarcely walk a few paces without stepping on the toes of a hostile creature or happening upon an insane local, offering sidequests as diverse as solving a murder, robbing a train or inspiring romantic poetry.

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Though the protagonists of the first game do appear as non-playable characters, you’re given a fresh quartet from which to choose your avatar this time around. You’ve got the dual-wielding gunzerker, the magic-using siren, the turret-toting commando and the stealthy assassin. Each character’s skill tree can branch out in three dramatically different directions, depending on where you invest your experience points. Upgrade your assassin’s sniper abilities, and you’ll find yourself taking out most enemies from a distance. Upgrade his melee abilities, and you’ll be brandishing a blade up-close and personal, leading to an entirely different gameplay experience. Thus, you can play through the campaign a dozen different ways before it feels repetitive. That should keep players busy until “Borderlands 3.”

‘JOE DANGER 2: THE MOVIE’ (E)

****

Microsoft Game Studios

Xbox Live Arcade

Part motorcycle racing game and part 2D platformer, the original “Joe Danger” delighted fans of both genres with its obstacle-laden tracks and plethora of objectives. In the sequel, Joe lends his proclivity for death-defying stunts to the film industry, performing action sequences in mine carts, on skis and with jetpacks. The movie’s director shouts instructions amidst the explosive bedlam, but for the most part, the actions you take in each scene are determined by your own improvisational whims. During one take, you can focus on reaching the finish line as fast as possible, and during the next, you can explore for hidden items.

‘DOUBLE DRAGON NEON’ (T)

**

Majesco Games

Xbox Live Arcade

Riding a wave of cheesy ‘80s nostalgia are brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee, still pummeling their way from the left side of the screen to the right in an attempt to rescue their mutual love interest. This reboot of the classic beat’em-up franchise is packed with references to the neon decade, from animations of air guitar solos to ancient catchphrases like “tubular!” to the annoying necessity of restarting the level every time you die. While all of this might seem totally rad to those old enough to remember when people said things like “totally rad,” anyone who didn’t grow up pumping quarters into “Double Dragon” arcade cabinets is likely to grow frustrated with this game’s dated mechanics.

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