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Sore Thumbs

12/12/2012

‘PLAYSTATION ALL-STARS BATTLE ROYALE’ (T)

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Sony Computer Entertainment 

PlayStation 3 

A lot of people are going to dismiss “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” as a “Smash Bros.” rip-off, and not without reason. Nintendo rounded up all of its proprietary characters for a silly, no-holds-barred smackdown, and now Sony has done likewise with its own stock. But there are some key differences—not the least of which is that “Battle Royale” is hard. This is no button masher. Each character has a huge variety of moves at his disposable, and once you’ve learned one fighter, you’ll find that your newly acquired knowledge sheds very little light on the entirely different move-set of the next. It’s a steep learning curve, and one that’s liable to be intimidating to those who don’t normally flock to overly technical brawlers. 

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“Battle Royale is all about “supers.” Rather than inflicting damage, every punch and kick you land adds to a super meter. A full meter will unleash a devastating and imaginatively character-specific super move. Two full meters (if you can wait that long) will lead to a doubly impressive assault. Three full meters: Armageddon. It’s a system that encourages you to rack up hit points faster than your adversaries, leading to extremely aggressive matches. As fight mechanics go, this game’s fairly hardcore, which is at odds with its goofy presentation. When you’ve got 3D god-slayer Kratos fighting 2D dancing dog PaRappa the Rapper in front of a backdrop inspired by the smiling landscapes of “Loco Roco,” it’s hard to take any of it seriously. But if you have fond childhood memories of Sir Daniel Fortesque, honed your video game talents with Jak and Daxter, and evolved into an expert gamer under the tutelage of Nathan Drake, then you can watch all four of those characters battle it out in a game that was clearly made just for you.

 

‘DISNEY EPIC MICKEY: THE POWER OF ILLUSION’ (E) 

***1/2

Disney Interactive Studios 

Nintendo 3DS 

Ignore the first half of this game’s title, which might have you mistakenly thinking this is a port of either of the two disappointing console games of the same name. Instead, focus on the subtitle, “The Power of Illusion” — a nod to this game’s true inspiration: “Castle of Illusion,” a Sega Genesis title from 1990. And like that unsung classic, “Power of Illusion” is an excellent sidescrolling platformer with charming 2D backdrops, evoking the visuals of “The Lion King,” “Peter Pan,” “Aladdin” and other Disney classics. Even with its disappointingly short campaign, this is the nostalgia trip that Magic Kingdom fans (and Sega Genesis owners) deserve.

 

‘CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS DECLASSIFIED’ (M) 

Activision 

PlayStation Vita

After years of waiting, we finally have a handheld gaming device with two analog sticks — the optimal setup for first-person shooting. And “Call of Duty” — the genre’s leading franchise — releases a title exclusively for the new dual-stick platform. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out: everything. The story is a brief series of disjointed vignettes, the drab graphics are PSP-quality, the multiplayer maps are cramped and poorly designed, the A.I. is idiotic at best and suicidal at worst, and that long coveted second analog stick is wasted on controls that never feel quite right. CV

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