Sore Thumbs 05.165/15/2013
‘DRAGON’S DOGMA: DARK ARISEN’ (M)
In case last year’s “Dragon’s Dogma” wasn’t difficult enough for you, here’s “Dark Arisen” — a re-release of the original game with additional content — to cause you the requisite amount of grief. For the uninitiated, “Dragon’s Dogma” combines the role-playing of your standard RPG with the beast-slaying, third-person action of “Monster Hunter.” And since you have the ability to scale and grasp onto many of the gargantuan creatures you encounter, there’s a little “Shadow of the Colossus” in there as well. You portray the Arisen, a formerly dead warrior of your own design on a mission to reclaim his (or her) heart from the dragon that swallowed it. Accompanying you on your quest are a couple A.I. teammates, referred to unflatteringly as “pawns,” and considering the new content of “Dark Arisen,” you’re going to need them more than ever.
Before you enter Bitterblack Isle — the game’s major new area — you are politely informed that your avatar should be at Level 50 or higher if he wishes to survive. Initially, the recommended level of experience seems quite accurate, but crawling little more than half way through the dark dungeons of Bitterblack, you’re likely to hit a wall and find yourself impaled upon an unexpected spike in difficulty. Claustrophobic spaces filled with multiple enemies lead to frustrating cycles of rising to your feet only to be knocked back to the ground, over and over again. The choices at that point are to either devote all of your time to reviving your fallen pawns until you inevitably succumb to your own wounds or retreat to safer ground and grind your way up beyond Level 60. Neither option does a great deal to spare you irritation. But overall, “Dragon’s Dogma” is still filled with plenty of thrilling moments. Just be sure to experience all those other moments first, so your Arisen is nice and leveled up before he tackles Bitterblack Isle.
‘POKER NIGHT 2’ (M)
Xbox Live Arcade
For the first few hours, “Poker Night 2” is the best game of cards you’ll ever play. Not only are you treated to the hilarious banter of competitors like Ash of “Evil Dead” and Claptrap from “Borderland,” but you’re also winning! Unfortunately, you’re winning because of the game’s unchallenging (and nonadjustable) level of difficulty, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ve heard all the wittiest lines from the dealer (GLaDOS of “Portal”) and are beginning to hear them again. Eventually it’s like playing Solitaire while listening to an infinite loop of a once-great comedy CD.
‘MONACO: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE’ (T)
Xbox Live Arcade
“Monaco” is like “Ocean’s Eleven” re-created with the top-down view and primitive graphics of “Pac-Man.” Either solo or, preferably, with the aid of a multiplayer crew of specialists, you knock over casinos and other environments of affluence while avoiding alarms and security patrols. What begins as a stealth effort devolves, more often than not, into a frantic getaway, with armed guards in hot pursuit. It’s a tense affair at every stage of the heist, and the context-sensitive score by “Journey” composer Austin Wintory accentuates every harried moment. CV