‘DARK SOULS II’ (M)
Namco Bandai Games
In “Dark Souls II,” your completely customizable avatar is cursed, and it shows. You’re tasked with exploring a sprawling and exceedingly hostile open fantasy world, and since you have the freedom to go anywhere at any time, you might find yourself confronting a boss around the ten hour mark that you don’t have a prayer of defeating without a solid thirty hours of leveling up under your belt. To make matters worse, after each untimely demise, you respawn to find that your maximum health gauge has shrunken, making each new attempt to overcome a stubborn adversary slightly more difficult than the last. But as anyone who’s played “Demon’s Souls” and “Dark Souls” knows, unforgiving difficulty is the whole point of this series. Each wondrous new location is filled with a sense of genuine dread. You never know what creepy crawlies you’ll find in the next dark cave and whether they’ll prompt a hasty retreat.
To expel your curse, you’ll need to collect souls from your fallen enemies. These are the game’s currency, and since you’ll lose your bankroll every time you suffer two consecutive deaths, it’s important to regularly travel back to the hub town of Majula to trade your supernatural stash to vendors in exchange for upgrades. A warp system that allows you to quickly travel between bonfires you’ve lit throughout the game world expedites this process. This eliminates the need for backtracking over well-trodden terrain and re-fighting the same underpowered enemies in a lazy effort to level up (a practice made impossible by its limitations on how often enemies can respawn). In this game, if you want experience points, you’ll have no choice but to venture deeper into the unknown, and with dragons soaring overhead and massive castles looming in the distance, each new area offers breathtaking sights to behold. This game’s quest is daunting — even agonizing at times — but that just makes the ultimate victory that much sweeter.
‘FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD REMASTER’ (T)
As HD makeovers go, they don’t get much better than this. These first two fully 3D “Final Fantasy” games have been lavished with all new character models and impressive lighting effects. It’s just a shame this treatment wasn’t given to series standouts “Final Fantasy III” or “VII” instead. “FFX” has a solid combat system but retains its infamously bad voice acting, adding emphasis to the story’s absurdly overblown melodrama. And “X-2” (the first direct sequel in the series) is little more than cheap fan fiction, catering to players who had adolescent crushes on the female characters of “FFX.”
‘PUTTY SQUAD’ (E10+)
“Putty Squad” is a remake of a mid-‘90s platformer that was forgettable even back then. Since the developers weren’t particularly creative when it came to character design, you portray an amorphous blue blob tasked with rescuing/collecting red blobs. The jumping physics never feel quite right, and though this would be fatal to most platformers, “Putty Squad” is so devoid of challenge that the occasional fall from a ledge only amounts to a minor setback. But in a genre that includes “New Super Mario Bros.” and “Rayman Legends,” the thought of playing with “Putty” is silly. CV
Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.