‘BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA – EPISODE 2’ (M)
The first episode of “Burial at Sea” felt like a piece of fan fiction — a farfetched “what if?” scenario created solely to justify placing the characters of “BioShock Infinite” in the dystopic setting of the original “BioShock.” “Episode 2,” on the other hand, does something amazing. It deftly ties together the characters, events and settings of both games, making both itself and its underestimated predecessor an essential part of the “BioShock” mythology. By the end of the episode, “BioShock Infinite” has retroactively become the prequel to “BioShock,” and as it turns out, the whole multi-game epic is really Elizabeth’s story. So it’s only appropriate that we get to end the whole affair by playing as her.
Stripped of her god-like powers, Elizabeth gives us a completely different gameplay experience. Since she’s significantly more vulnerable than the avatars of previous games, she can’t rush through Rapture and Columbia with guns and plasmids a-blazin’. Thus “Episode 2” becomes a stealth game — one that evokes fond memories of 2012’s “Dishonored” (which, itself, evoked fond memories of the original “Thief” games). Armed with a sedative-loaded crossbow and a new “Peeping Tom” plasmid that allows you to spy on unaware enemies through solid walls, Elizabeth can actually make her way to the end credits without killing a single person. It’s a tense, challenging setup, which manages to make the underwater city of Rapture feel, once again, like a dark and menacing place. Series creator Ken Levine recently announced his departure from Irrational Games to pursue other ventures, and while we’re sure to see plenty more “BioShock” games in the future, they won’t include him at the helm. But he couldn’t have given us a better swan song than “Episode 2.” It unifies his rightfully celebrated work into a single unforgettable masterpiece.
‘YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z’ (M)
Tecmo Koei Games
With its extreme violence, vulgar sense of humor and simplistic premise (cyborg ninja hacks up lots of zombies), “Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z” seems designed to appeal exclusively to immature adolescents with undiscriminating taste. The comic book art style is striking but difficult to appreciate when the rapid, over-the-top action turns the screen into an indecipherable mess of projectile bile vomit and blood spatter. A robust set of combos eventually deteriorates into random button mashing as you ultimately find yourself numbed by sensory overload.
‘YOSHI’S NEW ISLAND’ (E)
After two disappointing trips back to the island on Nintendo 64 and DS, Mario’s sticky-tongued dinosaur pal is back on 3DS. To be fair, this entry in the plat-forming series is more faithful to the original than previous sequels, but faithfulness isn’t necessarily an asset when you’re harkening back to the mechanics of an outdated, 20 year-old game. Yoshi handles well, but his pace is agonizingly slow, and the environmental hazards seem to accommodate him with similar lethargy. The focus is more on finding hidden collectibles than skillfully navigating through hazards, making this an endeavor best left to novice plat-formers who like their adventures leisurely. 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.