March was a frustrating month in the world of downloadable gaming, leaving us console owners as uncomfortable as the ‘beast rider’ above. While some fantastic titles hit virtual shelves, EA’s attempt to gouge casual gamers’ wallets with Hasbro Family Game Night andWatchmen’s “expensive because the graphics are good” pricing are not good signs for the future of electronically delivered gaming. The recent Resident Evil 5 multiplayer DLC controversy also erupted, as fans have begun to push back at greedy publishers trying to wring every last drop of blood-soaked money from their audience.
On a more positive note, here are the best and worst digital games to hit consoles in the month of March! Happy downloading!
Burn, Zombie, Burn!
A game built around the concept of setting things on fire sounds like a winner to me, and that is exactly what you get to do in Burn, Zombie, Burn! The goal is to ignite as many undead monstrosities as you can to build up your score and escape with your life. If you get tired of the flamethrower — though I don’t think that’s possible — chainsaws, lawnmowers, and even a Ratchet-inspired dance gun await your use in this cartoonishly violent, action-packed shoot-em-up that is sure to please anyone with a pulse. ($10.00)
Watchmen: The End is Nigh
The Watchmen graphic novel is a dialogue-heavy examination of humanity set in a world where superheroes aren’t as noble as once thought. Of course, none of that really matters in The End is Nigh, as ‘beating stuff up real good’ is the only thing you will ever get to do here. Unless you’re looking for a monotonous button masher, stay far away from this one, especially with its insultingly high price tag. Also available on Xbox 360 and PC. ($20.00)
A psychedelic expansion old school gaming mechanics, BIT.TRIP BEAT combines retro gameplay with awesome chiptune music to provide one of the most unique and interesting experiences on the Wii. The game has you controlling a paddle on the left side of the screen as blocks soar at you from an off-screen opponent on your right. When the block touches your paddle, it makes a sound, which eventually assembles a beautiful 8-bit medley as blocks begin to pour in. The game is fairly difficult and very short, but BIT.TRIP BEAT is a catchy tune that will keep you coming back for more delightful pain. ($6.00)
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Before venturing into Shinobi world, Alex Kidd starred in this uneventful platformer that has him running through a number of generic environments trying to save his lady. With so many high quality 2D platformers available on the Wii Virtual Console, it is hard to care about what poor Alex has to offer here. Skip it. ($5.00)
Peggle is a game that has no right to be as addictive as it truly is. Asking you to fire a ball down into a collection of multi-colored pegs — with the goal of eliminating all of the orange ones in a set amount of turns — this digital time killer will latch its fangs into you the first time you play it and never let go. Over sixty levels, a challenge mode, a ton of characters to unlock, and all new online multiplayer modes highlight this terrific package. Just a warning: sleep deprivation may occur due to your inability to stop Peggling. If that happens, just keep playing…it’s worth it. ($10.00)
Hasbro Family Game Night
The thought of bringing a collection of board games to Xbox Live Arcade is an exciting one, especially with the addition of online play. HFGN collects Connect 4, Battleship, Scrabble, and Yahtzee into a ‘game room’ hub hosted by Mr. Potato Head, and each title faithfully recreates the board game experience nicely. Unfortunately for fans, all four of the above cost $10 each, and aren’t available as a bundle. Not cool, Potato Head…not cool. ($10.00 per game, $40.00 for every currently available title)
Downloadable Content (Multiple Platforms)
Fallout 3: The Pitt
I doubt that anyone has ever complained about Fallout 3’s world being too small, yet that didn’t stop Bethesda from adding a demolished Pittsburgh to your post-apocalyptic travels in The Pitt. With a bunch of new missions and some exclusive perks, this expansion offers plenty of variety for those who have already explored every inch of virtual D.C. and gives fans yet another excuse to fire up the VATS for another few hours of exploration. Also available on PC. ($10.00)
Prince of Persia: Epilogue
Picking up exactly where the recent action-platformer left off, Epilogue continues the story of the Prince and Elika as they try to stop the evil Ahriman from engulfing their land in evil. Containing all new underground areas, a Shapeshifter enemy, and even an exclusive power for Elika, this expansion aims to resolve the strings left open by PoP’s cliffhanger ending and give players a few extra hours to run around this stunningly beautiful world. PS3 and Xbox 360. ($10.00)
Tomb Raider Underworld: Lara’s Shadow
As I said in my review, Lara’s Shadow introduces some fine new gameplay elements to the series that will enhance your enjoyment of the platforming and combat. Unfortunately, the actual level on display here must be played through two separate times to finish this expansion, with barely anything different happening on the second go-around. Note to Eidos: repetition does not equal fun. Xbox 360 only. ($10.00)
Pick of the Month
If you haven’t yet played Peggle, you are missing out on one of the most ingenious bits of fluff ever to exist. The simplistic gameplay is combined with a perfect amount of luck to craft the most addictive puzzle experience since Tetris. Buy it. Play it. Love it. ($10.00)
Next month: OutRun Online Arcade drifts into your living room, Rag Doll Kung Fu jump-kicks onto PSN, and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai slices and dices his way onto Xbox Live Arcade.