sore thumbs

By Matthew Scott Hunter


A true scare
Wii game isn’t one to play with the lights off


‘Dead Space: Extraction’ (M)
Electronic Arts


“In your living room, only your neighbors can hear you scream.” This may as well have been the tagline for “Dead Space” — last year’s sci-fi/horror hit that clearly drew much of its inspiration from the film “Alien.” And like the sequel to “Alien,” this prequel to “Dead Space” is a little less about horror and a little more about action. Without the graphics horsepower of the Xbox 360 or PS3, the Wii has gotten an exclusive “Dead Space” game that concentrates less on creepy atmosphere. Instead, we’ve been given an on-rails shooter. The production values are outstanding for the niche genre, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still just a pre-scripted shooting gallery.


The narrative gives us the back story that led to the survivor-less aftermath we explored in the original “Dead Space,” so don’t get too attached to any of the characters. You’ll corridor-crawl through a mining colony and, eventually, through the familiar layout of the starship Ishimura. Since the game determines forward movement for you, a lot of the scariness of creeping around the next corner is lost. But the game excels in cleverly feeling like “Dead Space” in every other way. Again, there are advantages in strategically dismembering Necromorphs as opposed to blasting away indiscriminately. And tools like Stasis and Kinesis are re-used to make this feel different from other light-gun shooters. It’s a decent spin-off, and one that you won’t be afraid to play with the lights off.


‘Kingdom Hearts: 158/2 Days’ (E10+)
Square Enix
Nintendo DS


It’s been a while since we’ve seen a “Kingdom Hearts” game, and “158/2 Days” tells us why: they haven’t made enough new Disney movies. Fans of this bizarre fusion of “Final Fantasy” and Disney characters might be disappointed to find that there’s little new Disney material. The assortment of classically animated icons has been completely exhausted. What remains is an action/RPG that is well done but a tad generic. But if you’re invested in the back story of Roxas and his involvement with Organization XIII, then there’s still plenty to love.


‘Scribblenauts’ (10+)
Warner Bros. Interactive
Nintendo DS


Here’s a game that I give an A+ for innovation and an I+ for implementation (The “I” stands for “irritation”). “Scribblenauts” tasks you to solve a series of problems by manifesting objects with the written word. So if you need a boat, you write “boat,” and then you have it. There are 10,000 objects you can summon, and the game challenges you to use objects in strange ways in order to solve problems faster, but this becomes profoundly irritating when objects don’t function the way you reasonably assumed they would. It’s still a brilliant idea, and I can’t wait for someone to rip it off and make it work better.


‘Spyborgs’ (T)


This latest entry in the beat’em-up genre has you select one of three cyborgs and then button mash away on an endless onslaught of robotic adversaries. This is good, clean fun for the first few levels until you realize that it’s going to be exactly like this for thirty more levels. Your move-set has no depth, your upgrades are negligible and the difficulty ramps up so frustratingly fast, you’ll wonder why the art design is so kid-friendly while the gameplay isn’t.

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