Video Game DEMO-lition: DEATHSPANK, NBA ELITE, More

Video Game DEMO-lition: DEATHSPANK, NBA

We have more demos for you! PSN is releasing quite a few Move demos, which we'll be covering separately later this week, but here are the ones played with regular controllers.

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue (Xbox Live Arcade/PSN)

This rapid follow-up to the original DeathSpank picks up right were the previous game left off, so its best to say if you liked the original, here’s some more of the same.  The three-quarters view hack-slash combat is as wild as ever and requires constant Diablo style micro-management of your equipment and maintenance of your health bar.  The demo takes you through the first section of new gameplay, complete with a number of fetch quests and grating attempts to satirize the adventure game genre.  Away from the battles, which can get visually cluttered, the game world’s 3D ‘roundness’ accented by flat environmental objects is impressive.  This game is really about its own peculiar sense of humor, think The Tick crossed with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, just not as funny or clever as either.  If you think thongs are intrinsically funny then DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is for you.

NBA Elite 11 (Xbox/PS3 Retail)

Since EA has to share the NBA license with other developers, its demo for the rebranded NBA Elite 11 wastes no time showing the player what’s done differently this year to make it distinct from other NBA games.  After giving the gamer a taste of the character creator that will be used for the “Become Legendary” story mode, there is a lengthy step-by-step instructional demo of the new ball control mechanic that’s entirely controlled by the right analog stick.  Various dribbling techniques and all types of shots from field goals to dunks are controlled by sweeping the right stick in various directions and degrees.  In practice, it almost feels natural, though in game situations it takes concentration to patiently but quickly enter a command for a shot.  This is exemplified by the five-minute final quarter of a 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 that you are dropped into as the Lakers down five points to the Celtics.  Fortunately, you also get a chance to play as your basic created character, in a Michael Jordan branded exhibition game, where the competition isn’t so fierce.

MySims Sky Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade)

This simplistic, arcade style flight sim trades realism for simplified controls in the cartoony MySims version of the Sims universe.  There is a button for going a little faster and a button for going a little slower, and you can do stunts with the right stick, but that’s about it, especially in the race/checkpoint clearing modes.  Things pick up in the dogfights though, where you can compete over Xbox Live, even in the demo version, or against AI pilots with a basic load out of guns and homing missiles, or pickup various power-ups around the single demo flight area, from Gradius-style ‘options’ to an orbital satellite laser attack..

Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter (Xbox Live Arcade)

During the first decade or so that Duke Nukem was out buying gum rather than star in video games, the Serious Sam franchise filled the void of uber-macho FPS protagonists.  While this remake of the original 2002 Second Encounter is purported to be a ‘refreshed’ version made with the latest version of the game’s proprietary engine, its already showing its age with environments (at least in the demo’s jungle stage) that feel flat and empty.  The same goes for the game’s enemies, while cleverly conceived, just plain look like ten-year-old game sprites.  Call backs to the early days of PC FPS games are not entirely unwelcome, including Second Encounter’s promisingly large simultaneous carry arsenal (you can pickup and carry the chainsaw, dual pistols, shotgun and sniper rifle in rapid succession in the demo) and a quicksave/quickload function that’s almost never seen on consoles.     

Alien Breed 2: Assault (Xbox Live Arcade)

The latest in the revived Alien Breed franchise continues the claustrophobic three-quarters shooter action that recalls a combination of the classic games Alien Syndrome and Smash TV.  In the demo, you and an optional but seriously recommended co-op partner fight through a maze of a wrecked spaceship while unfortunately generic looking aliens attack from all sides.  Movement with the left stick and aiming with the right is of great value, along with a variety of weapons (that can be found or bought at terminals) that fire at various speeds and effectiveness, while grenades and heath packs come in handy in when you are getting horded, which will happen often.  The wrecked spaceship level at least is packed with detail, if not color, and the gameplay is perfect if you like to mow down hoards of foes again and again.

Blade Kitten (Xbox Live Arcade/PSN)

Kit is the world’s cutest, pink-haired cat-girl bounty hunter from outer space.  It would not be a surprise if Blade Kitten was pitched and produced based simply on that character concept.  While the fully voiced cut-scenes do a good job drawing you into the story and have you rooting for the plucky girl with the hidden tragic past, the 2D platforming of the actual game just barely fails to live up to expectations thanks to poor design decisions.  While the fact that you can climb almost every wall, even ‘walk’ across the ceiling is cool, the controls have a ‘floatly’ feeling, and a too-close camera makes a lot of jumps feel like leaps of faith.  Your primary means of attack is a sword that floats around and moves independently of you. While you can direct it to attack at short or long range, this takes away the feeling that you are doing any of the real fighting yourself throughout the long demo/tutorial stage.  Blade Kitten is the questionable-at-best game adaptation of a cartoon that doesn’t exist.

Enslaved: Odyssey of the West (PS3 Retail)

This is definitely a beautiful game, with some unbelievable background imagery. In the demo, you start off in captivity, and the ship you're in is blowing up around you. The hero is pretty much, "OK, let's create an awesome extreme hero!," as envisioned by some former frat boy business men. The game takes you through a tutorial level, slowly introducing new elements. There's running and jumping and climbing, then eventually the combat comes into play. The whole time you're futilely chasing another prisoner, while learning about the slavery instituted in this post-apocalyptic world. Robots attack, and you fight back with, well, pretty much the same kind of combat you've played in lots of other action adventure games. It's fluid combat, and solid controls though, so it works well. This was a quick demo, but a good bit of setup. The trailer at the end of the demo actually tells you much more about the bigger story. With gorgeous imagery, a cool classical soundtrack, and solid gameplay, it looks like Enslaved will be worth running, jumping, and slashing through in October.

Try any demos out today? Try any demos out today?

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