Video Game DEMO-lition: Split/Second, PAC-MAN, more

Video Game DEMO-lition: Split/Second

Split/Second (Xbox Retail)

This past summer’s environmental-vehicular-combat/racer gets the demo treatment to show off its single and multiplayer chops.  Solo you can take one of four cars out on a single track for some intense racing that is peppered with the game’s signature takedown mechanic. By drafting, drifting and completing narrow overtakes or escapes you can build your power meter to trigger racecourse and race standing alterations.  Each one, from an overpass collapse to a gas station detonation, are rendered with expansive particle effects including clouds of dust and fire that, in thrilling fashion, can even obscure your own view of the track for a moment.  Unfortunately, this kind of fun isn’t limited to your control.  The AI racers will also have the power to throw instant roadblocks of flame and steel in your path, frequently rendering you and your lead crafted from laps of strategic racing, all but sliding over the fishing line on your hood in eighth place.   The demo also allows access to the Split/Second multiplayer servers, so you can take out, and receive some, of that frustration online.

CSI: Fatal Conspiracy (Xbox Retail)

Put your armchair forensic detective skills to the test in this lengthy demo of the latest CSI: game. With a bit too much handholding, even for a demo, you and the Uncanny Valley version of series star Marg Helgenberger, (who provides her voice and what is supposed to be her ‘likeness’) go step by step though the first half of the game’s fourth of five episodes.  And  ‘step by step’ it is, as the game is laid out just like an episode of the TV show, where crucial information is dabbled out in sequence, or simply inaccessible for storytelling purposes, prohibiting intuitive leaps or second play-thru shortcutting.  Not adding to the experience is the slow point and click navigation, reducing the action into pixel hunts for something as nigh-invisible as a hair on a pillow, or as actually invisible as a fingerprint.  Once back in the lab, some simple matching minigames take the role of evidence analysis, matching up fingerprints and DNA alleles.  Overall the most disappointing element is the prospect presented by the demo that there is no way to fail an investigation at all, the only roadblock is being told that you haven’t found the evidence the game needs to progress through the story.  No risk makes this a picture book, not a game.

Alien Breed 3: Descent (Xbox Live Arcade)

The Alien Breed franchise is back after an extremely short (less than four months, to be exact) layover after the release of Alien Breed 2: Assault to the downloadable console gaming universe.  After such a short time, it’s not surprising that not much has changed; the demo’s prologue chapter still features the two stick move/aim controls, co-op gameplay, but at least one new weapon livens up the combat. The game is still the same: move through the same claustrophobic, maze-like wreaked spaceship blasting anything that moves while swinging the camera around so you can see what’s coming at you from any side of your isometric viewpoint.  An expansion more than anything, it’s unclear from the demo how this game even constitutes a sequel other than being released sequentially.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (Xbox Live Arcade)

The old man of gaming gets another facelift in the demo of the follow-up to the well-received Pac-Man Championship Edition of three years ago.  The demo lets you access the Championship II mode, a five-minute survival challenge that drops dots in patterns in the maze and pits you against all the game’s new features. Outside of the return of lean-into speed cornering, a new array of ghost abilities like sleeping ghosts that can awaken and give chase as you pass them, ghosts that multiply into long chains behind you and new offensive bombs that you can trigger to repel your pursuers.  The latter are perfect for when the game slows down and zooms into bullet-time (pellet-time?) when you are about to be killed.  While surely the classic Pac-Mac game is buried inside here somewhere, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX’s ever-changing color and sound schemes will definitely fulfill your recommended daily requirement of light and noise.

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