Well it’s that time of the month again, the time we all look forward to, payday! But what to buy? Hmm. A new release or a classic XBOX live title? What about that Lady Gaga Singstar DLC you’ve been eyeing up for months? Hey relax, its OK, breathe take your time. Before rushing into that Singstar purchase, why not have a look at some of the cheaper gaming alternatives? Go on, it can’t hurt. Can it?
Condemned – XBOX/PC
It’s as old as the hills and as a launch title for the 360 the graphics look somewhat dated but for a fiver, Condemned is a brilliantly brutal brawler. You play as Ethan Thomas a member of the FBI’s Serial Crimes Unit and, after both a colleague and another police officer are murdered by the local nut job, you’re forced to go on the run to clear your name and capture the killer.
While Condemned’s gameplay is pretty linier, it does a great job of creating a disturbing atmosphere. It’s full of run down derelict apartment blocks each one filled with marauding psychotics. The game will also throw in an occasional CSI style puzzle but they are very basic and only really exist to add some more depth to the story. The meat of Condemned’s gameplay is the brutal hands on combat. The game really forces you to go toe-to-toe with enemies and, although you do get the occasional firearm, ammo is pretty much non-existent. It’ll take players time to get to grips with the selection of melee weapons on offer but the best bet is to jump right in on the offensive. Players will often have to change their approach when confronted with more than one enemy. The game excels when the AI is up close; they will dummy swing, taunt you and try to force you into blocking rather than attacking it’s always keeping you on your toes.
Condemned is a dark game and at points is desperate depressing but the combat and pace of the game is still a breath of fresh air after all these years. If you’re a fan of thrillers you can’t go wrong with Condemned.
Terraria – PC via steam
Honestly, I still have no idea what this game is. It’s not really a platformer and it’s not really an RPG, it features crafting, mining and building but unlike Minecraft building, mining and creating are not the main aims of the game. It features randomly generated maps, character customization, a quirky if not familiar crafting system and an 8-bit like retro feel to the graphics and sound.
Terraria is a game that will reward players greatly for exploration, even more so if they decided to bring a few buddies along online. The gameplay itself is best described as kind of non-liner Metriod or Zelda but at points it doesn’t really fit in with those games either. The gameplay is a weird and wonderful mix of genera’s, a jack-of-all-trades, usually this smothers a game but for Terraria it somehow works. So, if you enjoy crafting, building, adventuring or fighting a boss or two with some buddies, Terraria will be right up your street. A word of warning, keep a browser window handy as the controls and the crafting system are pretty much undocumented. I can maybe understand that the developers would want to keep some things secret for discovery but for the controls it’s pretty much unacceptable and it’s only going to frustrate newcomers to the game. My advice is to stick with it, run it in a window, and use the very well supported online wiki’s and tools to help you through the game.
Just Dance –Wii/360
This year instead of taking classic board games such as Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly on holiday, we decided to take the Wii, much to the delight of the kids. I never really had the urge to play a dance game but before I knew it I was bopping away like a pro. I hate to admit it but I was having a blast. You can pick up Just Dance for around £15 ($20) and while not change exactly change I think its well worth it especially if you’re looking for a game to entertain the whole family or a group of friends.
You’ll find that dancing games are much more intuitive and easier to understand than games such as Mario Party or Guitar Hero. This means it’s fantastic for non-gamers, or people who have no experience of using a controller. The song selection on offer generally has something for everyone, from 80’s classics to modern pop hits. If you don’t like the selection on offer you can purchase an extra song disc or download additional tracks online (on certain versions).
Proun is a simple yet colourful racing game developed by Da Blob creator Joost van Dongen. Unlike most modern racing games you’ll not be driving a super fast production sports car or flying a futuristic space craft, oh no. In Proun players control a ball on a cable keeping the gameplay simple. Players use left and right to rotate the ball around the cable, gaining speed the longer they can avoid obstacles. The faster you get, the more difficult the game becomes. Proun will induce some eye watering and cross-eyed racing moments as you dodge obstacle at the last possible second on reflex and this is the most rewarding part of the game.
All you need to play Pronoun is a basic PC and you can pay as little as a penny, even though it’s worth A LOT more. The game features 4 player split screen, leaderboards, ghost replay, three abstract and colourful tracks, four levels of difficulty and Joost has even been kind enough to release track creation tools enabling players to create their very own Piet Mondrain inspired tracks.
Xtravision – Preowned games
Being an ex-game developer it’s strange for me to be promoting pre-owned titles; but in the age of DLC, online passes and the rising cost of games it’s hard, especially from a consumer’s point of view, not to justify it. One of the best places I’ve found to purchase pre-owed titles is Xtravision. I was really surprised at some of the deals, in general, on new releases and the selection of pre-owed titles was great and super cheap. Just last week I picked up Condemned 2 for £4.99 ($7.50), without a scratch on it, and with a full-untainted manual, bargain!