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Backlog: The Embiggening - October, 2012

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By Nelson Schneider - 10/06/12 at 04:51 PM CT

Welcome to another look into the near future. October is traditionally the month that game publishers start ramping up their release schedules in order to completely glut the market by the time the Christmas shopping season comes around. By starting two months ahead of time, it’s possible to get so many new games on the shelves as to form a completely impenetrable wall of confusion for parents and grandparents who have been asked to buy videogames for Christmas gifts. Will they have the good sense to ask the giftee for specific titles? No! They will simply buy something they recognize: This is why licensed games exist and how they are sold.

And, damn, are the licensed games out in full force! There are plenty of traditional releases, in which the publisher uses the shotgun approach of making their games available on every platform capable of running them: “LEGO Lord of the Rings,” “Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2013,” Remington’s “Outdoors Unlimited,” “Transformers Prime,” “Toy Story Mania!” (which is finally losing its Wii exclusivity after 3 years), “007 Legends,” and a game-sequel to the gaming-based movie “Wreck-It Ralph.” Only two of these games deserve any extra commentary: The fact that the “Wreck-It Ralph” game isn’t an 8-bit mashup of “Donkey Kong” and “Wrecking Crew” is a travesty that just shows how out of touch big publishers have become; and the fact that “007 Legends” is about as close as Activision can get to the ideal Bond game I asked for in 2011 means I will have to buy it… for the WiiU.

However, now many publishers of new licensed trash are releasing these games exclusively on the handhelds or for use with the big-boy consoles’ motion controllers. It seems that they have discovered the obvious correlation between people who think motion controls are fun and people who buy terrible licensed games. What’s worse is that some of the most horrible releases, “Bratz: Fashion Boutique,” “Lalaloopsy: Carnival of Friends,” and “Moshi Monsters: Moshlings Theme Park,” are available on both the 3DS and the obsolete DS. How is it ethical to release a 3DS version of a DS game when the 3DS is perfectly capable of playing the DS game already? This kind of behavior will only ensure that plenty of little girls with pink DSes will receive the 3DS version of one of these turds for Christmas and not be able to play it: There will be tears.

Outside of handhelds, there is only one exclusive licensed game that doesn’t belong to the Kinect: “Cabela’s Hunting Expedition” for the PS3 (yes, TWO Cabela’s games in one month!). What’s insane about this game is that it bears no mention of the Move controller on the box… when it would be a perfect match for the Move and its gun attachment for some faux-light-gun critter blasting. The Kinect, on the other hand, is loaded with new licensed exclusives: “Dragon Ball Z,” “Harry Potter,” “Marvel Avengers,” and “Nike+,” as well as the non-exclusive “Zumba Fitness Core.”

But motion controlled games don’t need to be licensed to be terrible! There’s also the ‘shovelware’ category, and both the handhelds and motion controllers are getting more than their fair share of particularly malodorous titles this month: “Crosswords Plus,” “Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone,” “Rollercoaster Tycoon 3D,” “Fable: The Journey,” “Just Dance 4,” “Dance Central 3,” “Style Savvy: Trendsetters,” “Imagine Babyz 3D,” “Just Dance: Disney Party,” “The Trash Pack” (finally, an accurate title!), “Smart As…,” and “American Mensa Academy” (and I’d like to point out that anyone who buys those last two isn’t as smart as a tree stump and would be laughed out of any Mensa meeting).

Sports fans are getting new annual releases in both basketball and wrestling. Racing fans have their pick of three new games, two exclusives, “Monster 4X4 3D,” and “Forza Horizon,” as well as the multi-platform release of “Need for Speed: Most Wanted.”

*Whew* Now that all the crap is off the table, let’s take a look at the real games that gamers might actually be interested in this month.

The 3DS and Vita have quite a few releases, sharing only two exclusives between them: a “Spy Hunter” remake and throwback Adventure game, “Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.” The 3DS is getting a new “Professor Layton,” as well as “Guardian Legends” successor, “Code of Princess.” The Vita is getting a “Silent Hill” sequel, a “Super Monkey Ball” sequel, a port of “Street Fighter X Tekken,” and a ‘lite’ version of an MMORPG, “Ragnarok Odyssey.” Even the elderly DS is getting new version of “Pokemon Black/White,” breaking the tradition of creating a single third version of each ‘Pokemon’ colored set. I never bought “Pokemon Black/White,” as I was waiting for the inevitable “Pokemon Gray”… which never happened. I don’t know if I should even bother with the series anymore… unless Nintendo adds DS compatibility to the WiiU’s list of tricks.

The first of the Fall’s big-budget blockbusters are releasing in October, unsurprisingly all multi-platform: “Assassin’s Creed 3,” “Doom: BFG Edition,” “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” “Resident Evil 6,” and “Dishonored.” Also unsurprisingly, all of those games are Rated M for Juvenile, most of those games are FPSes, and none of them hold even a mote of interest for me. Outside of budget-breakers, there are several other multi-platform releases that actually look like they have some effort put into them: “XCOM: Enemy Unknown,” “Carrier Command: Gaea Mission,” “Port Royale 3,” more miniature-collecting nonsense in “Skylanders Giants,” and, finally, a game that appeals specifically to my love of goblinoids and role-reversal in Fantasy settings: “Of Orcs and Men.”

Digital and Indie releases look rather sparse this month, with only the multi-platform “Wrath of the Dead Rabbit” and “Worms Revolution” seeing the light of day. This is a surprising turn of events considering how quick and easy it’s supposed to be to develop and publish simple games for digital distribution. Considering how many games are waiting in the wings at Steam Greenlight, it seems that perhaps small developers are waiting until the holiday craze of so-called “AAA” games ends and the competition from overhyped, big-budget releases subsides.

The Summer Game Drought is well and truly broken, and the Holiday Game Deluge is fully underway. But, as it has always been, the vast majority of Fall and Winter releases are complete garbage that line the shelves at retail stores in an attempt to confuse shoppers with an overwhelming amount of white noise and static. And in recent years, the number of mainstream releases targeting ‘grown-ups’ who like ‘mature’ games (read: tweens and teens who think playing these games make them ‘mature grown-ups’) and sequels in these franchises nearly crowds-out the few truly interesting games. Filtering through all of the new stuff this month, I will definitely be buying “007 Legends” (hypocritical, I know, for someone who hates licensed games… but I did ask for this exact scenario for a Bond game, so I feel obligated to at least try it) and “Of Orcs and Men.” While there are also several non-shovelware handheld titles that look appealing, such as “Code of Princess” and “Pokemon Black/White 2,” I can’t justify purchasing a new handheld or adding any new DS games to my backlog when I have no intention of playing anymore games on an actual handheld.

Backlog Embiggened: +2

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