By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
This particular worldly existence ain't easy to live. Beyond your Foleys and Hasterts, your Anna Nicoles and your Parises, you got your Lower East Side indie bands who sell out to be featured in some C-grade T&A comedy flick's soundtrack. And you got your Sundance Film Festival winners who go on to make cheap reality shows. But your indie game makers are still in the oil-stained garage, cos no one's gonna give them millions to make a big budget game staffed by hundreds of coders as in the upcoming "Assassin's Creed."
So what if I told you that you could get 21 such indie games by honest, earnest coders for a fraction of the price of one Xbox 360 game? No, I'm not sending you to the bargain bin for "Tomb Raider." These games are brand new.
The deal? You'll get all these games for under $20. Yes, it sounds like I'm shilling, but it's OK in the case of IG: INDEPENDENT GAMES, VOL. 2. These award winners from the Indie Games Festival (kind of like The Sundance Festival for games) aren't going to get rich. They're making games in their college classrooms, their homes, and their garages because of the sheer joy of it.
Be warned that the graphics in these games aren't comparable to those in even the PlayStation 2. But they are full of the same rewarding gameplayalong with some twists you've never seen before.
In THE GOAT IN THE GRAY FEDORA you're immersed in a noir mystery adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously. As in many noir thrillers, you're a detective. But this time, you're the comedic Nick Bounty, sitting in your office and throwing darts at a photo of Ben Affleck. A femme fatale comes in to ask you to find . . . her ceramic goat. You'll go to law offices and Chinese pawn shops in an effort to solve the mystery. Even though the writing is sometimes corny, you'll often laugh as you play this adventure.
MORNING'S WRATH is an immersive role playing game. In this fantasy offering, you are Princess Morning, fated to use various forms of magic to save her pillaged kingdom and crush some evil marauders. But she may fall prey to the world of darkness if she doesn't watch out. With its compelling soundtrack and fairly easy gameplay, MORNING'S WRATH is a perfect choice for those folks who harbor an interest in RPGs, but never have had the courage to play one.
If you're a fan of old-school platformers like CRASH BANDICOOT, you'll get a kick out of DODGE THAT ANVIL! In this imaginative game, anvils are falling like rain from the sky. That means all the rabbits in town have to hide underground. You'll have to avoid the anvils as you forage for food and unravel the mystery surrounding your increasingly strange little rabbit warren.
Like many games, NERO is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which you train and command robot soldiers. The beauty of this nicely animated strategy game is that the robots learn and evolve over time. You can even take the abilities of one soldier and meld them with those of another. If it's a game with smart artificial intelligence that you're looking for, you'll enjoy NERO (which is an acronym for Neuro-Evolving Robotic Operatives).
The IG package also includes a wrestling game called WRESTLING ENCORE replete with a fascinating career mode and BUBBLE CHAMBER, an addicting casual game in which you rid the screen of bubbles by overlapping the bubbles that match. Even if you choose to play just one or two of these games, it will be well worth the twenty clams you spend. You'll be giving hope and a buck or two to some young, thoughtful game designers.Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
The Season's Top Sports Games
So I'm sitting at the Helen Hayes Theater, listening to ventriloquist Jay Johnson weave his life story into 90 minutes in the sometimes magical "The Two And Only." What's important about Johnson is not only that he's one of the last of a dying breed of voice-throwers. What's important is the fact that you suspend disbelief, feeling that there are two or more characters on the stage at the same time. You even feel that a tennis ball is a real, feeling human. I'm not saying you feel like a ventriloquist when you play a video game. What I am saying is that you feel like a multitude of characters when you play: from Mario to Shaq. I have no idea what these thousands of personalities have done to my paranoid mind. But I do know that when I play one of the better sports games below, I feel like a thick legged hockey player or an eagle-eyed basketball player. I ain't makin' the millions, though, that's for sure. Then again, I don't have LeBron's elbow in my nearsighted eye when trying to make a shot under the basket.
NBA 2K7 (2K Sports)There are three companies vying for your console dollar this year. I choose NBA 2K7 because of the sheer variety of moves, the outstanding graphics where you can see the players sweat and react, the many modes of play and the ever-smarter artificial intelligence. But some new moves can get you down occasionallyespecially when it come to free throws, which are hard to master. And they've got to pep up the boring and occasionally mistake-filled banter by the announcers. Aside from these errors, NBA 2K7 has it down and is the one to buy. The bonus? The online play is almost seamless with very little lag time.
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