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What's New? (26th August 2005)

Four hundred columns later, all that's left to talk about is dogs and beer.

We don't normally talk about publisher-sponsored boozing on Eurogamer. This is not because we don't do it, obviously. With the exception of Pat, most of us get semi-drunk semi-regularly with semi-games-people, whether we're paying or they are. (Oh, and it's worth reiterating that the main reason Pat's an exception is that he drank the entire alcoholic content of the 1990s and then had a life-changing Disney-esque sing-along with fish about the virtues of sobriety as he nearly drowned on an ill-advised midnight trip into the Mediterranean before being rescued by forces as-yet unidentified. True story!) No, the reason we don't talk about it is that you don't care. It doesn't exactly make us look big or clever anyway, but it certainly doesn't add much to your appreciation of games to know that we had some drinks last night and believe this makes us tough and manly.

On this occasion, however, it is semi-relevant, and since this column's remit is never to be more than semi-relevant, it's a snug fit. In short then (a concept bafflingly awkward at the end of a 150-word paragraph), Nintendo got me drunk last night. In fact, I reckon they broke most of the games industry - including SEGA, half of whom were still throwing shapes as the small hours of the next day staggered gracelessly toward us. Anyway. In amongst all the exciting gossip (read: people whispering into each other's ear about things which probably aren't true and nobody around them actually cares about, in the hope that everybody around them will assume they know something which is both true and really worth hearing) and chestnuts roasting on an open barrel (Christmas theme. Don't ask), we found ourselves stumbling conversationally back to a particularly interesting sentiment: there isn't much wrong with Nintendogs.

Yes, you're probably by now contemplating the collection of your digi-coat and a swift exit through the revolving Back button, but stick with it: the point is that Nintendogs is a good game (a very good game), that delivers on Nintendo's stated aim to level the playing field for as many as possible and put games in the hands of more than just the you's and me's, and it does this with a warm heart and a complete absence of ways to be nasty. The one thing I might have a dig about is that it's not out here until October 7th, but people in the US can buy it this week. But I'm not going to, because it's cheap to import and, frankly, I'm glad of the chance to mention what seems a genuinely responsible game in What's New more than once.

Next up: killing people in post-apocalyptic cars. Yep.

187 Ride or Die (PS2, Xbox) is Ubisoft's entry in that wonderful sub-genre: the hiphop-flavoured-shooting-people-in-cars-'em-up. I've got a demo version here, so let's see what it's like. [Pops disc in Xbox tray. Plays game. Comes back.] Right. I'm a "reluctant urban hero" called Buck, a young man bound to a thug's life of money, cars and girls (sounds alright). I drive cars called "Murdas" and "Mafiosos", and I can fire guns as well as drive. I've already seen to a "snitch up in the hood", which is nothing to do with sewing but did involve racing down a stretch of freeway and then turning round and coming back several times. On the next track (having "done my G thing" and been urged not to "pop my collar yet"), I race some "fools" and this involves shooting them. I can pick up more guns left on the road as I drive (US gun laws: too lax?), and when I do away with another car's health I get a nice little cut-away of it crashing and breaking up rather unpleasantly. It seems like it could be fun, but reviewers who've spent longer than five minutes with it complain about an arsenal comprising small guns in a genre that loves rockets, as well as moaning about the co-op mode camera and the Burnout-style arrow-forcefields that shepherd the player around.

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (PS2) hasn't been reviewing much better, and feels like a daft game for a PS2 owner to spend money on given that the infinitely superior (or at least quantifiably superior) Resident Evil 4 is due out on the same system on November 4th. It can be better than the first Outbreak all it wants; the first Outbreak was horrible. "Plagued", you might even pun, by sloppy controls, ludicrous load delays and bizarre AI behaviour. This is apparently better in each area, but it sounds like your efforts to facilitate multiplayer surviving-of-the-horror still face the same problems - just slightly less so. It has ineffective comms and is sluggish and repetitive, says the Internet. Meanwhile, Resident Evil 4 doesn't need comms, is frenzied and dementedly long and absorbing. And it has a small evil man in it. Probably best to leave this on the shelf, then, although it's fun to observe the ludicrous title, which looks like four unrelated words standing around nervously uncertain of what they're meant to be doing or why there's a "#2" standing next to them. They're not the only ones.

Semi-finally this week, there's just enough room to pay lip-service to the latest way-to-give-Ubisoft-money for Ghost Recon fans, Xbox expansion Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike... before diving into another paragraph of eulogising banter about Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (PS2, Xbox) and the rest of the US release line-up. Sorry, games-I'm-neglecting.

Monkey Ball Deluxe, then. A pretty easy game to review, but rarely an easy game to sell (according to retailers at least). To sum it up, the main mode is an increasingly intricate obstacle course that has to be navigated by rolling a little monkey around in a ball, and the combination of a superb underlying physics engine and often-ingenious level design mean that it's maddeningly addictive in spite of a bitch of a camera. You can usually tell that a game's worth pursuing when it inspires cultish little groups who spend most of their waking hours devising extraordinary physics exploits to propel the player to the goal as quickly and skilfully as possible. Speaking as somebody who can do the 0.1 wire on the guitar-strings level, I can heartily recommend such pursuits - although I did kind of stand on the shoulders of a giant to achieve that feat. (Interestingly, there aren't too many ways you can call my chum Leo a giant, but this is one.) Add to that an array of mini-games, many of which can swallow an entire evening if you get a couple of friends to join in, and it's a pretty obvious way to rid yourself of 25 quid, isn't it?

Fine, fine, it was two more paragraphs. This one won't take long. Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS) is also out in the US, noteworthy for its perpetuation of the popular "Game Name: DS" abbreviation idea (see also: "Resident Evil: Deadly Silence"), and the fact that it's a new Advance Wars game. The question of whether it really is a new Advance Wars game is one that Kristan's in the process of answering, so I won't prejudice his findings. Mainly because he stole the review copy, so I simply don't know.

OKAY IT WAS THREE. Anyway, that's about it. Don't forget the PSP is out next week. More on that when I return, less inebriated than I probably still am now, in seven exciting days' time. And remember, PSP-buying kids: Lumines is for life, even if the rest is just for Christmas.

PAL Releases

  • 187 Ride or Die (PS2, Xbox)
  • Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory (PC)
  • Beyond Blitzkrieg (PC)
  • Blitzkrieg Anthology (PC)
  • Echo Night Beyond (PS2)
  • Outlaw Tennis (PS2)
  • Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (PS2)
  • Sacred Gold (PC)
  • Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (PS2, Xbox)
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike (Xbox)
  • Wild Water Adrenaline (PS2)

Key US Releases

  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
  • The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
  • Nintendogs (DS)
  • Pac'N Roll (DS)

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