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What's New? (16th Nov, 2007)

New PAL releases.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

One game is destined to dominate this week's headlines, whatever the quality and depth of the release schedule elsewhere. And it's not exactly Weight Watchers out there either what with Assassin's Creed, Crysis and others vying for your attention. But, as I say, this is the sort of week where introductory subterfuge is pointless and ambling gradually through the first paragraph build-up is like spitting on the fire as it climbs slowly up the stake towards your face. It's-aaaaaaaa...

Viva Piñata on the PC!

Everyone dance!

But first, a word about Super Mario Galaxy. Margaret - whose name may be alien to some of you, but whose ability to comment on the quality of all things Mario will not be questioned by those of you to whom it is not - chose the word "ten". I choose the word "shrinkwrap", as an agreeable confluence of events - a stupendously dense schedule of top games to review and having to nanny our news editor all the time because he can't spell "Wahlberg" - has meant that my weekend will go something like this:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Unwrap Super Mario Galaxy.
  3. Play Super Mario Galaxy.
  4. Go to bed.
  5. Monday!

I look forward to sharing the experience with a great many of you, and hopefully enough that our eternal friend with the rubbery face is still floating across the top of the often mental UK Chart even when EA's latest Need For Speed is zig-zagging at slow speed around Burberry living rooms in another seven days' time. If he is not, there will of course be punishment.

Anyway, Viva Piñata. At the time of writing this, I am still at "first impression" stage. The PC interface is slightly clumsier than just playing it on a pad - although you can do that. It feels a bit odd advising PC owners who have one to plug in an Xbox 360 pad with a USB cable, or some other equivalent, but that's probably necessary. It's a management sim designed for two analogue sticks and some podgy buttons. I know, it's a bit like telling you that I've met a very attractive young lady who loves me dearly providing I always dress like Skeletor and kiss with my knee, but I'd take that and I know from the results of our intrusive annual surveys that I am not alone.

But the important thing about Viva Piñata isn't really the interface or whether women find me sexually inadequate. Played at 1920x1200 on my lovely 24" LCD, the text bubbles with alerts in them are like motorway sign-posts. With text that wraps and actually has to scroll. It's also slower and stumblier to get going than a tramp's dog in Alaska. But there are important things about it beyond those, and foremost among them is that this is one of the gentlest, most warming and friendly games ever to prosper under the firehose of money that is Microsoft Game Studios, and the thing for which I love Rare more than almost any other.

It has been ported by the people at Climax, and they too deserve our affection because nothing appears to be broken. The wonderful soundtrack, which you can listen to for over 50 hours without replacement; the adorable animals with their silly pun names; the delightfully happy way that things live, die, cheat on one another and perform incestuous acts without question; the wild deer disco; watering the crocodile; cross-breeding the incredibly annoying swan with the delightful pig... I get a lot of stick internally for my love of Viva Piñata. When I tried to explain that I had spent the evening coaxing a squazzil into my garden rather than unwrapping Mass Effect or Crysis, Eurogamer's resident womensingames Ellie Gibson told me: "f*** off with your Ground Force Muppet show".

In a way she's right, but in a lot of ways she's not right (seriously - tons). And I dearly hope Kristan's prediction that next week Viva Piñata sells 543 copies is inaccurate. If you're willing to take a punt, and you give it a few hours and you hate it, then I will be sorry. But I will also never cuddle you. And that's something you will have to live with. Watch out for the review just as soon as I have got rid of all my zumbugs and stopped the stupid flutterscotches eating the wrong plants. And have a nice weekend.

This week:

  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Zombie Ninja Pro-Am (PS2)
  • Assassin's Creed (PS3, Xbox 360)
  • Avatar: The Burning Earth (Xbox 360)
  • Beowulf (PC, Xbox 360)
  • Crysis (PC)
  • Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire (Wii)
  • Empire Earth III (PC)
  • F.E.A.R. Files (Xbox 360)
  • F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate (PC)
  • Fashion Designer: Style Icon (DS)
  • International Cricket Captain III (PS2, PSP)
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii, DS)
  • Orcs & Elves (DS)
  • Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice (PSP)
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 (Wii, DS)
  • Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action (Xbox 360)
  • Screwjumper! (Xbox 360)
  • Shrek 'n Roll (Xbox 360)
  • Silent Hill Origins (PSP)
  • SimCity Societies (PC)
  • Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
  • Viva Piñata (PC)

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