This week's new releases, including a special guest appearance from a broad-shouldered lunatic in a tank top with paint on his face.
Rob Fahey is sitting alone in his bedroom flicking through press releases and online retailers on his computer. He notes that the ESPN range of American sports titles appear to be out on Play.com, but nobody else admits to having them. Rob gets up to fetch a drink. As he approaches the kitchen, a blur of chunky muscle erupts out of the cupboard under the stairs and smashes him into the ground. The blur is Tom Bramwell - pretending to be Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. He appears to be doing this because NFL Street 2 is the only game out in Europe this week.
See, that's what I was afraid of. The bone crunching. My bones aren't up to that.
Can't I just... Er... Okay, okay. Stop making that face. No, seriously. Put me down.
I don't see how this is going to lead into a discussion about Fullmetal Alchemist And The Broken Angel. Where are you going with this?
Ah, okay, I see what you did there. Fullmetal Alchemist, Square Enix's new game which is out in the US this week, is indeed about hitting as opposed to quitting - being, as it is, an action-adventure title. In which you hit things.
It's not my fault you punched me in the gut!
I bloody hope not. Anyway, as I was attempting to explain for the benefit of the studio audience, the game is based on Square Enix's ludicrously popular anime and manga series, which is all about a young chap called Edward Elric who is, as the name suggests, an alchemist. With a metal leg and arm. Do you see?
[Very long pause] So you run through the game transmutating items for use in battle - turning everyday objects into lethal weapons for the dealing of pain to a procession of hapless enemies. A concept you're familiar with, I see... Can you take my head out of there? It's hard to talk.
[Exceedingly long pause during while Rob bangs his head against the wall. With assistance.]
Well, er, "Terry", unfortunately Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel suffers from not being very good, by all accounts. It's quite repetitive and the graphics are sadly clunky, with the whole affair only being lifted by a decent script which has the characters actually poking fun at the limitations of the game and so on. Very post-modern, or something. There's a sequel out in Japan now, which is apparently A Lot Better, and also a really good Smash Brothers-style beat-'em-up, Fullmetal Alchemist: Dream Carnival, which is rather more highly recommended.
Can I go now?
So, that was for those of you who complained that Fullmetal Alchemist didn't make it into last week's "Key US Releases" section (hi Rob). And, simultaneously, for those of you who care about NFL Street 2, which thanks to EA ("Annex Eeeeverything") is now the only way to officially make real American sportsmen do backflips in playgrounds whilst yelling "WOOOOO!!!" and toss melons. American football isn't really our game, however accomplished EA's annual updates to the Madden series have become, so you're going to have to seek advice from the devotees on the other side of the Atlantic if you want to know whether it's worth spending money on.
Another game likely to prompt some "WOOOOO!!!"s, or at the very least wolf whistles, is Playboy: The Mansion, which is also out in the US this week - coincidentally just in time for the What's New I'm writing with my feet up on the couch in a Hefner-esque dressing gown, pipe in hand. It's not been reviewing spectacularly, but it did get a 6.9 somewhere or other. Which sucks. [Jesus. Um, look, don't bother clearing your desk; we're going to burn it down instead. -Ed] [Not if it's flame-retardant you're not. -Tom] [It's certainly retar-- [Sorry, going to have to override your Ed comment here and fire you for attempting to steer that one into a joke my teenage sister would cringe over. -Tom] [You can't do that. -Ed] [I'm pretending to be both of us. There's lots of things I can do. -Tom] [All right, look, we both said some things, none of it was very clever; let's just forget the whole thing and get you back to writing about Playboy before everybody gets bored and wanders off to read BoingBoing or something. -Ed] [I don't want to write about Playboy any more. It's boring. -Tom] [Suit yourself. -Ed] [Can I write about what I made for dinner last night? -Tom] [Depends... Ed] [Tom's Special Steak. -Tom] [I just... Sometimes I wish... Oh just close the brackets and put me away... -Ed]
Finally, this week the yanks also got their grubby mitts (there's a soap shortage) on Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, the Xbox-exclusive EA-published shooter that's somehow derived from Oddworld Inhabitants' previously declining platform series. And despite our fears concerning the genre-switch and relatively weak most recent instalment, the consensus is that it's actually very good. Proving once again that using squishy animals as ammunition is highly amusing and tethering that to interesting level design doused in a generally sparkling sense of humour (we seem to recall the little critter voices are squeakily comical) seems to have done wonders, and we've seen it pick up very high scores from people we'd usually consider to be rather miserly. It'll be out over here on 4th March and we're keen to see whether it can, er, WOO us the same way. Until then it's import-only. So it you wants to play it, they gots to airmail it! WOOOOOOOO!!!!
- PAL Releases
- NFL Street 2 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Key US Releases
- Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel (PS2)
- Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Xbox)
- Playboy: The Mansion (PS2, Xbox, PC)