What to Play (And Not to Play) in January

By  |  Friday, January 2, 2009 at 5:26 pm

For the video game industry, the holiday season is a lot like New Year’s Eve. There is much hype, planning and anticipation, leading to a short period of self-indulgence and questionable behavior (like staying up until sunrise and then skipping work to keep playing). Of course, with the new year comes a hangover, and a month of gaming that’s historically known for being unremarkable.

But, if you’re looking to brave the winter storm and get something new from GameStop, here’s a guide for what to get and what to avoid:

Play: Skate 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, January 21)

While skateboarding is rarely easy the first time around, most games make the sport seem more natural than breathing. The Skate series changed things up with a control scheme that used both thumbsticks for movement — one to steer, execute a variety of tricks. The result is a game that feels more like the real thing than any of Tony Hawk’s virtual exploits. The sequel should be even better.

Don’t Play: Hotel For Dogs (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, January 6)

They say a film is guaranteed to stink when critics aren’t allowed to see it before release. Similar logic applies to video games, and with no previews, reviews or general news on Hotel For Dogs with less than a week before it reaches stores, we’re forecasting this one as a cheap movie cash-in.

Play: Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (Wii, January 20)

This Wii port of the now-classic Xbox 360 title puts you in a zombie-infested mall for 72 in-game hours, with only the stores’ merchandise to defend yourself. Weapons range from dishware to garden hoes to jerry-rigged explosives. The Wii can’t process as many zombies at once as the original game, but the visceral thrill of wielding the Wii Remote should make up for that.

Don’t Play: Neighborhood Games (Wii, January 5)

The Wii’s popularity, particularly with the casual audience, has opened the door for unprecedented quantities of shovelware. This one’s company line has all the clues: Comparisons to Wii Sports, a partial list of minigames, and the constant but empty promise of entertainment. “No need to worry about the rain ending your fun!” it says, probably because this game will end it first.

Play: Retro Game Challenge (DS, January 6)

Initially, I considered putting this in the “Don’t Play” category, but after reading a bit more, this one actually sounds interesting. What seemed like a lame series of old game clones is actually a fun send-up, broken into short, ADD-friendly chunks. All of this is tied together by the plot, which says you must compete in these challenges in order to escape the clutches of an evil boss. Plus, it’s got that Japanese import aesthetic to it.

Don’t Play: Deal or No Deal (Wii, January 13)

We’re all agreed that the fun of Deal or No Deal, the game show, is in watching people get greedy and squandering money that they earned by sheer luck, right? So what’s the fun of throwing away your own fake money in a completely safe, virtual environment? No amount of sheen on the head of Howie Mandel’s digital likeness can save this one.

Play: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, DS, January 13)

While my nerd cred is forever damaged by the fact I don’t really care for Lord of the Rings, this title seems to be gaining some buzz in the new year. Modeled largely after the strategy game Star Wars: Battlefront, Conquest puts you in control of large-scale Middle Earth battles. A demo is available for download now for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, if you can’t wait until January 13 for your precious.

Don’t Play: M&M’s Adventure (PS2, January 5)

We thought advergames — or at least the ones you have to pay for — went out with Cool Spot in the early 90s. Technically, this game was released for the Wii in late December, but none of the major gaming sites noticed, so I’m still entitled to make fun of it before the Playstation 2 release this month. Broken English in the press release, a decidedly late Christmas Eve plot setting and the sloppy label of “classic 3D action adventure platform game” suggests that your money is better spent on the candy itself.

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  1. Leo King Says:

    I always watch Deal or No Deal on TV, what an exciting show and i love the briefcase girls too.’~~