This week, Disney Infinity offers up a new video game experience on Xbox 360, Saints Row IV causes carnage on PS3 and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist shoots onto PC. Elsewhere, Battle Vs. Chess takes the classic board game to new heights on PS3 and Plants Vs. Zombies 2 re-imagines a tablet legend on iPad
Disney Infinity | Xbox 360 | Action | £52.99
This has to go down as Disney’s most ambitious video game initiative, ever. Infinity introduces an all-new game universe in which a spark of imagination can unlock a fantastical world. Players have ultimate freedom and the endless opportunity to create their own stories and play experiences starring the much-loved characters from the Disney and Pixar repertoire. The starter pack price of over £50 may cause some parents to baulk when the kids come calling, but there’s a plethora of content in the three bundled playsets - Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University and The Incredibles. Each is activated by placing the toy figurine on the Infinity base, and opens you to the story-driven campaigns, each with a very different play experience, from platforming to stealth to all-out action. Everything unlocked here then becomes available for mixing and mashing in the Toy Box arena, a sandbox game creator that will consume kids for hours as they pull unlikely contemporary characters together in the unique adventures of their own making. Of course, this is only the start; with even more character figurines (and associated worlds) available for purchase, and once you start, you and your family may not be able to stop...
Saints Row IV | PS3 | Action | £29.99
There’s a window of opportunity to suck open-world action gamers into the world of Saints Row once more, ahead of the much-anticipated release of the daddy of sandbox playgrounds, GTA V. Saints Row IV advances the story of the Third Street Saints by upping their status to the highest level - the leaders of the free world. After a catastrophic alien invasion, where the aliens transport the Saints to a bizarro-Steelport simulation, you’ve got to fight to free humanity from the alien granddaddy, Zinyak’s, mental grasp by utilising gargantuan superpowers. And here’s where the fourth iteration catapults SR4 into the over-the-top action stratosphere. The addition of superpowers is a masterstroke, and though many of the mission structures, territory expansion and in-game buying options will feel familiar to fans of the series, the new location and ludicrously out-of-this-world talents you can apply to your characters puts everything in a brilliant new perspective. It’s fabulous fun, and a fitting current generation send-off for this crazy world. No doubt we’ll see even more outrageous action in years to come.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist | PC | Shooter | £29.99
So, another opportunity to unleash the force of the most lethal agent ever to exist. Once again, you are Sam Fisher, and you’ve been granted the ultimate license to protect innocents against an array of global terror attacks known as Blacklist. It’s the freedom to use limitless power, to bend or break virtually every law, and to rise to the level of the world’s most lethal operative. And so begins a notable return to the stealth approach that served 2005’s Chaos Theory so well. Yes, you have the option to go all-out run and gun, but Splinter Cell is best played softly, softly; your ‘in-the-shadows’ approach will be rewarded by tallied achievements and the in-game currency that can be used to purchase more advanced weaponry and other hi-tech gizmos. Graphically, Blacklist could have been more polished, but its game menu presentation in Sam’s central control centre is genius, and the gameplay is back where it needs to be - in the dark. One for your wishlist, not your blacklist.
Battle Vs. Chess | PS3 | Chess | £15.99
Over 1,500 years old and still going strong, chess continues to be the finest tactical pursuit you can put your mind to. But in a world of instant gaming gratification, steps must be taken to harness a new generation of strategic thinkers. Battle Vs. Chess takes a story-driven action approach to proceedings, a good old-fashioned yarn of good versus evil, but it works well to bring the game to life through a series of mini-missions and self-contained battles. These not only add creative flair to the game but also foster a greater understanding of individual chess-piece capabilities. This is a real bonus for chess beginners, but the difficulty certainly cranks up on later stages, so grand masters in the making will find more than enough to occupy their grey matter. The addition of the more hack’n’slash Battlegrounds mode may not be to the liking of traditional chess aficionados, but overall Battle Vs. Chess is a premium representation of a eternally challenging pastime.
Plants Vs. Zombies 2 | iPad | Strategy | FREE
It seems like we’ve waited an eternity for the sequel to the real-time strategy classic that pits the unlikely enemies of flora and undead freaks against each other in a series of tower-defence style environments. The fact that it’s free may also provide instant appeal, but beware, this could be to the cost of the overall experience, as those dreaded in-app purchases are alive and kicking here. If you’re not as determined as some hardcore PvZ fans to repeat-play early levels just to secure the necessary number of stars to progress, the £2.99 barrier between episodes may be too bitter a pill to swallow. And it’s a shame, because the game itself benefits from a host of additional features that expand on the original and add new layers of depth to the strategy required to succeed. Super slick presentation also puts this amongst the big boys on tablet when it comes to production values, so it may be worth putting a few pennies aside to get the most out of PvZ 2 - even though we’d love it if ‘free’ really meant free!