Kicking off a new series of weekly round-ups of the most essential just-released games (spanning retail, indie, downloadable, iPhone, freeware, and all otherwise), this week takes us on a trip through heavy metal fantasy, jellybean puzzle solving, rusted robot worlds, and Indian-spiced psychadelic shooters.
Brutal Legend (Double Fine, PS3/Xbox 360)
Certainly one of the highest profile games of the season, Double Fine's Brutal Legend (at top) has been garnering all the media acclaim it richly deserves following its release earlier this week.
Created by former LucasArts adventure vet Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango) and starring Jack Black alongside a league of metal legends (Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister, Lita Ford, and, of course, Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne), the studio's open-world/driving/lite real-time-strategy opus is every medieval-apocalypse album cover brought to glorious life, finally fulfilling the wishes of two generations of disaffected patched-jean-jacketed and notebook-cover-doodling Hessians.
A Boy and his Blob (WayForward, Wii)
On the polar opposite of the spectrum, WayForward's A Boy and his Blob is a spiritual sequel to a game that, even if you aren't directly familiar with, you will appreciate the lineage of, having been the 8-bit NES platforming debut of David Crane, former Activision designer behind genre-defining Atari 2600 game Pitfall.
Blob's essentially ludicrous premise (the titular boy's titular sidekick transforming into a series of helpful level-navigating utilities after eating one of many various jellybeans) is softened by its gorgeous cel-animated art-style, which itself belies the challenges you'll find within. It's also one of the first (but hopefully not near the last) games released to contain a dedicated 'hug' button, a detail which should seal the deal for many.
Machinarium (Amanita, PC/Mac)
Amanita's point and click adventure was featured at much greater length here earlier in the week, but suffice it to say the studio's third major release is well worth the wait, and well worth showing your support for a group of indies trying to keep the limping genre alive with true hand-polished passion.
Gridrunner Revolution (Llamasoft, PC)
Finally, cheating the system just a bit to mention a game that's fallen between the cracks for the past few weeks, Gridrunner Revolution -- the latest evolutionary chapter in creator Jeff Minter's decades long quest for the psychedelically sublime -- would be a worthy choice for weekend gaming if only for a dose of the eye-searing light-show seen above.
But the truth is that behind its happily harrowing hallucinogenics and ungulate-fancy are surprisingly complex mechanics (see Minter's 'Sheepintology' video for an introduction to those) that's made it one of the most rewarding indie shooters of the year. Don't pass this one up if you have already -- download the demo version for PCs here.