"BRAIN AGE: CONCENTRATION TRAINING"
(3DS, $30, Everyone)
Many imitators have followed the path of Nintendo's "Brain Age" DS games. Few, though, have approached the quick-hit pleasures of the genuine article, which was adept at making you feel like you were sharpening your mind by plugging away at daily exercises.
This sequel recaptures the magic, purporting to allow you to get better at blocking out distractions and focusing at the task at hand by training you to tackle tricky logic problems.
The claims may be dubious, but the exercises - presented in a bizarre devil motif - are challenging and malleable, adjusting the toughness level according to your successes and failures. "Concentration Training" makes for a compelling way to kill a few minutes each day, but I got a sense that the developers were oblivious that their game is one of the trifling distractions it preaches against.
"DEAD SPACE 3"
(360, PS3, $60, Mature)
Downplaying the survival horror nature of previous games for a more action-oriented approach, the third chapter of the "Alien"-like sags hurls put-upon hero Isaac Clarke through a number of locales, including a Hoth-like frozen planet crawling with the diverse set of beasts known as Necromorphs and a host of other terrifying creatures.
Online co-op is available, adding a tense simbiosis between you and your drop-in, drop-out partner. Those who want to go it alone still have the option, but will miss out on side content and the true thrust of the adventure.
Crafting and upgrading is placed at a premium, adding a methodical counterpoint to the tense freak-out attacks. Enemies attack from inconvenient angles, using considerable skill and smarts in an effort to take you out. When you pass a checkpoint it feels like a nightmare survived. Those who were afraid the series would lose its shock value have nothing to worry about.
"FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: KEN'S RAGE 2"
(360, PS3, Wii U, $60, Mature)
A button-masher brawler that owes much of its design to the adore-it-or-despise-it "Dynasty Warriors" series provides cheap thrills and scores of kills.
An energy-pulsing power trip, straightforward, wide-open levels teeming with mostly easily-dispatchable enemies swarm you in large-scale battles. Obliterating the masses with well-timed special moves is fun, but the rote mechanics wear thin as you plug away. a forced diet of quick-time events do little to spice things up.
The addition of online co-op and head-to-head action is welcome, but it will be up to the community surrounding the game to see if the multiplayer pays off.
"SPECIAL FORCES: TEAM X"
(360, $15, Mature)
A specialization and teamwork-rich multiplayer shooter, "Team X" takes plenty of inspiration from "Team Fortress 2." Unfortunately, it's also just about as generic as its "Team X" subtitle.
Matches come together and flow with effortless speed and precision, and targeting and movement feel sharp and accurate. You get credit not only for kills, but for aiding your brothers in arms on the battlefield.
There's little here, though, to distinguish the game in a crowded marketplace. Grinding for experience and levels lacks many tangible rewards. The game is a square deal at the price offered, but it may only serve to whet your appetite for more expensive and better populated shooters.