Not all video games come on shiny discs. Or sell for $50 or more. An increasing number of titles are available for download on each of the three new consoles — and most sell for under $10. Here’s a quick rundown of three such games.
SUPER RUB A DUB
(PlayStation 3; SCEA; Everyone; available on the PlayStation Store for $6.99)
If you like rubber duckies — and, really now, who doesn’t? — you’re going to love Super Rub a Dub. As a proud momma duck, you must navigate a series of increasingly maze-like bathtubs in order to release your hatchlings from their soap-bubble prisons and escape down the drain (hopefully, to a serene pond and not the sewers). Complicating matters: wind-up toy sharks whose favorite delicacy happens to be duck soup. Gravity and physics also conspire against your feathered flock.
What’s cool about this game is the interface: You make the ducks move by tilting the PS3’s wireless motion-sensing controller. You can also briefly launch the contents of the tub airborne by jolting the controller upwards. Doing so temporarily stuns the sharks and helps the ducks jump over whirlpools and other obstacles for a shorter path to freedom. The game looks amazing — the water effects alone hold up against any PS3 title sold on a Blu-ray Disc. If you’re looking for a short and inexpensive next-gen thrill, Super Rub a Dub more than fits the (duck) bill. A?
BOOM BOOM ROCKET
(Xbox 360; Electronic Arts; Everyone; available on Xbox Live Marketplace for $10)
As a general rule of thumb, one should be wary of games that offer a ”Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Award” as one of its achievements. But thumbs (as well as every other digit) are at risk after playing a few rounds of Boom Boom Rocket. As in other beat-based games, you’re supposed to keep pace with the soundtrack — here, the songs are Euro-trance stylings of well-known classical music passages — by perfectly timing a string of on-screen notes on the game controller. BBR‘s shtick is you’re supposed to be conducting a fireworks show over a Manhattan-esque skyline. As the rockets approach a fixed horizontal line in the sky, you detonate them by pressing the corresponding button. Successful button-mashing results in an increasingly ornate pyrotechnic display — eliciting “oohs” and “ahs” from the spectators below.
BBR has three difficulty levels. Most players will spend most of their time in ”Easy” mode, while the more dexterous might hold their own at the ”Medium” setting. But no one, except for the cyborg from Aliens, will be able to last more than a few seconds in the ”Hard” level, which makes one wonder why it’s even there. Finger cramps notwithstanding, we were impressed by the production quality of this downloadable game. The music is catchy and the brilliant visuals would give the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show a serious run for its money. B+
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS
(Wii; Nintendo; Everyone; available on the Wii Shop Channel for $8)
Unlike the online marketplaces found on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the Wii Shop Channel so far only offers titles that first appeared on Nintendo systems in the past. Happily, many of these titles are bona fide classics — including one of the all-time greats, Super Mario Brothers. This, of course, was the game that came packaged with the Nintendo Entertainment System way back in 1985. (What’s kind of mind-boggling about SMB is how small a file it is compared with today’s games: it weighs in at about 40KB. In comparison, a typical song on your iPod is 100-times bigger; next-gen games come on discs that can store tens of thousands times the amount of data.) The graphics, as you would expect on a 8-bit title, are pretty blocky, yet somehow, this 22-year-old side-scroller is still more fun to play than a lot of the dreck that’s available in stores now. For eight bucks, it’s a no-brainer to buy, if only to give you some rest from swinging around that Wii controller. B
Have you purchased a downloadable game in the last few months? Do you think they’re a good value? Are there some older titles you’d like to see become available for download?