Video Games Plus - Call of Duty

After spending money on movies, concerts and all the other summertime entertainment, sometimes there's hardly any cash left for gaming. Luckily, Video Games Plus is featuring news on smaller downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade and add-ons to "Call of Duty: Black Ops" -- each of which can be bought for $15 or less. We've also got news on a brand new dance game featuring a mega-huge pop act.

Summer of Arcade Heats Up

The release of blockbuster games may be slowing down to a mere trickle in July and August, but Microsoft is readying a new batch of interesting budget-priced titles for its Summer of Arcade promotion on Xbox Live.

Bastion,” is the first game to drop. It's a quirky little action roleplaying game by Super Giant Games. We got some hands on time with Bastion at E3 and liked what we saw. It features a unique hand painted art style and an isometric perspective that makes the game feel like an update to the Sega Genesis classic “Landstalker.” There’s also a gruffed voice narrator that responds to the player’s actions and gives some backstory to the proceedings. ”Bastion” is set to kick off the Summer of Arcade on July 20.

The week after that comes “From Dust,” in which the player is a god-like entity who manipulates the land in order to impact a primitive nomadic tribe. You do so by controlling the soil, water, lava and vegetation and then watching what happens as a result. If “From Dust” sounds like it also borrows from an old-school game, it does. Developer Ubisoft is describing the game as a spiritual successor to the original god-game “Populous.”

The remaining Summer of Arcade schedule includes:

  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” -- a side-scrolling adventure from Hollywood animator Michel Gagné
  • Fruit Ninja Kinect” is, in more ways than one, a full-bodied version of the insanely popular iPad/iPhone game.
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War” brings action-strategy gameplay that also doubles as an homage to 80’s action toys like G.I. Joe.
  • Crimson Alliance” is a four-player cooperative role-playing game from the makers of Halo (ex-Bungie) featuring three character classes with five special abilities each: the Wizard, the Assassin, and the Mercenary.

Black Ops' New Map Pack Annihilation

Is it just us, or are Treyarch’s maps for “Call of Duty: Black Ops” getting more and more creative as time goes on? CoD fans who download the new “Annihilation” map pack, released Tuesday on Xbox Live, will have a deathmatch feast ahead of them.

Here’s our take on the best of the four new multiplayer maps and the additional zombie level:

  • “Drive-In” is another close-quarters maps that plays fast and furious like “Nuketown” or “Stadium” from First Strike. We especially dig the 1960’s Drive-in theater look, complete with a snack shack and a classic arcade. The map certainly favors shoot-first ask-questions-later types, but there are a couple of sniper spots available.
  • You can gun down enemies in a different kind of playland in “Hazard,” which is an upscale coastal golf club filled with fancy bars, well-trimmed fairways and sand traps where snipers can camp out and take down stragglers. It’s definitely a map designed for those who prefer more strategic long-range battles.
  • Previous Zombie levels featured dark and dank environments, but what sets Shangri-La apart is the colorful and open-aired jungle environments. The map also features a scenic cove, underground tunnels and an abandoned village. There’s also features like motion-sensitive traps tricked out with bamboo shoots and zombie monkeys that want to bite your face off.

Black Eyed Peas Dance Game Announced

Rock games like “Guitar Hero” may have fallen out of tune with gamers, but the dance games keep coming. This week, Ubisoft announced they are developing “The Black Eyed Peas Experience,” for the Nintendo Wii and the Kinect for Xbox 360.

It’s the second game in a series that began with “The Michael Jackson Experience.” No track list has been made available, but Ubisoft said the game will feature music tracks as well as dance routines arranged by the group’s creative director and choreographer, Fatima Robinson. Thankfully, you won’t have to dress like Fergie to play the game.

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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