This week on the downloadable scene:
WiiWare -- Yawn. Two games, neither of which appeals to me at first glance -- PictureBook Games: Pop-Up Pursuit and Family Slot Car Racing, both featuring multiplayer local play, no online support. Pop-Up Pursuit is a board game, which might be fun when friends visit, but I'll wait for some positive reviews.
Virtual Console -- We were kind of expecting Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back this week, based on Lucasarts' recent press release, but it's a no-show, so the Empire must still be sending probe droids out to find Nintendo's release base. Instead, we get Sega's Genesis classic, The Revenge of Shinobi, a great (and tough!) action platformer with excellent music by Yuzo Koshiro. It's much better than its arcade predecessor, Shinobi, with more variety and more subtly colored graphics. This version has recolored or replaced certain unlicensed bosses who appeared in the original game -- the Spiderman boss is now pink, as Sega's old Spiderman vs. The Kingpin license from Marvel is no longer active, and there's a devil-bat creature in Batman's place, a substitution made in later runs of the original cartridge after DC Comics complained. Shouldn't affect the gameplay, and several of the bosses still have clear, um, inspirations.
DSiWare -- Two titles today, one surprise title mid-last week, and at long last substantial improvement is starting to show on the DSiWare front. Brain Age Express: Sudoku is yet another Sudoku title for the DSi, excerpted from Brain Age, well-implemented but old hat at this point. But the second title, Gameloft's Guitar Rock Tour, actually features licensed music tracks, indicating some investment has been made in this downloadable DSi game. Unfortunately, as the DSi has no GBA cartridge slot, it doesn't support Activision's Guitar Hero peripheral for the DS, so neither does this game. But it's a good sign for things to come. And last Wednesday's surprise FREE release, Flipnote Studio, is a really unique application that takes advantage of the DSi's interface -- you can create flipbook-style animations right on the screen and share them with friends.
XBLA -- The Summer of Arcade continued last week with Trials HD, a physics-based puzzler with a motorcycle stunt race theme. The artwork is nice, but the level design is 2-D and very linear -- it's mostly a matter of maximizing speed, positioning the driver's center-of-gravity, and pulling off efficient jumps to solve each level. The levels are more varied and the physics vastly more sophisticated, but it still plays a lot like Atari's pre-2600 dedicated home video game, Stunt Racer.
XBox 360 Games on Demand -- The initial library rolled out with the XBox Experience dashboard update on August 11th, 2009, with additional releases following. Lots of solid games have been made available for download at $19.99-$29.99, including Bioshock, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Burnout Paradise, Call of Duty 2, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, among others. Oh, and Perfect Dark Zero, which I've passed up in K-Mart discount bins for $6.99, but costs $19.99 here for some reason. Maybe Microsoft is hoping gamers have short memories, or that bad games are like fine wines; I'm holding out for the original N-64 title on XBLA, a la Banjo-Kazooie.