I'm looking forward to playing the new Left 4 Dead campaign tonight. I also intend to play more Dead Space: Extraction this weekend, after being pleasantly surprised by the first two chapters. Will report back!
-A while back, I posted a list of songs I'd like to see in Rock Band. In that post, I predicted a zero-percent chance of one of those songs ever being released. Shows what I know: "Gay Bar" by Electric Six will be released as DLC next Tuesday. This is very exciting. And it's also another reason why I'll take the open Rock Band platform over the more hermetic Beatles installment. You're just not gonna get surprises like this from the Beatles game.
-In this week's Experience Points podcast, Jorge and Scott talk about downer endings in games, or, more specifically, a lack of them (inspired by Manveer's post on the subject). I think the issue really isn't one of "happy" or "sad" endings, it's one of thoughtful, mature endings that carry a character's arc through to a conclusion, or that contain elements of both happiness and sadness. I mentioned The Darkness in comments as a game that gets it right. The final sequence is viewable on YouTube, although I'm not sure it would make much sense if you hadn't played the rest of the game. The point is that it provokes conflicting emotions, while completing the protagonist's fall. It's brilliant.
-At Press Pause to Reflect, C.T. Hutt weighs in on something that's one of my pet peeves: overly helpful helper characters. Navi is the worst, and Issun clearly wasn't much better. Having an NPC partner isn't inherently a bad idea -- it's been done well in Half-Life 2, for example. It's when the partner is overbearing and impossible to ignore that you get into trouble. How hard would it have been to have to ask Navi for hints when you wanted them? Or better still, design the game in such a way that her particular brand of help isn't needed? Just more reasons why Ocarina is the Most Overrated Game of All Time.
-This one's a little older, but I didn't do a links post last week so I'll write it now. Michael Abbott wondered whether we praise innovation at the expense of execution, specifically talking about the difference in critical buzz between Scribblenauts and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. I recall that last year Leigh Alexander observed an opposite problem -- that we condemn innovation when the execution isn't quite there. They can't both be right, and I'd venture to say that it's not so simple as either of those formulations makes it seem.
Innovation is useful for a great many things, but it is not the endpoint. It's the beginning. Gaming history is littered with examples of games that innovated and failed, but whose ideas were subsequently improved upon. In his next post, Michael praised the value of iteration, which is a point I fully agree with. But if you trace these refinements back far enough, you'll eventually get to something that was brand-new, and which didn't work as well. You can't really separate innovation and execution.
As for why so many writers in the brainysphere are talking about Scribblenauts, it might be as simple as this: it's a game about words. We're the target audience!