2 1/2 stars = Average
While watching the seemingly 500th cutscene in "Fall of Cybertron" (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC; T for Teen), it became clear that this should have been the movie Michael Bay made instead of the chaotic mess we were handed that happened to have "Transformers" in the title.
"Fall of Cybertron" presents a planet on the precipice of destruction. The Autobots struggle to maintain the last vestiges of their home while the Decepticons unleash brute force in a "if we can't have it, we'll sure as hell burn it" mentality.
The game shifts perspective from iconic hero Optimus Prime to numerous other Autobots, some famous and a few not. This gives players the opportunity to try on many gameplay hats and see which ones fit best without committing to a particular style. When players arrive at the big final battle, this concept gets thrown into hyperdrive.
Missions where characters alternate between flights and ground battles stand out from the duller missions. The online cooperative mode provides exciting action and the ability to create and customize a Transformer character.
As a sequel to "War for Cybertron," "Fall" is a worthy and strong successor. But disjointed gameplay may lead players to marvel more at the cinematics than the game itself.
3 1/2 stars = Very good
We exist in a gaming era where franchises in sports, guns and aliens bring in the big bucks and open a void where creativity often gets pushed to the background in the service of legacy and repetition.
Then a game like "Sound Shapes" (PlayStation 3, Vita; E for Everyone) arrives to remind you that inventive gaming lives, delivering a blend of artistry and experience that more "complex" games could never achieve. Because who dares take seriously a game where you merely guide a nebulous blob around some puzzles while an all-present beat box strikes a clever tune?
Well, we all should. Nearly everything you encounter in "Sound Shapes" contributes to the beat of the game. And trust me, you will find yourself nodding along or tapping a foot when solving these environmental puzzles. Some are simple like working to open a door to advance, or complex like navigating a cavern with missiles and silly looking beasts flying around. The game lays its premise out simply: Don't touch anything colored red. Red, as the saying goes, equals dead.
Audio and visual queues are seamlessly intertwined to give you guidance as well as a challenge. The music fits the tone perfectly on most levels (ambient for easier boards, up-tempo for the tricky ones), and you cannot help but smile when seeing many of the goofy designs work so well.
Even after the five albums' worth of music and levels are done, bonus features like death mode and beat school offer amazing challenges that keep you playing long after you think you're tired. And I've run out of space before diving into the stellar level creator and marketplace where fellow gamers' genius is put on display.
It's rare that a game captivates me like "Sound Shapes" does, and I can think of few games in 2012 that entertain and surprise as much as this one.
3 stars = Good
At first appearing limited in scope, "Hybrid" (Xbox Live Arcade; T for Teen) instead excels by stripping away all the nonsense and deciding to do one thing only, but doing it really well.
This third-person shooter has made the bold move to allow you to shoot only from a cover position. By focusing on this one aspect (movement is limited to literally flying from one cover position to another), it allows gamers to ignore the lack of story or meaning and focus instead on team strategy and getting all the goodies possible.
"Hybrid" surprises and pleases by giving you a lot of flexibility in other areas such as weapons load outs and un-lockable upgrades. Stringing together kills or achieving in-game metrics opens up a bevy of new features for you to unleash on the opposing team. No flying solo here, folks; this is a multiplayer-only game, so prepare yourself for the usual assortment of foul-mouthed youth or hard-core gamers looking to squeeze every ounce of advantage they can from the game.
The visuals are dated but the creativity of the map layouts contribute to lots of fun firefights and fast action. "Hybrid" equips you with many gun types, cover positions galore, then steps back and says, 'have at it.' You should, and you'll enjoy it.
-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard News Servicemoviereviews