Hot Video Games of the Week Reviewed: December 22nd

In a week short of fresh games, there are a couple of older titles popping up for the first time on other platforms. The long-forgotten PSP game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories pops up on iOS and Minecraft finally makes its way onto a Nintendo system, a natural fit for the Wii U. There’s also a new Tony Hawk game out to test your skating skills.


Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

(iOS, $7, Mature)

Orginally released on PSP a decade ago, Liberty City Stories offers a return to Liberty City circa Grand Theft Auto III. You play as an exiled mobster who works his way back into the game by doing the dirty work of superiors. It’s the usual GTA fare, involving absurd assassinations, fetch quests that turn into car chases that can quickly turn south and draw attention from SWAT teams and the National Guard. Creating, then avoiding mayhem is the name of the game, and it’s still just as much fun as ever to create spontaneous action-movie moments inside the deadly urban sandbox.
At first I was wary of playing controller-based console shooters on iPhone and iPad, but Rockstar has proven to be an ace developer at making the transition. Along with the typical modifications to controls that make GTA games more palatable to touchscreens, the save system and inventory selection gets a wholesale overhaul to bring it up to speed with the other excellent ports from the series. Assuming this sells as well as expected, it will only be a matter of time until the even better PSP game, Vice City Stories, follows suit.

Minecraft Wii U Edition

(Wii U, $30, Everyone 10+)

It’s taken years, but Nintendo finally has managed to land Mojang’s runaway hit. The debut on the Wii U is all the more surprising because it comes long after Microsoft has taken over the company, and this release proves that the company is making good on its pledge to make the franchise accessible on as many platforms as possible. It would have sweetened the deal for the company to have tossed in some Nintendo-specific Minecraft skins and texture packs, but what you get here is pretty much the same version of the game available on other systems.
While the price is way higher than the typical $20 the game sells for on consoles, it does come with enough DLC to more than make up for the price hike, provided you’d actually buy the stuff. Two Battle & Beasts skin packs, the City, Fantasy and Natural texture packs and Festive mash-up packs are all included, making the Wii U version of Minecraft beefier than the versions on PS4, Xbox One or the older consoles. The Wii U’s stylus makes precision tweaks easier and more natural, and its dual-screen format makes it ideal for a household with a Minecraft-obsessed kid. You can just hand him the GamePad, freeing up the TV for other uses.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5

(Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, $60, Teen)

Tony Hawk’s time as a relevant gaming franchise may finally winding down. The franchise biffs on its reboot, which is plagued with glitches, slowdown and shoddy mission and level design. Skaters tend to move more like arthritic robots than authentic humans, or even the superpowered, invulnerable crash test dummies of past games, which went over the top in exaggerating what was possible when you put wheels to concrete.
The goal here seems to be to pare things down and get back to basics, in the manner of the now-forgotten Skate series that originally knocked the Tony Hawk series off its perch, back when there were annual releases. The trick system and controls aren’t tight enough to keep the limited movesets interesting enough to rack up giant combos, and the joyless progression system is more of a grind than anything you’ll do while skidding on rails. While not a total mess, the slow, perfunctory entry is meant only for the most intense and forgiving Tony Hawk fans. And even they are best off waiting for the price to drop.

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