Getting Some Play: Fall frenzy

Welcome to Getting Some Play — the spiritual successor to Sarah Warn’s excellent Good Game column — where we’ll take a look at the latest releases, news and developments in the world of video games.

Learning with Portal – quickly!

If you are one of the few gamers who has not yet experienced the joy (and as Farscape fans might say, "mindfrell") that is Portal – you have two days to download the game for free – legally, through Valve’s Learn with Portals website. It’s all in the name of learning, as the publisher is interesting in the ways it can assist in the teaching of physics, math, engineering, and critical thinking skills.

From Opposable Thumbs:

This isn’t idle talk; Valve has invited schoolchildren into the company’s offices to help them create levels for Portal. This instruction goes deeper than just allowing kids to fool around with a video game, as the children learned about spatial reasoning, engineering, and even mathematics. It’s an important lesson: what might seem like a dry subject in the classroom has amazing applications outside of it. It’s one thing to try to explain to a child how air flows over moving objects, and it’s quite another to twist the fins on the body of a model rocket to show them how to create torque.

The offer is up Tuesday, September 20, so you’ll have to act quickly to get on the free game train, but you can bet Valve is still invested in aiding education with structured, puzzle-based play. It’s genuinely awesome that a major publisher (and developer) is getting so involved in this space.

TGS Fever

The Tokyo Game Show has just wrapped up in the land of the rising sun, and with it, a plethora of news. Among the biggest stories were details about the PlayStation Vita, and truckloads of information about Games as disparate as Sega’s Binary Domain, Super Mario 3D Land, Soul Calibur 5, and PixelJunk: 4am. If you think that last title is odd, you haven’t heard anything yet – hands down the best bizarre title is Bravely Default: Flying Fairy – the best part – the game actually looks promising!

For a good sense of the show’s most promising games, check out 1Up’s top ten trailers from the show, and their comprehensive coverage page for anything and everything TGS 2011.

So many games

The "holiday" season is upon us in full force, especially with the September 20 release of behemoth action/shooter Gears of War 3. There is a glut of titles out in every genre in the next two weeks, so I’ll do my best to give you a representative sampling (along with any potential under-the-radar hidden gems).

On September 19, Kirby Mass Attack lands on the Nintendo 3DS, while September 20 sees the 3D port of the seriously excellent Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, also on the handheld. Fans of handheld (and classic) gaming should also be on the lookout for the beloved Chrono Trigger, out on PS3 and PSP on the same day.

Three other downloadable games that should be on your radar are the "8-bit open world" parody adventure Retro City Rampage, out on WiiWare, PixelJunk: Sidescroller for PS3, and adventure/puzzler Trine 2, for PC, 360 and PS3, all on September 30.

Fans of racing, be on the lookout, as Burnout: Crash lands on September 20, followed by the radically different F1 2011 on September 23, and Driver: San Francisco on 27. All cater to different flavors of car action, and each title is a multiplatform affair.

One compilation that’s sure to get hardcore blood flowing is PS3 exclusive Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, on the September 27. Two of the most beautiful, evocative titles of the last generation, the adventures are getting an HD facelift and primo release in order to whet appetites for The Last Guardian, the upcoming title from the developers.

The biggest of the big guns, of course, is 360 exclusive Gears of War 3, September 20’s entertainment event tour de force. Reviews have been solid, so it’s a safe bet if you like big, badass explosions, gory alien dismemberment, or one Cliff Bleszinski (charismatic Epic Studios design director and avid Twitter fiend), you’ll have a good time with Gears 3.

Also slated to be a serious heavy hitter is Tomb Raider, the gritty back-to-basics action adventure prequel to the once red-hot franchise. It was looking promising as all get out at E3 last June, so if the last few months have been kind, (and the release date is still valid), September 27 could be a major comeback for Lady Croft. The game will launch on PC, PS3 and 360.

There’s more – much, much more to come in October, including Batman Arkham City, Forza 4, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Dance Central 2, and plenty of others. Brace your wallets.

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