Digital Life: Sequels that favour the brave
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
In South Korea, they take StarCraft seriously. So seriously that hundreds of players compete in a professional league, with the elite earning hundreds of thousands of euro a year, watched by millions on TV and the net.
Not bad for a 12-year-old sci-fi game that many in the West have never heard of or forgotten about. But like that other magnificent survivor from the same stable, World of Warcraft, its longevity testifies to the brilliant balance of StarCraft's original design.
Maybe that's why a sequel took so long; it was nearly impossible to top. Wings of Liberty takes few risks with the real-time strategy genre that StarCraft conquered. But it executes the modernisation with a flair for drama that amplifies the three-way fight for survival between the Terrans, Protoss and Zerg (humans, super-humans and insects, for want of better labels).
Gameplay still boils down to the classic axis of gathering resources to churn out armies but the subtle tactical variety is near-infinite.
You'd better play the engrossing single-player campaign to death before you venture into multiplayer, though. StarCraft II is brutally tough on newcomers entering the fray -- even without meeting a single Korean.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane:
Another sequel to a game of similar vintage that no one remembers, HTH promises the polar opposite to the complexity of StarCraft. Offering big, dumb fun with outrageously fast powerboats and insane tracks, the only thing to remember is the difference between the go-fast and the go-faster buttons.
Crammed with wacky wildlife, shortcuts and eye-popping spectacle, HTH's greatest achievement is the realistic swell and splash of its water.
Sonny With A Chance:
Unsurprisingly, this TV show for pre-teen girls had passed me by, but by all accounts it targets the Hannah Montana crowd with its show-within-a-show shtick.
The game tie-in shines with the usual Disney polish. But it bears more than a passing resemblance to Mario Party with its board-game theme hosting a roster of 40 mini-games.
SWAC lacks the variety and cheeky humour of Mario Party but that probably won't matter to your seven-year-old daughter.