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Game On: Fear 3 X360/PS3/PC

Always an innovator, the FEAR series sticks out like a handsome stranger in a line-up of bland first-person shooters.

It was one of the first games to employ the oh-so-fashionable slow-motion bullet-time effect while riffing on a mash-up of old-school Japanese survival horror with frantic firefights. But it's equally compelling for the aggressive intelligence of its enemies, who rarely stand still in their rush to take you down.

FEAR 3 brings all of these tricks to the table, and the intriguing addition of a co-op buddy who may be dead but is no less effective for it.

Sure, the story is a bewildering mish-mash of horror tropes -- sudden scares, evanescent wraiths and eerie locations. But it's all bracketed by memorably intense onslaughts from gun-toting soldiers, who'll flank you, call out your position and push you to the limit.

Once each level's completed, you can call in an online buddy as your ghostly brother to replay the mission with a new perspective. He can possess bodies, toss them in the air or fire bolts of deadly energy. It's heady stuff that never pales.

Even multiplayer has something new to offer, including the delightfully named "F**king Run" in which you're chased by a lethal wall of smoke.

The Heist


RATING: 8.5/10

The iPhone's app store is crammed with clever little puzzle games but few are packaged with such craft and polish as The Heist. It wraps a series of simple logic breainteasers around a storyline about breaking into a bank vault.

Cracking each type of puzzle -- Sudoku-style, sliding blocks, etc -- progressively unlocks the vault and opens up new variations to solve. But The Heist is possibly worth the 79c price of admission alone for the audacious opening sequence that's guaranteed to make you chuckle.

Alice: Madness Returns


RATING: 7/10

Something inside me cannot allow myself to take seriously a man named American McGee. Yet he's the closest the videogame world gets to an "auteur".

He's one of the few people to get his name on the front of the box, which he did with American McGee's Alice, a twisted gothic fantasy based on Lewis Carroll's fairytale that sold gazillions in 2000.

This sequel sports the same off-kilter take on the tale of poor Alice slowly going insane in a world populated by warped versions of the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, etc.

But the inspired vision is somewhat diluted by the mundane platform and combat action that underpins it.

Still, it's worth it as a sort of perverted travelogue in a visually stunning version of someone's nightmares.

Irish Independent