The episodic game guide

Tired of spending big bucks on games? Try playing through a couple seasons of bite-sized game episodes.

So many games ask you to shell out 50 or 60 bucks, and for what? Thirty or so hours of playtime? Great, but what if you don't want to spend a whole week in fantasy land? That's where episodic gaming comes in: smaller games selling for less and offered up on a more frequent basis. Y'know, like Heroes or Battlestar Galactica — shows that keep you glued to the set from one week to the next. Well, the new TV season may be a couple months out, but that doesn't mean PC World's slack celebration can't pay its own tribute. Here's a quick list of new (and old) episodes to try.

148830-Siren-2_b

Siren: Blood Curse
Season Starts: July 24
Network: PS3
Episodiness: 12 episodes; in a set, or in smaller packs
The Deal: Bloody zombie-ish things? Check. Creepy puzzle-solving mysteries while you (literally) have to beat back said demons? Double check. Siren: Blood Curse really gets under your skin as a thriller (Think The Ring meets Silent Hill), and it's also Sony's first experiment in episodic gaming on the PS3. Some talk a good game about episodes, but this release really sells the idea. Each chapter closes on a cliffhanger. Start a new chapter, and it might as well say, "Last time on Siren...."

As for how they are dishing out content, you can buy the game in three separate packs (each containing four chapters) for 15 bucks each, or you can purchase the bundle for $US40. My advice: Download the demo before buying. I enjoyed it, but some people might be turned off by the gore (this game ain't for kiddies), the slightly twitchy controls, or the way that the moody lighting effects make things tough to see on some sets.

148830-Grimm_b

Grimm
Season Starts: July 31st
Network: PC
Episodiness: 24 episodes; a new episode runs every Thursday on Gametap.com.
The Deal: Don't know about you, but I like my games seriously twisted. And American McGee's Grimm looks like it'll take first prize. The concept: The series takes classic stories like Little Red Riding Hood and knocks 'em on their asses. The expurgated versions of Grimm's fairy tales that most of us grew up on — and especially as transplanted to this game — are sweet and nice, and someone needs to set that straight. That's your job: To run through this world and corrupt everything you touch.

In the end, it's a simple jumping puzzle game, and you can finish an episode in about 30 minutes. But the world is so well done (both in its "good" and "evil" state), I found myself wasting time just looking around and taking screen shots for new desktop backgrounds. Unlike other games that promise episodes on a monthly — and in some cases yearly — basis, Grimm's got a new adventure every week — 24 episodes in all. If you want to give it a shot, the first episode ("A Boy Learns What Fear Is") will be available free at Gametap.com. From there on, you need to sign up for the service. As the old saying goes, "your first taste is free." The only downside is that you'll have to wait a week to play.

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Darren Gladstone

PC World (US online)
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