I’m all for the idea of companies releasing free teaser games for highly-anticipated, upcoming titles. The idea of getting a small taste of an upcoming game that is more substantial than a demo and can actually have some beneficial effects in the game proper is incredibly appealing. I don’t know why more companies don’t do it. If gamers put the effort into unlocking stuff in an upcoming game, they’re almost certain to make the purchase, aren’t they?

So you can imagine how excited Dead Space fans must have been when they saw Dead Space: Ignition appear on Xbox LIVE and PSN – a preview mini-game to Dead Space 2. According to the accompanying shpiel, we’d be able to play through a riveting storyline and unlock some special items ahead of time for use in Dead Space 2. Cool! Or is it? Ignition tells the story of two engineers, Franco and Sarah, who happen to be secret lovers. Through the course of the game, they’ll go from what starts out as a routine day of fixing broken stuff to running from a sudden Necromorph invasion, using their technical knowledge to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

This sounds like a serviceable premise for a horror game, and it would be – if Dead Space: Ignition were a horror game! But no, it’s a puzzle game. Now, I’m always open to new ideas, but what the hell was EA thinking? I mean, a small, demo-length teaser for Dead Space 2 would have been great, and even a gallery shooting mini-game would have been fine. But a puzzle game? Am I alone in my confusion here?

Anyway, Dead Space: Ignition consists of three mini-puzzle games that get progressively harder each time you encounter them. They’re not bad in their own right, if you like puzzle games. The first one, Trace Route is more of a reflex game than puzzler, very reminiscent of the old game Pitfall. Players guide a line that moves at a set speed from left to right through an obstacle-littered screen, dodging Matrix code that represents data and trying to outrun security traces. It’s one of those bogus representations of hacking that IT geeks always chortle at. The next, System Crack, is another hacking mini-game, this time more strategic, requiring players to send spheres representing viruses and programs in a hexagonal grid in an attempt to break down a PC’s defences. The last one is called System Override. You’ve seen this in a million sci-fi movies: “Oh no, no power! I need to re-route it!” Yep, you finally get to engage in the fabled act yourself by positioning and turning mirrors which must reflect laser into the right receptacles.

The only reason I can see to get this is if you really want to unlock the extra stuff for Dead Space 2, and possibly if you like the comic style artwork of the story scenes – but seriously, it should have been free.

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