Bastion creates a beautiful world; Potter magic fizzles

When Xbox Live Arcade first offered downloadable games, they were cute one-offs and short-lived experiences.

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Bastion

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Genre: Role-playing

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)

When Xbox Live Arcade first offered downloadable games, they were cute one-offs and short-lived experiences. The last few years have seen bold strides in storytelling and action (notably Limbo and Section 8: Prejudice), and now Bastion takes the next leap forward.

This release plays like a full-fledged role-playing game that you’d shell out top dollar for at your local retailer.

The Kid is the hero here, and he awakens to find his world nearly destroyed by the Calamity. The world The Kid rebuilds is beautiful to see reconstructed, but it’s also overrun by hordes of enemies.

Two things make this game so darned addictive. First is the strong RPG aspect, simple and yet robust.

The menus offer deep customization of The Kid’s weapons, but never overwhelm you with complexity. The other strength is the game’s surprisingly effective narrator. His deep, raspy voice offers fantastic and often humorous commentary on your travails, providing moments of levity during battles with difficult foes.

Tying this all together is the art direction. You appreciate watching the world reconstitute itself as you move The Kid down the pathways because of its colorful, hand-painted look. When you combine strong visuals with engaging combat and a well-conceived RPG system, you rarely get a game that fails.

Bastion hits all the high notes on these elements, and that equates to a game Xbox 360 owners should download and relish.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, DS

Genre: Shooter; Publisher: EA Games

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 1.5 stars

Wisely, developers matured the Harry Potter video-game series alongside the maturing of the films. The two Deathly Hallows movies offered (at least to this critic) a wildly satisfying conclusion to the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, yet the games were a crushing disappointment on nearly every level.

Continuing the trend from the Part 1 game, Part 2 sees Harry and company fending off attacks from Voldemort’s henchmen, as well as the occasional seek-and-find quest.

It’s a brief game, so perhaps the die-hard “Potter” fan will find enjoyment in this as a weekend rental, but few others would. The action is a typical third-person shooter, where you use the wand like a gun instead of summoning spells that feel like true wizardry.

The LEGO Harry Potter is by leaps and bounds the most successful Potter-themed game, though it speaks more to the winning formula those LEGO games has created than to the source material. LEGO could create a Weekend at Bernie’s video game, and it would probably go gold in no time.

The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises continue to crank out successful games long after their films have exhausted themselves, so hope exists that Potter fans can find new life in adventures not connected directly to the films.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or e-mail him at game_on_games@mac.com.

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