If your only exposure to the world of videogames was the annual gamescom event in Cologne, you probably wouldn't be aware that downloadable games even existed. Despite the presence of most of the leading lights of the industry, you'd be hard pressed to find a single one showing anything other than its big-budget boxed offerings.
Not surprising, perhaps, but it also displays a curiously short-sighted dismissal of the rise of the download. For now, it seems like many of the most creative games are effectively being ghettoised, while supposedly more profitable projects get all the exposure.
And away from the glitz of trade shows, it's even worse. Despite the apparent ease of distributing redeemable codes direct to the reviewer's inbox, most publishers dedicate zero resources to ensuring that the press can even access them. More often than not, requests for code are met with mute indifference, and coverage passes unnoticed. For now, it seems, there's a strange reluctance to move with the times.
- iPad/iPhone (unified binary) / £1.79
It's not often that philosophy finds its way into games journalism, and with good reason. But if Mikengreg is going to seamlessly combine Solipsism with skiing, what choice do we have?
Presumably the headphone-wearing star of the game went out one day, dropped a tab of acid and started wistfully imagining that his flighty descent down the Tottenham Court Road tube escalator represented something altogether more... meaningful. Touch anywhere and drag, man.
Everything became slippery. Momentum built. Heavy metal blasted out. Rainbows were pouring out of his backside. Double rainbows. What does this mean?
Everyone stood around him, iPads in hand, conducting his motion across their touch screens with gleeful abandon, drawing him vicious slopes to slide down and jump from, and hills to climb. Everyone was rocking out as he pirouetted through the air, holding up score cards like judges.
Faster, faster, the dizzying spins. The rainbow streaks. Man, the blue tunnels. Mind the gap.
Did anyone see the wall coming? A thud. The eery silent finality as you spin helplessly into the endless inky void. Was anyone ever really there?
- iPhone / £0.59
Fallen Tree Games evidently knew that critics would most likely be writing reviews of its raindrop puzzler to the accompaniment of the incessant thrum of inclement weather.
Played out against a soothing acoustic guitar backdrop, Quell’s game of coaxing fragile raindrops to safety is enough to make you want to get your woollies on and go and chop wood.
Finding myself strangely bereft of an axe, playing 70 levels of Quell will have to do for the time being. It's a hard life at the coalface of journalism.
Set in a series of hazard-strewn environments, Quell asks you to collect all the pearls in the shortest number of moves without busting up your delicate raindrop. Although it moves in the direction of your swipe, the raindrop doesn't stop until it hits a wall - or bursts against a spiky obstacle.
With the pressure on to figure out the best route, the designers then turn up the heat with all manner of trickery to throw you off your coveted prize. Sometimes you'll need to head into warp portals, move blocks and flick one-way switches to complete your tenuous journey.You'll be barely aware you've swished your way through a few dozen puzzles, such are its woozily hypnotic charms.
At less than the price that airports charge for a packet of Extra, Quell is yet another way to make you feel Zen about spending hundreds of pounds on Apple hardware.
- DSiWare / 200 DSiWare Points (£1.80)
On any other day, the idea of flipping colourful tiles to infinity probably wouldn't have had much appeal. There's only so much entertainment you can reasonably expect to extract from a seven-by-seven grid.
Sabarasa knows this, and that's why, for once, you'll only be charged a measly 200 points for the privilege.
It's just as well, because there's really not much to Primrose. You have to place a pair of tiles down, and then try and strategically organise subsequent tiles so that you eventually surround it with a uniform block of one different colour.
Once successful, surrounded tiles flip to the colour they're surrounded by, while any surrounding tiles disappear entirely. Got it? Good. That's the entire game.
It's never quite as simple as it looks, though, as you're restricted in having to always place the second of the two tiles in either the same row or column as the first one. And with the colour of each tile that you have to place randomly changing every turn, you can't even plan ahead, usually leaving you with a horribly disparate selection of incompatible tiles and rapidly diminishing number of empty spaces.
If you like the sound of a desperate multi-storey car-park bun-fight in puzzle form with slightly less pointless anger, then go right ahead. Me? I'll take the bus and continue to ponder why Zoo Keeper still hasn't come to iPhone.
Furry Legends: Chapter One
- WiiWare / 1000 WiiWare Points (£7.00)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't developers learn in about 2007 that needless use of motion control was the quickest way to screw up a promising Wii game? If so, how do you explain Furry Legends?
In its charming ball-rolling premise, you guide a disembodied furry-faced fiend around various "lush and vibrant" side-scrolling 3D environments, hopping around solving regulation puzzles and smashing “squaries” right in the cakehole.
Sure, it's not especially original, but the strong presentation, happy vibe and wallet-friendly price make you determined to throw your arms around its huggable exterior. Thanks to needlessly fiddly controls, Furry Legends never really gets going.
The main problem is the unreliable method of dispensing with the baddies. Rather than sticking to the platform tradition of stomping on an enemy's head, you're forced into the thoroughly irritating process of holding down Z first, pushing a control stick direction, then flicking the remote.
If this was a reliable 'lock-on'-style process, fair enough, but more often than not you end up taking damage because you deigned to strike the enemy at the wrong angle. As a direct result, you end up running out of lives and having to start from scratch.
With ever-present control frustration taking the shine off an otherwise commendable effort, you'll be hard-pressed to see the game through all five levels, never mind slog through the upcoming chapters. Unless they fix the controls, that is...
Say What You See: Music Fest
- iPhone / £0.59
Saying what I see is probably not going to win me this game very often. I can see a tartan-winged fly. A wasp nestling on what looks like a Spanish flag with the number 11 on it. An eskimo holding up a skull. Band and artist names are steadfastly refusing to reveal themselves from this sodding musical canvas.
But that's the beauty of Say What You See. In bored moments waiting for tardy public transport, you'll stare balefully at this single clue-ridden picture in the hope that some flash of inspiration will strike. Sometimes two will come to you at once. You won't know why.
Like the Dingbats board game I've, er, never played, you'll tap in the name, and sit in more hope than expectation that the answer is correct. And that's it. You can zoom around the picture for a closer inspection, but there are no clues. It's stubborn like that. You could probably cheat, but where's the fun in that?
This is probably the least videogame-like app I've ever reviewed, but don't hold that against it. It's a curiously addictive time-sink, but with only one picture to gaze at, there's precious little to it. How about more puzzles next time, chaps?