- Xbox Live Arcade / 1200 Microsoft Points (Ł10.20)
Does the world need a gorgeous Streets of Rage remake in 2010? Maybe. When you've got animators and artists as talented as Klei Entertainment evidently has, it'd be rude not to utilise their worrying talent for making evisceration look purdy.
If Shank was an animated short, I'd happily roll a fat one and sit hurgh-hurghing on the sofa at the dumb grisliness of it all. But as a game, it just feels pointless and irritating, and about as engaging as repeatedly attacking the sofa with your own face.
It's the same deal as all the 2D side-scrolling brawlers you've ever played. You trudge from left to right as enemies emerge from all angles and you attack them with a knife, chainsaw or a gun. You can string together combos, or even lob a grenade or two - but it's one of those games where it's not terribly important to bring actual skill to the party.
Enemies come and go in a blizzard of severed limbs, and eventually you come across parts of the environment that you have to leisurely negotiate. Oddly, these are the most enjoyable parts of the game, as you scale walls and monkey-swing around. Perhaps with some puzzle exploration they might have been onto something, but no.
Instead, we end up fighting on the back of a train while a nearby Jeep fires an endless barrage of grenades and rockets. What ought to be a brief interlude turns into an aggravating exercise where you can only cause damage to your aggressor with extremely precise throws. A pixel either side and the computer says no.
In that moment, the sliver of enjoyment you were getting out of drably slugging through Shank evaporates, and the chance to be an exciting Viewtiful Joe of the download scene is lost.
PixelJunk Racers: 2nd Lap
- PSN / Ł6.29 (free to owners of the original)
Q Games' main man Dylan Cuthbert made the fantastic admission the other week that PixelJunk Racers isn't actually a racing game at all, which makes the choice of title something of a shame on reflection.
For anyone who never got around to playing the 2007 PSN original, it was actually more like an infuriating reaction test - just one that happened to be loosely based on top-down slot-car racing. But as fun as it looked, with its 32 different modes, the difficulty level was all over the shop, making it the kind of game to inspire controller-hurling rage, rather than party game camaraderie.
2nd Lap is a chance to make amends for all that, and, with a sanity check applied to most of the game's modes, it's now a pretty playable, largely fun game - with trophies, a global scoreboard and ghost laps to boot!
As before, it's certainly not wanting for variety, with a ludicrous number of tweaks to the basic formula to task you in all manner of ways, be it patient overtaking, destruction, avoidance, or crazy nonsense like puffing yourself up like a balloon on the start line and whizzing around the track as long as possible without crashing.
With much more manageable targets to aim for, the fact that the tracks are still insanely packed doesn't factor quite so much, although you'll still be thoroughly disorientated when steering left and right. But with up to seven players supported in multiplayer, the options for incendiary silliness are obvious. If you've got it already then it's a no-brainer, but otherwise it's inessential fun from one of the best indie developers out there.