We're of a mind to get straight down to business this week - there's quite the variety to get through, from indie darling Breeze to the licensed dogfights of Top Gun. First, however, we feel compelled to mention that this week sees the release of the wonderful Space Invaders Infinity Gene on PSN (£7.99) and Xbox Live Arcade (800 Microsoft Points).
This clever mutation of the venerable shmup sees it evolve before your eyes, each stage changing the gameplay as Infinity Gene follows the genre's development through the ages. Read Simon Parkin's 9/10 review of last year's iPhone version to understand why you need to download it immediately.
- Xbox Live Indie Games / 240 Microsoft Points (£1.92)
To say that you're a fan of Breeze is enough to make you fear for your own safety around these parts. Not because of the quality of the game, you understand, but because it's the kind of pun that inspires office furniture fights. Without the required badum tish for emphasis, you have to be careful what you utter.
The reason being, of course, that you actually control a fan in Null City's marvellous Xbox Indie effort. Tasked with ensuring that a fragile flower reaches its goal intact, you must diligently fan its progress across 60 devilishly taxing stages.
Essentially another neat variation on the buzz-bar fairground game from those mythical days of yore, it's a case of one strike and you're out: so much as brush past a spiteful obstacle, and that's the end of that. So much for flower power.
At first, Breeze is as winsome as a summer meadow, accompanied by the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar. It's the stuff of Timotei adverts and lover's rock videos; all soft focus and longing glances.
But do not believe its lies. Behind the glossy exterior and the winning smile lies all the malice and madness of a religious cult. By the time you're a quarter of the way through its levels, you'll be reaching for the Valium, unsure whether its one-more-go death grip can really be a good thing.
- iPhone & iPad / £0.59
The last time someone tested my spatial awareness to this extent, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were still getting it on. What was once considered arcane juvenile punishment is now evidently seen as joyous mass entertainment, with Com2US's brain-melting puzzle game currently sitting proudly atop the iPhone's paid apps chart, and second only to GTA on iPad.
Like most phenomenally successful iOS apps to date, the premise is about as simple as they come. You're challenged to slice shapes up into the required number of (roughly equal) segments in the required number of turns; what can seem like an insultingly straightforward task can soon become an all-consuming obsession.
Displayed on crumpled graph paper, a simple shape is drawn out in front of you with crayon, and you have to, for example, divide a square or triangle into three equal sections by simply tracing the required lines with your index finger. Depending on how close you are to making each segment equal, you'll then be rated out of five stars and moved onto progressively more challenging tasks.
And what tasks they are. With 60 of the buggers crammed into this stupendously good-value release (and another 40 on the way), it's one of those apps you'll spend disproportionate amounts of time patiently sweating over.
Every time you think you've had enough, a spark of inspiration drives you on to the next one, and the next thing you know, you've missed your stop and you don't even mind.
GO Series: 10 Second Run
- DSiWare / 200 Points (£1.80)
Does the world need another Canabalt? Probably not, but it is a better place for having 10 Second Run in it.
Designed as a furiously exacting series of platform challenges, the idea is to guide a stick man to a goal within - you guessed it - 10 seconds.
Blessed with a minimalist aesthetic not seen since Jumping Jack in 1983, developer G-mode has seemingly gone out of its way to make everything about the game as basic as possible.
Instead, we'll fill in his back story ourselves, and ponder on his life as a marathon runner, on the run from a troubled past of excess and guilt.
But the fraught misery of having seven children from three failed marriages hasn't stopped Jonty (as we're calling him) from being able to run and jump with the best of them. And so we spend our time keeping the dream alive, running from pillar to post, leaping yawning chasms in a desperate battle against the clock.
Ever onwards, we ignore the failures and keep our eyes on the prize, going for the win. We're not entirely sure what we're winning, exactly, but it's undoubtedly worth it.
The Flying Hamster
- PSN Minis (PSP & PS3) / £5.99
It's scientifically impossible not to go a little bit gooey inside when games anthropomorphise cute animals. And when it's done in a Japanese style, our hearts melt and pour out of our eyes. Just look at their little expressions when they get mad.
Game Atelier's Parisian tribute to this phenomenon stops at nothing to tweak at our fun glands, turning everyday side-scrolling japes into a bizarre war against a perfectly reasonable hamster.
Cows turn their udders into missile spewing vessels, laser-eyed owls turn forests into a theatre of death, while mean-eyed penguins take to the skies armed with pistols, sheltering from the desert heat with umbrellas. You get the idea.
Peel away the veneer of madcap nonsense, though, and The Flying Hamster could be any number of regulation side-scrolling shooters from the 1980s. The chucklesome cut-scenes and warbling background music briefly raise a smile, but beyond that this is only a mildly entertaining throwaway. And at double the price of most PlayStation Minis, it doesn't even qualify as an impulse purchase. If Sony bothered to have an Xbox Indie-style trial system for its Minis we'd tell you to check it out first, but given that you can't, The Flying Hamster looks destined to be ignored.
- PSN (PS3) / £7.99
The Top Gun movie has a lot to answer for. It brought us the twin horrors of Take My Breath Away and Highway To The Danger Zone, and was arguably solely responsible for launching the career of mad short bloke Tom Cruise. And it's still my father's favourite film. Argh.
On top of all that, we've not had a single decent videogame spawned off the back of it in eight attempts spanning 24 years. What chance, then, of doublesix's budget PSN-only offering bucking this sorry trend?
For once, all the basics are covered, and for the measly price of £7.99 you get 11 missions of undeniably solid, arcade-style aerial combat. With intuitive controls making even the most routine dogfighting sorties enjoyable, and non-terrible visuals, there's a measure of craft about the whole thing that you'd expect from a mid-priced boxed release, never mind a cheap, download-only affair.
Little touches like recharging health and the ability to fire your guns without ever overheating make it one of the most accessible aerial combat games around, though the downside of all this is that it's not exactly tough to plough through the campaign.
At this price, though, it's hard to knock something for being fun and accessible, even when it's not exactly pushing the boundaries. And with 16-player multiplayer to seal the deal, Top Gun finally has a decent game to call its own.