If FADE's research is on the money, then it's glaringly apparent that not many of you are buying into the download dream just yet. When a title with as much universal critical acclaim as Limbo can reportedly sell a mere 128,000 worldwide, it makes you wonder how that breaks down per territory. If the US maybe accounts for 50 per cent of that, then that's just 64,000 for the whole of Europe. If the UK accounts for up to 30 per cent of that, then, what, 21,000-odd have bothered to buy it so far. It's hardly what you'd call stellar sales, is it?
And yet elsewhere, mighty indie powerhouse Halfbrick announced this week that it has sold two million units of its iOS title Fruit Ninja - a game we awarded a miserly 5/10 to, remember. Is it simply the case that when it comes to instant download accessibility, we're much more inclined to play them on our phones? Or is it that download games just aren't promoted well enough for people to bother to seek them out? Do tell.
Editor's note: Due to the immense volume of download releases, we've decided to expand and split the Download Games Roundup into two editions per week. Your regular Friday lunchtime roundup will continue, but, starting with this week's, it will focus exclusively on console, handheld and PC games.
It will be joined soon by the Mobile Games Roundup on Mondays, which will concentrate on games for your phone (and also include iPad coverage, for obvious reasons). Kristan Reed will continue to be your host for both. And, yes, we've finally bought him an Android handset, so he'll be able to properly cover games for Google-powered devices. We'll be reviewing Windows Phone 7 games in future, too. See, we do listen. Sometimes. -Oli
- WiiWare / 500 WiiWare Points (£3.50)
While you're sat there joylessly munching away at your desk, spare a thought for Derek, the dying cannibal fish. Born with a hole in his stomach, he has no choice but to continually eat just to stay alive.
Unfortunately for the rest of fishiekind, his survival comes at a rather high price, as he munches inexorably through entire shoals with nary a thought for the moral consequences. Sometimes it's handy not to be able to remember this stuff.
Demented Derek also feels the need to continually swim around in circles, and piloting the wayward fish-guzzling fiend involves stabbing the A button (and only the A button) with varying degrees of velocity. Like steering a party balloon as the air escapes from its rubbery nether regions, it's quite comfortably one of the most haphazard controls systems ever devised.
Presumably the complete absence of control accuracy is the point, so DK-Games ups the ante by throwing spiky enemies into the fray. Forced to dance gingerly between spinning rows of deadly foes, poor Derek never stood a chance.
Playable over three levels of difficulty/irritation, Fishie Fishie is one of those games where it'll be about 20 minutes before you've had your fill and will want to hurt soft toys for their part in the conspiracy. By the time you've waded through the numerous multiplayer variations on the mayhem, it feels entirely appropriate to batter it.
- Xbox Live Arcade Indie / £0.64
For the price of a sip of an overpriced mochachocafrappelatte, who could deny VEXIS its day in the sun? Not I, that's for sure.
Based around the simple premise of moving a white block into a black block, Buckshot Games' puzzler is one of those deceptive little buggers that robs far more of your time than it has any right to.
Using the left and right triggers, you can rotate the 14x14 grid in 90 degree increments, and let gravity work its magic on the white block. By rotating it in the right order, you'll gradually be able to shift it to its goal and move onto the next level.
But such is the way of these things, you wind up having to time your rotations with increasing precision as you dance your way through a succession of vanishing blocks. What starts off as a mild diversion quickly becomes an all-consuming obsession, and then you expire from not having eaten for days. Games, eh?
- DSiWare / 500 DSiWare Points (£4.50)
Dedicated Wii download junkies will recall that Trailblaze (known as Flametail elsewhere, oddly) started life as one of the three minigames present within Mindware's MaBoShi: The Three Shape Arcade. But don't hold that against it.
Unshackled, renamed and spruced up for handheld consumption, this pleasingly abstract puzzle title tasks you with piloting a fiery spaceship through space debris. But rather than merely avoid it, the idea is to burn all of it up before the approaching hazard line touches any of it.
Doing so is way, way trickier than it looks (so much so, in fact, that I had to play the tutorial level about four times before I stopped completely sucking at it), because it's all about plotting your route with foresight and caution. Merely aligning yourself alongside a line of blocks is enough to get the fire started, but if you take too long to manoeuvre yourself over to it, you might find certain blocks don't burn themselves out quickly enough. Collecting letters en route earns you power-ups, allowing you to, for example, fire a missile to blast through entire sections of the level, or a radar to give you advance warning of the route ahead.
But as unique and fun as Trailblaze is, progress is rendered painstakingly slow by the game's bewildering requirement to make you start from scratch. If you've got the stomach for repetition, this is well worth a look, but otherwise approach with caution.
- PSN (PS3) / £9.99
- Steam / £9.99
- Xbox Live Arcade / 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20)
Almost everyone loved Shadow Complex, and rightly so. With sales of around half a million, it seemed you lot did, too, so it's hardly surprising to see a swashbuckling rival ploughing the 2.5D furrow to impressive effect.
Krome's first 'episode' in what should be an ongoing series is a confident little tyke, too. Luxuriating in lavish production values and slick playability, this acrobatic cel-shaded hack-and-slash platform-puzzler barrels along at a frenetic pace.
With simple, intuitive controls making combat and exploration a pleasure, what starts off as a fairly routine blade-swishing blizzard soon settles into a more interesting groove. With secret-packed levels offering countless opportunities to poke around, it's a formula that's familiar but satisfying.
There's a decent amount of variety, too. Rather than risk boring players with more of the same, the radical changes of scenery and fast-paced mount levels change the pace just when it's required. It's a game with a welcome degree of character, too, with exquisite cut-scenes, brilliant lip syncing and decent voice acting helping to add a gloss that's becoming more common at the top end of digital offerings.
It's a beefy game, too. With each of the19 levels taking 25 to 30 minutes to romp through, the 'premium' price is, for once, fully justified. If Blade Kitten is a signal of intent for Atari's ongoing digital reinvention, then the future looks bright for all concerned.
Alien Breed 2: Assault
- Xbox Live Arcade / 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
After so many years of patient expectation, it was a real shame that Alien Breed's return to the scene didn't quite blow the doors off in the way we all hoped it would. While certainly solid in every department, the numbing repetition and inability to play through the main campaign with a buddy ran contrary to what most of us wanted.
Sadly, it's largely the same deal with Assault. While Team 17 has worked hard to create better set-pieces and more tense boss encounters, and has included a new upgrade system, you're still left growling about not being able to enjoy the whole affair with a pal. Sure, a separate co-op campaign exists in order to satisfy that urge, but it's not quite enough.
Objectively, it's a visually arresting game, with an excellent twin-stick move-and-aim combat system - but one that settles into a familiar, overly predictable rhythm. For the most part you'll follow endless waypoints, flick a switch here, power up a console there, while gunning down a procession of aliens. If you've played through the first episode, Assault can, at times, feel short on surprises.
On the other hand, if you missed the original, then Assault definitely serves as a better reintroduction. With an evident determination to cut the crap and get down to business, it's a tight, brutal no-nonsense corridor shooter. Completely predictable, but fun all the same.