Hypership Out Of Control!
- Xbox Live Indie Games / 80 Microsoft Points (£0.64)
Sometimes the misery is worth it. After spending hours wading through the raw Xbox Indie sewerage, whistling half-remembered hymns, it starts to seem like some sort of elaborate sanity test. You check for hidden cameras, pat down the sofa for bugs, and shut the blinds. At times like these, you pump up the Kraftwerk and imagine that we're still living in 1982.
And then it is 1982. Or at least Fun Infused Games reckons we'd have more fun if it was. Inserting our imaginary massive ten pence pieces, we recline into this vision of the past, cut the brake lines and cruise into sprite-based doom.
Like the best arcade shooters of the past, Hypership Out Of Control succeeds by keeping it simple, and by making the seat-of-your-pants twitch gaming disproportionately compulsive. It doesn't resort to the lazy insanity of bullet hell, but demands that you precisely negotiate a twisting space obstacle course without smacking yourself into the nearest wall.
With your hypership unable to slow down, the task gets progressively more tricky, as unpredictable scenery hurtles towards your puny vessel. Power-ups and coins lie before you temptingly, and powerful blasters allow you to tear up anything in your path - but any advantage is tempered by the constant risk of instant death.
Blessed with an incessant one-more-go appeal, multiple gameplay modes and even global online leaderboards, Hypership will have you quite happy to live in the past for the duration. For 80 points, it would be rude not to.
- PSN (PS3) / £8.99
Rarely has a game danced the precarious line between love and hate so balletically as TerRover. Throughout, you're faced with one of the most visually striking games ever made, but one with a control system that may inspire you to be mean to kittens.
The main problem is its near-vertical learning curve. As you guide a cute little robot buggy over hazardous terrain to a goal in the shortest possible time, what looks like a routine task becomes an unexpectedly fiddly exercise in brutal, stunt-negotiating trial and error.
If a casual bystander observed you playing the game for the first time (as happened to me), you may well look like the worst videogame player of all time - but the truth is that Creat Studios' PSN exclusive dares to expect the player to reconfigure all their control expectations and start over from scratch.
With this tricky inertia-based physics system, you'll most likely spend the first few minutes constantly flipping your rover and getting stuck in tight spaces. You can jump, change orientation and flip yourself over, but, for the most part, you'll steer yourself rather haplessly with the left stick, flip-flopping around, never quite sure how much - or how little - pressure to apply.
Somewhere along the line, though, all the trial and error eventually pays off. Something clicks, and you'll start to figure out how to approach ramps, and how to distribute your weight when and where it's required.
With more than a nod to Trials in TerRover's DNA, the more patient among you will lap up TerRover and all of its wilful insanity.
DeathSpank: Thongs Of Virtue
- Xbox Live Arcade / 1200 Microsoft Points (£9.99)
- PSN (PS3) / £9.99
A sequel? Already? Well, not quite. Having realised that the DeathSpank project had ballooned out of all proportion for a single download title, Hothead decided to take a hatchet to it and issue it in two (still very substantial) portions instead.
Described by designer Ron Gilbert as "Acts II and III", Thongs Of Virtue essentially picks up where we left off, and continues in the same vein. Which is to say that it's the same repetitive blend of Diablo-style button-mashing combat and fetch-quest adventuring as it ever was.
In terms of New Stuff, you get guns this time and a greater focus on fighting bosses, and a Lord Of The Rings-inspired premise, but otherwise Thongs Of Virtue is simply a continuation of the same game. For those of you who loved part one, that can only be a good thing.
As with the recently released Orphans Of Justice, the saving grace is the mostly excellent dialogue and endearing art style that infuses your quests with numerous chucklesome highlights. Sure, the poop gags are a little wearisome, but a sprinkling of the old Gilbert magic makes it a worthwhile ride.
In small doses, DeathSpank is a fun but rather inessential diversion. Let's hope Gilbert finds better foil for his talents at Doublefine.
- WiiWare / 1000 WiiWare Points (£7.20)
Evidently, not every WiiWare platformer can be up to the standard of LostWinds, And Yet It Moves or NyxQuest. Sometimes you end up taking a punt on Tales Of Elastic Boy or Robox, and try not to bring it up when someone asks you what you've been playing.
Like so many retro-minded side-scrolling platformers, Robox has the easy charm that a hand-crafted indie effort should - but is sadly blighted by all of the clunkiness, too.
You're sent out to explore a strange planet after a crash-landing and the general idea is to lollop around in search of items that will allow you to recover your skills. But as promising as its initial premise is, the sad truth is that the hazard-strewn environments quickly become a chore to negotiate.
With certain innocuous scenery items proving inexplicably dangerous, and gigantic pesky insects dive-bombing you at every turn, progress is slow, clunky and tedious - not to mention poorly signposted. Most of the time you'll just wander around with precious little idea if you're going the right way.
But what really chips away at your desire to stick with the game is the dreadful shooting mechanics. Stubborn enemies take far too many hits to bugger off, and when they do, the jumping system feels woolly and imprecise. With entirely fun-free shooting gallery interludes lying in wait, Robox starts to feel like it actively wants to piss the player off.
As JC Denton might say, what a shame.
GO Series: Defence Wars
- DSiWare / 200 DSiWare Points (£1.80)
Tower Defence has quickly become a genre to send shivers down even the most tolerant of game critics' spines. The chances are, by the time you get to the 47th clone, your motor functions are waving placards and demanding fair working conditions.
At least In the second of the super-cheap GO Series titles, Tom Create has tried something a little different - even if the net result is rather forgettable.
Rather than plonk units down and wait for the inevitable onslaught, the idea is to arrange your defences on the lower part of the touch screen and flick bullets and bombs at the incoming hordes.
It's mildly - and mindlessly - entertaining, but ultimately you're left with an uninspired flick-based take on Space Invaders.