We've got some complete polar opposites for you to revel in this week in download land. In the blue corner, we've got games like Kaptain Brawe and the re-issue of Crazy Taxi that want to drag you back to the way things were, and in the red corner, Dinner Date, a 'game' that takes us into the drunken subconscious of an insecure poet and his quest for a shag.
And the one trying to stop the others from hitting each other is Gaijin Games' latest, Bit.Trip Fate, a smorgasbord of retro-futurism if ever I saw it.
- PC - $12.99
I'm not sure whether a game's ever inspired a flush of cold embarrassment before, but Stout Games' fascinating exploration of one man's inner turmoil certainly did.
Not because it felt like straying across the invisible boundary of personal privacy, you understand; I could eavesdrop on Julian Luxemburg's demented poetic witterings indefinitely. I just had the cold dread that Dinner Date was actually an entirely autobiographical rather than a fictional account of middle-class angst.
Either way, it's certainly an interesting narrative experiment, albeit one where the user's 'interaction' is restricted to which finger to move, and whether to dunk the bread or sip the wine while you sit and wait for the arrival of your date. His thoughts on her non-appearance continue to meander either way, as you proceed to get sozzled on three glasses of wine. Lightweight.
The most disappointing aspect of Dinner Date isn't the ludicrously brief 20 minute runtime, but the fact that Julian is so flimsy and dislikable. While his thoughts on poetry and his chances of a shag rattle around his head, you're left with one overriding conclusion: no bloody wonder you're alone.
- WiiWare - 800 WiiWare Points (£5.60, free demo available)
Gaijin Games has a strange knack of making games that you feel compelled to own, despite the fact that they're not always especially satisfying to play.
Bit.Trip Fate is another classic example. As an audio-visual art installation it could win awards, with its alluring chiptune soundtrack and hypnotic, almost sensuous ultra-retro aesthetic. They're the kind of games you hope a skilled hyperkinetic guest will come around and play for you, so that you can sit in cuddly sensory bliss and avoid the petty aggravation involved with actually playing them.
Like all the Bit.Trips, Fate adheres to the principle that death is final, and that, dear player, means a lot of lengthy restarts as you go right back to the very beginning of a stage. If you're hard-wired to deal with that, then treats are in store in this engaging twist on the horizontal shooter.
This time around, Commander Video is tethered to a central rail which weaves a predetermined route around the level. Although you can freely move left and right, you can't stray from the path itself, and so avoiding the hail of enemy fire becomes even harder than it would normally be.
While you're dealing with the everyday grunts, it's not so much of a problem, especially as it's balanced by the the free-aiming precision that you get from the Wii remote. But as soon as the game wheels out the inevitably bastard-hard boss and starts firing curtains of bullets at you, the balance tips firmly in the opposite direction, and death soon follows.
If the game could just allow you to resume before the boss (even with a limited selection of lives), that would probably be enough to keep you going, but it doesn't. Instead, you guessed it, you're back to the start of the lengthy stage to dispatch everything from scratch.
One day, Gaijin Games might make it possible for mortals to play its games, but until then Fate is one you're probably best off spectating rather than getting smashed up by.
- DSiWare - 500 Points (£4.50)
- PC - $6.99
If the service industry has taught us anything, it's that the general public are rude, messy, ungrateful bastards that will stop at nothing to cause poor, harassed staff unending misery. Can't live without them, can't kill 'em.
Like numerous serve-'em-ups before it, Supermarket Mania buys into this multi-tasking nonsense wholesale, tasking the lovely Nikki with keeping the shelves of her local store well-stocked and the aisles clean of unseemly mess.
But that's not enough, is it? When the evil Torg Corporation decides to get robots in to replace the inefficient humans, she finds herself rising to the challenge of proving them wrong by, er, continuing to do the exact same thing at an old man's ailing store.
And so 50 levels of grocery-replenishing craziness await your ever-willing stylus in this wholly unoriginal but unexpectedly fun serving. As with most DSiWare titles, you'll wish Nintendo could allow publishers to price things a little cheaper, but if you haven't heard of smartphones G5's innocent effort is as fun as a trip to Lidl on a Wednesday afternoon.
- Xbox 360 - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- PSN - £7.99
"Let's go make some crazy money!"
10 years ago, it was SEGA's next-generation battle cry. With its surly Offspring soundtrack, dayglo visuals and white-knuckle thrill-a-second gameplay, SEGA brought us cutting-edge arcade gaming right in our own homes. Who cared if it was a bit shallow? That was kinda the point.
A decade later, the connotations of Crazy Taxi's opening gambit are entirely different, as you stare aghast at the latest loveless Dreamcast port to emerge.
Shortly after being greeted with a murkily upscaled front-end, any goodwill you might have had for this initially promising conversion project goes out of the window after you hear the hideously low bit-rate speech samples, almost entirely drowned-out by a substitute soundtrack.
And if that's not enough to kill your enthusiasm, then the game almost certainly will. What was fresh and thrilling arcade fun then feels like a clumsily constructed mini-game now as you ferry badly animated polygonal aberrations to their destination in the quickest possible time.
Despite its long list of shortcomings, there's still a sliver of fun to be had blasting yourself around the city – especially if you can remember the somewhat obscure combos required to properly control it. The truth is, though, you can probably eke out most of that fun in the free trial, safe in the knowledge that the full versions doesn't offer a great deal more. This isn't how nostalgia is supposed to feel.
- PC - £14.99 (coming soon to iOS platforms)
There was a time when I'd have sat gazing with puppy-dog eyes at screenshots of Kaptain Brawe. I'd have marvelled at its gorgeously detailed backdrops, bold colour schemes and promise of witty dialogue and inventive point-and-click puzzling, and probably slapped down £29.99 without even seeing so much as a trailer.
But that was 18 years ago. They didn't even do trailers for games then, and the cover-mounted demo was only just starting to catch on. Are you nodding tearfully like a wistful old bastard yet? Good, because Kaptain Brawe's designed exclusively for you, friend.
It's so old school, it actually takes us right back to the best-forgotten floppy disk days when 'talkie' adventures were a glamorous new idea, and we had to sit and imagine what the characters' voices were like. Somehow, this isn't a terrible idea, and Croatian studio Cateia Games overcomes such limitations by doing what LucasArts used to do for years: make the writing sharp.
Cateia also remembers to come up with decent puzzles that aren't wilfully obscure, and offers a 'casual' mode of play that makes it possible to find out what objects there are to click on in advance of clicking on every damn pixel.
It's also decent value, offering a sizeable chunk of adventuring over four planets, and will probably run on any PC made in the past decade. But with undoubtedly cheap-as-chips iOS versions following within weeks, who needs clunky PCs? Let's prod our touch-screens in happy unison that the adventure game scene has finally spluttered back to life.