Everyone likes super secret access to new games don't they? Especially ones that looks as tempting as ilomilo. Apparently not due for general release on XBLA and Windows Phone 7 until January, it gives developer Southend Interactive the kind of headline-grabbing pre-awareness that a lot of downloadable titles could do with.
If this idea proves to be as popular as it looks certain to be, you can bet that a lot of similar promotions will start to pop up as developers look for innovative ways to get players interested in games that they might usually ignore.
One brilliant idea that Capcom came up with for the release of Dead Rising was to essentially bookend its retail game with a pair of downloadable releases exclusive to XBLA. The question remains whether the Case West epilogue will be as popular as the 600,000-selling Case Zero prologue.
Funky Lab Rat
- PSN - £5.49
You might not readily associate the humble rat with an ability to get their groove on, but needs must when you're being held captive in a lab and you've got electrodes attached to your genitals.
At least that's how Hydravision sees it in this Move-based platform-puzzler, where the power of funk has a magic-like quality to it. In its crazy French world of strikes and improbably delicious bread, groovy rodents come blessed with the ability to throw shapes and manipulate time. And yet, despite being granted these special powers, they feel compelled to repay their masters by trying to escape.
Predictably, that's where you come in, wielding a Move controller with one hand and a Dual Shock in the other (or preferably a Navigation controller if you've got the money). For once, you have to get your head around using both controllers in tandem, as you control the rat's left-right movements with the stick, and both object and time manipulation with the wand.
Much of the time you'll be focused on stacking up objects to allow Monsieur Rat to clamber up to the nearest exit door, but the further you progress, the more careful you have to be when and where you unleash your time-pausing ability. Sometimes, creating safe passage demands that you jump, stop (hammer) time, strategically grab, twist and rotate blocks to bridge a gap, leap again, and then repeat until you're able to eventually reach the elusive door.
Just to keep things interesting, you also have to take into account rat-boy's burgeoning drug habit and hoover up all the pills littering the lab. For reasons probably best not to delve into on a Friday, each one is clouded in smoke until you point your light source at it, thus making you feel good about shelling out for that Move controller.
Then again, given that they only want just over a fiver for something this engaging, I'd happily justify slapping down £35 for Move right now.
Dead Storm Pirates
- PSN - £15.99
If Namco had its way with the world, the machine pistol would have been invented in the 16th Century, and swashbuckling adventurers would have been adequately equipped to deal with the swathes of suspiciously athletic undead pirates that feel compelled to storm aboard their galleon for an impromptu rave.
But you know how it is with rail shooters. There you are, clearing the decks of these uninvited guests with your trusty new Move controller, hosing away millions of cutlass-wielding skeletons with seemingly billions of bullets, and it's still not enough to satisfy the vengeful game designers.
You can be as accurate as you like. You can even rope a second player into the fray and coat the scene with a curtain of impenetrable death, and still this army of death-dealers will find a way through your fragile defences. Curse their eyes.
In its original arcade form, cheap deaths are routinely used as a detestable means of extracting another quid from you so that you'll pay to see what comes next. Sat at home on your sofa, its relentless assault is the ultimate quick-fix, but it's also a tiny bit tedious to be repeatedly smacked around the chops with a wet plimsoll when you're the guy with the bullet hose.
Originally available as part of the recently-released Time Crisis: Razing Storm compilation, it makes more sense to be able to pick up Dead Storm Pirates on its lonesome, but at a penny shy of 16 quid, it's priced a little optimistically. Then again, if you're the kind of guy who doesn't mind shovelling loose change into infinity, maybe that's a bargain.
Flowerworks: Follie's Adventure
- WiiWare - 500 WiiWare Points (£3.50)
Being horribly late to the party doesn't always work out so bad, as any fan of drunk girls and cold pizza will attest. Flowerworks may have slithered bedraggled onto European shores almost a year after its original US release, but when you're offering people the chance to combine fireworks with horticulture, you can bloody well wait your turn.
Its tardiness would be more acceptable if Nocturnal's quirky flower-growing puzzler was actually worth sticking around for. Despite it picking up some enthusiastic reviews a while back, it's hard to figure out where all the love came from.
To kick off, the really-quite-complex mechanics are explained as badly as they possibly could be by a wholly inadequate tutorial. Essentially, the central goal is to make each flower fully bloom by scooping up the correct-coloured pollen and directing it to its expectant maw.
As simple as that may be, it won't win you enough points to scrape more than one or two stars. The challenging part is working out how to set off flowery fireworks and create bubbles by lining up pollen in your sights and shooting at it on the way. Succeed, and you'll spark off valuable combos – but it's a fiddly process, even when you know what you're supposed to be doing.
If you can stride purposefully over that initial hurdle, a potentially absorbing puzzler awaits, but if you want a puzzler to slip into like an old slipper, that particular princess is in another castle.
The Impossible Game Level Pack
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.64)
If one concentrated dose of gaming dementia wasn't enough to finish off your poor, frazzled nervous system, then it's only logical to come back for a double portion next time, right?
Having driven most of us completely loopy earlier in the year with the most irritatingly addictive platform game in history, Flukedude thought it was perfectly fair to finish off everyone else with this equally rabid 'level pack'.
No, it doesn't do anything especially different from last time, and yes, joypads almost certainly will be hurled across living rooms around the world as you attempt to guide a runaway box over a series of dastardly triangles.
You'll even be able to see how many jumps you've made, and how many times you've died, and how many puppies and kittens were ritually slaughtered during the many rage-induced minutes of your time with the game.
Seriously, someone call The Daily Mail and Panorama and ban this sick filth, before we all get locked up.
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- Previously released on PSP in summer 2009
If at first you don't succeed, waste everyone's time all over again – that's Vogster's motto as it brings its critically derided side-scrolling brawler to Xbox Live Arcade for no logical reason whatsoever.
Combining Streets Of Rage with Comix Zone probably sounded like a fine idea back in the nineties, but when met with the withering stare of 2010, this painfully repetitive slugger reminds us how dull games can be.
Trapped in a comic-book world, you guide either lumbering meathead Rick or lithe, quipping saucetress Lori Machete along a procession of incoherent frames, smashing anything that gets in your way. The hand of the 'maker' continually draws new enemies, presumably for his own amusement, but he seems to have an inability to create characters that you care about or carve out a storyline that entertains in any way.
That might not matter in the least if the sludgy combat system was even remotely enjoyable, but it's the worst kind of gaming stodge parachuted in from an era when we didn't know any better. No-one cared when this was released on PSP in summer 2009, and they certainly won't give a flying fig about it now.