Newsflash! Games are pretty good, aren't they? The fact that the BBC's Panorama has taken approximately three decades to work out what some of us sussed out the first time we clapped eyes on an arcade machine in the early eighties is investigative journalism at its most biting. In other news, food is pretty tasty, and some people eat too much of it.
In fairness, some people are just plain stupid and do things to excess, but is that the fault of videogames and the people that make them? Should we be encouraging them to make them less entertaining so that we can go back to smashing up bus stops for kicks? I don't know about you, but I've got a particular bone to pick with those irresponsible folk at HBO for continuing to make TV shows that render me powerless, and nail me to a chair for hours at at a time. Sometimes, I feel literally paralysed with entertainment.
And on that note, let me introduce you to a fine selection of downloadable treats that might just do the same to you.
- PC (Steam) - £3.14
If you're the kind of twisted individual that demands a concentrated dose of puzzling just to get you out of your slumber pit in the morning, then the brain-breakers at Two Tribes are back to give those spatial awareness glands that necessary tweak.
This time, you are Arrow Man, the dispenser of all things directional, as you lead a clueless army of wandering cubes back to their appropriately coloured lairs.
Your wayward charges roll forth in a straight line, obediently following the direction of any directional arrows that you've placed in their path. If they hit a wall, however, they'll turn right, so placing your limited stock of arrows, directional splitters and moving walkways always has to take that into account.
You'll quickly discover that mistakes are not tolerated, so if they fall off the edge of the grid or bump into another cube en route, you have to start over and rejig your precious tiles until it all clicks and your cuboid army stumbles home happily.
To the uninitiated, seeing the whole show set in motion looks utterly bewildering, like observing a rush hour train concourse on fast forward. But such is the gradual learning curve, you'll find yourself seamlessly adapting to problems that would have conceivably broken your brain mere minutes beforehand.
Once you're onto the medium levels and beyond, you'll be cajoled into smack-talking the level designers and laughing like a drain when it all slots into place, as if you're exacting some strange form of revenge by solving their unseemly riddle. It's that kind of game.
- WiiWare - 500 WiiWare points (£3.50)
- Also available on iPhone (£0.59) and iPad (£2.99)
Just one pop, and you can't stop. No, this isn't another unstoppable voyage to the bottom of a Pringles pipe, but a hapless re-acquaintance with one of the most inexplicably addictive games of recent years.
If you never encountered Retro Dreamer's iOS hit a couple of years back, here's the deal. Faced with a screen full of serenely floating sneezies trapped inside bubbles, it's your lot in life to set off chain reactions by carefully dispensing handfuls of sneezing powder. Judge it correctly and a gaggle of bubbles will pop in a nose-tickling shower, causing anyone in range to follow suit and blast their neighbours with a cloud of face germs.
As you'll soon find out, meeting the strict targets is easier said than done, and it's as much luck as judgement as to whether you'll be able to find the sweet spot that causes an effective chain reaction.
And yet even when you know that you've done well or badly because of the luck of the draw, you'll still convince yourself that you'll be able to spot the patterns anyway. There you are, hours later, still clicking away, trying to get that perfect chain reaction. People will shout incredulously that "it's not even a game," and you'll ignore them, achooing your way to insanity.
- PSN Minis - £3.99
- Also available on iPhone and iPad - £1.79
Ding dong! The witch is dead! Now seems as good a time as any to do the Tim Langdell dance gleefully around the burning pyre of bogus Edge patents. As a fitting bookend to the ongoing saga, Mobigame has gotten around to retrofitting its justifiably popular iOS puzzler to the oft-derided world of Minis.
Now available under its original 'Edge' name, this cube-shifting affair proves to be even more enjoyable in its new home on PS3 or PSP.
As usual, the goal is to move your cube around 46 minimalistic isometric 3D environments and reach the exit in the quickest possible time. En route, you have to negotiate the various obstacles, with the optional task of going for grade-based glory and scooping up all the coloured cubes you see scattered around.
What was considered one of the best mobile games around works a charm, with the more traditional control system affording you the kind of quick, confident precision that wasn't quite there on a touch screen.
And for once, the simple visual style scales up rather nicely, making it one of the rare Minis titles that doesn't induce projectile vomiting the minute you play it on your big screen telly. The only downside is having to pay more than twice the price than the iOS version, but hey, they've got to cover their unjust legal costs somehow. Ding dong! The witch is dead!
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare points (£4.50)
The chances are that you didn't even notice Neko Entertainment's rather loveable egg-rescuing original back in April. That's OK. The talented Frenchmen didn't take your inexplicable snub personally, they just released a quick-fire follow-up and hoped that people like me would rave about it all over again.
Now, as then, the general gist is to save a bunch of eggs from being turned into a tasty snack, and guide them Lemming-style to a nearby goal. Standing between the eggs and their safe haven are innumerable sentries, traps and other spiteful hazards, so you have to plot their path carefully, using a limited number of helpful tools.
Given their inability to spot danger, once you set them on their way, they'll just roll along haplessly until they reach a wall, so it's up to you to place springs to bounce them across gaps, platforms to cushion the fall, and get patrolling creatures out of harm's way.
In the original, this was all lovingly explained as you went along, with helpful tutorials interspersed to introduce new gadgets and techniques. Sadly, in this 'challenge' version, the game assumes you're already up to speed and rather dumps you in the deep end.
Even if, like me, you've played a fair chunk of the original, you'll probably have forgotten most of it by now, necessitating a complete run-through of the massive tutorial. Ridiculously, the game fails to even mention where the tutorial is, requiring you to exit the game and poke around in the options menu to refresh your ailing memory.
Assuming you've got the patience for all that faffing around, the game itself does exactly what it purports to, with around a hundred new levels offering a lengthy challenge for those hungering for some more eggy entertainment. As before, it's satisfying, exacting and well-designed puzzling – but if you missed out on the original, go for that first, before this initially befuddling sequel.
- Xbox Live Indie - 400 Microsoft Points (£3.40)
Few indie developers have the balls to charge more than pennies for their labours, no matter how polished the end result, but ESP's surprisingly engaging effort is still worth a second glance.
Set in a dystopian future where sinister corporations have wrested control of the planet, you control a trio of rebels determined to put the world to rights through the power of turn-based strategy.
As anyone who has played Advance Wars or Final Fantasy Tactics will attest, that power is pretty all-consuming once you surrender to its whims, even if it looks a bit plodding from the outset.
True to form, your team of futuristic warriors can move a set number of spaces each turn and have a stock of Action Points with which to perform combat, healing and special moves. Each level gives you an exit point to reach, throws a bunch of grunts in the way, and lets you get on with it.
As it's an RPG-flavoured game, you'll get some regulation sci-fi fluff to consume as a reward for progress, and find out just why certain members of the team can't remember how they got there. When all that's over with, you'll get the chance to upgrade your squad and then road-test their new abilities with another set of mechs and soldiers.
If you and your downtrodden buddies have ever felt compelled to attack mega corporations with heavy weaponry, this is probably the most responsible way of going about it. Or you could just dance your cares away like the rest of us.