56 roundups and more than 300 games later, you could say that it's been an eventful nine months since we started to focus more of our attention on the downloadable games arena. But when we kicked things off back in March, little did we know just how many great games would fall into our laps.
And it's not just the high-profile Pac-Man Championship Edition DXs or the Limbos of the world that are up there with the best games released all year. Things like And Yet It Moves and Art Style Light Trax on WiiWare, or Apple Jack, Gravitron360 and Hypership Out Of Control on Xbox Indie, make us glad that we don't always have to rely on the publishing behemoths to get our kicks.
Time Machine: Rogue Pilot
- PSN (PS3) - £5.49 (free trial)
Who is this young Russian lady from the Stone Age? Why is she shaking her head at me with such consistent disdain? For not bothering to do my hair today? How does she know? God-damned spies.
More likely, this bob-cut iron maiden is just fed up with us for indulging in yet another match-three variant with such disproportionate zeal. To be fair, she's probably got a point; Lesta Games' take on the formula is nothing special, and yet there you are, still matching colours until hell freezes over.
It has absolutely nothing to do with either Time Machines or Rogue Pilots, although you do get to shoot. In this case, you try to create lines of three or more by lining up the reticule and modifying its colour to the one required, and then POW, the twin evils of explosive colour matching and point accumulation ensue. You may as well surrender now.
Worse yet, there are more modes than you can shake a perfectly coiffured bob at, including such perennial favourites as time limits and miscellaneous restrictions too numerous and boring to list within the word limit. Trust me on this.
The best part of all this Russian nonsense is the completely random appearance of mid-level interludes where, for no apparent reason, you have to find and shoot the seven objects in the scene that shouldn't be there. Sometimes, just to add to the fun, they look like they ought to be there, so you shoot them anyway.
Don't believe me? Go and download the free trial and "save our world from the great catastrophe". Just don't ponder too long on which catastrophe they're referring to.
- PSN Minis - £3.99
- Also available on iPhone and iPad - £2.99/£3.99
If you're one of those utter weirdos that hankers after watered-down first-person shooters with broken control systems, then we've got just the game for you.
When Gameloft foisted N.O.V.A. onto the unsuspecting iOS crowd a while back, at least you could argue that there was a point to it. It was one of the first games to take advantage of the retina display for a start, and also won bonus novelty points for incorporating gyroscope controls to get around the hideous camera issues that usually come as standard with mobile FPS games.
These features didn't disguise the fact that N.O.V.A. had about as much spark as a depressed eel, but at least you could factor in the price before you booted it out of the nearest window. Releasing it as a Mini merely amplifies its shortcomings tenfold.
For a start, the PSP's lack of a second stick means that we're back to controlling the camera and aiming with the face buttons, and reminding ourselves of how much fun the world was before the DualShock. Gameloft tries manfully to employ some sort of vague auto-aim solution, but you can only do so much.
But even if the controls did work properly, the level design and enemy AI are so stultifyingly generic that it feels like the last 12 years of game design didn't happen. On the plus side, they've taken out the multiplayer mode, so at least we are spared the misery of having to report on yet more life-sapping nonsense.
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.64)
Oh no, radiangames isn't done with you yet. Since releasing five games in the second half of this year can't possibly be enough to satisfy your unquenchable demands, the one-man coding machine has decided to squeeze out one more for luck.
Assuming you missed the original, it's essentially flip-top Space Invaders, where you have to gingerly dart between the top and the bottom of the screen in order to clear psychotic waves of bastard hell spawn, or aliens if you prefer.
Whereas the original tended to heap on the insanity, the sequel opts for a more considered approach that's not only more interesting, but ultimately more fun. After the conclusion of each 'wave', you have the option to allocate upgrade points in 11 different areas, such as firing rate, ship health and superfire power.
Although the core gameplay hasn't changed from the original, the various upgrades make it feel distinctly more playable than it was before, as well as adding that vital sense of progression that was missing last time out. As a result, you're more likely to want to tackle the Score Attack and take advantage of the online leaderboards.
As usual, radiangames has polished the whole thing to a level that makes the 80-point price tag feel faintly embarrassing. At a third of the price of the original, there's even less reason not to slap money down.
- DSiWare - 800 DSiWare Points (£7.20)
Remember kids, stealing is wrong, and karma will probably get you in the end. Just ask crook-for-hire Kirra, who finds her world literally split in two after she tries to get her thiev-ing mitts on a magic mirror locked up in an ancient castle.
Sadly for her (and, annoyingly, you), she now exists in two concurrent dimensions, and it's your sworn duty to guide her safely through both of these 'shattered realities' via the medium of side-scrolling platform gaming.
Wizened old gamers that we are, we've been here before – and quite recently in fact. But while Chronos Twins DX pulled almost the exact same trick of tasking you with guiding two characters simultaneously, the emphasis was squarely on puzzling rather than nimble platform negotiation.
In Kirra's world, you have to get your head around a fair bit of fast-paced wall-jumping, sliding and what have you as you try to locate the shards of magic mirror hidden among the 25 levels.
It all goes rather well for the first couple of chapters before throwing something of a curve-ball. After she collects the first shard, Kirra suddenly finds that her reflection takes on a life of its own, and rather than following you blindly, her shadow will get left behind if, for example, you bump into a wall. So, rather than simply bound your way from point to point, it becomes a much more considered affair where the slightest misstep spells doom.
As you might expect, continual death loops start to chip away at your initial fondness for Intrinsic's stylish attempt, and once you get snagged on a particular problem, the temptation to part ways grows strong. And then there's the price. Pegged at a level that would make most iOS gamers run screaming, it makes you wonder who thought that was a good idea.
Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves
- PSN - £4.79 (free to PS Plus subscribers and registered fans)
- Will also be bundled free with LBP2
While the world patiently drools with anticipation for the LittleBigPlanet sequel to arrive in a few weeks, Media Molecule has thrown together an hour-long segment of co-operative fun to give us a glimpse of the upcoming Move support.
In this instance, one player has to effectively manipulate the environment on behalf of his or her Sackboy-controlling pals, which will either be great fun or a recipe for annoyance depending on their ability to, you know, co-operate.
As with most things Move-related, it involves being a bit touchy-feely with anything that's not nailed down, and as ever Stephen Fry is on hand to dispense sage advice and generally chivvy you into grabbing all the purple items of scenery.
As well as stacking blocks in formation you'll find yourself operating bits of makeshift machinery and launching your pals into otherwise inaccessible areas of the level. Sometimes it's more a question of timing, and your ability to swiftly manhandle devices in quick succession.
Although there's not a great deal of substance to this downloadable chunk, it's nevertheless a pleasant bonus for those of you who've already shelled out for PlayStation Plus. The only minor annoyance is that Media Molecule crafted these bonus levels from the first LittleBigPlanet engine, rather than the enhanced one used for the sequel. Still, when you've got a game that already looks as lovely as this one does, I'm sure you'll be able to live with that.