Download Games Roundup

HydroVenture! MicroBot! Blokus! Spin! Shooter!

Version tested

It's long been accepted that the games industry basically turns off the tap of new boxed releases for most of December and January, but this year that only seems to have provoked the download sector. This past few weeks has produced some of its best games in ages, with the likes of Raskulls, ilomilo and echochrome II demonstrating the depth and quality you'd expect from games costing many times the price they ask.

Those appear to be just the tip of the iceberg, too, as this week's exceptional line-up of downloadable titles demonstrates in some style, with two 9/10 offerings, two 8/10s and a 7/10, and many more left off the five-game shortlist due to lack of space. In particular, we didn't have room for the many interesting new Xbox Indie titles doing the rounds (including Score Rush, ZP2KX, Revolver360 and Cthulhu Saves The World titles we hope to get to soon). In the meantime, enjoy the best line-up of download titles yet.

Blokus

  • PSN - 3.99 (2.99 with PlayStation Plus)

Where have you been all my life, Blokus? Somehow I've managed to avoid physical contact with this incredibly tense, absorbing shape-laying multiplayer puzzle game over the past decade. And not because it's been trying to avoid my attention, either there's the original board game, the bizarrely overlooked PSP game release, Gameloft's excellent iOS versions released last year, and there's even Blokus Online. Whoops.

1

Blokus party. Shame the avatars are so hideously generic.

Now available with PlayStation Move enhancements on PSN, I decided to atone for my error by actually bothering to review it. I'm extremely glad I did.

If you've never indulged, here's the deal. You have 21 assorted Tetris-esque shapes to dispense with, and take it in turns with up to three other players to do so. The game finishes when all players are blocked from laying down any more pieces.

Played on a 20 by 20 grid, the game kicks off with each player laying down a piece of their choice in their respective corners, and each new piece must touch only the corner of another piece of the same colour, and never the sides. Within a few turns you start strategically being the biggest bastard possible by blocking your foes from laying their weary slabs. It all gets testy very quickly.

The ultimate aim, of course, is to occupy the largest number of squares on the board, which the game tallies up based on the pieces you've laid. If you're ninja enough to lay all 21 pieces, you gain an extra 15 points to go with your smug grin.

Although arguably best played as a four-player game with real people in the same room, the PSN version offers plenty of scope to play with canny AI, including a mode where you take control of two sets of shapes, as well as a team-based mode where you must gang up against two of your opponents.

Predictably, it's a breeze to play on Move. The drag-and-drop premise lends itself particularly well to the new controller. But even on a boring old DualShock, this is among the most intense, competitive, and devilishly strategic puzzle games I've ever come across, and it's as cheap as (posh) chips. Buy it immediately.

9/10

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