In a week when the gaming world's attention is firmly locked on what's coming next from Nintendo, its strategy for the 3DS felt like an odd collision of truly cutting-edge technology and dogged old-school thinking.
While Apple counts its ever-growing mound of cash built on the systematic dismantling of the need for physical, packaged entertainment, Nintendo marches on with a system which will largely rely on a catalogue of boxed product, retailing for as much as £40 a pop.
As excellent as the glasses-free 3D technology undoubtedly is (assuming you posses eyes capable of seeing the effect), I spent much of the time at the Amsterdam conference thinking, 'Yeah, nice – but would I pay £40 for that piece of software?' The answer was nearly always 'probably not'.
I can't help but think that in this era of ultra-cheap, high-quality downloadable software that the goalposts have moved. It already seems absurd to pay £25 or more for a DS game, when I can readily download all sorts of great stuff elsewhere, so why should it be any different on the 3DS?
Personally, I'm not convinced that 3D alone is enough of a draw, nor that Nintendo will make its downloadable offerings cheap enough to compete with what's happening elsewhere. The landscape of the games market is completely unrecognisable from where it was even five years ago, and it feels like Nintendo is unwilling to move with the times – possibly to its cost.
- Mac App Store – £5.99
- Also available on PC Steam – £7.25
You can't blame Tale of Tales for wanting to mess with our heads. I would too, if I were a developer. I'd tell the player to select one of six concerned-looking sisters and go to Grandmother's house. I'd definitely be sure to mention that they should stick to the path.
I certainly wouldn't give the player any idea what awaits them when they stray off into the forest. The fractured noises, the warped visual feedback, the plethora of objects, the sparkly things. That can all just remain a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
You might think of The Path as an adventure, but only in the sense of wandering off on a journey that may not have a particular destination. There's no guidance, no real sense of purpose, or even any structure; and yet the haunting fascination that comes from the possibility of unravelling this sinister experiment keeps you plodding onwards when all logic suggests that you probably have some washing up to do.
So off you go, accompanied by little more than screeching misery and the nightmarish possibility of being eaten by a wolf. Gaming motivation is truly a strange thing, but when you're bored of the drudgery of everyday routine, it's surprising what can keep you entertained.
[Check out Kieron's original PC review of The Path for more. -Ed.]
- Xbox Live Indie Games – 240 Microsoft Points (£2.04)
If you've been overindulging at the retro shooter banquet on Xbox Indie lately, I wouldn't blame you. There are some tasty treats to be had, especially from that otherworldly radiangames dude, who appears to be able to code in his sleep.
But while most shmups are content to refine what's gone before, CrossEaglet's revved-up psychedelic offering is a side-scroller with a literal twist. The game allows you to spin the game world on its axis by using the left or right shoulder buttons.
At first, this appears to simply offer you another way to avoid being shot. For example, what was once a horizontal wall of death quickly becomes an easy-to-dodge vertical line once you've spun yourself around 90 degrees.
But once you start chasing high scores in the game's Short Range mode, spinning around becomes less about avoidance and more about understanding how to rack up massive combos. Line up a gaggle of enemies in front of you and you can blast them in one go with your laser and build up your multiplier. The higher your multiplier, the better your score, and the better the rank.
Avoiding getting hit is equally crucial, though, as taking damage knocks down the multiplier – so memorising the patterns becomes all-important, as these developer videos demonstrate. In the Infinite mode, you also have a limited health bar to worry about, so staying the hell away from enemies becomes even more crucial.
Revolver360 certainly isn't perfect, but you could never accuse it of being dull. With its restless visual overload played out to insistent electronica, it's a wonder that your battered senses can cope.
Originally destined for WiiWare, Nicalis evidently decided that its brooding physics puzzler would be better appreciated by PC players. Lucky them.
Basically identical in concept to the similarly engaging and tricky iOS gem Trundle, the premise is to chivvy an 'enigmatic sphere' through a series of similarly mysterious locales.
The main difference with NightSky is the degree of control you're given over Mr Blobby. Whereas Trundle relied entirely on tilt, Nicalis opts for a rather more flexible method, with various additional abilities that swap in and out depending on the level.
Sometimes, for example, you'll need to boost the blob along an incline and slingshot it around the curvature of a wall to reach a platform. Other times you'll roll onto a skateboard and need to stop in your tracks, or reverse gravity to avoid being impaled.
As is the way with these things, it's not enough for NightSky to simply be atmospheric, charming and ethereal; it has to bare its teeth and turn into a right sod, just at the point when you're telling everyone how much you love it.
But if you can break through the periodic pain barrier that comes with such exacting physics-based challenges, you'll be able to bask in the warm glow of manly gaming satisfaction. And with around six hours' worth of it to roll through, it'll put hairs on your chest. Not so good if you're a lady, obviously.
- PSN Minis (PS3 & PSP) – £2.49
- Also available on iPhone (£1.19) and Android
A scheduling quirk seems to have resulted in about 17 retro-flavoured shooters descending on Minis HQ all at once, which is no doubt good news if you enjoy having some sort of gaming Groundhog Day experience. The rest of us are jumping in front of buses in the hope that something else might come along.
To be fair to the appropriately named Infinite Dreams, though, it wasn't to know. Besides, Sky Force has been around for about seven years on various mobile platforms (including, most recently, iPhone and Android), and has long been held up as one of the best top-down mobile blasters.
The PSP, though, is a different animal, and loving homages to the past are basically a given. But even taking that into account, Sky Force holds its own and does a fine job of replicating all that was good about eighties classics like Capcom's 1943.
With its finely detailed sprites, lavish environments and relentless bullet-spewing chaos, it wears its influences proudly. It even sports the kind of SID-chip soundtrack that would elicit approving nods from Rob Hubbard, and survives the transition from vertical orientation to widescreen without much cause for complaint.
But like many Minis ported from mobile platforms, you're left wondering whether it's worth the extra money for the luxury of playing on a d-pad versus a touch screen. If you're a huge fan of the mobile game, by all means pay the extra, but everyone else should be mindful of the competition before slapping their money down.
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points (£4.50)
- Also available on iPhone (£0.59)
If you've somehow managed to go your entire gaming life without ever having played Qix or any of the dozens of spin-offs and homages to the 1981 classic, then go and stand in the corner and wear my special dunce's cap. I don't care if you weren't even born in the eighties. Get to the back.
While you contemplate your transgression, have a crack on Lexis Numérique's riff on the the screen-hogging concept.
As usual, the idea is to try and command as much of the play area as possible without touching any of the little blobs bouncing around with prejudice. In this case, rather than land-grabbing by drawing lines, you simply touch the screen with the stylus and hold it down to make a flower grow; the longer you hold, the bigger the flower gets.
When you've filled up enough of the screen with flowery goodness, you move on to the next stage and try to repeat the trick. To make things somewhat trickier for you, the game then introduces more bouncy fiends, and avoiding their deadly attention becomes increasingly important.
Smack into them too often, and you'll eventually run out of flowers, and have to start a revolution from your bed. Or something like that. I forget.
The problem, of course, is that there are plenty of games like Surfacer + out already, and for a fraction of the price. The fact that Surfacer + is also out for iPhone for pennies makes the DSiWare price even more laughable.