Amidst all the frenzy surrounding Sony's NGP, the company's upcoming PlayStation Suite platform for Android-compatible handsets became something of a footnote.
In case it passed you by, the plan is to offer owners of handset (of a certain specification, presumably) the chance to download old PSone games such as MediEvil, Syphon Filter and Cool Boarders 2 as well as unspecified original content via a PlayStation Store.
But given the advancement of mobile content in recent years, is there much demand for old games at the kind of price that Sony demands for them currently? I'm not convinced there is. With the exception of the occasional timeless gem (like Broken Sword II, reviewed below), time has not been especially kind to the PSone generation - even on the small screen, as the PSP amply demonstrates.
Of more interest, I suspect, would be 'remastered' versions – exactly the approach that the likes of LucasArts and Revolution have reaped rewards with. What would you like to see?
- iPhone - £3.99
- iPad - £5.99
Survival horror fans haven't exactly been well-served on mobile platforms to date, if the regrettable attempts to bring Silent Hill and Resident Evil to iPhone are anything to go by.
Mostly it's a control issue, and the general unsuitability of a touch-screen for manipulating your movement, camera and weapon aim at the same time. So how come Dead Space succeeds where others have failed so spectacularly?
For a start, IronMonkey Studios bothered to design the game for mobile play, as opposed to trying to squeeze the 2008 original into an ill-fitting suit. But rather than take the form of an on-rails shooter like Dead Space: Extraction, this all-new Dead Space is surprisingly faithful to the full-fat versions in every sense.
Before you recoil in horror at the thought of another borked touch-screen attempt at twin-stick action-adventuring, Dead Space is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. It not only captures the intricate, moody visual signature of Visceral's originals with stunning efficiency, but manages to faithfully translate the gameplay.
Despite the obvious limitations of overlaid thumbsticks, the less frantic nature of the combat essentially balances things, allowing you precious extra moments to move and aim.
And because the designers obviously understand this, they also crank up the opportunities for close-quarters combat, forcing you to swipe the screen to slice off the limbs of aggressors trying to give you a hug, or tap to shake off Swarmers. It's panic-inducing, but without making you feel completely hapless in the process.
Being a Dead Space game, there's also a satisfying sense of progression. New weapons, abilities and upgrades arrive at regular intervals, and levels rarely outstay their welcome.
This apparent desire to cut to the chase means that you'll blast through the 12 chapters in about four hours; short enough for the repetition not to set in, but long enough to satisfy. As a taste of what's to come, this is not to be missed.
Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered
- iPhone/iPad (unified binary) - £3.99
- Mac and PC versions 'coming soon'
It's a shameful admission, but The Smoking Mirror was one of those games that I never got around to playing, despite owning the bloody thing. I even finished Broken Swords 3 and 4, but, for reasons unknown, this 1997 sequel remained forgotten in the towering 'to-play' pile for more than a decade.
13 years on, the welcome arrival of this lovingly 'remastered' edition means that there's no longer an excuse to ignore Charles Cecil's acclaimed adventure. The biggest surprise is that it has barely aged a day – unlike most of the games of that era. While many developers played around with chunky 3D engines, Revolution wisely opted for a lavish cartoon visual style, and therefore the transition to iOS devices is seamless.
As last year's Broken Sword 1 port amply demonstrated, the game's intuitive interface works perfectly on touch screen systems. Prodding your way through George Stobbart's globe-trotting adventure is made all the more pleasurable by virtue of the various refinements added, such as the built-in hint system, and being able to see what objects there are to interact with.
But unlike the original Broken Sword iOS ports, the voiceover audio is much better quality and the unified binary means you now only have to buy one version. Not only that, Dropbox integration means you can even use your save game on another device if you need to.
The game itself continues to justify its enduring popularity, thanks to sharp writing, narrative intrigue, quality voiceovers and concise puzzles that challenge but rarely frustrate. Maybe if enough of you buy this one, we can persuade Cecil and co. to finally deliver us an all-new game.
Burn The Rope
- iPhone - £0.59 (currently 50% off)
It always bloody happens. As soon as a game gets huge, you can guarantee a slew of similar-sounding copycat releases emerging from the sausage machine, hoping to get a piece of the action. But hold your ire; this isn't a cynical Cut The Rope cash-in, but something unexpectedly original.
As the title helpfully explains, the idea is to simply burn as much of the rope in each level as possible. Proceedings commence as soon as you touch any portion of the rope, and once ignited, you have to nimbly guide the flame around its attractively arranged perimeter by tilting the device in the appropriate direction: like a real flame, it will only burn upwards.
After a gentle introduction, Big Blue Bubble's puzzler starts to turn up the heat – not only by introducing more complicated arrangements but by throwing up colour-coded areas that can only be burned if you've, er, torched an ant or a spider first.
This being one of those ludicrously cheap games, the developers want millions of people to buy it so that they can afford to buy proper, manly curry sauce, rather than that 9p stuff Sainsbury's sells. And with 16 new levels about to be added to the 96 already bundled with Burn The Rope, get it while it's hot.
- Android - Free (in-app purchases available)
- Previously released on iPhone and iPad - Free
If the best things in life are free, the worst things in life must be the things we have to pay for – like in-game items.
Under normal circumstances, Glu's rather innocent 2.5D side-scroller would pass most of us by as being a fairly inoffensive platformer. Nothing special. A little floaty in the jump department, maybe. Rather generic to look at, but by no means the worst game ever to grace a mobile phone. The fact that it's free – and recently ported to Android – caught our attention.
For the first 20 minutes or so, you'll dutifully scoop up the marbles scattered around, and ace each level without breaking a sweat. You'll get told about the time-limited power-ups, like the double jump and shield, and then find reason to use them. And then swiftly run out of the required marbles to 'buy' them.
Topping up this in-game currency involves buying packs, which cost anything from £1.79 for a jar of marbles to £11.99 for a cart of crystals. I'm not even joking.
The problem isn't so much that it's 'freemium'; after all, you got the first batch of levels for nothing, it's that the extra levels aren't remotely worth paying for. Any game designed to make people pay to double-jump needs to be pointed at and laughed at until it dies in a heap.
- Windows Phone 7 - £2.49 (12-level free trial available)
- Previously released on iPhone (£1.79) and iPad (£2.39)
The Windows Phone 7 line-up has been something of a rogue's gallery of iOS games to date – and here's another one to pay extra money for!
Released to warm applause almost 18 months ago, Godzilab's cutesy little number caught the eye with its deceptively simple blob-blasting formula. Armed with a limited quantity of bombs, (and eventually balloons, wheels and other tat) the idea is to place your objects so that they manoeuvre poor little bulgy-eyed Moki to a whirling vortex of pain. A better place, presumably, where the locals don't explode you to death for being on their land.
Get it right, and it's on to the next, more challenging stage, where you might have to, for example, set up a chain reaction, or blast obstacles out of the way first. Unlike Angry Birds, it's not about achieving your goal in a set number of turns, but repeatedly making fine tweaks to the placement so that it all happens in one hit. It's all a big fiddle, but an absorbing faff all the same.
Although 90-odd levels of physics fun is a fair return for a few quid, it's a shame they stripped out the iPad's level editor. Aren't new versions supposed to add features?