Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard
- PSN Minis - £2.49
- Xbox Live Indie Games (400 Microsoft Points - £3.40)
- Windows Phone 7 - £2.49 (Free trial available)
- iPhone - £1.79 (Free trial available)
- iPad - £2.99
It's nice to be proven utterly wrong about a game now and then. When Press Start's excitable hack-and-slasher made its way to mobile phones last year, there was no doubt that the Manga styled visuals were fantastic, but the touch-screen controls made it about as much fun as slamming an egg slicer down on your tongue.
I mentioned it in passing during my Windows Phone 7 roundup last year and thought no more of it - until it appeared on yet another format, PSN Minis. In the spirit of forgiveness, I thought it might be nice to see how it fared with 'proper' controls. In short: perfectly.
Now that you're able to actually switch direction and select your attacks with precision, the endless, endless repetition of hacking or shooting waves of zombies into chunks doesn't seem like a chore at all.
In fact, the game hooks you by virtue of a well-judged difficulty curve allied to a drip-feed of upgrades. Just when you think you've improved your weapons sufficiently, along comes a better-protected enemy that laughs in the face of your enhancements. It's a balance that keeps you coming back for another few minutes of button mashing, and a structure that manages to create the illusion of satisfaction from the upgrade grind. Clever swines.
Hard Corps: Uprising
- Xbox Live Arcade - 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20)
Ever since Green Beret bloodied the noses of innocent teenagers 25 years ago, I've held a suspicion that Konami is a bunch of cackling sadists. Contra took the idea and ran with it ever since, and here we are again, being pummelled into submission for our slightly cracked side-scrolling run-and-gun amusement.
Designing this game as a prequel to 1994 Mega Drive hit Contra: Hard Corps, Arc System Works makes almost no concessions to the modern gamer, so you get what you're given - and be grateful for it, sonny.
Despite dropping the Contra name (for reasons that aren't obvious), this is every inch a Contra game, albeit even more resolutely hardcore than usual, if that's possible.
For many (if not most), this endless blizzard of bullets from all angles will most likely be an exercise in the purest form of gaming frustration: endless cheap deaths, coupled with the abject misery of having to start from the beginning when you fail. Welcome to the party, pal.
But if you're willing to break through the pain barrier and patient enough to take the time to figure out a means of squeaking through the chaos, then you'll learn a few new moves that help make it possible to survive - such as the ability to dodge attacks, dash, reflect bullets and lock your aim in a specific direction.
Fortunately, the game does at least make it possible for the non-hardcore to eventually grind some extra powers (in the Rising mode) to make things slightly easier - but, you guessed it, you have to work pretty damned hard to get them.
Isn't that always the way with Contra games, though? You either man up and deal with your face being rearranged, or you look on with baffled bemusement with your pretty features intact. As you were, then.