And we're back. The games business enjoyed one of its occasional spasms of quality this week, unburdening itself of a modest shedload of excellent games for many tastes on many platforms.
We won't entirely warn you off the elegant if creaky adventure Gray Matter if that's your thing (even though Christian noted that "the game's 2D and 3D assets coexist in a ghostly state of perpetual awkwardness, like divorcees who, through some kind of sitcom contrivance, find that they must share a small bungalow together"). We will warn you off XBLA Bejeweled Blitz, but only for fear of losing you to it forever. Don't go!
de Blob 2 brought more cheer. "It's just what you need in the middle of a dull, grey February," remarked Keza, although she could just as well have been talking about Nintendo's playful, hand-stiched nursery platformer Kirby's Epic Yarn, which is as easy on the eye as it is, well, easy. "Patch World perpetually endears itself to the player with adorable new details," said John on its US release last year. "I wasn't prepared for such a virtuoso show of creativity... it's a visual masterpiece."
Those who like more meat in their sandwich should consider Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the lauded nineties strategy RPG from troubled genius Yasumi Matsuno, available in a handsome new PSP version today. Simon thought it "a thoroughbred classic, a tactical RPG with all the immediacy of Advance Wars and all the long-view flexibility of Disgaea": 9/10.
But the big story is the butch face-off between two monolithic shooters, although given their clashing personalities it's rather like watching a Stormtrooper trying to stare down a flatulent clown. Sony standard-bearer Killzone 3 boasts incredible visuals, much improved multiplayer and excellent Move support, although it seems to have been railroaded by lukewarm reviews of its uncompromisingly grim predecessor into a frenzy of spectacle. "If Killzone 2 echoed the everyman grit of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, Killzone 3 frequently feels more like Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor," said Dan.
Not that the game which claimed our hearts this week is a model of restraint.
People Can Fly's lurid, dunderheaded crap-shoot in space gets points for not taking itself too seriously (although it's secretly no Serious Sam-style reactionary). It gets more for being its own game, but that's not why it's at the bottom of this page either. It's because it's an FPS that – via its Skillshot system and clever weapon design – dares to concentrate on making the actual shooting itself rewarding, creative and fun.
"After a few hours, you'll likely see Bulletstorm for what it really is: a very unlikely reworking of bar billiards," said Christian. "You position yourself, take aim, and then try to score the ultimate variation on a bank shot... Its cleverness is as lightly worn as it is unexpected. It's the best kind of guilty pleasure."
I now have a mental image of Cliff Bleszinski – People Can Fly's mentor and spokesman at Epic Games – potting one in the corner pocket, winking and chalking his cue. Good shot, Cliff.