It is really a year since the first Download Games Roundup? Already? If I'd known you were coming, I'd have baked you a cake.
A question I get asked by my esteemed colleagues on a frequent basis is "Don't you get bored of reviewing so many games all the time?". I suppose ten games a week sounds like quite a few when you annualise that figure. More than 500 a year? How am I not insane?
I suppose the answer to that is the instant nature of most of these games, coupled with a risk-taking creative sparkle that the full-priced offerings struggle to match. The difference is that you can pick up these games, play them for an hour or two, and really have the measure of them. You'll never get this 'it gets good after 20 hours' bollocks. If it's good, you know about it within about the first couple of minutes. It's like listening to a pile of hit singles, versus having to wade through a double concept album.
And on that note, pop pickers, here's this week's Bit Parade...
Rush N' Attack: Ex Patriot
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- Also on PlayStation Network - £7.99
As much as I loved Green Beret/Rush N' Attack on the Speccy back in the day, playing the XBLA port back in 2007 was right up there with being repeatedly smashed in the face by a wet plimsoll in the fun stakes. Naturally, I wasn't anticipating that a retro re-imagining would be any less of a relentless kick in the balls.
But evidently Vatra Games understands that today's gamers don't particularly enjoy one hit death bullet hell, and have taken a surprisingly forgiving stance with this latterday sequel.
With more than a gentle nod to the much-admired Shadow Complex, the approach is much more measured than you might have expected - especially after the recent release of the wholly uncompromising Hard Corps Uprising.
Rather than just chuck you into an insane scenario, with enemies blasting you from every angle, Ex Patriot eases you in rather more gently, and shows you how creeping stealth can be just as effective as going in all guns blazing.
Tasked with busting out of prison, you can slip in and out of hiding places, yank unsuspecting foe from gantries, and silently slit the throats of heavily armed goons, grab their weapon, and then go on a fevered rampage before the bullets run out.
It's a style of play that suits the premise perfectly, and one that's flexible enough to allow you to switch between approaches whenever the occasion - or your mood - dictates.
Ex Patriot also provides a sympathetic visual makeover, with its Unreal Engine-powered visuals allowing Vatra to opt for a shadowy intricacy that gives it a modern sheen, while also being respectful to the source inspiration.
It's also a reasonably lengthy game, too, with plenty of collectibles likely to push the game over the four to five hour mark.
For once, it's nice to find a retro revival that does true justice to an old classic, and for only 800 points you can't even moan about the price. Credit where it's due: Rush N' Attack: Ex Patriot surpasses every expectation we could have had of it.
Oozi: Earth Adventure Episode 1
- Xbox Live Indie Game - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.68)
While all the supercool kids with their Super Nintendos were busy harping on about Super Mario World back in 1993, the Amiga-owning portion of the world were having a completely super time with Superfrog, thank-you-very-much.
But while Mario continues to stride across the world like a beaming tubby colossus, the memory of poor old underrated Superfrog only lingers in the minds of the most nostalgic Amigaphiles - and possibly the developer of Oozi: Earth Adventure.
Although the similarity is probably coincidental, Awesome Games Studio's determination to make its indie platformer look and play like Team 17's forgotten classic is uncanny.
With a similar graphic style and breezy colour scheme, familiar floaty jump mechanic and simple kleptomaniacal gameplay, you'll bound around cheerfully with a spring in your step and a song in your heart.
And the best thing about it is the ridiculous price. Despite offering the kind of warm-hearted side-scrolling platforming thrills that would have once graced the front covers of magazines, all this can be yours for the price of a chocolate bar. Ok, Oozi might well sport the most sickeningly cheesy grin of any game character ever, but don't hold that against him.
GO Series: Earth Saver
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points (£4.50)
How many times does the average gamer have to save the Earth in their lifetime? I've been at this lark for about 30 years now, and I'm definitely well into four figures.
And yet despite the inexorable monotony of having to protect your sorry arses from imminent doom on a regular basis, I find myself curiously unable to stop playing Earth Saver.
Fortunately the premise is the only boring thing about Tom Create's hideously addictive little action puzzler. The idea is to blow up a meteor that's hurtling towards Earth, but in sufficiently small chunks that they burn up on re-entry.
To do this, you have to guide your little space dude around fault lines, and place explosive charges en route so that the cracks deepen, and the rock falls away. With time firmly against you, quick, accurate bomb-placement is crucial
Bumble along tardily whistling the theme tune to The Great Escape, and it'll be a fiery death for mankind, but if you rush through carelessly plopping bombs down willy-nilly, you run the risk of sending giant chunks of rock hurtling towards the ground.
As a result, the line between heroic acts of rescue, and hapless mass murder is wafer thin, and so begins a mini-obsession with blowing up little chunks of rock against the clock. Still not convinced? Then how does Qix-meets-Bomberman grab you?
Touch Racing Nitro
- PSN Minis - £2.49
Just a thought, but if you're going to port your touch-based racing title to a platform with boring old sticks and buttons, it's probably a good idea to change the title.
But presumably in the name of maintaining the sliver of brand recognition it gained last year on the iPhone, Bravo Games has risen above such petty ridicule and stuck doggedly with the Touch Racing Nitro moniker anyway. Ah well.
Sadly, the studio has also strangely ignored a lot of the concerns people had with its top-down racer in the first place. Although the tight, grippy controls allow you to throw the car around the track with pleasing precision, it neuters the enjoyment by allowing you to overshoot straight over the barriers.
You'll often end up facing the wrong way, on the wrong part of the track, or worse, irredeemably snagged on a chunk of scenery, cursing as your opponents roar past you.
The workaround to all this is, obviously, don't drive off the edge of the track, but it's impossible to play the game in this mindset. More often than not, you'll want to push the car to the limit, and press home the advantage - not pootle around playing it safe.
It's a real shame, because the game has a lot going for it, with a Skidmarks-esque visual signature and plenty of tracks to get stuck into. It's also one of the few Minis to scale up brilliantly on the PS3, though does seem to suffer from alarming slowdown at times.
With a little more care, Touch Racing Nitro would have been an excellent addition to the patchy Minis line-up. Instead, it's just another iPhone port that doesn't quite cut it.
- PSN - £9.99
- Coming soon to Xbox Live Arcade.
Ever fancied a four-player version of Strider? What do you mean "What's Strider?". Anyone would think you hadn't spent the past thirty years playing videogames.
Anyway, Koichi Yotsui (that's Mr Strider to you), clearly thought it was high time that his athletic brand of side-scrolling platforming was brought up to date as a multiplayer hackandslash, with a dollop of RPG on the side.
Well, 'up to date' is subjective. Developer feelplus has applied the obligatory glossy HD makeover, and thrown in simple drop-in online co-op, but in raw gameplay terms, this is pure button-mashing chaos of the highest order.
In a game where even the jump button performs an attack, you'll spend the vast majority of the time fighting off hordes of similar-looking enemies, and regularly find yourself penned-in until you've slain every last one of the blighters. Eventually, you'll meet a big old bastard boss, and party like it's 1989.
On your own, all of this relentless pogo-slash nonsense can be a bit of a drag, especially given the way the game delights in putting you right back to the beginning of a stage when you die. Because we all know how much fun that is, right?
In co-op, though, it's a different beast. Not only can you revive one another when you've run out of energy, but can pull off the adorable 'MoonSault Combinations', which let you smash things up in style. Not only that, it's a far more tactical game once each of you have levelled up a notch, and each have your own chosen special attacks.
Moon Diver is one of those divisive little numbers that you'll either love because of its repetitive, twitchy bombast, or want to drown in its own spittle. It's here. It's queer. Get used to it.