Two weeks on, and still no sign of the PSN outage coming to an end. Knocking two platforms out of the download equation has obviously had a pretty noticeable impact on the number of games we have to cover over that period; normally we'd find at least one PSN game to cover each week, and probably a Mini as well.
To compound matters, Nintendo's two download platforms haven't exactly been brimming with quality lately, with a notable absence of WiiWare titles beyond the kind of early learning guff that few would be interested in.
On the flipside, Steam has been flush with interesting titles. Two make it into today's roundup, while Cargo! got its own full 8/10 review elsewhere this week.
It's also good to see the recent dearth of decent Xbox Indie titles come to an end in spectacular style with the release of the excellent Sequence. If you've come looking for value for money, you're in luck.
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 240 Microsoft Points (£1.92).
We've had our fair share of puzzle RPGs over the past few years, so it was only a matter of time before someone crafted an even unlikelier combination. Behold the ice cream pizza of the gaming world: the rhythm action RPG!
In Iridium Studios' long-awaited indie offering, you face off against a succession of assorted lunatics, mutated plants and gigantic insects who feel compelled to throw some shapes in a desperate beat-matching stand-off.
For reasons that are probably best left mysterious, this cast of oddballs has trapped you at the base of a tower, and it's up to you to battle right to the top. The idea is to whittle down each opponent's HP before they get the chance to do the same to you via arrow-matching mechanics pinched from Dance Dance Revolution.
In each of the battles, you have to pay attention to three separate gameplay panes, which you can flick between on the fly using the shoulder buttons. One represents your mana regeneration, while the other two deal with defence and attack.
Still with me? Good. To attack, you need to cast one of your spells, and then match the direction of the falling arrows on the beat when they reach the bottom of the pane. Get it right, and your opponent takes damage.
Meanwhile, they'll be trying to do the same to you, and when you see arrows appearing in your defensive pane, you can prevent any damage by swiftly switching over and, again, matching the arrow formations at the right moment.
Casting attacking or defensive spells, though, uses up a portion of your limited stock of mana, so in between all the attacking and defending, you'll also be hurriedly nipping back to the mana pane, and arrow-matching like crazy to keep your stocks topped up.
After some (extremely necessary) tutorial battles, Sequence wastes no time in cranking up the pace and testing your rhythm action credentials on multiple fronts. As unlikely as it sounds, once you've got your head around the basics it becomes second nature, and sure enough, it gets its hooks into you via moreish RPG traditions.
Before you know it, you're grinding for rare items and XP, fashioning new equipment and spells from the various recipes you unlock along the way, and unleashing increasingly complex strategies.
In short, Sequence is an outstanding effort. Not only does it outclass practically everything else on the Indie channel, there's nothing else quite like it out there. For two quid, this has to be the bargain of the year.
- PC - Steam (£5.39)
Remember Charlemagne "Charlie" Fotheringham-Grunes, the apprentice saviour of the universe? What do you mean, that was a million years ago? Show some respect.
Those hurtling toward mid-life crises will know that I am, of course, babbling about the spacesuit-clad star of Nodes Of Yesod, one of the finest games ever to grace the 8-bit scene, and seemingly the core inspiration for Alientrap's exploratory platformer.
Like Odin's classy adventure, Capsized has more than a whiff of Ultimate Play The Game in its pre-Rare pomp, with elements of JetPac and Underwurlde sneaking their way into this deftly illustrated effort.
As you might expect, bloodthirsty creatures lie in wait as you explore the mysterious alien environment, but, for once, you've come prepared. With a Gravity Hook in one hand, and various projectile-spewing weapons in the other, you can swing and blast your way around like Bionic Commando only wishes he could.
A mere 12-level campaign rather curtails your wistful pleasure, but the presence of four 'Arcade' modes doesn't hurt, especially co-op. The other modes, including local deathmatch, survival, time trials and armless fighting feel inessential by comparison. But, honestly, what else were you going to with that fiver?
Your Doodles Are Bugged!
- PC - Steam (£6.99)
Nice, trusting, well-balanced individuals will no doubt firmly believe that they're on a worthy mission to save innocent bugs from a dreadful curse. Well more fool you.
We all know, deep down, that if these cute little insects were big enough, they would have no problem whatsoever engaging in the blood-sucking extinction of humankind. Death to them and their chitinous exoskeletons! With that in mind, you might want to put an altogether more vengeful slant on Spyn Doctor's seemingly benign ramp-drawing exercise.
Rather than sketch little ramps for these bugs to reach their magic honey, it might be better to imagine that you're leading them to a resting place of amber.
Either way, you're essentially spending your free time drawing little blue lines so that these dim-witted lemmings can clamber to a goal. Is that fun? Initially, yes, in a moderately satisfying sense, but the further you progress, the more it feels like you're shepherding Daleks through the London Underground.
The problem is, see, that these idiot bugheads only really understand smooth ramps, and seem to get terribly confused at the prospect of anything even vaguely resembling a step. Rather than bound purposefully forward, they turn tail and stride off in the opposite direction. As you might imagine, this necessitates an increasing amount of patient trial-and-error as you figure out the precise angle that will please their scuttling insect legs.
Supernaturally persistent types who enjoy working around the limitations will no doubt find Spyn Doctor's efforts entirely charming. For me, though, Your Doodles Are Bugged strayed perilously close to feeling like work.
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.68)
Disappointingly, this is not a game about a cat with lasers for eyes, or even a laser that thinks it's a cat. Instead, we must console ourselves with the notion of a game designed by a man who wants to pay his deepest respects to Matthew Smith's legacy.
As such, that means cheerfully guiding LaserCat through a 'magic space castle' in search of your precious Owlfriend, who has, of course, been captured by Wizzard the magic space frog (as opposed to Roy Wood's potty brass-heavy glam mentalists). For Jet Set Willy fans, this can only be a good thing.
And like Miner Willy's legendary platform adventure from days of yore, you must explore each and every room of the castle and collect keys as if your life depends upon it.
As homages go, it's not a bad one, and benefits enormously from precise controls and regular checkpoints and warp stations that make getting around the spacious castle less of a ballache.
On the downside, the slapdash art style lacks the wit and fiendish imagination that made Jet Set Willy such a memorable trip. Too often you're merely dodging spinning boxes and generic monsters, and wandering through environments that look like they were designed in about 30 seconds.
With a bit more love, LaserCat would have been a remarkable tribute to the days when Smith really was bigger than Miyamoto. MonsterJail is definitely onto something, but this feels like little more than a charmingly sketchy demo.
Zoonies: Escape From Makatu
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points (£4.50)
Say what you like about the clunkiness of the DSiWare store, but it certainly attracts some unexpected gems.
Take this seemingly innocuous offering from the unheralded Kiloo Games. With its tale focusing on the plight of the jolly-but-generic Leo The Lion, it's the kind of game to make even the most keen-eyed observer glaze over.
But wait! It's approximately 47 times more appealing than it looks. Silver foxes in the audience might note its debt to Amiga relic Sleepwalker as you try to save Leo from stumbling into a predictable array of platforming hazards.
As the hapless idiot continues to carelessly stroll in a straight line, it's up to you to activate switches, crumble blocks and generally line things up quick-smart, lest you meet a grisly fate.
It's an underused formula that works a charm on the DS' touch screen, and with 20 levels for your points, it fully justifies the price tag.