- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points (Ł4.50)
One of the first titles to prompt me to take the iPhone seriously as a gaming platform was the mighty Galcon - probably the least complicated real-time strategy game ever made.
The idea was to take over the galaxy by rapidly pushing your units from planet to planet before your opponent(s) could do the same. But this cosmic tug o' war was rarely as simple as it looked, as you tried (usually in vain) to keep an eye on your weaknesses while also pushing for new territory.
Circle Entertainment has opted for the exact same arcade strategy formula in Castle Conqueror, except the planets have been swapped for buildings, and the spaceships for cute fellows with swords.
You still swipe your units to their various destinations, five men at a time, and still engage in a rather furious war of attrition as you repeatedly lose and regain buildings, before eventually overwhelming your opponent, and yes, it's still unfeasibly engaging.
To add a semblance of progression, there's a surprisingly deep upgrade system, as well as a shop where you can spend your winnings, and with 50 levels to conquer you get plenty of swiping for your 500 points.
The lack of multiplayer is a bit of an oversight, but if you can live with that, Castle Conqueror represents another persuasive reason to consider thumbing through Nintendo's virtual racks.
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points
- Coming soon to PC and PSN.
There's something admirable about Atari's dogged plan to revive every successful IP from its late seventies, early eighties pomp. The latest, Star Raiders, was once deemed to be one of the ten most important video games of all time. And in a list containing the likes of Tetris, Doom, Sensible World Of Soccer and Super Mario Bros. 3, that's some accolade.
But this attempt to bring the 1979 Atari 2600 space shooter up to date hobbles along just as badly as the recent Haunted House and Yar's Revenge reboots.
Incinerator Studios' plan to re-imagine the 32-year-old relic is on solid enough ground. We're promised "tense aerial assaults and dogfights, a compelling new storyline, striking visual style and exhilarating single- and multiplayer gameplay." The reality is somewhat less interesting.
Missions come thick and fast in what amounts to a mind-numbing game of 'chase the red arrow across the screen'. You blast, they die, you move onto the next target, and a few minutes later you move onto a similarly unchallenging aerial sortie, occasionally involving shooting bits on the side of a giant space station. It's not tense, and there's certainly nothing you could reasonably liken to dogfighting.
And a compelling storyline? Give me a break. If you enjoy squinting at tiny text and glumly staring at poorly illustrated static cut scenes then you'll be well serviced, but this is about as amateurish as it gets.
At some point, there was undoubtedly genuine intent to make something special here. Despite the hollow, unchallenging gameplay, the visuals are surprisingly swish, and the ability to strategically transform your ship into three types of craft suggests a broader ambition to put a new spin on the space shooter.
But the results feel neutered and unfinished, and whether you're old enough to remember why Star Raiders was important or not, the free trial should tell you all you need to know about this apologetic offering.