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Steel Storm: Burning Retribution

  • PC/Mac - Steam 5.99.

It's nice, now and then, to high-five top-down shooters with an old-school spirit, especially ones that promise 'hordes of smart enemies', 'destructible worlds', and the under-rated added bonus of 'ground-shaking explosions'. While the neighbours are away, the sub-woofer will play.

The bizarrely named Kot In Action Creative Artel evidently believes that Steel Storm shouldn't merely ape the endlessly scrolling Xevious style, and instead puts a more exploratory, objective-based spin on the shooting.

What follows is somewhat less thrilling, sadly. After bursting through the traps all guns blazing with its explosive scenery and intricate art style, the game quickly settles into a numbing monotony where the incessant rattle of gunfire begins to bore through your skull.

Apart from having to destroy anything in range, level objectives tend to have you to-ing and fro-ing around the place, disabling force-fields and accessing new areas to take down specific installations.

5

Smash hits.

But the one-note nature of the single-player quickly proves to be the game's undoing. One level blurs into the next and the repetition grinds you down. Additional weapons and new enemies help, but it's not enough to save a game that lacks a creative spark and the necessary variety to spur you on.

The promise of 16-player online multiplayer could be the game's saving grace, but it's entirely theoretical as things stand, with tumbleweed currently blowing through empty lobbies. Ideas like collaborative mission editing offer tantalising possibilities for the creatively minded, but they can't mask the flaws of a game lacking a central hook.

4/10

Go Series: Picdun

  • DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points 4.50.

You certainly can't fault Gamebridge's wily dedication to seek out every last oddity in DSville with its Go Series.

4

Look what you Dun did.

This week, we explore the possibilities provided by PICture DUNgeons, which essentially involve traipsing around little first-person environments one square at a time until you've traversed every inch.

Doing so plots a little automap on the top screen, and once you've filled in every possible location, the level is considered complete, and you can hop into the elevator and attempt the next 'floor'.

To make matters slightly more challenging, each dungeon is populated by strangely unthreatening 'monsters', some of whom just wobble a bit and look embarrassed to be there. Perhaps they're in the wrong game.

Dispatching said creatures involves little more than a gentle thwip across their face, a bop on the head, or a poke in the ribs. It's the most polite form of retribution, but the only one available to you.

Eventually they vanish into thin air, and you trot off to figure out increasingly elaborate locations, with hidden passages to uncover, one-way walkways, and other such puzzling jazz.

Because of the necessity to be completist about the task at hand, it all gets a bit OCD. Eight levels in, and the inevitable existential crisis looms about why you're spending precious life minutes of your time finding that last elusive square.

More to the point, why would you consider spending 4.50 on the gaming equivalent of pairing socks? I'm not sure even the developer, Intense, has the answer to that one.

4/10

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