Version tested: Xbox 360
Call it avoidance, call it coincidence, or just plain bone-idleness, but the download scene took an almighty hit during E3. Microsoft turned off the tap for two consecutive weeks, Nintendo seems to have all but given up on WiiWare and DSiWare, and Sony's initial PSN comeback flood has reduced to a trickle.
That's fine, though, because whenever this happens, great games from other platforms seem to magically spring forth. Recently we've had a spate of Steam releases, but this week it seems that the Xbox Live Indie channel is where all the action is, and we've plucked three titles from an especially healthy crop for you this week.
It's a trend that's not likely to slow down in the near future, with numerous extremely promising new titles lined up for this year's Dream, Build, Play contest, where indie developers compete for a Microsoft publishing deal. Check out Firebase Industries' stunning Orbitron: Revolution for an idea of the strength of talent out there. In the meantime: games!
The Adventures Of Shuggy
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80).
Reading the recent Jet Set Willy retrospective is enough to make any gamer of a certain vintage pine for a slightly cracked 2D platform collect-em up. As if by magic: The Adventures Of Shuggy.
Imagine, if you can, that Matthew Smith flushed his LSD down the bog and went on to become Britain's Miyamoto. By the late 1980s, he'd almost certainly have come up with a game about a wonky-eyed bat-thing who has inherited a castle full of goblins, zombies and robots (except Smith would have filled it with Cossack dancers and man-eating toilets).
With mandatory absurdity, matters are rarely as simple as bounding around collecting all the gems to get the exit key. You wind up facing levels that you can rotate, levels where a ghostly doppelgänger appears and replicates all your prior moves, levels turned on their side with messed-up controls. Anything, basically, that makes you wish you had your 12-year-old self's gaming skills once again.
Fortunately, it's vintage bouncy platforming nonsense right out of the top drawer, wherever that is. Set against the clock, there's not only the pressure to actually succeed, but to crush your friends' list times into the dust.
And if 100 single player levels doesn't sound like the kind of good value you'll rant to your friends about, then Smudged Cat has provided 36 riotously entertaining co-op levels for us to, er, riot to, not to mention online head-to-head, and a slightly superfluous turn-based challenge mode to claim bragging right in the single-player levels (isn't that what the online leaderboards are for?). No wonder it took so bloody long to get the game out of the door.
What's not to like? The controls are silky smooth, the visual style is adorable, and it doesn't involve shooting men in the face. All this for less than the price of a Spectrum game.