"I don't have time to play download games". It's a remark I hear frequently these days, but it's one that I find amusingly contradictory.
The very fact that you don't have much time to play games probably means that you should pay more attention to what's going on in the download scene.
Whether on your handheld console, mobile, tablet or laptop, there's no shortage of quick fix games out there that - in their own way - can be just as satisfying as the bloated big budget epics that pile up on your shelves, unresolved and, in some instances, unplayed.
If anything, by just adapting your gaming habits slightly, you'll probably end up sampling more, better games in short bursts of dead time - and without spending any more money in the process. On that note: more game to spend money on!
- 3DS eShop - £3.60 / $3.99.
On the face of it, the prospect of a monochrome Donkey Kong port doesn't seem like the most exciting addition to the fledgling eShop line-up.
Indeed, running through those four levels of barrel-dodging, ladder-climbing platforming for the 9000th time of asking is enough to make you verbally abuse Pauline for being so bloody easy to capture. And, sorry, how much does Nintendo want for it?
But then the discovery that there are actually 97 more levels to follow is akin to picking up a bit of mouldy litter only to realise that you've got a winning lottery ticket in your shaking hand.
It's not too bold to proclaim that this 1994 effort is one of the best Game Boy titles in Nintendo's rich canon. For anyone raised on the 1981 arcade classic that kick-started the whole thing, it's the stuff dreams are made of.
In the same fashion as the seminal original, your maiden-rescuing adventures are punctuated every fourth round by a face-off with DK himself, and so it goes until you eventually take on a mutated version of the grizzled beast.
In between, the level design is the perfect middle ground between the refined simplicity of Miyamoto's original and Super Mario Bros. Armed with new moves (such as the ability to handstand and spring high into the air) and a slightly more forgiving attitude to falling down, it's also a whole lot more playable over the long haul.
With extra lives dished out at regular intervals, progress is sure and steady - but don't let that fool you. The occasional fiendish level crops up to make sure you're worthy of the game's charms.
And what charms they are. If there are Game Boy titles as good as Donkey Kong waiting in the wings, we can all start banging on about what great value they represent. It's a pity Nintendo didn't issue it with the Super Game Boy 'enhancements', but that's about the only thing likely to activate your inner old man.
Platformance: Temple Death
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points.
Within any conventional genre, you can bet that there's someone out there willing to bloody our noses in the name of entertainment. You've had bullet hell. How about some platform punishment?
Following on from Magiko's feverishly cruel Platformance: Castle Pain, Temple Death essentially doles out more sadism masquerading as a classic retro workout.
The premise is identical in that you must safely guide your unfortunate wanderer around a devilish temple, past dozens of spinning blades, spiked traps and crushing devices to rescue the scantily clad lady of pixels.
All the while, you're being slowly pursued by a restless spirit, who takes great pleasure in killing you to death if you don't get a shift on. Fortunately for those of us who don't possess the insect reaction speed that we once had, you get periodic checkpoints and slightly less absurd difficulty levels.
But that's not to say that it's in any way forgiving. Checkpoints or not, some sections require a degree of timing that simply comes with a combination of blind luck and endless practice. It's twitch gaming taken to the realms of froth and spittle.
If that hasn't sent you running screaming back to the warm confines of recharging health and quick saves, then pay a visit to Temple Death: a place where dying is the least of your worries.
TIC: Part 1
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 240 Microsoft points (£2.04)
Not that long ago we'd have been amazed that a game as sweet-smelling and manicured as TIC could appear on the humble Xbox Indie channel, but not anymore.
Right in the midst of an App Store-style explosion in super-budget quality, the debut episode in Red Candy Games' platforming series is just the latest in a long line of high-quality titles.
With characteristic randomness, TIC focuses on the adventures of a unicycle helicopter mining robot tasked with subterranean destruction and, er, determined acorn collection. But that's how these indie developers roll. It's an abstract explosion after working for faceless corporations for years on end.
Those years at the publishing coalface have evidently come in handy, with a sweetly intuitive control system allowing you to coax TIC through an interwoven series of environments. Each of the game's three levels starts off the same way, and tasks you with finding silver acorns before it sends you off to destroy underground machinery.
The only downside is that it's all over just as it's getting into its stride. Even factoring in my haplessness in certain sections, 45 minutes isn't much of a return for your 240 points. Extra modes unlock, admittedly, but adding time limits or collection tasks do nothing to make up for the overall lack of content, nor the fact that each of the game's levels basically repeats most of what's gone before.
As a tech demo, Tic is absolutely beautiful, but Red Candy needs to work a lot harder on subsequent chapters to turn initial interest into giddy evangelism.
Alien Zombie Megadeath
- PSN - $9.99. European release July 6th, price TBC
Two things are certain in videogaming: death and platforming, and PomPom Games proffers the suggestion that you should definitely add shooting to that hallowed list to make the perfect indie download game.
Denizens of the download cause will note that we have, of course, been down this road before, back when the Minis 'scene' was sprightly and optimistic.
But if we consider the PSP original the flexidisk demo, then the Megadeath version is the growling double gatefold edition with coloured vinyl.
On the surface, the whole 'Jet Pac meets Jumping Jack while playing Tapper' premise remains at its jumpy-shooty core, but with plenty more for us to restlessly gorge on.
For the benefit of bewildered younglings not exposed to the best that 1983 had to offer, the premise is to leap between platform layers and blast approaching enemies from either side until they all sod off.
Sometimes you also have to carry out the whole show while also disposing of bombs and rescuing space babies (no, really), but mostly it's just a score-chasing beatdown, where you always have one eye on collecting shards to wind up your multiplier.
As you go along, new sub-levels unlock to test you in the art of survival, and you creep around the spiral towards increasingly demented tests of your rapidly diminishing resolve.
For a while, it's intensely good fun, but every man has his breaking point. At some stage, mania sets in, and fending off the determined alien hordes requires a desire to replay levels that only a gurning leatherface should tackle. You should know which side you're on by now.
- PSN - US store: $9.99. Coming soon to EU PSN. Price TBC.
With ten games already under its belt, Ninjabee knows a thing or two about creating absorbing and satisfying downloadable nuggets.
Exclusive to the PS3, Akimi Village follows a similar path to the Keflings games, with plenty of resource gathering, building and stress-free progression on the way to helping the wandering Akimi free their island from a thick blanket of gloom.
As a formula, it's predictable but effective. You cajole the Akimi into harvesting some basic resources for you (such as stone, wood and bamboo), head off to your workshop, click a few highlighted icons to generate the next essential component parts of the next building, then lay them all down as specified. Et voilą: progress!
This simple process ramps up into an ever more complicated array of microtasks, and it's up to you to perpetually keep an eye on what's required and where. If you don't, you're not going to fail as such, but the relaxed pace allows you to get a feel for the game in your own sweet time.
One of the neatest features is the ability to affect your friends' games by assembling watchtowers and totems and thereby increasing productivity and allowing you to pass parts and resources to one another. It's a crafty way of getting players to talk their mates into buying a game, at the very least.
For your money, there's plenty of gentle strategy on offer, and a lovely way to pass the time for those of us whose brains come alive to the unfolding of tech trees.