The games industry ground to a sudden halt this week. At Eurogamer we sat at our keyboards, dazed by the abrupt silence and calm. What happened to all the drama? The chat? The events? The emails? The games?
This happens every year - an eerie summer hibernation between the E3 blowout in June and the resumption of festivities (hostilities?) with Gamescom and the first big launches of high season in late August.
It's not that people have stopped releasing boxed games - although they have stopped sending them to us early. Alongside Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, this week sees a strikingly bizarre line-up of esoterica: the allegedly punishing UFC Personal Trainer for Kinect, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, DS curio Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (a 'spiritual sequel' to Tail Concerto on PlayStation) and the first Tour de France cycling game for consoles in years. Since we've had nothing better to do, we've tracked down copies of all of these and will bring you reviews in the next week or so (yes, even Tour de France - cycling-mad Martin will be your man in the saddle).
No such idle respite in mobile and download games, naturally. The Summer of Arcade promotion on Xbox Live Arcade begins this month with Bastion and From Dust, two of the most anticipated games of the year for some (myself included). Microsoft is already building up to it with strong releases like Backbreaker Vengeance, Galaga Legions DX and Trenched (which, sadly, is still unavailable here in Europe due to a trademark conflict board game). PSN, meanwhile, enjoys a port of an overlooked gem from the PC indie scene, Puzzle Dimension. And I'm still playing Clash of Heroes HD.
Even this is as nothing compared to the avalanche of quality games appearing on iOS and Android. Kristan, sweating madly over a hot tablet in an attempt to keep up, started to lose his marbles this week. "This isn't so much getting silly as completely unacceptably, window-lickingly insane," he complained/celebrated. "The sheer volume of stupendously high-quality games that press their pleading faces against the touchscreen glass every week is actually pretty distressing in its own way."
He then proceeded to dole out four 8/10s - Robotek HD, the barking mad D-Capitatrix HD, Feed Me Oil and the already-classic Super Stickman Golf - any of which could have been a good Game of the Week candidate. But that honour belongs to an old friend.
Zookeeper DX Touch Edition
The only game (MMOs aside) ever to receive a re-review on Eurogamer, the original DS version of match-three puzzle classic Zoo Keeper leapt from a 6 to an 8/10 when Tom realised that it probably was worth buying after all, considering he couldn't stop playing it. Now Kristan has given the new iPhone version a 10/10 in our Zookeeper FX Touch Edition review. The next iteration is a shoo-in for our first 12.
There's no question that Zookeeper is worth a good deal more than the Ł1.19 Kiteretsu is asking for it, even without the magnificent Quest and Time Attack modes which one hopes will be added as an update (hell, we'll pay for them if we have to). If you're not sure why you need a new version of Bejeweled, consider the refined mechanics which allow you to chain matches while new blocks are falling, turning Zookeeper into a ferociously fast-paced score-attack game of tactics and actual skill as well as pattern-recognition.
Consider, too, the game's crisp, arcade-like precision and response, all to rare in even the most well-produced iOS games. Zookeeper is straight from the Japanese old school, and that extends to its cruel and joyfully absurd sense of humour, soaked into every detail from the squeaking tunes and crude sound effects to the comical animations of the animals as you match them into oblivion. They rarely do make them like this any more: games which actually make you feel light-headed with their instant and unceasing delivery of fine-tuned fun, over and over and over again.
"Some of you might wearily point out that Piyo Blocks 2 already does everything that Zoo Keeper does and more, so why get excited? If you try to rationalise it, it all sounds a bit flimsy," said Kristan. "The music's brilliant. The cute icons are brilliant. The perennially disappointed boss: brilliant. How much brilliance do you need in one game? A lot? Good. Then you'll be a credit to this zoo."