This week is one of those where everyone's gazing wistfully to the past for inspiration, but with contrasting results.
If Mighty Flip Champs, Boulder Dash XL and Jamestown are anything to go by, the best idea is not to be a slave to the past, but to take the elements that made everyone get excited in the first place and sympathetically embellish them.
On the other end of the scale you end up with pathetic ports like Qix, or games like Anima which are so far behind the standard of the game they're trying to ape that they come across like dribbling amateurs.
As Nick Lowe observed (possibly after playing late 1970s video games), you have to be cruel to be kind.
Boulder Dash XL
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80).
- Coming to PC later in 2011.
Some games were born ugly, and that's fine; we love them just the way they are.
In some respects, the fact that Boulder Dash is a grim mass of pixelated browns and greys has always been part of its charm, because the lock-tight level design and game mechanics transcended such piffling issues.
27 years on, it shouldn't be possible to continue to be so visually objectionable. The technical limitations no longer exist, but somehow developer Catnip manages to (inadvertently) keep the spirit of artistic haplessness alive with this latest attempt to reboot the series.
With a colour scheme that's currently illegal in 37 countries, you'll have to take a deep breath and adopt your most calm and reasoned persona to get beyond the vandalism perpetrated. It doesn't help, either, that the audio also appears to be designed to cause maximum distress to entities living or dead.
But despite the apparent disregard for anything approaching style, this new XL version emerges from the wreckage like Shane McGowan after a four-year bender.
If you've never been acquainted with Rockford and co., here's the deal: as with other subterranean shenanigans, your goal is to tunnel your way through caverns, scoop up gems, avoid the loose boulders and hightail it to the exit. Simple.
Boulder Dash XL mainly succeeds through good old-fashioned level design, rather than bolting on tiresome gimmicks or meddling too much with the formula.
It also peddles a nice line in variety, with several modes to get your teeth into: a traditional campaign-style progression alongside fiendish puzzle interpretations and an unexpectedly brilliant retro mode.
The latter should keep the hardcore content all on its own, with the old visuals faithfully interpreted (albeit with a shifting 3D perspective), along with some levels you might remember from the olden days.
Despite the initial audio-visual horror, Boulder Dash XL ends up being far greater than the sum of its parts. This is one ugly ducking you won't be ashamed to spend time with.
- PC, Steam - £6.99
If you woke up this morning hankering after a neo-classical top-down shooter set on 17th-century British Colonial Mars, you're in luck.
Presumably your very specific tastes also dictated that it should feature four-player co-op play and boast "all the intensity, depth, and lovingly hand-crafted pixels of a classic arcade shooter, with a modern twist."
Your slightly perverted wish is Final Form Games' command, as the team take you on a "fast-paced journey of swashbuckling redemption" through some immensely enjoyable vertical shmup frolics that would be carbon dated to 1989 if we didn't already know better.
And like any shooter made in that era of phosphor-glow wonderment, levels come thick and fast in a blizzard of formation death, with badass boss encounters and no shortage of collectibles.
But unlike some of those ferociously unforgiving games, Jamestown is less likely to leave you reduced to a pool of your own inadequacy, with difficulty levels that allow you to learn on the job and crank things up a notch when you're more capable.
To stop you from getting too cocky, you're only allowed to play the first few levels on Normal difficulty before you have to prove yourself all over again on Difficult. But while all that is going on, you're also accumulating the currency that you need to unlock new ships and weapons, so it never feels like a hardship to have to go over old ground.
And while you're ploughing through the main meat of the game, there are also another 20-odd challenge levels to quietly obsess over, where trivial tasks such as surviving for a few seconds can seem like a minor miracle at first.
Crucially for a game that puts co-op front and centre, it's just as good fun on your lonesome, though if you can find a few pairs of hands, it'll certainly help out on the more advanced difficulties.
Jamestown certainly isn't the biggest shooter you'll ever see, but given the amount of replayability built into the structure, you'll play it far more than you might imagine. Frankly, how else are you going to scratch that 17th-century British Colonial Mars itch?
Anima: Ark Of Sinners
- WiiWare - 1000 Points (£7.20).
Ah, Agent WiiWare. I've been expecting you. It's been a while. I'd like to say we've missed you, but there's only so much edutainment and hidden object games that a man can reasonably be expected to put up with. But what's this? An actual game, with monsters and everything? Crivens.
We might have known. Anima comes on all enigmatic, with talk of a lady called Celia who awakens in a strange metropolis inhabited only by shadows, but an "astounding journey" this is not.
For this side-scrolling hackandslash, Anima Game Studio casts an envious glance at Castlevania, but possibly in the same way that the average Club 18-30 holidaymaker covets Sambuca before hitting the dancefloor.
In its own sweet way, Anima is just as hapless in its approximation, with utterly risible melee combat and flimsy platform exploration ruining any chance of this being a worthwhile proposition.
You'll flail your way half-heartedly through a miserable procession of encounters, against enemies that seem as thrilled to be there as you. In between, you'll weave through generic platform negotiation sections, before inevitably being forced to dispatch another prescribed gaggle of bored foes and, gasp, maybe a boss.
To add a crumb of context to all this, a series of monoliths delivers a feeble attempt at a "deep and intricate" narrative. But just like the rest of this awful attempt, it provides no incentive whatsoever.
Mighty Flip Champs
- PSN Minis - $5.99. Coming soon to the EU PSN Store.
- Previously released on DSiWare - 800 DSiWare Points (£7.20)
Given that Mighty Flip Champs was one of the most celebrated titles ever to grace DSiWare, it's more than a little remiss of us to have passed over reviewing it the first time around.
No matter: WayForward's level-switching mini-classic has been given another chance to shine, more than two years on from its US debut.
If you enjoyed it back in 2009, you might wonder how a game designed specifically for dual-screen play could possibly work on a mono-screened handheld.
As you might recall, this innocuous-looking platformer essentially involves guiding Alta around the kind of single-screen environments we frequented in 1984. The twist is that, in order to get to your goal, you have to flip between up to five other screens to work your way to the destination.
On the DS, once you 'flipped', the environment that was previously shown upside down on the lower screen replaced the one you were standing on. On the PSP, the principle is exactly the same, except that rather than the next environment is placed on the right hand side rather than below. By and large, it makes minimal difference, the game is just as devilishly engaging as it ever was, and with around 40 levels, it's here for the duration.
As before, the look is sparse and simple, but given that the gameplay actually relies on this style, it matters little that it hasn't received a facelift.
It has, though, been priced slightly more competitively. Whereas the original is still going for £7.20 on the eShop and on DSiWare, the PSN Minis version is expected to come in at under a fiver in the UK when it appears in the near future. Those with a US account can, of course, grab it right now for $5.99. It's a small price to pay for arguably the best game to hit the Minis this year.
- 3DS eShop - £2.70/$2.99/€2.99.
The many dozens of fans of Qix will be ruefully aware that I've managed to spot references to Taito's 1981 landgrab classic in other games at least, ooh, 12 times in the past year. Well now we can all just relax: daddy is back, and he wants his £2.70.
That would be just fine if the version concerned was the celebrated arcade original. As crusty old relics go, it's the kind of abstract nonsense that was nailed the first time around, as you guide a diamond marker around a playing field trying to section off territory while a cluster of gyrating sticks try to spoil your fun.
Subsequent attempts to produce a sequel have been little more than cash-ins, but nothing is quite as redundant as a version that misses the point entirely, as this Game Boy port from 1990 illustrates.
The simple territory-claiming premise remains, but the feel is hamstrung by horribly sluggish controls. Without any sense of urgency, the tense spirit of this simple but absorbing relic becomes mired in frustration, and we have yet another eShop release that makes a mockery of the current pricing.
If you really need to have your Qix fix, seek out the Xbox Live remake from a couple of years back and give this one the short shrift it deserves.