- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare Points (£4.50)
The download scene isn't exactly lacking in retro shooters to get all wistful about, but it's tough finding one to champion. If it's not just a tired re-issue (hello Xevious! I didn't see you there!), then it's probably such a slavish rehash that it might as well be. Thankfully EnjoyUp's 99Bullets is one of the few to buck this sorry trend.
As the title helpfully implies, you have just 99 bullets per level to wipe out your opponents, so being frugal with your arsenal is all-important. To balance up the resource management, you have the advantage of being able to fire in four directions, but the temptation to fire at will is usually too ingrained at first to be anything but profligate.
But with a little perseverance, you start to learn the formations, and begin to improve your performance with every passing attempt. Success comes from meeting the rigid points target, with bonuses awarded from getting to the end of the level alive.
Doing so is no mean feat (even on easy), but the more invested you become in the ebb and flow of the pyrotechnics, the more inclined you are to return to do better next time.
At first, it seems like an imposition to have to start the Arcade mode from scratch every time, so mollycoddled we've become in our gaming habits. But such is its quickfire structure and moreish appeal that petty gripes fall by the wayside and concerted practice kicks in. The fact that 99Bullets is comfortably the most entertaining game in this week's crop ought to give you a clue to how impressive it really is.
One Epic Game
- PSN Minis - £2.49, or £1.25 to PS Plus subscribers
A little self-awareness can go a long way. Grip Games knows only too well that most of what we play is terrifyingly cliched nonsense that's been covered a thousand times over, so decides to throw the whole lot into the pot for larks.
For the purposes of clarity, what we're dealing with here is "an alien invasion right in the middle of a zombie outbreak in a fantasy kingdom, somewhere in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with World War II also involved somehow." Yes, that probably covers it.
What it means for you, dear player, is a rather potty side-scrolling platform game, where you're usually concerned with getting from one side of a level to another without dying.
With strands of Canabalt DNA liberally transplanted, you don't control the running, but instead focus your boundless superhero energy on leaping and shooting. That in itself wouldn't be terribly interesting, but Grip Games wrings the formula for every last drop of creativity with a series of feverishly enjoyable levels that constantly shift their focus.
Sometimes you're focused on jumping and shooting your way to the goal, but, sure enough, a bunch of level conditions throw you off balance, forcing you to switch gears entirely. Sometimes it's about building up the required 88 mph to get back to the future, elsewhere you have to play the pacifist and avoid killing the alien invaders.
And because you're a lantern-jawed action hero with a smart helmet, you can always rely on some testy exchanges and a reminder of the utter futility of your actions.
But far from slipping into self-satisfied smugness (while repeating all of the crimes that it's critiquing like the heinous Simpsons game), One Epic Game gets by through the tautness of the level design, the unexpected variety, and its ability to keep you coming back for more even when you're being driven around the twist by its playful arrogance.