"Although we may not be able to completely prevent you from regretting purchasing Nintendo 3DS early, we would like to express our gratitude to our special customers like you."
Have such truly humbled words tumbled forth from one of the gaming giants with such bowing sincerity? Not that I can recall.
The last time a console manufacturer slashed the price with such brutal swiftness was when Microsoft hacked a £100 off the price of the original Xbox, just two months after launch. Back then Microsoft offered two full-priced games and a free Xbox controller by way of compensation. Drastic, but necessary. [Thanks to Steve for pointing out the error].
To Nintendo's credit, those of us who've backed the system to date will get to enjoy a stack of freebie games - comprised of 10 NES, and 10 Game Boy/Game Boy Advance titles. It's a nice touch, for sure, but the real issue Nintendo needs to address is the daft pricing of its downloadable titles. Carrying on like the 3DS is immune to the threat of mobile gaming is is not going to help its new system make headway, and the sooner it realises this, the better.
Sony has certainly demonstrated recently that it has to be aggressive with pricing, with a whole host of titles, including numerous Minis, being reduced to 99p, or being given away to PlayStation Plus subscribers. Nintendo is involved in a different game now, and it surely knows it - but it has to do more to halt the 3DS' decline.
3D Classics: Xevious
- 3DS eShop - £5.40/€5.99/$5.99
There are some games that you wish would be allowed some dignity to quietly live out their days in an enthusiast's garage somewhere. Xevious had its moment back in 1982, when scrolling vertical shmups were a novelty and it was possible to be impressed by the pretty coloured backdrops.
But in gameplay terms it was by no means outstanding, and was rapidly usurped by dozens of better shooters - a point that has been reinforced via countless re-releases. And look! Here's another one, at a price scientifically designed to make you weep salty tears of injustice.
The big news here, of course, is that it's now in brain-mangling 3D, where the foreground is pulled back to give it the added depth that makes it instantly more attractive. By which I mean that it doesn't at all.
In fact, by default, the depth is so confusing to my addled senses, that it's the first game on the 3DS that had me reaching for the slider within the first few seconds to dial it down to about one-quarter strength.
Once that's out of the way, it quickly becomes apparent that absolutely nothing has been added (or taken away) from the game, and that this is a straightforward port. The upshot is that there are no checkpoints, no variable difficulty settings, no extras to unlock - just you, three lives, and a series of unapologetically tough scrolling stages to plough through.
Unless you're some kind of creepy time-rich retro masochist who actually enjoys having to start over from scratch every single time, Xevious is likely to provoke nothing but buyer's remorse. Vote with your wallet and send Namco and Nintendo a clear signal that no-one's interested in this half-arsed shovelware - 3D or not.
- 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.
Fast Draw Showdown
- PSN $7.99. Coming to PSN EU in August.
- Previously released on PC and WiiWare - 500 WiiWare points (£3.50).
A small part of me misses that sunny optimism of '93/'94 when games started to fully embrace Full Motion Video. The results were almost always complete bobbins, but it was THE FUTURE, and we all wanted to live in THE FUTURE, even it it meant actors flapping around in front of a blue screen for our entertainment.
Fast Draw Showdown existed in this amusing portion of our history, but only in arcades where gigantic laserdisc-powered cabinets hadn't been outlawed yet.
Essentially a light gun game with 'real' enemies, the premise couldn't be simpler: be quickest off the draw and blast gunfighters to death over a series of showdown.
In the arcade, of course, a wired gun controller provided a semblance of credibility to the proceedings, whereas now you have the glowing Move dong to contend with. No-one should expect to come out of this with any dignity.
Playable over three difficulty levels, it's simply a case of going through the motions, pointing the Move controller down until you hear the tell-tale sound of your opponent reaching for their weapon. Once that occurs, you're free to blast with impunity, and get judged in terms of your speed and accuracy.
In its newly 'remastered' form, it all works as well as you'd expect, with responsive, precise controls making it fun for about half an hour. The problem is one of length, and once you've creamed all your opponents with your insect reactions, there's not much else to see.
You'll hear the same 'hilarious' wisecracks from the same old opponents, and become too good at the game too quickly. A few unlockables for your outfit provide rather scant incentive to return. As a relic to amuse your friends with it serves a purpose, but you could probably achieve the same result by visiting YouTube.
Gameocracy One: Legend Of Robot
- PSN Minis - £2.49
Stitched together from the collective musings of the European PlayStation Blog, The Bearded Ladies put its faith in the community to make its latest Mini offering worth your while.
Everything from the look and feel of the character and boss design to the details on the environment were as a result of an eight week long 'Gameocracy' competition, and initial signs are extremely positive.
You play as a jolly robot, known as H7, who literally has to use his head to get around. Blessed with the ability to chuck his bonce around to deck enemies, it quickly becomes an essential part of your arsenal as you traverse the jolly environments.
But not only is it a weapon, your head also acts as a makeshift platform to bound off, and can remain in levitated in mid-air if you tap the circle button after you've thrown it.
As you progress, you also pick up a few other abilities, such as a magnet that allows you to latch onto overhead platforms and swing yourself around.
Sadly, just as the game is starting to get into its stride, the 'Gameocracy' appeared to think it was a great idea to make it 'old school hard' by deleting your save game if you deign to lose all your lives, which you invariably will. Needless to say, it's an absolutely ridiculous idea, and one that turns a charming, engaging experience into a painful exercise where you repeatedly have to start right from scratch.
However, fear not, because there's an workaround to this nonsense. If you press the Home/PS button and quit out before you lose all your lives, you'll be able to resume the game from the last level you got to, complete with the lives you had before it all went pear-shaped. It's unacceptable, obviously, but at least it's possible to avoid the worst case scenario.
If The Bearded Lady can re-issue a patched version, Legend Of Robot will be well worth picking up, but until then you're better off saving yourself the aggravation.