Version tested: iPhone
As some of my favourite musicians have proved, if you haven't got any ideas of your own, just go ahead and plunder the past for inspiration. It's an approach that's served Noel Gallagher pretty well over the past couple of decades, and something that game developers in the mobile space are particularly fond of.
Take this week's crop. One game goes right back to 1981 for its mechanics, while two others decide that remaking nineties classics is the way to go - sadly, one of them rips the guts out of the experience by assuming that we're all pathetic at games these days. To be fair, they're probably right.
The remainder also cast backwards glances to try to get us excited, with varying degrees of success. Frankly, if you can't make the original idea better, then don't waste our time. You'll only get bitter and twisted. If you can, though, you'll be our friend forever.
Pinball Dreams HD
- iPhone/iPad: £2.99 (Universal binary)
Life was pretty good when the Amiga was around, and one of the many reasons for that was that genius games like Pinball Dreams kept falling into our laps on a regular basis.
The fact that we're still going on about DICE's classic almost 20 years on tells its own story. Arguably the first pinball simulator to be as entertaining as the real thing, it retains a timeless appeal, and is just as fun now as it was way back when.
But with Cowboy Rodeo's 2009 iPhone remake having already been bathed in acclaim, what, pray, is the point of this? Plenty, as it turns out.
Firstly, all four tables have been completely reworked in 3D, with claims of silky smooth 60FPS definitely on the money.
By default, you see the action from a simulated player's eye view, and the view sweeps around according to the position of the ball. But if you prefer static 3D, or 'classic' top-down 2D view, you can opt for those as well.
And with online leaderboards, Game Center integration and universal iOS support, it works even better on iPad, as you'd expect. It might not quite usurp the mighty Pinball HD as the definitive iOS pinball game, but it's still worth it for anyone who enjoys a liberal dose of Amiga-related wallowing in their spare time.
- iPhone/iPad: £1.99 (Universal app)
If you took Polarbit's description of its latest effort at face value, you might be concerned for your own wellbeing. Not least because of the claim of 'eye popping' visuals; I'm not entirely sure I want my eyes popped, thanks.
We're also advised to watch out for visual amazement, and chaos being taken to "another level". I think I quite enjoy regular chaos, if that's OK, chaps. Let's face it; none of us are getting any younger.
Unlike the entertaining Reckless Racing, this cop-smashing affair makes you work hard for your little victories. The idea is to cause as much destructive chaos as you can, but pulling it off without getting yourself into a succession of scrapes is another matter entirely.
Part of its frantic appeal is to figure out the optimal escape route by hitting the jumps, scooping up the coins, and dispensing the power-ups with point-scoring efficiency. Manage that without continually blowing up or going off the track and you'll be awarded all four stars. Play as haplessly as me, and you'll continually struggle to unlock the next tier.
On the upside, being skill deficient means having to go back and actually learn how to play the game - a facet that lends it the necessary replay value.
Once you're in the zone, it starts to feel like a slapstick top-down Burnout. And if you don't feel like paying for that, maybe you should have your eyes popped.
- iPhone/iPad: £1.49.
If you're a plucky indie start-up, and you're wondering why no-one's interested in your amazing new game, here's an easy shortcut: insert the words 'Qix-inspired' somewhere in your press release, sit back, and watch the coverage roll in.
It doesn't even have to be true. You could just create a fantastic backstory about tormented badgers and their ongoing territorial struggle with neighbouring hedgehogs.
In CurveBot's case, developers Elpixo has come up with a textbook example by creating a weird robot thing on valiant a mission to rescue his fiery friends from the dreaded drones.
What that means in practice, of course, is the need to carve away chunks of the landmass until only a few per cent surrounding them is left.
If you've ever played Qix, or the many millions of games that want to be its friend, you'll know that you start off on the perimeter, and have to essentially draw a line from one of the edges to another to claim a chunk. It works slightly differently here, though. Rather than claim land, once you carve a slice off it drops away, leaving you with an ever-decreasing blob of land to skirt around.
But while Qix exists in an abstract top-down view befitting a videogame from 1982, CurveBot views the action from a comparatively lavish third-person 3D.
This turns out to be both a good and a bad thing, sadly. Good in the sense that it looks rather lovely, bad in that your field of view is hopelessly limited - and in a game where drones are constantly trying to halt your progress, not being able to judge exactly when something is about to crash into your line is a bit of a deal-breaker.
At first, it's just a mild irritation, but the further you progress into this 60-level affair, the more aggressive the drones become and the more it starts to aggravate you when you can't see what to avoid. If the imminent update does indeed address this, this could be the 3D Qix your perverted imagination has been hankering after all these years.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard
- Android/Xperia Play: £3.00
- Also available on iPhone - £4.99, and iPad - £4.99. Free iPhone trial version also available.
For an entire decade, Rainbow Six was easily the most prolific gaming franchise around, with new iterations hoving into view on a near-annual basis with remarkable consistency.
But three long years have elapsed since Vegas 2, leaving fans of the counter-terrorist shooter series wondering when Ubi will get around to the reboot. To fill the void, sister company Gameloft has elected to revisit the first game in the series in this rather casual interpretation of the 1998 title.
At its core, Shadow Vanguard features the hostage rescue scenarios that you expect from the series, but with a notably stripped-down approach.
The majority of your time is spent creeping from one small section to the next, ordering your men to take up new positions via simple context-sensitive icons that pop up on the left of the screen when you aim towards cover points. And as long as you're patient enough to do so, your two squad-mates will diligently take down any enemies that stumble into view.
Take the initiative yourself, though, and you're more likely to get jumped on the moment you walk through a door, but with the tactile controls of the Xperia Play it's all rather straightforward - as Gameloft shooters tend to be.
Played with gyroscopic controls on iOS platforms, it's surprisingly good fun if you've got a spinny chair in the vicinity, but not much of a challenge for most of the 11-chapter campaign mode. Local or online campaign co-op is an unexpected bonus, and five-on-five online deathmatch is surprisingly enjoyable even with crazy controls.
Like every Gameloft shooter, there's the stench of cheap knock-off about it, but that doesn't stop it from being mildly enjoyable for a few hours.
- Xperia Play: Free. Available via the handset.
- Also available on iPhone - £1.99.
"Earth has Marines, space has DARK Squadron." It's time to break out the chunky power armour suits and big guns and reel off the sci-fi clichés like the fate of the universe depends upon it.
As you might have already gathered, Gamelab wants you to take DARK very seriously. It wants to be thought of as a gritty sci-fi action RPG steeped in the mystery of lost contact. Because no-one's used that idea before.
But with crushing predictability, what starts off as a vaguely promising top-down shooter very quickly descends into an unremittingly dull procession down darkened corridors, punctuated by waves of unremarkable twin-stick combat.
Occasionally you get to dash through areas where you're running out of oxygen, or face off against a mini-boss, but before long you're back to fighting off another few waves before being allowed to continue your linear trudge.
To add a semblance of purpose and reward, you'll be able to level up as well as buy new weapons and armour, but in the absence of remotely interesting mechanics, you'll quickly wish you were doing something more interesting with your free time. Like working out how much you've spend on household detergent in the last decade.