Version tested: Wii
In a month like this when there are so few big-name games hitting the shelves, you'd hope that some of the left-field alternatives in the download arena would fill the cavernous void. Well, lucky you, because this week we have arguably one of the best titles ever to hit WiiWare.
Sadly, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest (certainly among my friends and peers) that few so-called hardcore gamers ever bother to check out what's on Nintendo's download service. That's a real shame (if that's you) because some of the most exciting and downright creatively ambitious downloadable titles have appeared on both WiiWare and DSiWare lately.
Elsewhere, the iPad gets its first standalone title in one of our roundups, in the shape of the charmingly creative but rather limited Omium, while all bases are covered with the latest download-only titles of note on the PS3, DS and Xbox 360. If there's a game you've seen lately that you think we should review, feedback is always welcome...
Art Style: Penta Tentacles
- WiiWare / 600 points (£4.20)
Alongside the excellent Bit.Trip titles, the presence of the oddball Art Style games offers exactly the kind of creatively engaging and generally 'out there' experiences Nintendo promised when it first spoke of getting into the digital download space. You can't really imagine Penta Tentacles ever getting a boxed release, put it that way.
Set entirely underwater, Skip's latest WiiWare effort initially evokes memories of early PSN starlet flOw, with the goal to grow an aquatic organism by carefully brushing its flailing limbs into other micro-organisms of the same colour. Touch something of the same colour and it adds one segment to that limb, but if you mismatch then it will break off the limb at the point of impact and rob you of a life.
As you journey through the primordial ooze, it feels more like a trippy limb-flailing Snake, with the focus on continual growth of your organism while also avoiding obstacles. Once you've reached the goal of adding, say, 10 segments to each tentacle, you move on to the next stage and the process starts again. Eventually, more limbs get added to your organism, making the process of manoeuvring that much more hazardous. By gingerly rotating and steering yourself out of the way, you can carve a swathe through the gunk, gradually making yourself more conspicuous in the process.
A further reward comes in the form of additional modes, such as Endless and Snake mode. The former tasks you with absorbing a set number of organisms to progress to the next level, with no limit to your growth, while the latter is a neat twist on the concept, giving you two sides but only one tentacle. Although you still have to absorb the right colours as usual with your tentacle, the opposite side has to be used to get rid of everything else.
Whenever oddities like this turn up, I end up spending more time explaining what they are than how they make you feel. Fortunately, that's the easy part. Penta Tentacles is like a cuddly drug; a game you won't feel guilty about playing relentlessly on a sunny day in June.