Söldner X-2: Final Prototype
- PSN (PS3) / £9.99
Like football games and beat-'em-ups, there are hallowed genres that should just be left to the masters, and the 2D shmup definitely belongs in that category.
Evidently undeterred by the tepid critical reception it received for the PC/PS3 original a couple of years back, Sidequest Studios has returned with another stab at furious side-scrolling mayhem.
This polished sequel battles manfully to excite, with the requisite formation chaos, glossy backdrops, chunky weapon selection and mandatory screen-filling bosses. But despite ticking all the boxes, there's a certain spark of magic missing from Final Prototype, and it comes off feeling rather too in awe of the past to dare to take anything forwards.
You won't have too much trouble blitzing the first five of seven manic stages, but the game basically forces you to complete all manner of challenges to unlock the next two. On paper it's a great idea to encourage replay value and to make the game accessible to all-comers, but in truth, having to wade through the same few mildly entertaining stages over and over again is of limited appeal.
Like Craig David covering Marvin Gaye, Söldner X-2 makes you pine for the real deal.
Snoopy Flying Ace
- Xbox Live Arcade / 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
Wondering why on earth Snoopy is the star of a flight combat game set in World War 1? You're not alone. Apparently, one of the loveable cartoon dog's famous alter egos was as a Flying Ace who fantasised about climbing aboard the Sopwith Camel and battling the infamous Red Baron.
Presumably devotees of the adorable Schulz cartoon, Smartbomb Interactive fancied dropping the licence on top of long-lost classics like Crimson Skies and Secret Weapons Over Normandy, and crafting a series of aerial battles out of the ensuing silliness.
Playable solo or in split-screen co-op, Snoopy Flying Ace plays out as a bit of a My First Flight Combat game, with enclosed environments, simplified objectives and stripped-down controls to make it instantly accessible to everyone. Much of the time you're simply buzzing around the same small clutch of islands, barrel-rolling and doing loop-the-loops while trying to get a bead on resolutely slippery foes. With an unlimited stock of rockets and machine gun ammo, each mission winds up as a fairly perfunctory war of attrition, devoid of real challenge.
Occasional variety places you in turrets, or tasks you with bombing runs, but for the most part you're locked into a pleasantly lightweight affair befitting of a cheap-ish downloadable effort. With a comprehensive array of multiplayer modes adding plenty of dogfighting action to the fray, this is well worth checking out, if inessential for the committed veterans.