It says a lot about the health of the downloadable gaming sector that you could probably do one of these roundups every single day and still not cover everything. As Americans refuse to say, let's do the maths.
Most weeks we get two Xbox Live Arcade games, about five DSiWare titles, a couple of WiiWare games, maybe a Virtual Console addition or two, usually three PSN Minis, two or more full PSN titles, numerous unannounced Xbox Live Indie titles and goodness knows how many Steam offerings. Turn your back on Apple's App Store for a couple of weeks, and you'll be wading through several dozen across iPad and iPhone. Factor in those on other mobile platforms and the endless Flash games and independent PC games, and it's tough just to keep up, never mind try them all out. For any developers who are wondering why we haven't reviewed your game yet, we're doing our best!
With that in mind, we're always grateful for suggestions for gems that we might have overlooked. Take Prismatic Solid: released back in March, the sheer volume of mentions for this game made us finally go and take a look, and it was well worth it.
- WiiWare / 1000 Wii Points (£7 / €10)
11 years on, people still feel the need to party like it's 1999. That's OK. I rather liked the days before social networking, comment threads and Big Brother, too. You were forced to thumb the racks in high street stores before buying anything. You could smoke in pubs and spend an entire evening arguing about something you could now Google in five seconds. You could also buy 37 different games where you got to jump around jolly 3D worlds, collecting coins and stomping on bad guy's heads. Good times.
Who can blame German studio Shin'en for wanting to relive this era with such devoted zeal? 3D platformers are now officially retro, right? Available for a mere £7, it's also officially unfair to moan about how derivative it is. Don't they call rip-offs "tributes" these days? If so, this is a worthy celebration of the past.
With more than a nod to Rare's glorious late-nineties peak, you guide a wee fellow called Jett Rocket around regulation environments (Arctic? Check. Tropical? Check. Swamps? Check), gathering up coins, stomping on nasty critters, activating machinery and bashing gigantic buttons. There's not one single new idea or mechanic we haven't seen before. And that's just fine.
The important thing is that it's all rather good fun, right down to the level design, colour palette and even the sound effects. If gaming archaeologists were to unearth this in 1000 years' time, they'd carbon date it 11 years too early. Don't judge them, it's an easy mistake to make.
- Xbox Live Indie Games / 80 Microsoft Points (£0.68 / €0.96)
Good news for cackling sadists this week: it turns out that being beaten repeatedly over the head has positive benefits after all, if this delightfully off-beat slice of bullet hell is anything to go by. Having been aggressively manhandled by all and sundry into taking a look at YO1 Komori's chaotic shmup, I concede they were right all along: it's bloody great.
Available for a ridiculously generous 80 points over on the distressingly overpopulated Xbox Live Indie Games channel, the game initially gives the impression of being just another restless stab at the age-old vertical shooter. With abstract psychedelia spewing forth dizzying patterns and snaking tendrils, it's the kind of game you can imagine Jeff Minter, Treasure and Tetsuya Mizuguchi collaborating on after a hard night on the mushies.
But beneath the visual freak-out lies something deserving of more than a cursory glance thanks to its cunning weapon system. Simply trying to blast your way out of trouble hardly ever works, as the play area becomes swamped with bullets and quickly breaches your feeble defences. Gradually, it becomes apparent that certain sections work best with a particular weapon, such as the Homing device when you need to circle-strafe an enemy, or the Snow gun when you need maximum shield protection from a blizzard of bullets.
Knowing when best to deploy firepower versus using your tentacle-style shields turns Prismatic Solid into a more strategic affair. With its often stunning backdrops and polygonal beauty set to thumping electronica, Prismatic Solid will put you in the perfect mindset before you board the Friday night Shame Train. Toot toot!
- PC (Steam) / £6.99
If the idea of Lumines x Bejeweled + Audiosurf has you frothing uncontrollably then Turba could well be your new favourite indie puzzle game.
Unleashed on Steam this week, it's one of those puzzle games that literally clicks immediately, as you aim to clear a screenful of coloured tiles to the beat of your favourite tunes.
Available in three subtly different modes, the core match-three premise involves fast and precise mouse control as you whizz around the playing area attempting to combine three or more of the same-coloured tiles. With high scoring the priority, you have to try and select as many tiles of each colour as quickly as you can, before clearing the combo with a click of the right mouse button. Repeatedly clear your combos to the beat of the music, and you'll clock up even bigger scores.
Although Turba comes with its own selection of tunes, you can also import your own direct from your PC, or plug in your Last.fm account details and choose songs there. With numerous unlockables and online leaderboards to fight it out on, this is a fine first attempt from developer Binary Takeover, and well worth losing a few hours to.
Maestro! Green Groove
- DSiWare / 500 DSi Points (£4.50)
- iPhone / £0.59
If at first you don't succeed, bung it out again on DSiWare, as the saying doesn't, but probably should, go. You might remember that in the dim, distant fog of November, Maestro: Jump In Music came out to a ripple of applause. Well, now here it is again, in a somewhat cheaper, slimmer form.
Identical to the boxed version of the charming musical platformer, the premise is to essentially strum strings in time to the music as Presto marches across a series of vibrant scrolling environments. Enemies float past, necessitating a similarly spot-on tap, as you act as conductor to the jolly bird's actions.
By the end of your giddy jaunt, you receive a grading, which ultimately dictates whether you can bound along to the next stage and eventually meet the boss. Played out like a series of Simon-says tests, in boss fights you have to match the precise timing by playing it back in order to inflict damage on your gigantic foe.
Although it's shorn of a few licensed tracks (such as Madness' Our House, sadly), Maestro remains a charming curiosity - though the enormous price disparity between the DSiWare and the iPhone is just plain curious.
- Minis (PS3 and PSP) / £3.49
- iPhone / £1.79
Game developers seem to work on the assumption that we need at least four new tower defence variants every week. Presumably someone's buying them all, or else there are going to be an awful lot of destitute developers out there in the near future. The latest candidate to roll onto our fast-moving conveyor belt is the Minis version of Digital Goldfish's popular Flash game and iPhone title, Bloons TD.
It may have escaped our attention the first (and even second) time around, but now thrust into the thoroughly suitable realms of Mini-dom, it's easy to see why people are making such a fuss about what would appear to be a straightforward twist on the popular sub-genre.
In this case, 'twist' is the operative word, as you're tasked with preventing a procession of coloured balloons from snaking their way down a twisty-turny passage. If you prefer, you can think of the balloons as Skittles snaking their way down your intestines, and your role is as the dispenser of appropriate gastric fluid. It would probably make more sense, anyway.
At your disposal are a clutch of weapons, such as dart- and boomerang-throwing monkeys, or spike-emitting towers, or ice towers that temporarily freeze the oncoming foe. With a limited stock of funds, you have to place your weapons wisely, and then commence the round, ever-hopeful of stopping the relentless march in its tracks.
Ultimately, the idea is to survive 50 rounds of balloon punishment, and then try your luck at one of the other 14 maps (nine of which are new to this version). There's not a huge amount of difference between them all, but when you've got a game as curiously transfixing as this, it hardly matters. The music appears to be specifically designed to drive you insane, though, so best play with it turned down if you want to remain a functional human being.
Typically, as soon as you think you've had your fill of Tower Defence, another one comes along to remind you of why so many of them exist. Resistance is futile.