The premise of pointing the joypad stick (or, if you're playing on the PSP, the nub) in the direction of oncoming symbols and then timing the button press accordingly remains.
Get the timing and direction right and you'll clock up a higher score, screw it up and you'll suffer the indignity of being a ham-fisted rhythmless clod.
Played out against a breezy backdrop of wacky animation and stirring tunes (check out the wondrous Gitaroo Man tribute, 'Taro Gold' by Itsuka), developer Laughing Jackal seems to know exactly what buttons to press to get its audience nodding along appreciatively. Appropriate.
Robocalypse: Beaver Defense
- WiiWare / 600 points (Ł4.20)
Ramming itself onto the bursting Tower Defence bandwagon just before the doors shut tight for good, Robocalypse begs the question: what's the point?
At this stage we need to treat the never-ending wave of Tower Defence clones very much like the game itself. We need to swiftly build our critical defences against the fierce gameplay assault and man the barricades against the irresistible charm of the quirky art style, lest we become seduced and are forced to part with cash.
Despite kicking off proceedings with an endearing premise of malicious beavers striking back against their human masters, Robocalypse quickly goes downhill with predictable waves of enemies, done-to-death mechanics and rough-looking nineties-era isometric visuals. Enemies stroll onto the battlefield, you place your turrets, they mince up the enemies, and boredom quickly sets in.
A semblance of strategic choice lets you mull over whether to continually spam the battlefield with turrets or upgrade the existing ones, but you're rarely in any danger either way. Alongside your standard units you also have a Hero unit that you can direct to wherever necessary - and occasionally upgrade, but it's rarely important to focus much attention on him.
With Robocalypse content to be barely average in every department, this is one for only the most undemanding Tower Defence addicts.
- Xbox Live Arcade / 800 points (Ł6.40)
Now this is a first: a Breakout-inspired game that doesn't make me feel like my soul is flowing out of my eyes like bloody tears of boredom. [I maintain that it would be a second if you'd played Shatter, which you'd love! Get on it! -Ed]
Rather than just sullenly swat a dumb ball to and fro against a wall like Steve McQueen in solitary, Strawdog's chirpy re-imagining thinks it'd be much more fun to bounce wide-eyed animals (Arkanauts) up into the air with a giant trampoline while collecting colourful gems and fruit. They'd be right.
Nolan Bushnell's ancient concept of clearing all the clutter remains, but the path to your glorious tidy-up involves not merely guiding the trampoline around the bottom of the screen with the left stick, but also directing the 'lean' and upward momentum of the animal under your control with the right stick.
The playing area wraps around slightly, adding to the cosmic fun and allowing the gem-collecting to sprawl over the edges of the screen and lend the visuals a curious degree of three-dimensional depth. Once you're well into the swing of it, collecting missile-spewing power-ups and going on insane combo sprees as you play keepy-uppy among the clouds, there's a bizarre platform gaming crossover to the proceedings.
Terraforming your way through the broken planets, there's an unselfconscious joy to the spewing psychedelia that captures Taito's glory days in unexpected new ways. If Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and Arkanoid had a saucy three-way, Space Ark would be the love child.