The sun is shining, the sky is blue, what better than to crack open a can of beer, forget about the football, and kick back in a lazy chair in the garden with this week's line-up of downloadable games. It's not a vintage collection this week, though, with a few dead-certs turning out to be rather limp, and interesting curiosities turning out to be little more than that.
But if you've got a PC or Mac, then one game you absolutely must not miss out on is the excellent Puzzle Dimension, developed by the brilliantly named Doctor Entertainment. Formed by a small team of veterans culled from the likes of IO, Starbreeze and DICE, these Scandinavians have come up with one of the most brain-bending 3D puzzle games you've ever seen. Save yourself the pain and misery of the World Cup and pick sunflowers while training your brain in the art of spatial visualisation instead.
- iPhone / £1.79
Quite how or why it has taken Activision so long to bring something as straightforward as Guitar Hero to the iPhone is interesting, but is it better late than never? Not really.
On a platform already well-stocked with rival rhythm action games like Tap Tap Revenge, Guitar Rock Tour and, of course, Rock Band, Vicarious Visions really needed to pull something out of the hat to make anyone care, and unfortunately it fails on almost every level to do anything better than what's gone before.
The basic gameplay looks solid enough on the surface, with more fault-tolerant tap zones than, say, Guitar Rock Tour, and some fun innovations such as the need to 'strum' certain parts of the song on the fretboard. But with a miserly six songs present in the set list (versus 28 songs in the marginally more expensive Rock Band), and a pathetic selection of songs in the store, it hardly hits the ground running.
On top of that, Guitar Hero loses out in a number of other ways, with play modes restricted to guitar or bass, no multiplayer mode and poor character customisation. This dismal effort deserves to be mercilessly bottled off the stage.
Face Pilot: Fly With Your Nintendo DSi Camera!
- DSiWare / 500 DSi Points (£4.50)
I would like to thank Nintendo for continuing to steal food out of my own child's mouth with its over-descriptive, mini-game-review titles. They might as well have gone the whole hog and called it Face Pilot: Fly With Your Nintendo DSi Camera and Microphone - Cheap Shallow Fun But Flaky 6/10.
Anyway. HAL Laboratories' endearing little experiment does indeed require you to use your own ugly mug to pilot a glider. After you've taken a quick gurning snap, you don a fetching helmet and soar through the sky by wobbling your head around like a virtual joystick.
The DSi's built-in camera tracks your movements, so tilting your head sideways banks your glider left or right, while tilting your bonce back or forward climbs or dives. It's a lovely idea, albeit somewhat limited in scope thanks to the imprecision of the tracking. As with all of the DSi camera-based titles to date, if you happen to be playing in anything less than optimum lighting conditions, you'll struggle to keep control.
On top of that, the challenges are all a tad perfunctory. Popping balloons, throwing balls at targets and speed trials are the extent of the fun, and you'll romp through most of the 'tracks' in a matter of minutes. Eventually you'll unlock faster gliders, or ones that require you to blow into the microphone, but the novelty value soon wanes. File under 'charming but broken DSi experiments'.
Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse - They Stole Max's Brain
- PC and Mac / £24.99 for five episodes
- PS3 / £19.99 for five episodes
- iPad / £3.99 (coming soon)
And now the inevitable mid-season lull. Having wowed us with timeline-dancing, mind-warping creativity over the previous two episodes, it's hard to believe that the latest instalment of Sam & Max to roll off the Telltale production line was even made by the same team.
After a rather laboured introductory segment in which Sam grills a bunch of suspects, the game then struggles to hit the heights in any of the subsequent scenes. The usually sharp gags don't quite have the same laugh-out-loud appeal as usual, and far too many of the conversations are dragged to breaking point.
To compound matters, many of the ideas, characters and puzzle mechanics introduced previously are recycled, and the freshness that breezily blew through the first few hours is replaced by increasingly daft and nonsensical situations that don't even pretend to make sense. Telltale has quite literally lost the plot with this one.
By the time you're getting each and every character in the game to hail the glorious Sammun Mak for the 30th time of asking, you just want it to end. After such a fantastic introduction, we really didn't see this one coming. Did someone steal Telltale's brain?
Widgets Odyssey 1
- Minis (PSN) / £1.47
If you missed Frima's Flash-based platform puzzler when it was originally released back in 2007, let us enlighten you to some giddy bite-sized creativity.
Oddly reminiscent of nineties classic Another World, you find yourself dropped into an alien environment with no guidance, and no real sense of what to do other than to poke around and see what kills you.
Whether you're exploring the innards of an alien creature, controlling his brain, or just merrily picking up various objects, there's a joyous satisfaction to be had from the trial-and-error exploration. Set over four episodes, each has you controlling a different robot, with different mechanics and an entirely separate set of challenges, giving an unexpected freshness to the gameplay.
But despite its endearing cartoon cuteness, Widgets Odyssey's promise is cut down in its prime. With part two primed for August, there's a feeling that this would have made far more sense as a combined release. That said, Widgets Odyssey is well worth investigating - even if it's all over within an hour.
- PC and Mac (Steam) / £6.99
Given that most people appear to be unable to successfully navigate the average high street pavement without severe difficulty, a game which demands proficiency in 3D spatial visualisation might well be enough to frazzle the withered synapses of a large portion of the populace.
It all starts off innocuously enough. Tasked with rolling a ball around a series of three-dimensional environments, you simply have to pick up all the sunflowers and head to the exit gate. That is, until you find yourself dealing with a gameworld where gravity is a relative concept, and the surfaces you can roll onto dictate where is up, and where is down.
Resplendent in a beautiful pixellated retro theme with a backdrop of chiptune bleeps, Puzzle Dimension sees you plotting a careful path over hazard-strewn tiles, activating pressure plates and bounding over one-way lanes, fiery traps and crumbling tiles while trying to pick the increasingly elusive sunflowers. This isn't the way Paul Weller imagined it.
Curving ramps lead you up and over to the underside of the playing area, which causes initial confusion, but with patient trial and error you start to rewire your brain's understanding of 3D space and the rules that govern it. Before you know it, you're navigating the winding maze-like 3D structures with aplomb, unpicking their devious secrets.
With places on the worldwide leaderboard up for grabs, completing each of the 100 levels is only part of the challenge. Could Doctor Entertainment have come up with the Trials of puzzle gaming? Buy it now, rewire your ailing brain and find out.