At a time when there are few so-called 'triple A' boxed releases to get excited about, it seems like the opposite is true in the burgeoning download space. About 15 games of note were sifted through for inclusion this week, from cute indie experiments to former boxed product being repurposed for the download channels. While a lot of them are admittedly nothing more than neat ideas chucked out for pennies, it's surprising to see how many of them, like Lazy Raiders and Aqua Panic, offer countless hours of gameplay for little more than the cost of your lunch...
Chronos Twins DX
- WiiWare / 700 points (Ł4.90 / €7)
- DSiWare / 500 points (Ł4.50 / €5)
Given that most people seem to struggle to do one thing at a time with any degree of competence, Chronos Twins DX's multitasking premise may well be your idea of hell. But have patience, for this knackered-looking side-scroller by EnjoyUP is secretly one of the most engaging titles to hit WiiWare or DSiWare this year.
Glossing over the convoluted back-story for a moment, the gist is that your character has the cunning ability to exist in two times at once. Displayed as two screens stacked on top of one another (or in dual-screen format on the DS version), you control both versions of yourself at the same time, in the same place, but in different eras of history.
Whether you walk or jump, both characters perform the same actions simultaneously, but traversing obstacles becomes a matter of getting your head around the game's logic. The golden rule is that if a platform exists in one era, then it supports both characters - regardless of whether it looks like you're walking into thin air in the other era.
Similarly, if an obstacle needs to be avoided, ducked under or jumped over in one era, the same holds true in the other, and the need to continually keep an eye on two fields of play at the same time becomes a hilariously haphazard trial-and-error affair - with the emphasis firmly on the latter.
But over time, once your poor addled brain adapts to the game's unique demands, Chronos Twins DX's maddening appeal becomes increasingly apparent.
- PlayStation Network (PS3 and PSP) / Ł7.99
Described memorably as "Pachinko Lemmings" by Tom Bramwell the other day, this tarted-up HD version of Aqua Panic finds itself a much more suitable home on the PlayStation Network.
Originally launched as one of those pesky boxed releases via Ubisoft last year on the DS and Wii (and before that on PSP as Downstream Panic), this frantic puzzler is guaranteed to have the swear box overflowing with contributions over the course of 80 taxing, fish-packed levels.
Like Lemmings, you have to save the defenceless little sods as they pour out of giant water tanks, inexplicably suspended high in the sky. With hungry predators determined to feast on these tasty fishy snacks, it's your job to create a safe passage to the ocean with timely placement of the tools available to you.
Using the right stick to control the cursor, and R1 to cycle through the available tools, you'll be able to bomb through weak points in the environment, create makeshift dams with plants, and harpoon predators before they get a chance to do their worst. It's deceptively simple and charming for the first 10 or so levels, but do not believe its lies. Preventing fish genocide is a multitasking, second-guessing nightmare, with the kind of plate-spinning madness that would stress out an accomplished juggler.
Just when you think you've got the measure of Aqua Panic, it heaps further misery onto you with a greater array of tools and ever more complex challenges. Soon, you're using snails to direct the flow of water to open up valves, or using fans to set off contraptions.
The sheer unabashed evil that Eko Software has managed to cram into a seemingly cute puzzler is something to behold. Despite its soothing colourful cartoon visuals and plinky-plonky soundtrack, within an hour or so, I was ripe for medication, punching the sofa and roaring obscenities to the developers' mothers as yet another fiendish slice of lateral brain trickery was unveiled. Man, if high blood pressure and incandescent rage was a measure of a game's quality, Aqua Panic would win awards.