In this week's roundup, intrepid digital warrior Kristan Reed presents us with a more diverse range of downloadable delights than ever.
- Xbox Live Arcade Indie, 80 Microsoft Points
Presented with the monochromatic grace of a mid-1970s science experiment, Flipside is the kind of stark and brutal experience you can imagine Kraftwerk composing a sprawling trance opus about.
On one side of the screen, you pilot a black ship on a white background with the left stick. On the other, you simultaneously steer a white ship on a black background with the right stick.
The respectful speed of the first level initially fools you into imagining that such feats of dual-brained co-ordination might not be beyond your poor ailing mind. Carving a path between the respective gates feels almost manageable - or at least something you might get better at with practice.
But with a jump in speed that sends you from Sunday drive to warp drive in the space of a single level, the ability to stay alive for more than a few seconds soon becomes deeply impressive. To illustrate how improbably difficult the game had become, we decided to experiment (read: cheat) and play the game with two players. With each player focusing on controlling a ship each, progress was still regularly thwarted thanks to one or the other of us snagging our poor fragile craft on a wall.
No doubt some crazed duo-brained gamer with insect-like twitch reactions can play this with their eyes closed, but for the rest of humanity, this is one of those indie gaming experiments that we can only admire piteously from the sidelines. Still, for 64 pence, the admiration comes cheap.
Crap of Defense
- iPhone, Lite version free, full version £1.19
Benefiting from a nice line in self-deprecation and gorgeous scrapbook visuals, this amusingly billed 'worst game ever' is actually another annoyingly addictive twist on the tower defence premise.
You're armed with a single missile-spewing tank in the corner of the screen, and the idea is to try and thwart the oncoming hordes by repeatedly blasting them into oblivion. With a rotatable turret controlled by your left thumb, you simply position the direction of your shot while charging up the power, then point where you want it to land with your right thumb. Simple.
Represented by crude child-like drawings, enemy units march in varying formations, dodging obstacles in a relentless onslaught that threatens to overwhelm your destructive capabilities. With kill targets to reach or time limits to survive, each challenge quickly descends into a merciless frenzy of well-timed blasts as you try desperately to stem the tide. Meanwhile, careful deployment of limited special attacks or one-time power ups help give you the edge, though can also work against you if you mistakenly activate them in a moment of thoughtless panic.
With 24 levels to work through, and a entire Winter Assault campaign thrown in as an added bonus, Crap Of Defense boasts untold hours of palpitating fun for its paltry asking price. And while hardly changing the world with its startling originality, it gets our vote for its endearing style.
Hamlet, or Last Game Without MMORPG Elements, Shaders, and Product Placement
- PC, $9.99 (www.alawar.com)
- Alawar/ mif2000
Vying for the longest and most irreverent game title of all-time, this quirky point-and-click puzzle-adventure comes to us from Russia. It blends the spirit of Zak & Wiki with a wonderfully implausible re-imagining of the classic Shakespeare play for added nonsense.
The evil Claudius has seized the crown and forced Hamlet's girlfriend Ophelia to marry him. But just as the valiant Prince Hamlet is about to exact revenge, a curious and nerdy-looking 'man from the future' arrives on the precise spot where Hamlet was standing. To avoid a rift in the space-time continuum, the new hero must avenge the death of Hamlet's parents on his behalf and then rescue Ophelia.
The gameplay connotations for this are hilariously tenuous, but that is, of course, a large part of the title's appeal. It unfolds over series of single-screen puzzle-strewn environments and each one presents you with a deliberately obscure set of absurd problems that you must prod at impotently until something happens.
With only a simple cursor arrow at your disposal, progress usually involves little more than poking things in a semi-logical order until the man stops snoring and goes fishing. Or something. And while this probably sounds hopelessly dull to the uninitiated, grizzled point n' click veterans will drink in the madness.
Fortunately, if none of it makes sense within a few minutes, the game eventually offers you the option of asking for a hint to quell the rage - but even that might not be enough for certain challenges. Presumably designed for mouse input, some of the time-specific tasks at hand prove utterly impossible when attempted with a trackpad, so buyer beware.
With 25 crafty challenges to pick your way through, Hamlet... Is a fine way to while away a rainy Sunday. Play it after a John Walker retrospective for maximum wistfulness.
Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess
- PSP Mini
As you might have gathered from the game's informative title, your princess has (probably) been stolen by monsters. Naturally, the only course of action is to chase the little buggers down lest they feast upon her delectable remains.
Set over five levels, this simple-but-charming platformer puts you in charge of the disarmingly egotistical Duke, as you bound around in perennial pursuit of monsters who may (or may not) be holding the hapless princess captive.
In what amounts to a relentless chase, the task at hand amounts to little more than swiftly ascending between platforms as quickly and accurately as possible. With a modicum of precision, you'll eventually catch up with with your target and have an opportunity to inflict damage by double-jumping into them. Pull this off three times before they reach the top of the level and they crash spectacularly to the ground, leaving the Duke standing imperiously over their spattered torsos.
As a secondary aim, you can also attempt to build up the highest possible jump combo by deftly hopping between platforms without touching the same one twice. As soon as you foul up, the combo count is reset back to zero and so the process begins again. Although it's not a major concern in the game's story mode, once you start focusing on the 18 Score Attack levels, it's essential to not only take down the monster as efficiently as possible but try and rack up a giant combo into the bargain.
Brimming with character and a knowing wit, Monsters is almost an essential purchase. With a focused appeal, and an immediate, addictive set of mechanics, this is (probably) the best PSP Mini game to date.