- Developers: Acquire, Noisycroak
- Format: PSP
- Price: Ł6.29 on PSN
Just when you think developers might be scaling back their ambitions for the PSP, along comes something with such a fresh and unique visual signature that it's hard to even associate it with videogames.
Looking more like an abstract Middle Eastern animation project than anything to do with handheld gaming, Patchwork Heroes emerges, once your eyes have adjusted to the loveliness, as a giddy twist on Taito's timeless and brilliant 1981 arcade game, Qix.
For what it's worth, the predictably surreal premise is that your city is being attacked by massive unmanned warships, ready to rain bombs down upon you. But rather than, say, blast the ships into next year, the brave Titori and his pilot Totonel board a helicopter and take the fight to the source of the evil. Jumping onto the warship itself, their cunning plan is to essentially saw it into chunks until it eventually blows up.
On a basic level it works in a similar way to Qix in that your entire purpose is to draw lines (in this case, saw a line) from one point to another. Whereas in Qix the sections filled in, in Patchwork Heroes, they fall away, thus destabilising the ship.
But what starts off as a simplistic concept ramps up with all manner of embellishments that build on an already wonderfully fun premise. For example, you can opt to free prisoners held aboard the warship, while all manner of one-off collectibles can help stop time, or help you run faster, or allow you to strategically drop Mojo bombs to blast entire sections to smithereens.
As you progress, enemies become increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to sabotage your good work, blowing up when you get near them, firing rockets or repairing damage. Before long, levels become one giant hazard as you dash frantically from one section to the next.
With 30 levels and 10 quick-fire challenges, there's more than enough to warrant the price tag, and Patchwork Heroes' bite-sized design makes it perfect for handheld sessions. With a wonderfully deranged horn-laden soundtrack to accompany the chaos, this is the ideal game to drive your housemates doolally with.
- Developers: Chillingo, Traplight Games
- Format: iPhone
- Price: Ł1.19
It's all about heroes this week, but this one's more Mr Incredible than Sylar, as your chiselled caped crusader swoops around cityscapes catching babies, crushing giant bees and slaying zombies in the name of crime-fighting goodness.
Set in a rather lovely-looking side scrolling environment, you soar The Hero in all directions via the on-screen d-pad (or via tilt controls if you prefer eating your own hands in frustration), while a boost control in the right corner gives you a brief moment of extra pep when required.
Most of the game's levels play out roughly the same way, regardless of the threat that faces you. Whether you're defusing bombs, running after thieves or crushing spider eggs before they hatch, a prompt appears to let you know where the threat resides. If the threat's especially deadly, the arrow flashes and you have to get your lyrca-clad tush over there pronto, potentially leaving other threats to cause havoc.
With a fame meter to keep an eye on, you have to be sure to high-five the public as you speed past their windows, and ensure that you don't smash too many cars or let too many babies splatter on the pavement. That never goes down well. But with careful use of enemy-freezing power-ups, you can dampen the chaos and keep things under control.
It's frantic and stressful, but with superb cartoon visuals and a squelchy soundtrack to nod along to, it's yet another prime example of why iPhone gaming is proving so popular. Sure, the slightly inexact nature of the controls make it somewhat hard to be as effective as you might be, but The Hero is still well worth checking out.