Do you remember the friendly old self-assessment tax return adverts? The ones with that man who says "tax doesn't have to be taxing"? He would be walking along the top of a hill in Newcastle on a cold day, but wrapped up warm, making you think that even though you have no idea how much money you owe the government for not voting for them everything is going to be okay. Anyway, that's over now. The new one is that bloke trapped in an hourglass as the sand slips away beneath his feet and he threatens you with a whopping fine and interest fees if you don't sodding well do your tax pronto chop chop get it in keep up keep up tax doesn't have to be taxing - although you will be crushed or suffocated if you don't do it.
But if you think you've got it bad, poor old game developers have it worse. This is what their entire life is like - friendly reminders that they're all going to be killed if they haven't finished what they're doing by the end of the year. That's why nothing ever gets released at the beginning of January: it's either got to be done before Christmas, or they have to spend the windy new year re-growing the programmers from test-tubes and scrubbing their guts off the walls instead.
That's not the case with Xbox Live Arcade or Telltale Games' episodic Sam & Max series though, clearly, because the former's abuzz with excitement about two new releases this week (even if one's about an '80s film that everyone pretends they've seen but haven't really - watch Streethawk instead), while the latter's Moai Better Blues (GameTap on 10th Jan, proper internet 11th Jan) is now so much a part of some people's lives that they forget to put their headphones on when they're reviewing it on their laptop in the corner of the office and we have to go over and shout at them because it's really inconsiderate. (Incidentally, I've interrogated Kristan about whether it's any good and he was non-committal. I asked for a one-line summary. "Errrr," he said. Come on, come on. "It's set on Easter Island," he said. Is it any good? "It's up to the standard of the other episodes in the series," he said. There's only one other episode in this series, I said. "You know what I mean," he said. Further actions were then taken that did not end in 'said'.)
Also out this week is Buzz! The Schools Quiz for PS2. "Yay, another Buzz game!" you might respond, "and this is perfect because I know also sort of useless schools trivia like who invented the water fountain and that Stephen Fry went to Chesham Prep for a while and actually lived just round the corner from my Mum's place believe it or not although I think they bulldozed the house or something and then he buggered off up north so to speak". Except you would be foolish to do that, because The Schools Quiz is actually, well, educational. It's built around bespoke Key Stage 2 National Curriculum content, and is tailored for use in Primary Schools. So not only can you keep the little ones busy with another Buzz game, but you can be sure they're learning something too - and not just how many episodes there were of M*A*S*H or how long Nicole was married to Tom Cruise. Although you might want to teach them that stuff as well because otherwise they won't be able to do their own weekly ironic pop-culture references above a list of new releases. Those who can't, blather.
Amazing readers, please note! From next week, all Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and other premium download stuff will be detailed in our Premium Downloads roundup, while this column will focus on new boxed releases. That is all.