SouthPeak has had a ropey start, but its goals are ambitious. We've seen a couple of examples of this already in Two Worlds and Monster Madness, and there are others such as Edge of Twilight, and X-Blades sitting promisingly on the distant horizon. But before that, SouthPeak has the PS3 "overhaul" of Monster Madness to offer us, as well as a Xbox Live Arcade offering called RooGoo. So we picked up our pads and put them through their paces.
- PC, Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
- Release date: mid-May
RooGoo is simple but rather charming. It has you guiding blocks through similarly-shaped holes in discs by using the triggers to spin them left or right. Shepherd enough blocks down to their final resting place at the bottom and you win, but make too many mistakes and a thorny beanstalk creeps up and up until it reaches the top of your screen and you have to start again.
Making matters more mischievous are stacking requirements before blocks can descend a disc-level; you may need to have four sitting on top of each other, for example, and it changes for each stage. The amount of discs that need to descend changes as well, as does pace and the amount of blocks falling from the top. Other additions, such as butterflies that pick up stacks of blocks and fly them from the bottom up to a higher disc-level, and funny little monsters that obstruct the holes so you have to bounce your stacks of blocks on their heads, mix things up to a greater degree. Get further into the game and you'll see light and dark-shaded blocks of the same type clumped together and falling at once. Light stack on light and vice versa, and you swap them by pressing B.
Crucially, the penalty for slipping up and not spinning a disc around to the right hole is handled sympathetically. Individual blocks rather than entire stacks fall to the wayside, meaning you still have time to catch the best part of your pile even if you were a bit slow off the mark. It also means that even if you fail to match the light and dark shades correctly, you should only lose the first one or two of your stack before they do match up. Our only worry was that of the 20 levels in the demo, only one or two offered the sort of challenge we were hoping for. If the full version can expand on this and tie our brain in a knot then yes please thank you very much.
Wrapping it all up is Katamari-style presentation with bright colours and simple designs; as pleasing on the eye as the music is on the ear, with its twinkling variety of background accompaniments. There are battle modes for you and a friend or the computer to go head-to-head in, but so far this is limited to declaring the winner on who has done best in a set time limit. The addition of Guitar Hero-style battle attacks to throw off your opponent would be fantastic.
As it stands, at 800 Points, Roogoo is one to keep an eye out for. Hopefully the month or so left before release can account for enough variety and difficulty added to justify full whack.
Monster Madness: Grave Danger
- Release date: 25th April
This is the PS3 "overhaul" of the top-down shooter that appeared on Xbox 360 last June to a complete absence of applause. But, like the name, things have changed. The rather disastrous exclusion of online four-player co-op has been rectified, for starters, and you now press X to jump instead of clicking the right analogue stick, which was a bonkers way of doing it in the first place. You can collect and customise costumes with power-up attributes, too.
Psyonix Studios has also taken the time to pull out some of the campaign mini-games and flesh them out in a Challenge mode. These range from Dodgeball with zombies to scrolling shooters where you control a UFO. There is duck-boat rafting with rings to jump through and a Pac-Man-like maze game. You can even match face buttons in time with the music, and, of course, there are various takes on killing zombies such as protecting a truck for as long as you can. Each hands out a school-style grade and can take up to 10 minutes depending how well you do. There are around 25 of these in total. Factoring in retries and the lure of co-op attempts, this amounts to a considerable batch of gameplay. The only setback is that few feel worthy of multiple attempts, but most leave you thinking of better counterparts; the UFO game is passable, but no Geometry Wars; the button-matching is bearable but no Guitar Hero. Slightly unfair, perhaps, but the image it conjures up nonetheless.
Other than this distraction, the blend of comic-book zombie killing is unchanged. You still have twenty levels split into five chapters to work through, bumping into all sorts of nasties like mummies, UFOs, Giant Spiders and Evil Clowns. There are unique bosses such as overweight walking dead that perish from heart attacks, too. It is still cluttered and clunky, but for those flying a flame for a throwback to a retro arcade shooter, there's probably an evening or two of enjoyment with friends here.
- PC, Wii, DS
- Release Date: late April (25th April on DS)
Pinball is a stalwart gaming companion. We've whittled away hours waggling our flaps and smacking balls around the table, coaxed on by the ridiculous score-count and flashing lights. Perhaps pinball will never lure customers in the way a meaty shooter will, but it fills a hungry niche and magically makes time disappear. Dream Pinball is for those of you most starved; it does what you expect, and just enough at that.
We spent the bulk of our time on the Wii version, which has you using the Wiimote on its own or in conjunction with the nunchuk to amass your scores. To cheat and shake the table you shake the Wiimote. This is the future, remember. Unfortunately there is little else to recommend this. It is dull and drab and devoid of the life and equally devoid of the over-the-top flashing lights and sensory assault you expect from a concept this simple. You can change the view and follow the ball around and be closer to the action, but even then visuals are uninspired and seem to have come from a bygone and forgotten era. Without the constraints of real-life, there is no reason why Dream Pinball could not be wonderfully exaggerated.
The DS version fares little better, but the dreary presentation makes matters a little more confusing to keep up with; the top-screen only serves as a scoreboard rather than another window to spread the action out on. However, the shoulder-button flappers are a more natural fit, and the concept lends itself better to a portable companion. Far from our dreams, then, but perhaps enticing for those with long journeys to fill.