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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Another week, another crop of games to plough through

This week's release list is surprising short for the middle of October, but there are still some gems to be mined, beginning with a platform double-header on the GameBoy Advance. Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 is wonderful - probably the best platformer on the console to date - famed for its variety, originality and depth, and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is an ingenious update to a familiar series, and a darn sight brighter than its predecessor, as those of you who played it will doubtless be elated to hear.

The biggest "hit" in the pile this week though is clearly Burnout 2: Point of Impact. Topping every other arcade racer on the PS2 in terms of visuals and gameplay, it's one of those games that even casual racers will adore, and has been reconstructed from the inside out to relax the fears of those who view it with trepidation after the first outing. Publisher Acclaim is desperate to highlight the differences, but a minute or two with the game's new engine should sell it to even its predecessor's most ardent armchair critic.

Of course, 40 million of you will be wondering what else is out on the PS2 this week, and unfortunately it's a bit of a washout. THQ's more-than-reasonable MX Superfly is an extreme sports biking extravaganza unlikely to win prizes for innovation, but which will be more than capable of keeping the Tony Hawk addicts happy with its copycat gameplay and its own collection of high-wire tracks full of ludicrous stunts and spectacle.

Elsewhere on the PS2, budget contenders are out in force, led by Konami's Zone of the Enders, and Eidos' latest Fresh Game after Way of the Samurai, a rather plodding albeit amiable turn-based RPG by the name of Legaia 2: Duel Saga, also makes an appearance. Probably a good choice for fans of the PSX original.

The so-called next-generation consoles put up only a token resistance to Sony's onslaught this week, the Cube playing host to Madden NFL 2003, and there are more people swimming in the Thames right now than are going to warm their cockles with that this wintry evening. That said, both the Xbox and GameCube introduce us to an arcade masterclass from Visual Concepts - Sega Soccer Slam. The game has been out on the Cube in the US for longer than most, but the PAL versions have seen significant change, with more teams, more tricks and more of the rest quite literally to boot.

Meanwhile, as the various consoles bicker over who gets what, the PC quietly steals past with a collection of intriguing but not altogether frenetic releases. CDV's Combat Mission 2 is finally out, along with Oxygen Interactive's debut release, the latest strategy title from Reality Pump, dubbed Earth 2150: Lost Souls. Microsoft is even in on the act, driving Links 2003 firmly into view, with SCi's footy management title FourFourTwo also on the shelves. But we're not too sure what to make of this one yet - it is however somewhat unlikely to challenge Championship Manager for its crown straight off the bat, whatever the marketing fellows think.

Best choice for today? Unless you like a bit of speed, jumping or acrobatic bicycle kicks, stick the radiator on and warm those mitts!

New Releases - PS2 7 Blades - Budget Ages of Empires 2 - BudgetBurnout 2: Point of ImpactCrash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex - Platinum Legaia 2: Duel SagaMX SuperflyRing of Red - Budget Zone of the Enders - Budget CubeMadden NFL 2003Sega Soccer SlamXboxSega Soccer SlamPCCombat Mission 2Earth 2150: Lost SoulsEmperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom FourFourTwo Links 2003 Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron Virtual Railroad GBACastlevania: Harmony of DissonanceYoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3PSX No new releases. Related Feature - UK Release Date List

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