Monster Hunter Freedom 2
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Massive in Japan, and for good reason. Great modern role-playing outings want you to Hoover up loot from your fallen enemies like it were succulent meat and you a depraved carnivore, adorning your ever-growing hero with rarer and deadlier equipment as you change from farm hand to legend. The follies of loot-hungry MMORPG inhabitants can be heard for miles around the Internet, and seeing purple is what Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is all about. Every giant beast you hunt and kill will increase your power and heap treasure upon you.
Your preparation is essential, as you stuff bubbling potions into your expansive backpack, and you will need to enlist human help over the excellent multiplayer mode if you are to tackle the nastiest monsters around. It is a laborious and lengthy process, but the pay-off is sweet and to be cherished: loot like no other. The dangling carrot worked so well for games like World of Warcraft that it was only a matter of time before we saw it elsewhere, and it works to great aplomb here. Those with friends playing will extract most enjoyment, but the compulsive search for bigger and better is one treasure hunters should take a look at and pop on their Christmas list.
That's better: freedom is what cotton-knit under-shorts award you.
Worms Open Warfare 2
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Worms has had a turbulent time in the media since is rapturous eruption onto Amiga (sorry) all those many moons ago, falling foul of having little room to seemingly grow into - where exactly can a 2D turn-based strategy go? Well, 3D, naturally. And so it did, although the move is now lamented and commonly referred to as ill-advised. Back to 2D, then, and onto Live Arcade and handhelds! But here, too, we found holes in it and rued the stagnating premise.
Thank the things in the sky, then, for Worms Open Warfare 2. It is the freshest and most essential Worms outing in years, arguably as long ago as Worms 2. Themes like piratical levels with unpredictable rises in water or educational missions to dispatch wrigglers with limited means - like destroying a batch of worms on a cliff using only a bazooka - add spice and variety, as does a more considered campaign that moves through historical maps in chronological order. Chuck in buckets of customisation, multiplayer, and an intuitive level editor and you have arguably the most relieving return to form in years. Worms at its best.
Cheeky monkey: not to be confused with Guerilla warfare, where oversized monkeys charge from the trees led by Sigourney Weaver.
Capcom Puzzle World
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Sounds rather uninspiring, a little like a friend being sick in the toilet. But rummage through the contents and you will find a real treat: Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo II. Dressed misgivingly like a Tetris clone, the idea build blocks of gems from the pairs that fall from the top of the screen. Shatter these and an equal amount of Counter Gems are dumped on your opponent. Fill your screen up and you lose, loser.
It is marvellously simple but underpinned with the sort of strategical punch to keep you plotting for weeks. Counter Gems cannot be smashed for five turns, you see, so fighting back is paramount to winning. Do you build your stack so it harms your opponent if they dump on you? Eek. Or do you horde an immense block ready to smash as the clock runs down? Block, countermove, finishing flourish - as if it were a fighting game all along. Worth the asking price for Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo II alone, but also accompanied by three Buster Bros. (Pang) titles and Block Block.
Fatso: our world weighs 5,980,000,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes. It should work out more.
- Release date: 7th December
Give Sony Liverpool its homework back with a high mark and next time it will aim higher. WipEout Pure was fantastic and shone like a beacon of hope among an early PSP line-up. Follow-up Pulse has its rays obscured by a dense crowd of releases but beams brighter and more brilliant than ever, offering much, much more than incremental bells and whistles.
Hallmarks of the futuristic racing series are all here: the difficulty is judged immaculately and pulls you expertly through speed classes; levels are well-designed and compelling to return to with fresh knowledge of speed-boost layouts; and visually it is unrivalled on the PSP, putting even PS2 titles to shame. But this time the steering is tighter, multiplayer is in, more game modes burst from its seams, and it is arranged much better than Pure. Nevertheless it is still WipEout and instantly familiar to fans of the first. And while it will stand-out less than the original, this is still the definitive version to own and one of the best titles on the PSP.
Throbbing: to quicken your pulse either undergo rigorous activity or look at a sexy picture. Or combine... [Out! - Ed].
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command
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Somehow THQ strode up to a table full of painstakingly painted lead miniatures and folded it up like a napkin to fit on PSP. And while it may have spilled decorative flourishes, depth of content and variation on the Games Workshop floor, it made absolutely sure kept the essentials and nailed the basics. The result are action points, terrain and distance all being accounted for; retaining the essence of tabletop tactics absent from conversions such as Dawn of War.
Guiding your squad of six nervously through precarious situations requires patience and planning, and sacrificing one will sharply decrease your overall chance of success. Progress and more unit types will become available, feeling you with the warm, fuzzy feeling of advancement as your Dreadnought stomps through walls. These always were my favourite lead miniature, those I sadly stared through the window at because they cost twenty quid each and I painted like a dog with hooves. And like a primed model the foundations for Squad Command are firmly set, just missing the final coat for the display cabinet. Still, pushing unpainted figures around was just as much fun.
Do it: command is what you will need if a troop of time travelling midgets burst through your wardrobe and steal you off on some mystical quest.