- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- PSN - £6.29
We've come a long way since Fantastic Voyage. Our haircuts may be slightly worse, and we still haven't learned the harsh lessons about leg warmers and high-waisted trousers, but when it comes to making games about piloting microscopic craft around the human body, Naked Sky Entertainment makes us feel like Tomorrow's World was onto something.
This unexpectedly absorbing twin-stick shooter has an air of sinister mystery about it that pulls you into its battle against spiteful micro-organisms. From the moment you're literally shot into the game through a hypodermic needle, it's a war you feel oddly compelled to see through, even when you're fully aware that it's only the context that makes it interesting.
For the first few levels, it's not even that much fun. You beetle along down various arteries, shooting ugly spiky things, and dutifully hoover up the 'atoms' and DNA left behind in their squelchy wake. Eventually you stumble across hubs where you get to upgrade your arsenal and strap on expensive new gear.
Once you do, Microbots gradually comes into its own. With progressively more interesting and challenging enemies to face, the game stops being a routine plod into twin-stick shooter land and acts more like the furious all-out war that it promised at the outset. Having initially impressed thanks to the mere beauty of its organic environments, it's the kind of game you end up prodding your friends into trying.
So take no notice of the game's early failings. This is yet another quality downloadable shooter that deserves both your money and your love.
Hydroventure (also known as Fluidity)
- WiiWare - 1200 WiiWare points (£8.40, with free demo available)
If you're as pathetically disorganised as some of us, you probably spent a miserable Christmas Eve pissing about amidst the hellish throngs buying the presents you swore you'd gather earlier this year. As a result, you probably missed out on one of Nintendo's best ever WiiWare releases, which arrived the same day.
It's essentially an ingenious side-scrolling platform-puzzler, but the star of the show isn't some meek child who triumphs over adversity, or a buff warrior off to get the girl – it's humble water in its various forms.
You start off the game slooshing a pool of it around a gorgeous puzzle-strewn environment, gently coaxing it left or right by tilting the whole area in the direction you want it to flow. Lose too many droplets en route and the wayward blobs evaporate to nothingness, and there won't be enough weight to activate the switches that operate the various doors and machinery that block your path to the elusive Rainbow Drops, which you need in order to wash away all the badness corrupting the environment.
Collect enough of them and you gain access to new parts of the level where you're rewarded with new abilities that help solve the many challenges. For example, to complement your default ability to 'jump' by jolting the controller upwards, eventually you're able to gather the water together in one unified blob for a short while, and then use it to blast obstacles out of the way or shower fiery foes with a cooling splash. The further you progress, the more versatile the water becomes, with ice and steam coming into play along with new lightning attack abilities.
Unlike a lot of download titles I could mention, Hydroventure is also designed to go the distance. After an hour or so, you'll be lucky to have found the first half-dozen Rainbow Drops, and there are 80 of the blessed things to go for in total.
With that in mind, it would be demented to whine about the slightly higher than usual price point, when, in reality, Curve Studios has come up with a beautifully original game that in another era would have been much-admired at triple the price. With a free demo version available, you won't even have to splash out to see why we're excited.
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