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Game of the Week: Outland

Network error.

For the third time in four weeks, our favourite new release is one you won't need to go to the shops to buy. But if you own a PS3, that means you can't currently buy it at all.

Amid all the understandable concern about identity theft following the security breach and subsequent downtime of PlayStation Network, spare a thought for the dozens of small game developers whose bottom line is taking a hit.

For many, PSN is a major source of revenue. For some, it's the only one. The downtime has obliterated release windows, thwarted impulse purchases over two holiday weekends in the UK - and perhaps more worryingly for the future, shaken confidence in PSN as a platform for financial transactions.

I'm not sure I buy the theory that Xbox Live, Steam, the App Store and other digital media services will suffer by association, and I think even PSN will recover in time. But I'd be surprised if it wasn't harder to make money there for a good few months.

A personal friend is preparing to launch his first game as a one-man indie developer; it's exclusive to PSN Minis. He must be feeling nervous. But before we slam Sony's incompetence for its effect on the little guy, we should point out that it was Sony's encouragement and support - which goes far beyond what an indie debutant could expect from Microsoft, Nintendo or Apple - that made it possible for him to make the jump in the first place.

Sony's apparently haphazard operations are earning it a bad name with customers, but ever since the first PlayStation, its support of creative, forward-thinking and independent-minded game development has been peerless - and has benefitted gamers just as much as game makers. Imagine a world without Wipeout, Ico, SingStar, LittleBigPlanet or Demon's Souls.

PSN might have lagged behind Xbox Live Arcade and the App Store in time and technology, but I don't see Apple or Microsoft actually funding the development of a Flower or Echochrome - while the developers of such great games as Joe Danger, Shatter, Trine and the PixelJunk series make no secret of the fact that they find Sony's platform a more welcoming and rewarding environment than the competition.

So, when the service does come back online, I'll understand if you don't want to input your credit card details. But I would urge you to go down the shops (where, this week, you might also consider picking up the solid Virtua Tennis 4 or magnificent Persona 3 Portable, which we awarded 9/10 on import last year), buy a PSN voucher, and spend it to support these developers - and, yes, the platform holder that supports them.

And you should probably consider spending it on this.


The arty 2D platformer with a hand-crafted look is in distinct danger of becoming an indie cliché. It's certainly a mode which Housemarque has adapted to as easily as it did neon post-retro in Super Stardust HD and B-movie gore in Dead Nation.

But while the Finnish developer sometimes seems to be going through the motions - "the game's few moments of narration come across as the kind of lumpen poetry nice old ladies like to have stitched onto bookmarks," found Christian in our Outland review - its design talent and technical skill is a pure mark of quality.

"Outland is pure design craftsmanship," Christian wrote. "Don't play Outland because you expect it to be charming and filled with personality, then: play it because of the swooping, speeding cleverness of its design. Play it because of the craft."