There are always little symbols to look out for that can help you figure out if a game's going to be worthwhile. Once upon a time it might have been Nintendo's seal of quality, or maybe the logo of your favourite developer - back in the day it was Treasure's magic box, perhaps, or more recently the glimmering P of Platinum Games. In recent years, there's another logo I've always kept an eye out for, a symbol that's a guarantee of quality, and a certain little spark. Quite often, though, you have to look really hard for it.
OutRun and Virtua Tennis developer Sumo Digital is working on a "bleeding edge" game for a "big hardware company", Eurogamer has learned.
Admist all the E3 hype and fluff, Microsoft snuck out the latest of its Backward Compatibility updates, with some of the very best Xbox games ever made now fully compatible with the Xbox 360.
The point's been made before on these pages, but OutRun2 draws it out again: SEGA is brilliant at five-minute racing games.
There are 15 stages, laid out like balls in a snooker triangle; as you get to the end of each one in your Ferrari, you adjust the difficulty by taking the left path for an easier ride or right for a tougher one. All you're up against is the clock, and your only obstacles are the indecently curvaceous undulations and turns in the track, often peppered with slow-moving traffic.
The structure hardly matters: you drive a Ferrari and try to avoid losing speed, doing incredibly cool power-slides when you really can't make it through a turn with the pedal floored. In fact, half the time you do it anyway because it's just fun. Snaking a sideways car through lorries and hatchbacks is what arcade racing should be. And as you get better, you pick up tricks like the s-bend shimmy and work out how best to employ your slide. There's also a Heart Attack mode, where you're ranked stage by stage on your ability to do silly things over short distances - drift as much as possible, break the tape connecting traffic cars, maintain a particular line.
Want to win an OutRun2 arcade machine? No! No you don't! Think about it - the wife/girlfriend/your mum wouldn't allow it, you'd spend so much time playing around with it that you'd probably wind up failing an exam/losing your job/I forget which order I'm doing the separatey-slashy things, and frankly people would laugh at you in the street. That's not even related to the arcade machine. They just do anyway, don't they?
SEGA's decision to release OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast on four formats simultaneously always sounded a bit too good to be true - particularly for PC fans used to getting console leftovers several months later - and in the US at least it now looks like it was.
When OutRun2 first appeared on Xbox, we were all a bit surprised - not so much by SEGA's decision to bring a relatively concise arcade racing game to a home console, but by the degree to which relatively unknown developer Sumo Digital had managed to expand the game without losing track of what made the arcade original so good.
SEGA has put the rumours to rest by confirming that OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast will be released in March 2006 on PS2, PSP and PC - but oddly not on Xbox.
Coast 2 Coast consists of 30 stages - the best of both OutRun2 and the OutRun2 SP arcade machine that followed it - with a new mission structure, licence mode, the return of six-player online racing, and a total of 12 licensed Ferraris including the F430 and Superamerica.
It's the series' first foray onto PSP, certainly - and PSP owners who also buy the PS2 version will be able to access a bit of exclusive content (dunno what) by hooking the pair up using a USB cable.