Sony's revised PlayStation Plus draws ever nearer, and this week we got our best look at some of the classic games will be on offer. While there's a sense of a missed opportunity and a surprising lack of fanfare with less than a week to go until the service rolls out in Japan, there's still a sizeable number of cult classics neslted within the new service - and here's our pick of the best of them.
Housemarque was once synonymous with games like this, top-down Robotron-alikes that lived to pit you against vast hordes. To be outmanned is never to be outgunned, however: this is a team that revels in ingenious weapon combos and beautifully paced enemy waves. Play it today and you may see more of Returnal in the DNA than you might expect to - a love of the works of Eugene Jarvis can be hard to shake. And why would you want to?
We are, of course, well overdue an Ape Escape revival, but until that point any opportunity to get reacquainted with the originals should be grasped with both hands. Japan Studio's original was designed to keep especially to keep both thumbs busy, built around the twin sticks of the Dual Shock which were a novelty at the time and enabling a freewheeling inventiveness that's defined the series ever since.
This is a game that can be played in an afternoon but will linger for days, weeks, months. It's a beautiful bit of craft, as your bullied teen protagonist wanders around a forgotten post-industrial wasteland slowly using graffiti to bring the place back to life. And it's a beautiful bit of empathy, as you slowly learn to see the bullies themselves as victims in their own ways. More than anything it's just a delight to explore, from the rickety lighthouse down to the burbling storm drains. Concrete Genie should not be missed.
Akihiro Hino's Level-5 announced themselves to the world with this early PS2 action RPG, mashing in city building elements with the well-rounded character that would go on to define the studio's later work. It would go on to be overshadowed by its sequel, and indeed Level-5's subsequent RPGs, but it's worth returning to Dark Cloud for more than a mere history lesson.
Perspective is destiny in this beautifully poised platform game. Many other developers have played with a similar idea - that you can travel through the worlds represented in the kind of Escher-like art they love to put in dentists' offices - but only on PlayStation would it have the stark, stylish visuals and the orchestral soundtrack. echocrome is clever, self-conscious and enormously charming.
Real talk: haven't played F.E.A.R. in a while and deeply intrigued to see how it stands up. Monolith's legendary blend of horror and action-hero shooter made a name for itself with destructible environments and surprisingly interested enemy AI. It's going to be fascinating to see how our cherished memories stack up.
I.Q. Intelligent Qube
Give yourself up to this wonderful PlayStation deep cut - the kind of game that a service like Plus should be championing. Intelligent Qube sounds like a nightmare: you're a tiny human trying to avoid being squished by oncoming armies of cubes. But in fact it's a twitchy puzzle charmer, gaining much of its unusual character through its bold mixture of platonic solids and, well, a tiny little guy trying not to be killed by the platonic solids.
Like everything else included in the pack-in Demo One disc, Jumping Flash has acquired legendary status amongst early PS1 adopters and was a perfect showcase for the 3D revolution of the 90s. A platformer played out in first-person, it combines the surreal aesthetic of a Super Mario World with endless innovations. It's often overlooked but its importance can't be overstated - and it helps that it still plays like a dream.
Colourful and endlessly chirpy, LocoRoco is perhaps the breeziest game ever made about good old peristalsis. Guide a cheerful lump of colour through endless curving, squishing worlds, collecting, exploring, and making it to the exit. The art was designed to make the very most of the PSP's luminous cinematic screen, but it works beautifully whatever you play it on. A treat.
Drill drill drill drill drill! Namco's mascot puzzler pumps up the action as you guide Susumu Hori to the depths of candy-coloured mines in a simple game with a surprising number of layers; at any point you can approach it like a racing game, picking out the best line, a colour-matching puzzler as you combine blocks to have them disappear or a straight-up survival game as you struggle for air. Something of a masterpiece, this one.
Cute and creepy, Puppeteer is a lavish 2D platformer with playful physics and something of Little Big Planet to the purposefully rickety sets. Race around, cut through the scenery, and bounce off the odd hamburger: it's a stylish affair, and very much the kind of thing only Sony really goes for. Oh, and it's great with two players.
If the lower-case R didn't clue you in, the aggressive use of Clair de Lune will: this is an emotional game that takes itself very seriously. But maybe it's right to. The Parisian setting is perfect for a game that turns alienation and invisibility into a stealthy puzzle mechanic, and there's plenty of fun to be had as you play a character who can only be seen when they're standing underneath the raindrops. Cleverness ensues, along with a lot of Debussy.
With all the talk of a new Silent Hill - or should that be new Silent Hills - let's not forget we got some decent spiritual successors in the early 00s from Sony's Japan Studio. It's where original Silent Hill director Keichiro Toyama found themselves, and where they oversaw a fine series of gently flawed but nevertheless thrilling survival horror games.
Media Molecule's spirit shines through beautifully in this ingenious papercraft game that almost feels like it might have been made in Dreams or Little Big Planet. It certainly has the same desire to blend the tactility of the real world with the bloom and dash of pure fantasy. Tearaway was a Vita game to its very core - the rare project that properly fell in love with that magnificently odd rear touchpad. Even so it's a lovely thing to play today on a huge screen.