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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Kid Icarus: Uprising

Winging it.

Is he really still a kid these days? Wouldn't Dad Icarus be a more appropriate name? Or something more relevant to what he might have been up to for the past few decades, such as Middle-Aged Divorcee Icarus?

Most of Icarus's original fans will have grown up by now too. Quite a lot of them were attendees at Nintendo's E3 conference last year, judging by the cheers which resounded when the first 3DS instalment in the series was announced.

And there were quite a few of them milling around the Kid Icarus: Uprising demo pods at Nintendo's 3DS showcase in Amsterdam yesterday. Only two short levels were available to play, but they'd clearly been selected with a view to showing off the variety of gameplay in KI:U as well as the 3DS's capabilities.

The control system takes a bit of getting used to. You move Icarus around with the analog nubbin, or Circle Pad as Nintendo's calling it. The stylus is used to change his viewpoint and target enemies, and you press one of the shoulder buttons to shoot.

At first it doesn't feel too intuitive - instinctively I found myself tapping the stylus on the touch-screen in an attempt to fire, as I'm used to doing with iPhone shooters. But it quickly becomes apparent that attacking is easier if you keep the stylus in contact with the screen at all times, sliding it around to target different enemies.

You can also use the stylus to make Icarus dash and dodge by drawing short slashes. However, this tends to interrupt the flow of the gameplay. When faced with a screenful of moving enemies it doesn't appear to be much use for anything other than causing confusion.

The enemies themselves are pretty standard fantasy fodder - giant walking eyeballs, flying batlike creatures, spiky-shelled turtle types and so on. The demo also showed off a few of the game's bosses, including a huge two-headed doggy and a towering purple Medusa who looks for all the world like she's just wandered out of Dante's Inferno. Except she hasn't got homicidal scythe-wielding babies crawling out of her nipples (this is a Nintendo game, after all).

These bosses inhabit the kind of circular battle arenas and dingy fortresses where you'd expect to find giant mythical beasts hanging out. Other environments on show in Amsterdam included a classical Greek city, complete with cobbled streets and imposing columns. One level saw Icarus taking to the skies and you attempting to guide him through a cavernous tunnel, avoiding spiky stalagmites, flying beasties and falling rocks along the way.

Whether in the air or on the ground, Icarus moves around fluidly and it's easy to control him with precision using the Circle Pad. He does appear to have a bit of a funny limp when running – a pimp roll, perhaps – which looks odd but doesn't otherwise affect his ability to move.