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Virtual Console Roundup

Kirby's Ghost Trap and Devil's Crush.

Move along, nothing to see here. No, seriously. This may be the least interesting Virtual Console selection yet uploaded. keep reading. That's very important. There'll be some crap jokes, and biscuits at the end. That's worth sticking around for, even if a dusty old pinball sim and a rebranded puzzle game don't quite get the heart pounding. That's right. Sit back down again. Relax. The biscuits will be here soon.

Kirby's Ghost Trap

Platform: SNES
Wii Points: 800
In Real Money: £5.60 (8 Euros) approx.

If you live beyond the glittering gates of the PAL territory, you probably know this block-droppin' puzzler as Kirby's Avalanche. Of course, you may also know it as Puyo Puyo, since this (much like the near-identical Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on the Megadrive) is simply a rebranded version of the colourful Japanese classic.

For those who've somehow managed to avoid this ubiquitous puzzle game, it's a competitive twist on Tetris in which you race against a rival, either human or CPU, to join up four or more colour-coded ghosts (or "wobbly blobs", if you want to be picky) as they drop from the top of the screen. Success in creating chains dumps translucent ghosts on your opponent's side of the screen, which can only be removed by creating more chains and blowing them up.

It's a decent arcade puzzler, as its longevity proves, though I've always found it a little too hectic and random to allow for any serious strategic play. Even playing at normal difficulty, foes are soon moving and matching blobs at a disconcerting pace. Capcom would refine the formula with Puzzle Fighter and, simply by giving the player control over when chains are triggered, created something far deeper and richer in gameplay. Here, it's more of a mad scramble to create as many chains of four of you can with whatever you have, with little incentive to plot several moves ahead.

But it's still fun, especially with a human friend or exceptionally well-trained pet, and the game makes good use of the SNES technology with crisp sprites and impressively clear speech samples. If it weren't for Nintendo's bafflingly rigid pricing structure, it'd definitely be worth a download. But it's a SNES game, which means it must cost 800 points - around £5.60 or 8 Euros. It seems weird to quibble over such low prices but, when judged alongside similar games, it's just enough to shunt this gently away from the impulse purchase zone and into the fenced paddock marked "only for the fans".


Devil's Crush

Platform: TurboGrafx-16
Wii Points: 600
In Real Money: £4.20 (6 Euros) approx.

Not, sadly, a satanic soft drink. That would be Beelzebubbles - now in a sulphur free diet version! Mmmm. No, Devil's Crush is a sequel to Alien Crush and, even though it was released in Japan and Europe as Devil Crash, it's arrived on the Euro VC under its American title.

It's also a pinball game.

To be more precise, it's a pinball game from that mid-console period when publishers believed that nobody would play a game unless you were killing stuff and toppling some monstrous foe. Thus your flipper actions are used to attack wandering monsters, with the ultimate aim of hitting all the right bumpers to defeat demons by ramming silver balls into their faces over and over again.

As 1990 pinball games go, it ain't bad - the ball physics are workable enough (for the period, at least) and it doesn't bother you up with unfair ball traps. There is, however, one major drawback. There's only one table. Admittedly it is a table with secret bits and - to quote the original box blurb - it is THREE SCREENS HIGH!!! but for the asking price you'd really expect at least three tables, which seems to be the pinball game minimum. One table, particularly on a game you can't sample before paying, means that if you don't like the layout (which is a tad bland) then the game has nothing else to offer.

Devil's Crush is at least better than Sonic Spinball, also available on the VC, but nowhere near the majesty of Pinball Dreams, which isn't. If you're absolutely hellbent on owning an aging emulated pinball game on your Wii then, hey, go for it. Personally, with such a broad spectrum of great games to choose from, I can't really see why this has wormed its way to the top of the upload heap.


Oh, and Billy? Remember when I said there'd be biscuits at the end? I lied.

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