Have you noticed an curious resistance to short, sharp, bite-sized videogames from people who were too young to have experienced them the first time around? It's an interesting phenomenon, but it makes sense.
For gamers whose first experiences of videogames started in the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 era, some express bafflement at the the appeal in the kind of highly abstract, instant video games that existed throughout the 70s, 80s and half of the 90s. They often see little interest in games that lack the kind of depth that they're used to.
And yet for those of us, like myself, who were introduced to games in the late 70s and hungrily consumed all that the classic arcade era produced, and the subsequent home computer boom, this rebirth of ultra-accessible games is hugely exciting. Having been denied these kinds of experiences for so long, the thrill of being able to just get straight into a game without prior explanation is one that has been sorely missed.
So to completely contradict all of that, check out Swarm - a game that has absolutely no intention of being instantly accessible, but one that will win you over anyway.
- XBLA - 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20)
Given how many games struggle to give you adequate control over even a single character, imagine the fun involved in trying to steer fifty of the buggers to safety.
The endearingly throwaway plot would have us believe that we're on a mission to collect DNA to ensure the survival of these 'Swarmites', but what appears to matter most is you ability to keep a score multiplier rattling along at rate of knots.
Mastering the movements of these nimble blue blobs with any degree of competence, predictably, takes an enormous amount of patience. On a basic level, you can gather them together with a squeeze of the right trigger or make them disperse with the left, but more sophisticated manoeuvres, such as being able to stack them into a thin column, or pull off a long jump, is a dark art.
And if its inherent fiddliness hasn't blackened the mood enough, just when you're starting to warm to its wanton originality and charming visuals, Hothead decides to deal out the pain and set the fifth level in the dark. And to make matters worse, reaching the score total that unlocks the next stage requires you to take the kinds of risks that are completely at odds with the already-punishing level design.
As soon as you plunge into the abyss, your score multiplier goes with it - but it's such a regular occurrence, you just have to rely on good old fashioned muscle memory, endless replaying and a smidgen of luck to squeak through.
But after bashing your head against a brick wall for hours, the chances are that you will find the breakthrough, and start enjoying Swarm far more than ever seemed possible early on.
After all the cursing over the bloody-minded mechanics and hideously exacting level design, Swarm starts to become hugely satisfying. Suddenly you're replaying the old levels, seeking out the remaining DNA, chasing high scores, and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Sometimes it pays to do things differently, even if you risk driving your audience slightly insane in the process.
Video: Swarm's first 15 minutes.
Slam Bolt Scrappers
- PSN - £11.99, Free demo available.
Combining Super Smash Brothers with Tetris is either the work of cracked genius, or a slightly ill-advised mashup. Can you guess which?
Firehose Games' PSN exclusive certainly starts off with the best of intentions. Over the first few levels of its campaign mode, it eases you into the chaos and patiently explains how interlocking like-coloured shapes need to be turned into square blocks, which subsequently act as the basis of your defence or attack.
But getting those shapes in the first place essentially involves beating the crap out of any of the enemies loitering around your tower - as well as ensuring that your adjacent opponent is put firmly in their place.
The fighting system is necessarily stripped-down, but serves as enough of a continual distraction to make the business of shape-positioning a trickier prospect than it initially appears. No sooner have you lined-up your shape, ready to drop, a gaggle will invariably descend and start pummelling chunks off your health bar. Take too much damage, and you're forced to sit out for precious seconds.
This somewhat stressful formula only ever seems to get increasingly unrelenting as your chip your way through the game - so you can probably imagine that the multiplayer Battle Mode is concentrated insanity with four of you at it.
Slam Bolt Scrappers certainly merits applause for managing to make the idea work at all. But the constant need to multitask makes it feel like you're being persistently harangued by a hyperactive four-year old. If that sounds like your idea of entertainment, be my guest.
- DSiWare - 500 DSiWare points (£4.50)
With such little regard for their own safety, I'm not surprised these penguins have been captured. You could probably just usher them in the direction of the nearest lava pit and save yourself the bother of painstakingly ushering the flightless little morons to safety. Just saying.
Against your better judgement, though, you'll more likely wind up spending hours of your life painstakingly directing them to the next flight back to Antarctica.
Yes, it's pretty much Lemmings again, but presented in a way that doesn't make it feel like a cheap knock-off. You'll start off each of the 104 levels with a gaggle of Pingus wandering to-and-fro, bumping into things and turning back round again.
But via the magic of arrow placement, these curious creatures can be pointed in the right direction, and once they've all gotten to the chopper, it's off to the next challenge.
Once Teyon's unexpectedly enjoyable offering gets into its stride, you'll end up not merely directing traffic, but have to make sure they flick switches and jump at the right time. Exciting stuff. No, really.
Now and then you'll find yourself having to hastily rearrange your carefully laid plans once bridges start to collapse. But such is the nature of the DSi, you'll have to keep in mind that only the touch screen portion of the screen can be messed around with - a limitation that becomes apparent the tougher the game gets.
With its rather rudimentary style, Arctic Escape will doubtlessly pass most people by, but those of you who take pride in rooting out DSiWare's hidden puzzle gems will be happy they did.
Battle: Los Angeles
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- PSN - £7.99
- PC Steam - £7.99
With extra terrestrials this hapless, I'm not sure anyone has to fret too much about an alien invasion just yet. Just call in Team America, fire some hot lead in their general direction and crack open a celebratory Bud in time for dinner.
I realise first person shooters are getting shorter these days, but, come on. Did Saber Interactive really imagine that releasing a movie tie-in that you can sleepwalk through inside an hour was going to be acceptable?
The game starts off as it means to go on - with absolutely zero ambition to differentiate itself from the dozens of other military shooters all hooahing themselves into irrelevance.
If you were to be kind, you'd probably observe that it's built on solid technical foundations, but at this stage, that's a bit like commending a movie for having a good set. In reality, Battle Los Angeles is so content to go through the motions, it may as well be playing itself.
You'll trudge through the rubble of a few tight set-pieces, pull off the head shots where necessary, duck behind cover whenever you're in any danger, and even smash up a few unthreatening alien ships with the handily placed bazookas.
But at no stage does the game deign to get out of second gear, and by the time you've reached the end, there's a sense of relief that only 53 minutes of your life was wasted on this entirely pointless piece of digital merchandising.
Video: Battle: Los Angeles' first 15 minutes.
Ghostbusters: Sanctum Of Slime
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80)
- PSN - £7.99
- PC - Steam - £7.99
The number one, unbreakable golden rule of ghostbusting is that you do not, under any circumstances, cross the streams.
And if you can't manage that, at least bloody well try to respect the license. Don't just lovelessly slap the brand top onto any old half-baked twin stick shooter and expect people not to seek retribution for this wanton abuse of IP.
Stripped of all the fan service that made Terminal Reality's flawed gem so enjoyable, all you're left with is essentially a spooky Smash TV. You, and your three ghostbusting chums, wander from room to room, and take out all the restless spirits by zapping them with one of three weapons, colour-coded to match the hue of your enemies.
After ten, 15 minutes of this monotony, you'll eventually meet a boss monster, and studiously chip away his giant health bar until he stops spamming you with cheap attacks. And so it goes on, through 12 levels of progressively trickier encounters.
It might have been mildly engaging if there had been more to do, but the Behaviour Studio's offering swiftly runs out of ideas after about the fourth level. And, to make matters worse, the further you progress, the more likely the game's dreadful health/revive mechanic robs you of any will to continue.
In a game where you become incapacitated after about two hits, a large chunk of the game is spent waiting for your co-op partners to revive you - and if they get caught in the crossfire, the game will quickly snuff you all out and return you to the previous checkpoint.
With the mood alternating between boredom and exasperation, Sanctum Of Slime is a spirit-crushing exercise that only a committed masochist could appreciate.
Video: The first 15 minutes of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime.