Developer: Mike Enoch
It's just another day at the office. Your foreman is a hardass, your boss is a squid and your logs and cakes are headed on course for destruction. Production Panic certainly doesn't provide a safe and stress free working environment by any stretch of the imagination, but trust me, it's a job you'll enjoy waking up for.
Mike Enoch is one of the developers behind the original Crackdown, and you couldn't wish for a more different second outing. As a factory worker, your objective is to manipulate a series of conveyor belts in order to ensure that your supplies go through the correct machines and reach the correct exits without colliding. Many of the belts are fixed, but you'll need to swap around components, rotate them to face the right direction and flip switches as cakes, logs and other goodies trundle on to the production line. Getting them to their destination is tricky enough (especially when the speed doubles halfway through the first level), but you'll also have to put certain items through several stages of processing before they're finished and ready for shipping. Juggling the same limited set of components between different lines takes some getting used to, but you'll soon be flipping and locking like a pro.
Oh, and you'll have to deal with your cephalopod boss every once in the while. You've got a terrible union.
It's a simple concept that feels a little like Pipe Dream (or Bioshock's hacking minigame for younger console players) - and it's been executed brilliantly. Responsive cursor controls and brightly coloured interactive elements ensure that you never need to fight the game itself, leaving you free to frenziedly rotate, move and swear blindly at errant cakes that find themselves on course for the rubber duck exit. The graphics are functional and don't get bogged down in unnecessary detail, and the soundtrack takes some 8-Bit inspiration. Some humourous dialogue lends some real personality to what could have been a sterile and dull experience.
Production Panic is manic, masterful and extremely moreish. Puzzle fans should definitely queue this one up as soon as possible.
Developer: Elemental Focus
What do pirates, ninjas, robots and monkeys have in common? The answer is simple: they all fear the righteous wrath of The Cannon. This powerful defensive weapon has been inexplicably erected in the middle of several fields (and a desk, just go with it), and after taking control, you'll need to wield its immense might to fend off a horde of gleefully stereotypical foes.
Rather than a simple cannonball, your artillery is capable of pumping out four kinds of firepower. Fireballs can set enemies ablaze and char though pirates' wooden legs, while frost shards can freeze the faster ninjas and monkeys. The shock cannon bathes a massive area in electric death. Most satisfying, however, is the vine - that grabs foes enemies like a lasso and turns them into a wrecking ball. Each of these abilities is mapped to the face button and use individual power meters, meaning that the experience is slick enough to cope with the huge numbers of marauding cliches.
And that's pretty much your lot: kill foes with cannon, laugh at them, cook bacon to heal your turret. There's no pretence or pretension, just good, honest frantic fun. There's a lot to be said for that.
The Cannon delivers fun and firepower in equal measure. If blowing up hordes of ninjas and pirates with a massive gun turret doesn't sound like your cup of tea, I'd recommend seeking immediate medical attention.
Developer: Golconda, Engine By Synapse Gaming
Oh dear. Aliens and avatars? Could this game possibly be any good?
Well, good may be pushing it slightly, but it's certainly a blast in small doses. Your avatar is on the trail of some pesky extraterrestrials who've set up shop in Antarctica (well, why not) - meaning that everyone gets to skate around on the ice and engage in some gratuitous circle sliding. It's a 3D third-person shooter with basic functional mechanics, and feels much like most of the twin-stick offerings out there with a different perspective to the action. Mission objectives range from taking down platoons of aliens, destroying their bases and downing their UFOs, and though it's extremely simplistic, there's a certain satisfaction to be gleaned from watching your virtual self throw down on an otherworldly menace. While sliding around like a loon.
Synapse Gaming's Sunburn Engine is fairly powerful while providing a low drain on resources (just ask the graphically glorious Avaglide), but Alien Hideout is still fairly rough around the edges. What matters, however, is that the controls work well and are responsive enough to set it apart from many of the other avatar-powered games on the marketplace. Multiple modes mean that there's a fair bit of replayability, though it's worth playing as a snack between gaming meals to avoid malaise setting in.
Alien Hideout is uncomplicated and accessible, throwing your avatar into ridiculous firefights and slippery, slidey showdowns. You could do a lot worse for 80 Points.