Games roundup: Hit the slopes with SSX on the PS3
SSX hits the slopes on PS3, Mario Party 9 breathes new life into the mini-game world on Wii and Syndicate takes gamers into a unique sci-fi shooter world on PC. Ross Wilkinson reports
Spring may have sprung in the last week or two, but SSX will have you craving a return to the snow and ice of early February.
Redefining the SSX franchise, this PS3 outing pits riders against both mountain and man, as you explore the story of a team who seek to be the first to descend the faces of the most treacherous mountain ranges on the planet.
It's the epitome of adrenalin-fuelled racing, where your first goal is to survive and the second, in true SSX fashion, is to look good doing it.
This latest instalment in the franchise proves that a few years in hibernation can do wonders for your game development, rather than heeding to the pressure to put out a game every 12 months.
Amazing mountain ranges, countless customisable options, eclectic electronic and rock tracks and absolutely brilliant gameplay make this an unmissable winter adventure, even if the UK temperatures finally seem to be rising.
PARTY WITH YOUR PALS
Title: Mario Party 9
It's been five years since Mario Party 8 dazzled gamers with a perfect execution of multiplayer madness on Wii, and now the party is back and bigger than ever, featuring a host of exciting new ways to play! For the first time, we find a host of boss battles crashing the party and challenging players to compete to defeat a common enemy. It's that co-operative element that really adds a new layer of enjoyment to proceedings, where multiplayer doesn't all boil down to who's better than who. A common goal binds you together through the different stages, but when it gets down to the business end of the game you have opportunity to find out which player is truly top dog. A whopping 80 new mini-games and adventurous new stages prove that those creative minds at Nintendo still have plenty to offer, particularly when it comes to capturing the essence of a few seconds' frantic gameplay, all of which blend competition and co-operation in a seamless way yet to be seen in the series. Great stuff, and the perfect way to get the party started.
A FUTURISTIC POWER STRUGGLE
Another dark, science fiction shooter awaits PC gamers in Syndicate, jostling for space on the already burgeoning FPS shelves. It's 2069 and, no longer governed by politicians, the world is divided into regions controlled by mega-corporations known as Syndicates. These Syndicates have developed digital technology that can access everything in their lives through the blink of an eye thanks to neural chip implants, which also grant the Syndicates all the information they could ever want on the population. The business of exploiting this information has spilled into war, which drops you into your role of prototype agent Miles Kilo, uncovering a world of corruption and revenge. Unfortunately, there's nothing here that gives gamers a glimpse of the shooters of the future, sticking to fairly well-trodden paths when it comes to combat, weaponry and sinister storytelling. That said, if you're looking for another healthy dollop of gunfire and some great co-operative missions to keep you entertained for a week or so, Syndicate could be what you're after.
WHITE FLUFFY FUN
Title: Sticky Sheep
Another entry for most bizarre game concept of 2012. Early days, yes, but then Sticky Sheep is a hybrid golf/pool title that involves you firing a sheepdog wearing a helmet at sheep, trying to knock them into a bullseye target. Still with me? Good. Because Sticky Sheep is actually an incredibly addictive little puzzler that will twist your brain as you try to unravel how a concoction of bumpers, turbo paths, switches and other tools can help you guide the sheep onto their velcro landing pads in as few moves as possible. Simple graphics, simple controls, not so simple on the later levels. It's 'One Man and His Dog' for the smartphone generation, with no high-pitched whistles required.
ON A WING AND A PRAYER
Title: Woody Woodpecker
The premise of Woody Woodpecker may well have you doing a double take at your smartphone screen to check you're not actually back on the Tiny Wings bandwagon. The big-beaked cartoon character and his pals have hijacked the screen-tapping, side-scrolling, hills and valleys landscape scenario to produce a racer that pits your wits against other opponents in short dashes to the finish line across multiple environments, instead of just going for your longest flight possible. A selection of power-ups keep things interesting for a while, as you battle to the front of the field, but the gameplay gets repetitive all too quickly without those constant single-player progression objectives. There may be more wings flapping in this cartoon caper, but the tiny ones emerge victorious in a head-to-head battle.
WHAT'S HOT AND WHAT'S NOT
Get your grey matter at the ready, as Nintendo has announced that it will be launching a new Brain Training title from Dr Kawashima to run on its 3DS system.
The series has been one of the major contributors to the DS's sales success over the years, and the new 3D title will hit Japanese game store shelves this summer, featuring some fiendishly difficult puzzles in the Devil Training mode, with international release to follow.
The original Brain Training title took under 18 months to break through the one million sales barrier in 2007.
Meanwhile, the launch of Sony's new handheld system, the PS Vita, had a big impact on the charts this week, with three launch titles making the top ten. Uncharted: Golden Abyss unsurprisingly hit top spot, followed closely by FIFA Football in second place and Rayman Origins at five.