Operation Flashpoint: Red River provides an engaging shooter experience on Xbox 360, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection is an RPG cracker on PSP and LEGO Battles: Ninjago introduces Nintendo DS gamers to the lost martial art of... Spinjitzu.
GAME OF THE WEEK: NO FLASH IN THE PAN
Title: Operation Flashpoint Red River
Platform: Xbox 360
Shooters will often fling you into the far future to get your trigger-happy kicks, but Red River takes just a small step through time to set up a fictional conflict between Afghanistan and China, which unfolds over three distinct acts in a stunning single player and drop-in-drop-out co-operative experience for up to four players. And it's when you're playing with pals that the level of immersion cranks up to another level. With the ability to play within Grenadier, Scout, Rifleman and Automatic Rifelman classes, the depth potential when building your character's unique attributes, weaponry and associated attachments is incredible, and will delight online gamers with an eagle eye on their increasing XP. Beautiful to look at (if brutal conflict like this ever can be) and an audio feast, the Operation Flashpoint series continues to burn brightly.
A BRILLIANT RPG BUNDLE
Title: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
Can you believe it was 1991 when Final Fantasy IV got its first airing on the SNES system? Two decades on, the lovingly crafted characters and storyline have been given a graphical polish (though it's still delightfully old school) to present a new generation of gamers with the chance to forge their way in the FF world with Black Knight Cecil and his colourful crew. What's more, the episodic prequels of The After Years and Interlude are bundled into the RPG mix, which presents some serious one-disc value in these tight times! Where more recent FF releases have relied on graphical advancements to move the series forward, this is RPG gaming in perhaps its purest form, and fans of the fourth instalment - old and new - should make it an essential addition to their UMD collection.
AN UPHILL BATTLE
Title: LEGO Battles: Ninjago
Platform: Nintendo DS
LEGO Battles: Ninjago gives you the chance to become a master of Spinjitzu, an art form in which characters spin and become tornadoes to defeat their enemies. Here, you can choose to play both 'good' and 'evil' single-player campaigns, test your skills in a variety of Battle Mode challenges, or play with pals in multiplayer showdowns. Ninjago is essentially a basic strategy title that looks like something out of the handheld games that time forgot, but appearances can be deceptive, so give yourself time to get into the story mode and start finding the unlockables before you call time on the battle. Ultimately, though, for youngsters it's a decent starting point for this kind of game, but seasoned RTS gamers will scoff at the simplicity.
SQUAREPANTS IN A ROUND HOLE
Title: Spongebob Squigglepants - uDraw Compatible
Spongebob Squarepants is one of those cartoons that you (and your kids) probably love or hate. The in-your-face, overbearing characters lurch from plain puerile and gross to downright grating, and their translation to Wii (and its uDraw tablet peripheral) don't really prove to be much more satisfying. A mediocre melange of mini-games only occasionally entertain when you hit the ones that draw inspiration from classic arcade titles such as Asteroids and Arkanoid, but overall you get the impression that this is one franchise rushed out to boost sales of the uDraw add on. There's very little here that couldn't have been played with the traditional Wii controllers, which makes all the tilting of the tablet and tapping of the pen feel unnecessary. One for hardcore Spongey fans only...
GOOD TO GOO!
Title: World of Goo
Platform: iPhone / iPad
World of Goo is a multiple award-winning, physics-based puzzle game that had the Wii world cooing when it was first released on WiiWare. Perfectly repurposed for iPhone and iPad, you must drag and drop living, squirming, talking globs of goo to build structures, bridges, cannonballs, zeppelins and giant tongues. The laws of physics will help and hinder you through the four seasons, as you unearth new goo with new attributes. From drool droplets to inflatable goo, you'll need to find the best way of maximising each one's properties to save the required number on each level. The older 'Lemmings' fans around us will recognise hints of that old-school addictiveness, and while the furry creatures have been replaced by slime, you may be the one in danger of falling off a cliff, you'll be so fixated on your iPhone screen...
WHAT'S HOT AND WHAT'S NOT
HMV will be entering the online market for selling second-hand games, following a vigorous push on the pre-owned market. The entertainment retailer has also released a clever little iPhone and Android app that allows gamers to scan a games barcode to find out how much credit HMV will give them for it. HMV RePlay manager Martin Baxter said he believed that there was still an element of nervousness among consumers around trading in games, and the app will give people all the info they need before visiting a store.
In the charts this week, Zumba Fitness claimed the top spot for another week, while LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars clambered above Crysis 2 into second place. FIFA 11 also enjoyed a resurgence in fortunes, climbing eight places from 12 to four.