> This week's biggest mobile games reviewed
Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Developer: Gaijin Games
Platforms: Steam (PC, Mac, Linux), XBLA, PSN (PS3, Vita), Wii U
Price: Steam - £11.99 / $14.99; XBLA - 1,200 MSP (£10.30 / $15); PSN - $14.99
Unwieldy title aside, Gaijin Games' side-scrolling platformer Runner2 is a sequel that improves significantly on its predecessor.
The first Runner played like an endless runner, with your character automatically running and requiring you to press buttons to execute jumps, slides and more to overcome obstacles. However, it was also punishing and frustrating, and completing all of the levels required a huge amount of patience.
The simple addition of mid-level checkpoints makes Runner2 more manageable (though the option is there to avoid using them for a score bonus), while difficulty can be easily changed at the level select screen with no drawbacks at all unless you're gunning for high scores.
Stages are also more interesting to play, often featuring multiple paths and different types of collectibles and encouraging repeated playthroughs.
One of Runner2's strongest aspects remains the fact that obstacles are timed to be in sync with the music. Complemented with a revamped, charming art style, at its best the game is fulfilling and enjoyable.
That said, it's not flawless, and Runner2 can still be irritating. There were occasions when we felt button presses weren't as responsive as they could be.
Meanwhile, levels do become almost a memory test at times, often throwing several different types of obstacles within a few seconds. It's worth mentioning that a gamepad is definitely the way to experience the game, with the keyboard controls awkward as you fumble around trying to recall which key slides, kicks, blocks and bounces.
But overall, Runner2 is a better put-together package when compared to the original, which makes the core of the game easier to appreciate. And that's not mentioning the game's lengthy campaign, and the bonus of being narrated by Mario voice actor Charles Martinet.
> Buy 'Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien' from the Steam store
The Showdown Effect
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Platforms: Steam (PC)
Price: £7.99 / $9.99
The Showdown Effect is a class-based multiplayer brawler from Arrowhead Game Studios, the minds behind Magicka. In a nutshell, the game is a mash-up of '80s and '90s action film clichés and fast-paced, unpredictable mayhem inspired by the Super Smash Bros series.
At first, there are four characters available to choose from, each with their own personality. Dutch McClone, an Austrian amnesiac, is your typical manly Schwarzenegger/Willis action hero, while Shur Foo is your clichéd 'sifu' - a wise Chinese master and expert of martial arts.
Matches are often frantic, with characters wielding either guns (which require you to aim your mouse specifically at your target to hit) and melee weapons. And while you'll die a lot, at first it's satisfying slicing foes up with a machete or executing someone with a shotgun blast.
However, multiplayer games live and die by how long they can sustain your interest, and in that regard, The Showdown Effect falls short.
What harms the title most is the way most matches simply play out too similarly, to the point where it gets tiring and repetitive pretty quickly.
To its credit, you can put together customised rule sets for matches (one-hit kills, infinite ammo and so forth), but the four game modes that are included don't do much to spice up the gameplay as they're effectively just variations of deathmatch and team deathmatch.
You can also change your loadouts and spend accumulated points on new unlocks and clothing, but so much of it is just cosmetic, and the locked-away characters don't change how you play the game in any significant way.
The Showdown Effect isn't a bad way to kill some hours, and the developer is clearly intent on supporting the game with new content. We also didn't have many problems finding matches. But while this is a promising start, the game doesn't quite scratch that multiplayer itch just yet.
> Buy 'The Showdown Effect' from the Steam store
Nano Assault EX
Developer: Shin'en Multimedia
Platforms: 3DS (eShop)
Price: £12.49 / €14.99 / $14.99
Nano Assault EX is an enhanced version of the brief but fun shoot-'em-up Nano Assault on the 3DS, and for the most part, everything that worked in the original remains intact here.
The campaign consists of a few different types of levels. 'Ground' stages work like twin-stick shooters as you fend off viruses while collecting strands of DNA, while 'air' levels are on-rail segments requiring you to dodge and survive against waves of incoming enemies.
It plays really well thanks to tight controls and diverse levels. That your ship is extremely vulnerable (it only takes one hit to die) adds a suitable amount of tension, and the boss fights are probably the standout parts of the game.
In addition, a number of minor improvements justify the existence of the EX version.
Better visuals make the good-looking game even easier on the eye, Circle Pad Pro support is included should you want proper dual-analog controls, and there's a brand new survivor mode.
Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that the main campaign is short and takes only a few hours to complete. And while there are other modes available to play afterwards, including a boss rush mode, the game doesn't really mix up things enough to keep the shooting interesting.
The other slight against the title is that it's quite forgettable. It looks great, but the setting feels lifeless and bland. We never felt immersed in the world of the game.
Nano Assault EX is a solid upgrade over the original game, but the shortcomings remain unaddressed. That said, it's still very much a decent experience filled with enjoyable moments, and if you're intent on playing Nano Assault, you should get the eShop version.
> Learn more about 'Nano Assault EX' on the official Nintendo website
What downloadable releases have you been playing recently? Add a comment in the space below!