One of the interesting things with this new generation of games is the hunger for more simple formulas to just pick up and play, as not everyone, all the time wants to play mega-epics that take up half of your life, nor do they always need great, expansive graphics that can often mask an empty game. The fact is that however good the story or graphics are, a game is there to be played. Gone are the days when offering a cinematic experience was universally heralded as a desirable aim- as many such programs involved the user just clicking to go to the next, linear, progression. People play games for a sense of freedom and excitment, to be liberated from the confinements of their lives- of any life lived in a safe environment. Gamers (though perhaps not ‘hardcore gamers’) just want to have fun!

So there is the surprising rebirth of fast, Robotron-like blasters that really get the adrenalin pumping and are a whole lot of fun. On the X-Box 360, you have something called Geometry Wars, whilst in PS3, we have Stardust HD, which is apparently just as frenetic and enjoyable and also Blast Factor, amongst others. Simply, you just rush around blasting things, using tactics to do it well, all with bright, vivid, high definition images around you. As things go on, they get more frenetic and you get more powerful weapons to cope with it. Love it.

Another interesting addition to the download catalogue has been ‘Flow’. Is it a game or a way of life? You are a small micro-organism in some alien sea, complete with nebula-like clouds of colour all around you and pulsing, new-age ambient music. You swim into things to eat them and apparently whether you aggressively eat everything or relaxedly float around will effect the way you evolve. I personally have found my little thing changing into all kinds of shapes but in actual facts this is from surviving to the end of ‘stages’, each unlocking a new shape. As it says ‘ life could be simple’ and it certainly is a relaxing change from what we usually think of as a game. The only thing is, I’ve already ‘finished it’ and the actual game-play falls behind the conceptual atmosphere – if only those graphics and sounds could be utilised for a more open-planed game where you perhaps reproduce or male music or something, it would be even more revolutionary.

As it stands though, it is good to have something inspiringly different. It actually reminds me a lot of Andrew Braybook’s seminal Morpheus, published back in 1987 by Rainbird. This also had a kind of alternate universe, filled with micro-organisms, except you armed and extended a space-ship from which to shoot them. It remains one of my favourite ever C64 games and along with Elite as something that has yet to be surpassed. A Morpheus HD- now there would be a game I’d like to try (and Flow isn’t quite it!) Yet the possibility of more free and floaty games exists and still to come is the ‘Africa’ project that seems to hint at some kind of life-simulation of the Serengeti, but little has yet been said…

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