This week it's horror from Little Nightmares and whimsy from Seasons After Fall on Xbox One, while we try to survive Prey and live as a Black & White Bushido on PS4.
On tablet and smartphones, we're Turing testing Artificial Superintelligence.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Title: Little Nightmares
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
The best bad dreams
This disturbing ordeal begins almost innocently as the rodent-sized Six wakes in an open suitcase. So far, so Borrowers. Then, among other dreadful discoveries, you find a dangling suicide and hide from a shambling horror loose in a dormitory of sleeping children, all hinting at an awful truth lurking ahead in the perfectly judged and oppressively industrial setting. Little Nightmares echoes the most unsettling elements of Silent Hill, from unexplained wrappings of meat and unspeakably ugly, yet somehow human horrors, to simple items (in this case, shoes) with ominous power. The environment itself lists like a vessel at sea, literally unsettling you, although occasional problems arise when this effect clashes with the 3D platforming for annoyingly avoidable deaths. But overall, the challenge is heart-stopping not heartbreaking, and niggles are forgotten quickly as you delve deeper into the compelling atmosphere.
Skip to the end: Terrifically ghastly and wonderfully disturbing, an absolute must.
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
No pain no game
Should surviving an outbreak of killer shape-shifting aliens be enjoyable? Prey doesn't think so. Trapped aboard a lab orbiting the earth, you'll be impressed by the unconventional gameplay, rich narrative and tense atmosphere, but you won't have much fun. Prey is a struggle for survival where mugs, plants or even medikits can burst into life and attack. It's a gruelling experience that rewards slow, methodical play and punishes carelessness or over-confidence, but this admirable design is spoilt by poor key elements such as oddly flat and disorientating visuals. Your default weapon, a wrench, is idiotically underpowered and killing even weaker enemies is infuriating, while overpowered larger aliens prompt regular retreats. Running solves nothing, however, when success depends on harvesting junk from corpses and new areas to make ammo or health. Only masochists are likely to find much enjoyment in such hardscrabble playing.
Skip to the end: Prey isn't concerned with pleasure and everyone suffers as a result.
Title: Seasons After Fall
Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
Four seasons in one game
A game without failure could be subversive, but Seasons After Fall has no revolutionary ambitions. Instead it's a soothing platformer whose brushstroke art style and gentle story of magical seeds awakening slumbering seasonal spirits conjures a book at bedtime ambience. The fox your will-o'-the-wisp character possesses to complete its quest bounds handsomely over picturesque landscapes peppered with environmental puzzles that require switching between seasons to overcome - water levels rise in spring, while winter freezes create ice platforms to climb up to plants, which unfurl only in summer. It's all very charming. Without any risks to be rewarded, there's no thrills or excitement, though Seasons After Fall is a pleasing, if essentially linear adventure into nature.
Skip to the end: Beautifully crafted around a neat idea, but otherwise unremarkable.
Title: Black & White Bushido
Platform: Xbox One, PS4
Black & White Bushido is a proudly simple idea. Choose a warrior from the shadows in full black gear or a warrior of the light, clad in brilliant white. Each tight little 2D arena has alternating areas of light and shadow that enable Bushido of the right colour to blend in and disappear, occasionally turning hunter into hunted. With four players, it's a riot of dodging around the platform-based levels or an edgy standoff between statues, all waiting to ambush the others. It's about bluffing, memory and intuition. Play against AI opposition, however, and everything goes out the window as they hone in on you time and again, so best to simply enjoy the excellent poker-style deception in multiplayer.
Skip to the end: Uniquely fantastic with others, but totally flat on your own.
Title: Artificial Superintelligence
Do two games make a genre? Artificial Superintelligence borrows the 'flick to decide' innovation from Reigns (which, OK, really began with Tinder, but let's move on), but in this choose-'em-up, you rule over a Silicon Valley codeshop creating a superintelligent computer. That computer is CARROT, the snarky AI star of several sarcastic lifestyle apps. CARROT's personality and the amusing script support the bizarre setup of you making a glorious mess of things over a multitude of alternative universes, from merely losing your company to accidentally blowing up the world as you juggle competing demands from investors, staff, governments and trolls on the internet. The variety of comic outcomes and wealth of events and choices make it moreish, if limited fun.
Skip to the end: Occasionally enlightening and appealingly zany thumb-flicking.
In the charts Prey takes first place, bumping Mario Kart 8 back into third as GTA approaches its fifth year (!) on the leaderboard. Meanwhile Ghost Recon pops back into the top 10 and FIFA 17 sprints from eighth into fourth position.
2 Grand Theft Auto V
3 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
4 FIFA 17
5 Rocket League
6 Lego Worlds
7 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
8 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands
9 Horizon Zero Dawn
10 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (c) 2017 UKIE Ltd