So here it is, the real gem of the 3DS launch line-up. It's not a new Mario game, sadly, nor is it a racing game, or even a portable version of Street Fighter. No, our triumphant star is actually a thoughtful little strategy game, and a turn-based one to boot. Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Actually, some of you may have done - because Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is the work of Julian Gollop, creator of the X-Com series - you know, that game old farts like me are always harping on about. If you're younger than 25 or so then there's a good chance that neither name will mean much to you, but that doesn't matter. All you really need to know is that this is a turn-based military affair from Ubisoft Sofia, one that finds you ordering your small band of elite troops about a 3D, grid-based battlefield. It's essentially a board game version of The A-Team, only without the need for dice or a burly Mohawked chap with aerophobia.
Despite the familiar branding, this bears scant resemblance to previous Ghost Recon titles. The action is viewed from an elevated perspective, giving a broad outlook on the combat. You can use the C-pad to pivot the camera around, but there's little need to do so unless you're trying to get a sense of the 3D effect. Since there's no Fog of War, it's relatively easy to keep track of your various threats and objectives, and given the game's turn-based nature there's plenty of time to decide what you should do next. The enjoyment here lies in making a careful plan to exploit your team's abilities, and then watching as things come to fruition. Or not, as the case may often be.
The six Ghosts in your squad fall neatly into established gaming archetypes. Your commando-style leader is joined by a sniper, a medic, and a heavy-weapons chap, along with a stealthy scout and an engineer, who can deploy an independent turret. Sometimes you'll only be using a few of these caricatures, but on other occasions you'll have the full six plus a smattering of largely expendable helpers. As familiar as they may be, each of your specialists has a clear-cut set of strengths and weaknesses that mesh well when used as part of a considered strike.
Each character is limited to one movement and one major action per turn, and when you launch an attack the aggressor is subjected to return fire - not just from their victim, but also from anyone else who happens to be within range. Successful assaults are therefore dependent on co-operation, timing, and an awareness of who you're going up against. You're able to check your foes' lines of sight at any time, but even so it's surprisingly easy to put a foot wrong, and thanks to the fact that you're limited to a single mid-game save slot, the more complex engagements can get quite tense.