Paul Devlin by on Aug 2, 2007

Escape from holiday hell with Pro-G

Being dragged to sunnier climes by your partner, spouse or sadistic parents for a week or, heaven forbid, two of lying by a pool covered in enough Factor 25 to keep a white rhino from getting a tan? Worried all the beaches, clear blue skies and risky local cuisine might keep you away from your video gaming obsession?

Just take a deep breath, count to ten and know that Pro-G would never leave you to suffer through this ordeal alone (we care too much).

To cure the holiday blues, simply pack your DS or PSP and a selection of some of the following bona fide gaming gems alongside one of those Dan Browns or the latest Harry Potter.

Chili Con Carnage – PSP

Who would have thought the shamelessly derivative Total Overdose would spawn a PSP reinvention that was such a hot tamale even Tom couldn’t stop raving about it?

Chili Con Carnage is, for our money at least, the best shooter to grace Sony’s overpriced, yet deliciously shiny handheld. It’s all about racking up endless combo strings, catching sombreros that tumble from head shot victims and failing to sweet talk bikini clad women wielding Uzis. In short, it’s a work of burrito blasting genius.

So the camera might flail about from time to time like a pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan getting out of a limo but, with a finely tuned lock on system and some tough as nails final stages, it’s the ideal way to keep your trigger finger in shape while mum and dad complain about how the towels haven’t been changed for two days.

Spider-Man 3 – DS

This is the ideal opportunity to rant about just how embarrassingly dull, repetitive and clumsy the movie tie-in was on the big consoles (psychiatrists around the country are still consoling people who bought the Wii version), but we are above that type of thing.

Surprisingly, Will got web fingered with excitement over the DS version and we too fell in love with our friendly neighbourhood arachnid homo sapien all over again. Fair enough, it’s basically a one trick, bash-’em-up fest with the odd spot of 3D web swinging but it has enough style and grace to sweep MJ off her feet and onto a luxury cruise, before breaking her heart by canoodling with Gwen Stacey in one of the lifeboats.

Burnout Dominator – PSP

True, it’s not a patch on the truly magnificent Revenge but EA/Criterion’s yearly milking of the Burnout cash cow is still arguably the finest racer yet to grace the PSP. Ridge Racer has its polished charms and Test Drive Unlimited is the choice for exhausts fetishists everywhere, but nothing comes close to matching the retina scorching speed of Dominator on Sony’s handheld.

With none of Revenge’s cop out ‘traffic checking’, Burnout is back to being the knife edge, nitro fuelled thrill it always was – where every oncoming car sends a shiver down your spine. The graphics might be a little pixelated and the Crash Mode has disappeared without even leaving a note, but the frame rate is consistently smooth and there is a relentless “one more go” mentality to get you through the tougher stages. Plus, you get to cruise along to Avril Lavigne’s raunchy Girlfriend in both English and, inexplicably, Spanish.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 – DS

Why take a cumbersome book on holiday when you can scroll though endless pages of text on your DS?

Phoenix Wright might have swiped all the belly laughs but this point-‘n’-tap, dialogue heavy adventure is brimming with film noir stylings, shady characters and a healthy dose of Lynchian weirdness, all wrapped in a convoluted storyline that drags you hypnotically through to the end. Will gave it a respectable 8/10 and only lamented the slightly easy puzzles. Still, that’s good news for gamers like me who never even got close to finishing Monkey Island and wouldn’t spot a clue if it offered to striptease in front of them free of charge.

Elite Beat Agents – DS

A Western re-jig of cult Japanese rhythm hit Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents is the perfect antidote to all the Europop drivel holidaymakers are forced to endure in the name of ‘entertainment’.

Stacked with infectious tunes and a surreal story about groove-infected CIA agents that can only complete missions when you burst on-screen balloons with the stylus, this tap along rhythm ace is so crazy it could share a cell with Hannibal Lector and he would be the sane one.

Genuinely rib tickling, packed with replayability (a good thing, as the easy mode can be knocked off in a few hours) and filled with the kind of irresistible charm usually only deployed by immaculately tanned bartenders serving your girlfriend at the poolside bar, this is one not to miss.

Virtua Tennis 3 – PSP

SEGA knows just what people want from a game of virtual tennis; the pick up and playability of Pong, all the top stars animated to perfection (Sharapova included, before you ask), realistic AI that really puts up a proper fight and a deep, rewarding career mode with a genuine sense of progression.

It might understandably lack some of the sparkle of the Xbox 360 and PS3 incarnations but, if you can find a better game of handheld tennis out there, our reviewer Will has agreed to eat his prized Slazenger racket (with the concession that he can smother it with the condiment of his choice).

Slitherlink (import)/Picross – DS

Sudoku is older news than a battered Telegraph found underneath the seat on the last train home; Slitherlink is where it’s at for hip puzzle enthusiast these days (if such a thing exists) and now DS owners can see what all the fuss is about.

Like all puzzlers it sounds insanely boring on paper; here is how Wikipdedia describes it: “The objective is to connect horizontally and vertically adjacent dots so that the lines form a single loop with no loose ends. In addition, the number inside a square represents how many of its four sides are segments in the loop.”

Sorry, drifted off for a minute there. In practice though, Slitherlink is actually so addictive it should only be available from that dealer at the end of your street. For reasons best known to Nintendo, it’s not on sale in the UK yet but is available from all good importers. Not convinced, try it for free online and think how much better it would be to play it on the beach with your DS.

If you prefer to let Nintendo’s idiomatic approach to European game distribution guide your purchases, then might we suggest Picross as a worthy Slitherlink alternative. Essentially, you have to follow number clues to fill in the blank squares on a grid, which gradually create a picture – giving you more guesswork pointers with which to help complete the puzzle.

Will was pretty partial to it and there are certainly worse ways to spend your time waiting in the departure lounge, while the jetlagged cabin crew painstakingly restock the drinks trolley with tiny bags of peanuts.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! – PSP

A games industry chum once claimed he had changed the music for the ballroom dancing mini-game in the PC version of Pirates! to the theme from cartoon classic Ulysses, making him a genius in my book. But I digress.

Forget Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, this is where real pirates go for their timber shivering. Tense cannon-based sea battles, cutlass duels, treasure hunting and, yes, rhythmic ballroom action; Pirates! has it all. Retooled for the PSP, this version is even more suited to quick blasts of nautical-themed action and is certainly best played lying on the sand, with a bottle of rum close at hand.

SEGA Mega Drive Collection – PSP

I’ve reviewed enough retro titles now to know how painful it can be to return to the games you loved as a child. Thanks to having your senses heightened by the glitz and glamour of next generation consoles, it can be as agonising as skinny dipping near a pincer-happy crab’s favourite piece of coral.

Yet some things do manage to survive the passing of the years intact, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct 2 (not that I’ve seen it, of course). I’m speaking here of Sonic the Hedgehog and its peerless sequel, both of which are included in this retro compendium. Pure, blistering paced platforming nirvana – ’nuff said.

In total, there are more than 30 games crammed into this compendium and many of them are, unsurprisingly, dross that should have been buried with other ’80’s fads like shell suits and Bros. Still, many of them (Altered Beast, Shinobi

III, Bonanza Bros and Phantasy Star II-IV) are worth a second look, albeit as brief a one as you would give to a beach babe/hunk (for the ladies) strolling past your sun lounger when your partner’s not looking.

Touch Darts – DS

What better way to remind yourself of the joys of home than with a darts simulator so authentic it might as well come with a surly barman and a pack of dry roasted.

Tom took to it like Eric Bristow and a pint of Guinness and praised its control system for a “near perfect balance between fine control, ease of use and depth of skill“. It probably won’t be in your DS after more than a few days but Touch Darts scores a treble twenty for gameplay while it lasts.

All that’s missing is commentary from the legendary Sid “He looks as happy as a penguin in a microwave” Waddell. Maybe next time, eh?

If you think the heat, or deluge of rain, is getting to us and we have missed any other scorching summer titles, then let us know in the comments box below. We promise not to sulk.

Happy summer holidays everyone!


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Sid Meier’s Pirates!

on PC, PSP, Wii, Xbox

In Sid Meier’s Pirates! players take the leading role of a Pirate…

Release Date:

07 October 2010