Sony has also made somewhat of a Vita showpiece out of Sound Shapes, a vibrant musical platformer from another Toronto talent, Jonathan Mak. The game, which can be downloaded for Vita and PS3 after a single purchase, has been a hit with industry pundits ever since it was first shown off, and has only grown in profile with the addition of musical celebrities like Beck and Deadmau5.
The informal musical trio on PSN gained its third member in Retro/Grade
, an ingenious side-scrolling shooter that begins with your victory and then plays entirely in reverse. You attempt to rhythmically repeat your actions and catch all your bullets, lest you create a temporal paradox.
It's just like Memento
, except Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss are spaceships.
This thematic lineup of PSN games has further distinguished Sony's store from Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, and cemented it as a playground for unique, experimental and creative games. That isn't to say PSN has become the exclusive domain for such gems (both platforms just got Rock Band Blitz
), but it's a reassuring occurrence that's easy to take for granted and not often seen outside of the more indie-friendly PC. Only on the PlayStation Store will you find Papo & Yo
, a surreal adventure derived from the designer's troubled relationship with his father, and Journey
, one of the year's best and most elegant, expressive games.
The summer doldrums – rather, the period formerly
known as the summer doldrums – are an ideal time to showcase all the work Sony has done to curate its store, which feels more and more like an eye-catching boutique next to Xbox Live Arcade's reliable but cluttered mega-mart. It also doesn't help that the latest Summer of Arcade, Microsoft's annual show of promotional favoritism to a month's worth of games, fizzled more often than it inspired.
The XBLA lineup just didn't elicit the positive reception it has in the past, starting with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD
, a wobbly remake that couldn't draw a concurring set of memories from reviewers. Deadlight
impressed with its style but left many cold with its cumbersome take on the zombie apocalypse; Wreckateer
had its compliments hinged on Kinect's "when it works" clause; and 5th Cell's shooter, Hybrid
, had a rough launch that got it temporarily pulled from the Xbox Live Marketplace. The only game that made it through mostly unscathed was Dust: An Elysian Tale
, a gorgeous side-scrolling action game in the vein of Super Metroid
Crowning the PSN as the victor in this instance is not as important as highlighting the ongoing battle for your time during retail's pre-holiday break. Downloadable console games are increasing in scale, scope and weirdness, and the two biggest digital stores are formulating distinct personalities and predilections. There's a welcome to-and-fro, even if it means the end of our annual summer respite.
Ludwig Kietzmann is the Editor-in-Chief of Joystiq.com. He's been writing about video games for over 10 years, and has been working on this self-referential blurb for about twice as long. He thinks it turned out pretty well. Follow him on Twitter @LudwigK.