Games: Guts, glory and a tender love story
Mortal Kombat X, (PS4/XOne/PC/PS3/X360), Rating: ****
The goriest game ever showcases a hitherto-unseen sensitive side with a six-hour solo campaign that manages to be both touching and compelling.
Otherwise, it's business as usual for Mortal Kombat X, latest scion of a fighting series that built its considerable reputation on gruesome 'Fatalities'. Newly gussied up in high definition, MKX has lost none of its grungy black humour as bones snap, blood spurts and bodies crumple in volatile battles between 16 familiar characters and eight newcomers.
The new Fatalities (heart-ripping, face-eating, etc) push the boundaries of even bad taste but somehow teeter on the right side of funny. Needless to say, they totally warrant the game's 18+ rating. With plenty of single and multiplayer modes, MKX marks a triumphant return for the series, though the sharply increased pacing may bamboozle long-term fans at higher skill levels.
Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush
From the grim killing fields of MKX to the day-glo worlds of Kirby, the contrast couldn't be more acute. Everyone's favourite pink blob continues his resurgence courtesy of a sequel to the 2005 DS outing that used the stylus to draw a path through a colourful landscape.
With an irrepressible art style mimicking claymation cartoons and a lead character who's never less than unbearably cute, the only danger here is a charm overload.
But Kirby is not his usual self-assured blob this time, lacking his trademark inhale and exhale attack, and even the ability to jump. Instead, he navigates the worlds by rolling on freehand paths traced by your stylus, collecting stars, bopping enemies and dodging hazards.
It begins deceptively easy but evolves into a challenging platformer with tough boss battles. Luckily, a co-op mode enables younger gamers to draw on assistance from up to three other players.
If Dali or Saul Bass made videogames, Proun+ might have been the result. A tube racer with echoes of Tempest, you control a ball rushing headlong along a track into a geometric landscape. You can brake and boost but never stop as you try to roll and squeeze past triangles, squares and random polygons. The dizzying speed requires lightning reflexes and it's quite possible to come away from a session seeing stars and shapes seared into your eyeballs. Shame there's only about a dozen tracks and no real multiplayer. But top marks for its visuals, an eye-popping tour de force.