Every so often, a game turns up that really stumps the reviewer. He can't decide whether it's good, bad or indifferent. It can be a traumatic experience as you'll soon find out. After all, what do you think of someone when they dither and stumble and stutter when they're trying to make up their mind? You think they're a plonk, right? You wouldn't believe anything they said even if the truth of the matter loaded itself, cocked itself and shot you in the head at point blank range.
And that's the malady facing me now. It's draining my dopamine levels and flooding my brain with de-oxygenated serotonin. For the first time I can feel the full weight of game reviewing responsibility pressing on my shoulders. It's not a nice feeling, believe me. It's like waking up in the morning and staring your true self in the face and wilting in the radiance of Karmic Kaos.
The majority of you trust us and, in my case, even if you've disagreed with everything I've ever said about every game I've reviewed in AP ever, at least you should still be able to gauge whether the game I'm reviewing is worth buying or not (well that's the theory anyway. Go on, shoot me down and prove me wrong).
Of the few things that we at AP take a real pride in, the main one is our inability to be deflected by pressure from internal and external agencies. You know the kind of pressures I mean: software houses whooping and whinging; the advertising department griping; publishers bleating; readers ranting; inferior rival mags imitating and so on.
Without trying to sound too unprofessional or cock-a-doodle-doo, it's only a few months ago that the whole AP team nearly got sacked for sticking to your guns over an internal misunderstanding; it was a bloody fight with no winners or losers (We'd like to point out that if Steve says any more on this matter, he's fired - Ed) but other than that little snippet, I'm not saying any more on the matter, only that it was resolved and we're still here.
Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing like a good fight to get me going (especially if it's with swords). But, and this is another of those big buts that I throw into a review occasionally, I'm only prepared to cross swords if I have the conviction of one hundred per cent belief in my assertion. And that's the crux of this whole argument. I still can't make up my mind about Super Methane Brothers. If I don't really believe what I'm saying about it, how can I expect you to believe me?
The short answer is, I can't. So this time, rather than launch into a diabtribal invective or a scooshy praise be, I'll describe the game and outline the points that should make it sound interesting or boring. The rest is up to you. (Hang on - 'Scooshy'? - Ed)
Super Methane Brothers is an arcade-style platformer. In fact, it tries very hard to be the old arcade game TumblePop, only it doesn't quite make it. The action takes place a screen at a time, each screen consisting of a different design in terms of denizens, walls power-ups, completion strategy and layout.
So, in theory at least, there should be room to say that there's plenty of variety. Yet despite all that, after playing it for a while, it seemed to be pretty much the same all the way through, for screen after screen. It wasn't just me, either - due to my dilly dallying, I recruited quite a few reviewers from AP and other mags to express their opinions. I figured it would help me make up my mind. But no, no-one could convince me either way that it was crap or good. So it looks like there's more description in store.
There are 120 screens in all. Each has to be completed within a set time. If you don't manage that, a horrible minion appears (usually in the form of a clock monster) and tries to despatch you. You can still complete the screen, albeit with a bit more difficulty, but time gets really short. After another elapsed time period another time minion appears and then you're done for sure.
It was resolved and we're still here
To complete a screen, you have to empty the screen of 'baddies'. You do this by puffing a cloud of methane gas at them. This envelops them in a cocoon-like shell. Once in this shell, they're vulnerable to being suck into your gas gun.
Incidentally, subjective fact fans, it looks a bit like an asthmatic child's applicator with a plunger at one end. Once in the gun, let the baddies out via a vertical surface and they break up into a confetti shower of bonus point icons. Let them out into the open air and they come back at you faster and meaner than before.
And that's all you do, basically. That's as in-depth as the gameplay gets. There's the odd moment of light relief with bonus rooms where you run around against the clock and try to collect as many bonus icons as possible, but they only seem to be there to fulfil the obligatory bonus screen role.
Once all the baddies have been dealt with you've finished the screen. Dispose of them quickly enough and you earn a bonus card. Earn four bonus cards and you're rewarded with a bonus life (you start off with seven lives and can obtain more through extra crediting).
There're also four parts of a key to be collected (although, as of the time of writing, I've only managed to collect one part, around about level/screen 35). There are no start-up points or passwords, so when you get killed outright, you've got to plough through a whole load of screens which, by the time you've reached level 42, you could probably do in your sleep.
Oh, and there's the option to play with a friend, but the screens at least the earlier ones, don't seem to increase in difficulty from one player screens to two. So that's a bit of a let-down, really.
I'd like to say there was much, much more, because I did feel ever so slightly, without too much emphasis on the ever, addicted - if only to see if I could reach the next screen. Not because I particularly wanted to see it, you understand.
See what I mean about being wishy washy and dilly dally? I still haven't made my mind up. It's a poor man's Bubble Bobble without the involvement. And that's just about the most controversial statement you're going to get out of me for this review.