Monday, February 18, 2019

Daggerhood stabs a Vita trailer in the back

Out this week on PSN, Woblyware's Daggerhood is a pixelly thief at the top of his game, presumably until we take control, as he soon ends up being thrown into the forsaken caverns for his crimes.

Filled with the desire for freedom and revenge, Daggerhood is after some royal treasure, with the clever game mechanic of a magic dagger that he can throw and reclaim by teleporting to its current position to get past traps, obstacles and other dangers.

Spread over 100 levels, this looks a bit more active than previous effort Devious Dungeon and perhaps as challenging as League of Evil.

Trophies are up with a Platinum and a smattering of gold. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Awesome Pea shoots over to the Vita in March

I'm getting kind of nostalgic about and used to the green-screen Game Boy effect, thanks to the likes of Super Life of Pixel and others. Now, here comes Awesome Pea, a Steam platformer from Pigeon Dev, headed to consoles thanks to the efforts of the delightful Sometimes You. Packing in plenty of challenge (and frogs), it looks like another great dose of classic fun.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Review Mixups by POWGI

I love word games. On TV I'm a sofa Countdown king, in the back of papers, anything to keep my mind ticking over during downtime or travel. Would I play this on the PS4? Unlikely, but on the Vita Mixups is a fun and friendly distraction.

The mechanics are universal and simple, each theme has six pages of clues and letters, where you need to make three words or phrases related to the theme. With 120 themes there's plenty to be exploring, with trophies scattered around some of the harder selections.

From what I gather the themes are petty much universal, i.e., the baseball theme isn't going to stump non-Yanks with "designated hitter" and English monarchs won't throw any of the totally obscure or short-lived ones for non anglophiles. Astrology shouldn't require divine inspiration while others will test both spelling and memory - other sections take a little liberty with the language, like the pirate talk, to provide an extra chuckle.

Instead, I can breeze past the first couple of pages, and then get stumped when I'm suddenly convinced "Womble" should be a part of the human anatomy, or trying to figure out a pointy object that isn't fork or a bird that's not a puffin, even though the letters are there. There's a non-gameplay element of having fun trying to guess what words will come up, and I was quite often surprised (no porcupine - seriously?)


A little lateral thinking can help, but generally I plodded away despite there being three or four suitable but incorrect answers on a page. It would be cool if you could note down your wrong answers somewhere, so when you come back to a page later, you don't make the same mistake twice, but that might cramp the otherwise clear and simple UI.

With a tinkly happy tune in the background and some basic sound effects, this won't task the Vita's battery much. Just as well, as the hours flew by while trying to make up palindromes or think of desperately tenuous colour names, camel is a shade, right?

When truly stuck a hint option is available, showing the first letter of a word, but that'd be cheating, right? If you like word games, this is great fun, if you want to improve your (or the family's) vocabulary, it also provide a useful tool. POWGI and Lightwood have a great little puzzle niche going here with the likes of Pic-A-Pix Color among a growing roster, and in the twilight of the Vita's release schedule, all are welcome.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £6.49 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: POWGI/Lightwood
File size 270MB
Progress: Where's "Penguin" dammit!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Moves and shaking at PlayStation HQ

A couple of news bits usually best left for the financial pages, but they do have some impact on Sony's future for PlayStation, so I'll dig into them here.

Firstly, Sony just announced its first ever share buyback program. This common corporate tool (in all senses) is used when companies are making a "bit too much" money. They buy back their own shares to boost the stock price in the short term, so investors can sell their holdings for a bit of a lift, and perhaps buy more as they sniff out future buybacks in a cyclic feeding frenzy.

This is straight of the lazy MBA playbook. And, while Sony shareholders have had a bit of a battering over the decade, the last three years have been very rewarding, so there's no real need.

That near $1 billion is useful money. It could - and in Sony's case definitely should - be invested in PlayStation 5 features, like a Vita compatible remote player (just saying) and in adding to the hardware power of future products. Also, future game development, not just AAA titles but funding for smaller studios, encouraging indies and so on.

Okay, so the money covers all of Sony, including Xperia phones (still not selling well), cameras (a dying market) and TV screens (no profit), but since PS4 has made Sony most of its revenue in recent years, it would seem only fair to reinvest it in that future.

Even if that's not acceptable, while Sony's debt is way down from the dark days, given the uncertain nature of the console biz, minimizing it might also be a better use of the money! Note, any exec who says having debt is a good thing is a brain-dead idiot! I have proof.

The Jim Ryan Show

 Next up is Jim Ryan appointed as the new Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO from April. The usual corporate bullshit from the demoted John Kodera, likely weeping into his payoff at the humiliation, says:
"Jim has extensive knowledge around the game business and industry, as well as deep understanding of the PlayStation culture and strengths. I am confident that he will lead us to greater success as CEO of SIE. I will continue to support Jim by contributing to further strengthening user engagement, and to the overall growth of the PlayStation business."
I'm trying to think where Jim Ryan expressed an actual opinion rather than just toeing the company line or sounded less than a Sony automaton (one PlayStation Pets family anecdote does not a human make). He does indeed know his stuff, but he's been at Sony for 25 years and damn well should! The problem is where do the new ideas come from if he's firmly singing from company song sheet?

Sony's board and senior leads are all pretty much the old-boys PlayStation club, and you can bet that the institutional level antipathy to cross-platform play, their aversion to retro gaming and backward compatibility, and death to anything portable will continue.

Vita performed poorly as we know, and as corporate souls first and foremost, they never talk about or look to see what went wrong and where can we do better (like Nintendo did going from the calamitous Wii U to Switch!) With that sort of work ethic, it doesn't sound good for any future Sony portable hardware.

I'd love Sony to prove me wrong, but whereas Nintendo and Microsoft are throwing ideas around to see what sticks, Sony feels very stuck-in-its-ways to me.

More Golden Corda Octave girly fun for Japan

Japan's Vita release list is looking not-quite-as-bare as in the west, but things are definitely sluggish. Next up is another Golden Corda Octave outing in the latest romance otome effort from Ruby Party. The games had a great run on the PSP over that handheld's life, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is a HD update, also coming to Switch.

Monday, February 11, 2019

GhoulBoy looms as a EastAsiaSoft physical release

After getting a digital release last year, GhoulBoy is making the leap to a physical copy with a limited release from EastAsiaSoft. With excellent chiptune music and old-style screen effects, it offers classic platform romp packed with puzzles and challenges.

Pre-orders go live on the 14th and the game is limited to 1,000 copies each on Vita and PS4.


Ghoulboy combines action-RPG with hack 'n' slash fun. It brings back the look and feel of the very best classic retro platformers from the 90's, introducing refreshed and engaging gameplay mechanics.

Review Heroes Trials

Somewhere, there's a happy medium between adventures and RPGs with too much plot and those that let you race through with little consideration for the NPCs in the world. Blizzard's Diablo series is probably the perfect exponent, but going a little too far toward the later is Heroes Trials.

Off  Zoel and Elia go adventuring, more or less within the first 30 seconds, wading into a simple 3D land to prove themselves worthy. After some initial chat, the other characters around the game are pretty much pointless. Instead our two heroes, swap around to use their magical or sword attacks, depending on the enemy. They roam around a sparse landscape, on the lookout for treasure and health among the shrubs.

Fighting is the only way to advance, using their various strengths of sword or magical attack to defeat the blobby-looking demons. There are a steady stream of monsters to whack, although it is good to see you can avoid a lot of unnecessary combat. The two set off to complete a series of trials to see who will become guardian of their kingdom. But, in reality, you cast a few spells, lob a few bombs, and visit a few stores, with some rare useful treasures to pick up along the way.

Clocking Off From Adventuring

The game is played against the clock, so you won't want to waste any time, but the developer's big claim that "An adventure like no other. Two heroes, two ways of playing against the clock." doesn't ring true as they stumble around to master the Tower of Akron.

There's no tactics to the combat, blocking with a shield is rarely needed. There's no sense of achievement (apart from a quick and easy Platinum) and all you really have to do is follow the map to the next "quest."

Heroes Trials feels like Japanese developer Shinyuden's first game development effort - it is certainly their only game listed on Stream. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but I know there are more valuable and rewarding games out there that could be ported.

Graphically, the game looks simple enough on the Vita's small screen, I dread to think how bad the Cross Buy PS4 version looks on a larger display. There's a few effects thrown around, but literally nothing to get excited about.

On the plus side, if Shinyuden make enough money to work on their engine, add some complexity, depth and a bit of love to their games, then it is worth supporting if future efforts will have more to them. But this is the generic paracetamol of games with stock woods, icy and dungeon levels, few interesting enemies or attacks to learn and no love to feel for the heroes.

Score: 4/10
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Price: £4.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Shinyuden/Ratalaika
File size 350MB
Progress: Bored in the sticks

Code Realize Wintertide Miracles and Mixups by Powgi head to Vita this week

Another three games out this week, showing the Vita bumbling along quite happily in 2019. They are led by Aksys and Idea Factory's late Code: Realize visual romantic novel.



Slightly less exciting is Alvastia Chronicles from Kemco, who continue to churn out the cookie-cutter RPGs. Their press release for the Limited Run physical of Fernz Gate was a whole three lines long, showing how much they care about marketing. Still, if you like 16-bit RPGs, there's plenty more where this came from.


Finally, we have word puzzler, Mixups by Powgi, which shouldn't be underestimated, given the pleasurable and addictive nature of the rest of the puzzle producer's output.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

God of War leads January's most downloaded in the US

I'd forgotten the PlayStation US blog even did these. So, purely for reference, here's what people are still downloading from their PSN store on the Vita. Pretty sure Stardew Valley is the latest release among them, otherwise I suppose it shows that quality always sells and Sony, Atlus and Konami are still picking up a few dollars here and there.

 

As Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation gets the makeover for PS4/X1 next month, I guess more "didn't-sell-very-well" games will be heading to Switch and other platforms to help bump up the publisher's revenue. That has me wondering when a P4G remaster will pop up as part of the Persona teasing going on? With plenty of people thinking about getting a Vita just to play P4G, that seems to be the main reason to pick one up in 2019.

1      God of War: Collection
2 Jak and Daxter Collection
3 Persona 4 Golden
4 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
5 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
6 Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition
7 Bastion
8 Jet Set Radio
9 Stardew Valley
10 Trillion: God of Destruction

Atelier Nelke charts for Vita in Japan

A PS Vita game in the Japanese charts? Yes, its true, but barely.

Nelke... Ateliers of the New World managed to squeak into No. 16 on the latest Media Create chart for Vita. It put up just over half the sales of the Switch version and less than a quarter of the PS4 editions, showing just how far things have fallen both for the Vita and the Atelier series.

6 [PS4] Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World - 18,679 (New)
11 [SW] Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World -  8,046 (New)
16 [Vita] Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World -  4,589 (New)

That's a far cry from the likes of Atelier Sophie that managed this type of solid performance, back in 2015.

2. Atelier Sophie PS4 30,750
3. Atelier Sophie Vita 25,800

Vita hardware sales were down a couple of hundred over recent weeks, I still think Sony is eeking out the last stocks, with production already done. I did ask Sony UK for some detail on what was happening with end of life hardware in Japan, but they never got back to me.


Looking forward and across to the other big publisher, Famitsu's latest scores are out, with decent ratings for the Vita's next couple of outings.

Catherine Full Body (PS4/PSV) – 9/8/8/8
Kiniro no Corda Octave (NSW/PSV) – 7/8/8/8

Friday, February 1, 2019

Eve Rebirth Terror character clips and cute art

A couple of slick-looking character trailers for Eve Rebirth Terror from El Dia, headed to Japanese Vita owners this April. The sequel to the remake of the Sega Saturn game, looks like a lot of effort is going into this one, with plenty of high quality art too hopefully helping to make a big impression on gamers as the endless light romance VNs fill up much of the release schedule.




Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Deer God is Red Art's final Vita physical

The end is creeping up as the last rush of Vita physicals get ordered and roll out the factory gates before Sony's spring cut off point. Red Art has provided collectors with a curious mix including The Bard’s Tale, Ice Cream Surfer, Demetrios, Bit Dungeon + and Riddled Corpses EX.

All have value and hopefully have found homes with real Vita collectors, not the resellers. The French publisher’s teams final contribution to Vita collectibles is The Deer God, with a 2,000 copy print run for €25. A 3D pixel art adventure, it has you solving puzzles and avoiding the hunters while exploring a vast and wonderfully curious world, all soundtracked by Evan Gipson.

Note, the publisher and developer are looking into remaining gameplay issues including slowdown, bugs and crashes that still affect the PSN version.



Vita waves bye to PS+ with a trio of games

I was kind of hoping Sony would say goodbye in style with some clever curio or previously unpublished project, but in the end we get the great fun Rogue Aces (review) Iron Galaxy's Divekick and the quirky Gunhouse (originally a PSM game, then upgraded to full Vita status just a year ago.
PlayStation Plus arrived on the Vita at the end of 2013, with a lively roster of games that soon tailed off as Sony gave up on the portable. But its been a good five year run, and while my subscription has come and gone as funds dictated, I picked up a load of ace games for when I finally got my PS4. It also means I'll never sell my PS3 as there are loads of great games still on that box, and adding Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots as the last PS3 title is an example of how Sony should have bowed out on Vita.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Review: Dreamwalker

Sorry for the delay in this review, despite paying for it, the download was stuck in Sony's "we don't care" loop of uselessness. If I'd had any sleepless nights over it, Dreamwalker (originally a Nintendo DS release) could have helped calm me down.

A simple yet challenging puzzler from Code Mystics, you need to guide a dreaming chap, Walker, resplendent in his pink striped pajamas and floppy hat into the dawn light without waking him up prematurely through a series of cloud-formed mazes.

The early levels are simple, click on a star and you rotate the clouds adjacent to it, creating pathways through the stars for Walker to sleepwalk along. As with most puzzle games, the aim is to do it in the least moves or amount of time as possible, while dodging the increasing numbers of alarm clocks and nightmares that threaten to wake our somnolent pal.

The further you get, the more complex things become with teleporters and different-coloured stars moving in harmony, either making or breaking a well constructed path. Rainclouds can vanish once walked over creating dead ends and other hazards. An additional challenge also has Walker collecting all the sheep in a level, and there are plenty of other quirks and fun diversions along the way.

Always urging you on is the score timer counting down in the background. The early levels take places on a single screen, but soon you're scrolling around looking for the sunny exit and numerous ways to keep the clocks at bay. Screw a level up and you can restart in a flash.

With cheery animation throughout each level, a jolly tune in the background and bite-sized puzzles that make up each of the 50 levels, plus mini-games, this is pure and simple gaming fun with plenty of short term challenge, and quick-play appeal.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £1.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Code Mystics
File size 45MB
Progress: Wake up Boo!

Classic shooters form the Vasara Collection, head to Vita

Strictly Limited and Braziliant devs QuByte continue to deliver the goods on the Vita with a physical and digital release of the Vasara collection, as teased last year. Down for a first or second quarter release, the collection consists of acclaimed Japanese arcade shoot ’em ups – Vasara (an arcade cabinet release from 2000) and sequel Vasara 2.

Across both games, science fiction meets history set in an alternate timeline of feudal Japan where technologically advanced weaponry see heroes use flying motorcycles with amazing firepower and fierce melee weapons to destroy their enemies. More detailed info on shmups.com


Fight against warships, battle tanks, giant robots, evil soldiers and rogue Samurais to prevent 1600’s Japan from being taken over by tyrannical forces.

Features include

  • PlayStation TV and PS Vita TV support (2-player co-op)
  • Tate and vertical mode support
  • Eight playable characters inspired by real Japanese historical figures
  • Fight robots and Samurais using traditional shooting and powerful melee attacks
  • Easy mode for starters
  • Branching paths and multiple endings according to your characters and in-game actions