Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Rogue Aces

Gaming is rarely as pure when its just you and a feeble fighter plane against a land, sea and sky filled with enemy targets. Enter Rogue Aces from Infinite State, a nod to the likes of Harrier Attack, SWIV and all the other hopeless-odds shooters, most recently Luftrausers.

From the driving guitars on the intro screen, Rogue Aces is fast and furious fun throughout. Take off from your carrier deck and battle across dozens of campaign missions to impose your little slice of a new world order on the land. All before your petrol or ammo runs out!

A little banter from the excellently-mustached boss and its off into the blue yonder, flying what looks like a riff on a P-47 Thunderbolt. Using dual-stick controls, you manage speed with the right stick and direction on the left, with guns assigned to the right trigger and bombs and missiles on the buttons.

Getting used to the controls takes a minute, a set of quick tutorials helps, but mastering them so you can zip around at ground level across the changing landscape or strafe multiple moving targets takes a little longer. Fighters buzz around you in a constant battle, while streams of bombers or zeppelins will hove in on a particular target.

Stay on Target

Tanks and troops roam the land, protecting high-value targets like radar stations or enemy airfields, and naval forces pose a threat to your tinpot carrier. Basically, there's nowhere to hide, but you can steal enemy bases to shorten mission times before death inevitably claims you. Military power (left trigger) can give you a quick boost to get out of sticky situations, unless your engine is damaged.

A normal campaign throws sets of brief mission objectives at you, wave after wave. Frontline campaign sends you across a sprawling series of island challenges, against the clock. Some islands are guarded by a boss enemy Baron plane with faster performance and bigger fricking guns to ruin your day. Master more of the game and you open up the Survival mode or the scary Bomber Defence (oh, and the Credit scene shooter!) .

Gaining XP gives the game the "Rogue" in its title as you can upgrade your craft with better cannons, speed, turning ability and other goodies. The more levels you gain, the more boosts you can use. Shooting down fighters provide parachute crates with extra goodies, but mostly, you'll be desperately trying to avoid the ground and keeping an eye on your target with a quick nod at your damage levels.

Visually, the game is perky with lots of great effects, especially the searchlights at night, plus the rolling day/night cycle and weather, to the constant build up of dead ships and craft littering the landscape. Having played the Switch version, the Vita stands up remarkably well, with smooth play and graphics that are only slightly less crisp. Also, the text is bigger in size on Vita, so more easily readable, something that many developers forget!

Packed with challenge and secrets to find across a good range of mission types, this is simply ace in short bursts. While Rogue Aces might sound hard, there are a few easy tactics to learn that will get you through most situations. Just the one annoyance, you can't carry on a Frontline Campaign at the same times as a regular one, surely a patch can sort that out?

Score: 8/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Infinite State/Curve Digital
File size 83MB
Progress: Shot lots of stuff up

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Musynx brings disco beats to the Vita in June

MUSYNX is a successful mobile tap-tap music game headed to Vita and PS4 on 19 June courtesy of Acttil. It features over 50 tracks across pop, rock, trance, R&B, classical, and more with stylish artwork and beats aplenty as players tap furiously to each track to match the rhythm.

With varying difficulty levels and DLC on the way, it could find a home for those who don't like the excessive fluff of Dancing All Night or Hatsune Miku.

Vita sales clinging on in Japan

Vita sales are almost identical to last week at 2,912, according to the latest Media Create chart data. Things look relatively quiet on the hardware front, with even the Switch falling to a year old of 36K. That's ahead of Golden Week starting at the end of the month, but recent years have shown narrowing boosts in sales, compared to the madness of the PSP era.

Super Robot Wars X sticks in the top 20 on the Vita, selling another 3,340 copies moving it well over 60K. Out this week is Metal Max Xeno on Vita and PS4, which will hopefully prove that Japanese buyers don't just want RPGs and visual novels!

Over in Famitsu land, the latest review scores are in with a bunch of Vita games coming soon. Bizarrely, Pro Jikkyou Baseball scores the same as God of War, just showing how screwy their scoring system is!!!

NadeRevo! Nadeshiko Revolution 24/40 (visual novel, girls)
Natsuiro Kokoro Log 28/40 (another visual novel, girls)
Utawarerumono: Chiriyukusha he no Komoriuta 32/40 (not a visual novel at all)
Tengai ni Mau, Iki na Hana 33/40 (you get the idea, but this one is boys)
Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2018 38/40

Review: Sir Eatsalot

Sir Eatsalot isn't your ordinary platforming hero. Not for him the ability to cling on to a ledge with one finger and pull himself up, if you slightly misjudge a jump. Nor the power to steam through a level at super-Sonic speed or wall jump to inaccessible places.

Instead, our gluttonous pal is a stout and sturdy knight who finds himself on the wrong end of a mad witch, the chain-smoking Hysterica and her minion hordes' plans. The kingdom of Gluttington, with its lovely cake and treat-filled world in under threat from sour lemonade, and he's not the sort of pussy to drink it! So, it's up to Sir Eatsy to sort things out.

Sir Eatsalot is a Vita exclusive, making good use of front and rear touch controls, and packing in a few inventive ideas, while borrowing liberally from the best bits (the palette, scenery and caged fluffles in need of rescue) from Rayman, Zool and a few other classic titles.

The OLED vibrance really makes Eatsy stand off the screen, while touching the Vita has trees rattling, goodies dropping down, and is useful (nay, essential) for dealing with tricks and traps, and causing panic as you juggle touch and button controls.

Pump up the Volume

One note, this is definitely a game for headphones as the audio is pretty low key through the Vita's speakers. It is definitely worth enjoying the plucky soundtrack and the heavyweight effects at high volume as our portly hero goes trudging into battle.

While the game starts out fun and cuddly with a few simple leaps and challenges, it soon becomes apparent there's a fiendish streak lurking within. There are plenty of vicious run/jump/trap/run/jump/trap moves that require precise control, tapping and a few goes as that panic becomes hysteria!

Loading up on quests from various Gluttington residents, Eatsy must zip in and out of the smallish multi-room levels, finding keys, levers and artefacts. Then do a lot of backtracking (one of the game's minor niggles) to access the next bit of the map, with light relief from spots of jousting and other challenges.

Cutscenes with Hysterica also lighten the load, and would have been great with some proper bonkers Helena-Bonham Carter (or perhaps, Miranda Richardson's mad Queenie) doing the voice acting. But, budgets and multilingual issues likely conspired, especially for a modest dev team like Behind the Stone.

Let Them Eat Cake Wars

Food is always close to Eatsy's heart, he can run with a doughnut-powered sugar rush, but only for a few seconds. His three hearts of life can be restored by other yummy snacks growing among the bushes along the way. One useful feature of the page-flipping levels if that you can duck back to a previous screen to top up before fights, but falling leads to insta-death and restarting that section (again, and again, and again).

As Eatsy ventures across the Creampuff Mountains and into the Chocolate Mines, every creature he comes across offers a quick drawing challenge to help fill out the game's bestiary, with each providing a tiny hint or nugget of information about the realm. There's also the sheer cuteness of beasts like the Pastry Pups and cocoa harvesting cows (golems apparently, but they look like cows to me!)

In battle, Eatsy's moves are limited to swinging his sword and blocking with a shield or running away. This feels slightly clunky, perhaps due to his weight, but isn't the most fun aspect of the game. Also, anything involving a CheeseBomber and explosive crates is decidedly unfun. But, a few missteps aside, exploring and being drawn in by Sir Eatsalot's hand-crafted charm is great fun and well worth the price.

Depending on how patient you are, or how likely to smash up your Vita against a wall, you can probably knock off a point or two from my score. That's due to the tricky combo sections and endless back-and-forth which may spoil your enjoyment. But, I'm entranced by Eatsy's and Hysterica's antics, the funny animations, and love the overall feel of the game and appreciate the clear effort that's gone into creating something that's nearly awesome!

Score: 8/10
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Price: £9.49 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Behind the Stone
File size 580MB
Progress: Manic Miner!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Spacejacked gets a Vita gameplay trailer

Run and gun, and do tower defence, pixel style with the Vita's latest great-looking indie. Spacejacked from Rotten Mage was firsr shown running on Vita around 18 months ago and looks like it should be launching soon. The PS4 version is out next week with final optimisation on the Vita version currently underway.

All good games have a hero just called Dave, he's a lone technician in charge of protecting the spaceship from being overrun by aliens while it prepares to warp.

Cosmic Star Heroine lights up Vita next week

We've been talking about and looking forward to Cosmic Star Heroine for almost five years now. Finally, after an incredible amount of effort by the small Zeboyd team, we have a release date. 24th April for EU and the US!

It is Cross Buy so if you have the PS4 version, which came out just over a year ago, will be a free add for your Vita. Check out the latest Kickstarter update post for the official news. Chasing up some Vita images or video (now added!).

Friday, April 13, 2018

Review: Reverie

New Zealand, home to great wine, a relaxed way of life and now a great Vita adventure in the guise of Reverie. By focusing on the local wildlife and flora close to Rainbite's heart, this game is truly distinctive from the herd, a perfect slice of pixel portable adventuring.

Announced a little over a year ago, the developers kept an open dialogue with Vita fans on Twitter. This has helped to build plenty of interest while avoiding spoiling the adventure or dimming the excitement with information overload. Not bad for a young developer. I won't ruin the overall story, about a family of arguing fishermen, but it is handled with fun and a dab of pathos.

You start off in bed, as young boy Tai, on holiday in a seemingly idyllic little village of Harikoa with its store, arcade, beach and some pretty scenery. A cluster of NPCs help set the scene and give you the odd clue, when it soon becomes apparent that ancient forces are at work.

Lost in a Reverie

These lead you outside the town, into the woods or plains, to new islands and beyond, where strange people wait to help give you small tasks. We're in quick and simple find-this-do-that and keep the item territory, but it is so charmingly set up, there a strong sense of welcome and strong desire to play on.

The island of  Toromi is populated with cute little critters that can do a little damage, who's been attacked by a cockatoo before? Handily, there's a strong supply of pizza and ammo in wooden crates to keep health and weapons topped up. The vivid scenery is enlivened with smoke, waving flowers, bugs and scudding clouds, all adding to the charm.

Starting with a cricket bat, you can give the bugs and the game's true enemies a good thrashing, while a yo-yo, dart gun and other weapons provide variety and a way to solve the game's many switch-based puzzles. Other items like a snorkel and heelies help you get around new areas, key to finding the feathers that are a part of one of the larger sub-quests.

The mechanics of Reverie

For a newbie developer, the internal workings of the game work very well, it saves automatically at regular intervals, and teleports can prevent some slogging around. If you do something clever there's a brief moment of Atari Lynx-like zoom to highlight what you did!

Everything happens in short bursts, with no long drawn-out conversations or spirit-sapping battles, across the compact world. With a constant supply of trophies throughout the game, plus fun little mini-games to act as diversions between the main six dungeons, it never feels weighed down.

With a down-home charm all of its own, Reverie has the emotional attachment of a visual novel in the form of an adventure that warms the soul and brings a smile to any gamers' face.

If I had to moan, and its a review, so I get at least one whinge, the dungeon waypoints on the map pop up and are never really explained as to why you need to go there. That's something that could be tightened up with a few simple sentences and would add a little more depth to the NPCs.

Also, pick-ups can be left in inaccessible places by dying creatures, which the odd time might be a pain, but luckily are generally not vital. Those aside, if you're looking for a short, eloquent, world, that's full of imagination and discovery, this hits the spot. If you think early Zelda meets Undertale, that's a neat Venn diagram for Reverie with the very best of both worlds.

Score: 9/10
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Price: £11.99(PSN)
Developer/publisher Rainbite
File size 211MB
Progress: Cryptic clues!

Persona Dancing Moon and Star Night opening movies

Has Atlus run out of characters to show off? Guessing so, as we now have the full opening movies for both Persona 3 Dancing Moon Night and Persona 5 Dancing Star Night. Bringing more disco joy to the Persona series, the games are out in just over a month in Japan, and I guess we have to pray really hard that we get a Vita western release.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Deep Ones dives on to the Vita

Out now on PSN, Spectrum-styled 8-bit adventure Deep Ones is just £5 on PSN from Sometimes You. As the commander of a wrecked submarine, you have to adventure to repair and regain control of your vessel while the creatures of the deep seas try to have you for lunch.

With a splash of Lovecraft and some philosophy, there's plenty to like about the game, with its moody lighting provided by creatures. Developed by Burp! Studios, expect to see more of these really retro games hit the Vita as relatively easy ports. 

Play with your Astrals in The Lost Child

NIS America continues to churn out the JRPGs with The Lost Child headed our way in June. This new trailer shows off the Astrals, conquered enemies you can use for your own powers and skills. The game failed to set the Japanese charts alight, so any western interest should help them recoup some of the development cost.

Fate/Extella Link heads west digitally

Not sure I can go through all this again, Marvelous has announced a digital release for Fate/Extella Link in the west. Please just release the game without the tedious drip feed of a trillion characters/costume trailers and whatever else the Japanese PR department sends your way.

Picking up where the story ended in Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, Fate/Eextella Link expands the roster of playable Servants with 10 new legendary heroes added to the original selection of 16, including Charlemagne, pictured in action.

These new Servants hail from other entries in the Fate series and include the likes of Astolfo, Scàthach, and Francis Drake. The high-speed action gameplay of Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star continues with improved visuals and new battle mechanics in both single-player and an added multiplayer mode supporting 4-on-4 online battles.

Players will also be able to move freely around their new base camp—a medieval cathedral suspended in the sky—and interact with Servants to build bonds with them, taking on side missions that further flesh out their backstories.

Release date to be confirmed, although a tweet mentions winter.

Metal Max Xeno final trailer spins its tracks

UPDATE: NIS America has just confirmed the western release is PS4 only, in the teaser clip below. This comes as an immense bummer, if not a surprise. Commence your campaigning now! I'd like NISA to put a price tag on a Vita version and run a Kickstarter just to see if there's genuine interest in them doing it!

Original story: With the absence of anything like a Freedom Wars sequel or spin off, Japan is light on modern team battling games, so perhaps Metal Max Xeno will fill the void.

The bubbly cast battle massive mechs in their tanks, and dismount for some light RPGing. Check out the latest trailer from Kadokawa, the game is out next week.

The game got a decent Famitsu review, scoring 8/8/8/7 [31/40], but are enough fans around from the early 90s of the original release to make an impact on the chart?

Super Robot Wars X continues to sell in Japan

Super Robot Wars X is the only Vita game in town, well the Japanese Media Create chart, sticking in the top 10 and selling another 6,500 to cross the 60K mark. Given the PS4 version is just over the 100K mark, that's still a sizeable contribution.

Looks like a quiet week on the hardware front with only the Switch continuing to sell well. Vita drops down to below 3K, the first time its ever been that low at 2,929. Even it bounces around the 3K line for the rest of the year, that should keep Sony churning units out.

Metal Max Xeno is out next week so we might have a blip the following chart to see if people still buy Vita around a specific game.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Enjoy the music of Liar Princess and the Blind Prince

What's the sony, Miss Wolf? The theme for Nippon Ichi's Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is performed by Akiko Shikata and sets the theme for the game's dark cartoon shenanigans rather nicely. She's worked on Ceil No Surge and other soundtracks. Check out the original trailer.

Chasm falling onto Vita this summer

Bit Kid's Chasm is a gorgeous looking pixel adventure coming to the Vita this summer. An old-school action adventure game, you play a new recruit on your first mission which leads down a closed mine close to where townsfolk have been vanishing from.

Fighting supernatural creatures, you must restore peace to the Kingdom, exploring the depths and using all the equipment that comes to hand. More info a US PSN blog post, but the game features:

  • Six massive areas to explore, procedurally-assembled from hand-crafted rooms
  • Challenging retro gameplay and authentic pixel art (384x216 native res.)
  • Massive bosses and new abilities to discover with lots of otherwise inaccessible areas
  • Customize your character by equipping armor, weapons, and spells