Monday, June 24, 2019

Kid Tripp tips up on Vita this week

Kid Tripp pops up on the PS4 and Vita this week, with the little lad having crash landed on a mysterious island, where there's lots of running and jumping required to avoid the pesky wildlife. A harsh platformer, it came out on Switch and mobile over a year ago, features include:

• Super challenging, fast paced platforming action.
• Silky smooth 60 frames per second.
• 20 levels, spread over 4 worlds.
• Super cute pixel art by Mike Burns.
• Old school soundtrack from Chris Kukla.
• Optional challenges to test players' skills to the max.

Review: My Big Sister

You can take all the polygons and effects you like and throw them at the next Resident Evil, other zombie game or if anyone had a go the Ring series. But the core human emotion of watching someone they love turn into that "other" be it a mutant, witch or zombie cannot be expressed with visual splatter.

That's why My Big Sister works so well, as a little girl and her big sister, Luzia and Sombria, stumble through nightmarish adventures in tiny pixels, where your imagination fills in the gaps between those pixels and whatever full-screen HD blockbusters you've seen.

From home to hospital, to an endless journey via the sewers and a witchy bathhouse, there's plenty of sweet little detail in the game, but its the weird approach to horror that makes My Big Sister a pleasant surprise with lots of little twists. Play it in the dark with headphones on, and its easy to get emotionally involved in this strange tale.

Gameplay is straight forward, with a little exploring to find a thing, use it find the next thing, or give it to one of the pleasantly freakish cast. Alerts show when you're near something useful, and while some things look like an exit but aren't there isn't anything like a false/padded feel to the story.

There are a few decisions to make, but with enough save points to make going back and forth no trouble, but the game really hinges on who's telling the truth and who's lying, plus that visual novel staple of a few good and bad endings to find, through choices, or simply standing in the right/wrong place.

The adventure runs a couple of hours long with tight, focused environments usually a few rooms each. Finding and using items is probably less than half the story. That's as you meet all sorts of oddball otherworldly characters and figure out what the real plot is behind the story that seems doomed to repeat itself.

In development terms, I think this is the first Adventure Game Studio title to hit the Vita after Ratalaika built a porting tool. Hopefully that means plenty more adventure games heading our way to supplement the string of arcade and VN titles. With sharp visuals, a fun soundtrack that backs up each segment perfectly and just enough game to make it worthwhile, I hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship with AGS.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £4.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Stranga/Ratalaika
File size 198MB
Progress:  A good ending, some bad ones

Friday, June 21, 2019

Sci-fi VN Gnosia out in Japan

My baby is an acid-tinged, neon-tinted headfuck, to paraphrase The Wildhearts! That appears to be the case in Gnosia a new out-in-Japan visual novel from Mebius. Trophy listing here, if you care and the trailer doesn't give much away about the fake humans in space plot!

UPDATE: The game scored a 10/10 from IGN's Japanese site and is worth a translated read. Wonder if Famitsu (out tomorrow) will be suitably impressed? If they are, perhaps a wider release for the game is possible, and maybe even a bit of a boost in Vita interest in Japan.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Students of Round remake trailer from Experience

The PSP Students of Round DRPG is apparently so popular in Japan that Experience Inc. thought they would remake it as their last Vita title. That's cool of them, but then they thought, we know, let's change the name to "Blue-Winged Chevalier" - which doesn't make much sense. On the plus side, they are also throwing in Stranger of Sword City Revisited as part of the deal.

The naming silliness aside, buyers will get a remastered RPG with new character art, a character builder option and more optional quests to undertake. The game lands in July and is Japanese only. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

New Konosuba Labyrinth of Hope trailer

Entergram has up a quick advert and a few minutes of gameplay of its DRPG with a host of cute enemies to defeat, out later this month in Japan. Labyrinth of Hope and Gathering Adventurers was announced last year, and you can now check out the website for more information and images.

Not sure if the quick animated clips for every battle move will make this insanely annoying, guess there's a quick battle mode to get rid of them, but it shouldn't take that much effort to beat up one one green frog!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Cybarian heads to the Vita soon

Kickstarted last year for Steam, Ritual Games and Ratalaika are bringing the arcade-classic-era style game to the PS Vita soon. Bringing back memories of Rygar with a sci-fi twist, Cybarian: The time travelling warrior looks really tight with plenty of side-scrolling violence that should look great on the small screen.

Ritual's next game is the even better looking Gun Crazy, so I hope enough people pick Cybarian up to encourage all concerned to bring that over to the Vita.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sekai Project promises Fault Milestone One and World End Economica for Vita

Vita news continues to sputter out of E3, which is both funny and ridiculous if you think about how long ago Sony ditched it.

The latest news comes from Sekai Project who have a very ropey delivery reputation, but given they could just say "not on Vita now" and the world wouldn't give a hoot, committing to a release or two is a pretty good effort.

Fault Milestone One developed by Alice in Dissonance I only took off the release list a few months ago, but back on it goes as Sekai promises a release later this year on Vita and PS4, after the summer Switch launch. That's even if they can't be bothered to put a PS Vita logo on the artwork. Trailer at the bottom!

Next up is a full collection of Hasekura Isuna’s adventure novel World End Economica from Spicy Tails. All of which should keep the Vita's repuation as a visual novel machine going for a little longer.

And here's the trailer for Fault Milestone One...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Romancing Saga 3 still loves western Vitas

Square's world of Final Fantasy remakes dominated the brand's e3 show last night, but there's still the tiniest bit of love for the Vita with a digital version of Romancing Saga 3 still on the way to the Sony portable. A shame that SaGa Scarlet Grace isn't making the jump, especially after the gorgeous JP limited edition, but we'll take what we can get.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Last Limited Run games revealed for Vita

DrinkBox Studio's Guacamelee and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack are the first of the final wave of Vita games from Limited Run, both launching Friday, June 14th. Also on the way are:

Pix the Cat (review) - 21 June
Super Mutant Alien Assault (review) - 5 July 
Atari Flashback Classics - July
Metal Slug 3 (review) - 12 July
Damascus Gear Operation Osaka and Damascus Gear Operation Tokyo - 2019
Deadbolt (review) - 2019
Revenant Dogma (trailer) 2019
Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken and Rocketbirds 2: Evolution - 2019
Super Meat Boy - 2019
Papers Please - 2020

Not a bad collection, but no word on production run yet. Good luck if you can afford them all or are fortunate enough to beat the queues over the remaining months of Vita life and a great way for Limited Run to sign off having helped make the Vita such a collectible in the first place. Thanks to them, Josh Fairhurst and crew for supporting all the developers, and good luck if you want to pick these up.

Hopefully other publishers will keep going a while longer via Japanese production lines, as long as there are worthwhile sales figures and a few curios to dig up. Personally, looking forward to the Damascus Gear games that I've never really got into before.

Here's the full Limited Run presentation with all the Vita stuff neatly at the front, plus plenty of Star Wars games and a healthy future in Switch and PS4 titles.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Idea Factory still pumping out the Otome merch

Otomate and Idea Factory present a game of trust in Charade Maniacs, an Otome title that came out last year with a lot of English in the new short trailer for what I guess is the drama CD release. Plenty more clips and info on the official JP site, if that does anything to scratch your translating/VN itch? Almost all their output is for the Switch and PC now, so perhaps this is a farewell gift for fans?

There's still a few games popping out from time to time, but the otome world has pretty much moved on.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Puzzler Neon Junctions lighting up soon

Recently released on Steam, Neon Junctions from 9 Eyes heads to the Vita courtesy of Ratalaika, offering Tron-infused cyberspace puzzles as you try to reach an escape portal. It looks sharp and should really be vivid on the OLED.

From the blurb "Plunge into cyberspace and try to overcome 35 levels capable to challenge not only your savvy but also dexterity. Capture and move conductive cubes, close electrical circuits and restore power of the interactive objects around you to get to the teleportation plant which is able to take you to the next level of the game!"

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Review: Warlock's Tower

Ratalaika's scatter-gun approach to bringing games to the Vita has had its moments and Warlock's Tower is one of them. Its the simple tale of a postman with a fatal condition, every step he takes brings him closer to death as he tries to head up the wizard's erection.

Some tower too, it starts off in the usual dungeons, but you're soon heading through factories and warehouses - is this guy really a Dragon's Den mogul in a silly hat? There's a few levels per map and each one charges the postie with getting to the exit before he runs out of steps/life. coins on the floor can extend his life so you need to figure out how to get from A-B in the most efficient manner. Using the 5 step Super Gem is key to making progress.

Warlock's Tower goes with the mono Game Boy vibe, but throws in plenty of sophisticated tricks like travelators, trapdoors or pushable jars. Ghouls and villains also add to the tricky nature of some levels, as you need to divert or dispose of them before you can get to the exit.

With cheery tunes and quick-paced levels, Warlock's Tower is a delight to play and when you get to the trickier acts in the game, you can always nip back to some bonus levels and secret floors that were inaccessible early on.

There's also a fellow visitor to the Warlock's Tower to help you get around more complicated levels in the library and beyond, or in need or rescue from time to time. Plus a few unnecessary coins to throw you off the path to success, and there's a whole lot to think about in even a small maze.

Dark levels are perhaps the worst as your restricted view can leave you struggling to piece together the larger maze. But with instant restarts you can soon figure out where to go or what to do next, all of which makes this a perfect slice of portable puzzling fun.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £3.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: MidiPixel/Ratalaika
File size 58MB
Progress:  An "Ook" of delight emanated from the Library

Review: Back in 1995

I remember 1995 pretty well, having just started writing for tech magazines. Every week was a new adventure, some new 3D chip being hailed as gaming's Hollywood moment, polyphonic sound cards belted out whole orchestras, and Windows 95 (almost) just worked. All the while new consoles and batches of amazing, crazy, games arrived from Japan, while modems were getting faster, beyond 56K! The future was here, until the next week!

But those early 3D games, thrown out to demonstrate the technology, many of them don't hold up that well, offering single-digit frame rates, appalling controls and terrible use of textures. If you want to go back to those times, here's Back in 1995, a nod to the early survival horror games and adventures like Alone in the Dark.

Its actually quite a modest little adventure with minimal threat and a decent sense of progress, and just enough exploring. Using tank controls, you spin around on the spot then push to move in that direction, bouncing off furniture and other obstacles. Most doors are locked, needing a key or code and there's a few characters littering the plot to talk to.

Back in 1995 (trailer), developed by Takaaki Ichijo, starts with you in a world-going-wrong, waking up in a hospital bed with mutant creatures lurking nearby and an unexplained need to head to a radio tower. Most of the game's tasks are simple enough, open the doors, explore and find the information to advance further and get the odd gesture to explain the plot.

Spin Moves and a Few Bullets

You start off with a wrench but can soon upgrade to a pistol or shotgun, making the larger creatures more manageable, thankfully there's auto-aim to keep you sane. You can save progress at computer terminals, and in the menu can tweak the retro-scanline effect - but nothing else - how cool would it have been to play the game in 1996/97/98 modes with slightly better visuals or effects added? That would have been neat!

Back in 1995 also totally lacks character, early games relied on strong, totem characters or quirky figures to make the weak plots and scripts bearable. There's no jokes, our hero no noticeable sense of humour or bitterness about his situation, just plodding on - which is a shame.

What is true to the era is the benefit of drawing your own little maps, I loved this part of the game (even though it isn't part of the game) - noting down the locked doors or the routes through the tricky gantry section - so that's kinda fun.

I guess we can't criticise the retro graphics, although the monster are more plain weird than terrifying, but the foreboding music and functional sound effects do their job. Perhaps as a college project, Back in 1995 would have merit, but today, a few years after its PC release, it feels way shallower than many of the games it tries to pay tribute to. Back in 1995 is a good idea, but poorly executed in a way that can't be attributed to the source material or hardware of its time - shame!

Score: 4/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Throw the Warped Code Out/Ratalaika
File size 86MB
Progress: Strange Days with an Outbreak of Dead Men Walking against a Crimson Tide

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Halloween Forever is late to the scare party in Europe

While it may be way past the original scary-season U.S. launch, European gamers will get a peek-behind-the-curtains at Halloween Forever on the Vita and PS4 soon. Poppy Works worked on the port of Peter Lazarski's Halloween Forever, a SNES-style platform adventure with a pip-spewing pumpkin-head trying to survive in what looks the unfriendly world of the undead.

If you want to get in the mood, the game's soundtrack is on Spotify.

Ignore the US date on the trailer, and as summer heats up, perhaps we should limit playing this to midnight under the duvet? Poppy Works also has Bones n Bullets lined up for the Vita soon/

PlayStation 5 will be more about the streaming

Sony's corporate investor day, where it explains its plans to shareholders and other investors, was light on juice, but interesting on the ground work going on for PlayStation 5. Of most interest from PlayStation's Jim Ryan's presentation is the focus on streaming to multiple devices, even though the company ignored the Vita on its pretty picture of compatible devices.

While streaming to every billion-selling device is good for the numbers, surely Sony needs a dedicated device to save people lugging controller, connector, battery pack, and other gadgets around. That's not optimal compared to what a HD/5G Vita 2 could offer.

Sony also bigs up PlayStation now, even though it only has 700,000 users, something else that used to work fine on the Vita until Sony pulled support for it. If that's part of the backward-compatible future, even a cheaper PlayStation Now portable box would do the trick.

And with backward compatibility finally being recognised as more than just a "nice-to-have", the Vita 2 could also come with that library of \PSP and Vita games, which would look better on a small screen than on a whopping 4K TV.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Back in 1995 out this week

Announced last autumn, retro horror mystery Degica's Back in 1995 is out this week on PSN, bringing that early-poly game feel to the Vita and PS4. With the physical release already sold out, there's only PSN left if you want to try out this chilling PSone-style tale from Japanese developer "Throw the warped code out!"

It should bring back memories of Alone in the Dark, Clock Tower, a little Silent Hill but not quite Resident Evil, depending on your age. Wonder if the dev has plans for a slightly more evolved sequel from 2000-era. They are still going, but no sign of any new games, and Back in 1995 launched back in 2016 on the PC.

Rather skinny trophy list here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

EastAsiaSoft lines up more Vita physicals

This week is another expensive one for Vita collectors with the sequel to the rather fun Devious Dungeon heading our way. There was lots of scope for adding to the original's chirpy experience, so I hope this is a slightly deeper game.

The company will announce the last Vita physicals at E3, but that won't be the end of the story, as Asian publishers are still producing physicals, some of which may head west as developers look for new avenues.

Rearing its polygonal head is the decidedly retro blockfest Back in 1995, up for limited release in the spirit of early PlayStation horror adventures. While I like the idea, the gameplay has to be really strong for this to work, and I'm not sure I'd splash out on a physical based on the middling reviews of the PC original.

Both games are ported by Ratalaika. There's only a 1,000 copies of each, with a CD thrown in, which seems rather light. Also, EastAsiaSoft is pumping up the price by $5 and buyers around the world will likely get stung for more import taxes. On the other hand, digital copies should be about €7.99 if you want to grab them on PSN without the wait for a courier.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bones n Bullets unloads on the Vita

Poppy Works Grab and Cosmic Crystal Games are showing off a new Vita game at BitSummit in Japan tihs week. Bones n Bullets sees our presumably undead hero burst out of his coffin, pick up a gun, and lay waste to the pixelly world around him. With magic, plenty of weapons, chunky bossses, the soldier must save the universe from the evil Lord Naglfaar! The game is due out later this year.

From the release: Bones 'N' Bullets is a retro-inspired, action-packed adventure stacked with big guns, deadly spells and treacherous traps. Join the soldier on this quest through a world filled with deadly enemies, nail-biting challenges and blazing boss battles in order to save not only his world, but his very soul!

- Quick and challenging action-platformer gameplay with tight controls!
- Use your arsenal of big guns and powerful spells to survive!
- Eight unique stage locations to explore throughout the game world!
- An abundance of bone-blasting boss battles!
- Precious retro pixel art inspired by the classics!
- An original soundtrack of skull-slamming songs composed by Protodome!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Shakedown Hawaii out now

Just a quickie, but worth celebrating the release of one of the last major games to hit the Vita. Vblank's top-down gun-toting business simulator Shakedown Hawaii is now up on the US PSN store, with the EU lagging behind as usual.

UPDATE: EU release next week apparently because Sony Europe are damn useless!

Take a peek at the many stories and videos that have rolled along over the three and a half years of the game's development since its first showing at the end of 2015. That's the sort of effort that makes a game worth the $20, before people start complaining.

Gnosia tells tales of fake humans in space

Gnosia, published by Mebius and developed by Petit Depotto (Unholy Heights), is an interesting-sounding indie release from Japan. Cycling through around 15 minutes of conversational gameplay, the player must debate and establish what's going on, on a spacecraft populated by a cast of day-glo people, not all of whom are totally human.

Auto-translate the official Gnosia site to get a feel for the game, and the bright and cheery characters, who you need to get to trust you through debates, and by directing the conversations to bring about a successful conclusion to the mission. Since its largely only the text that needs translating, here's hoping some brave team picks it up for a western release.

The Japanese version is due out in the early summer, and if the concept sounds a little familiar, it is based on the Mafia/Werewolf party game genre.

Stick a quarter in for Highscore Master on Kickstarter

The crowdfunded games list gets dusted down  with a new addition thanks to Dolores Entertainment (GhoulBoy and BitDungeon Plus). Highscore Master borrows from the arcade classics and slams some old favourite ideas together in new ways, from shooters to racers to maze games, etc. All with the aim to top the high score chart in each world to escape the master.

Or, as the devs put it...
What would happen if we put in a cocktail shaker Out Run, Space Harrier and Back to the Future? Or Pacman with  Saturday's Night Fever? Stop imagining it because this is Highscore Master!
Highscore Master is built by about 8 different arcades from the 80's. From our own reinterpretation, as we believe they could have been improved and carrying them to a current gameplay.

The game needs €20K (£17K) in funding with two months to go, and the Vita version is double that (€40K). A €150 tier will get you physical Vita versions of Dolores previous works, while there's . I recall an old trailer from around a year ago, so guess Highscore Master is pretty far along the road to completion, so hopefully will hit the end of 2019 release date.

Get involved here

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Ultracore OST has that synthwave love

Okay, so the Vita isn't getting a physical version of Ultracore (was Hardcore) due to a mix of Sony shutting down game card production and the developers running late. That's a shame, but I'll still happily play the PSN release on my Vita and crank up the synthwave soundtrack through my Sennheiser headphones.

Here's a 12-minute teaser, and you can still get the physical on Switch or PS4 if you fancy.

Crime Time with Shakedown Hawaii trailer

Vblanks' Shakedown Hawaii is up for physical pre-order this week and the game hits digital stores next week, so what better than another crime, weapon and vehicle filled trailer to set the villainous tone?

Looking through what's left of the release list, I can't see much to challenge this as the last big seller on the Vita, perhaps Ultracore if that gets fair coverage, so enjoy this while it lasts!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Chevalier of Blue Wings RPG for Japan announced

Experience keep on rolling out the games, and rolling back the years for Vita gamers, with an exclusive new DRPG. Chevalier of Blue Wings gets a teaser site and trailer today ahead of more info in Japanese mags in the coming weeks. With a digital and physical release promised, it might make a good import if you're used to the Demon Gaze style adventuring, as it will be basically familiar.

UPDATE: The game is a graphical update of 2012 PSP release Students of Round and will be Experience's last Vita release.

Love the trailer, but as with Zanki Zero, which never made it Vita in the west, always feel a bit disappointed when it turns out to be another step-by-step dungeon crawler. Chevalier is out on the 25th July if you fancy an import, and there's no sign of Kadokawa or Spike Chunsoft's name anywhere, so guess this is zero point zero chance of this one heading west, even if a version for other consoles pops up eventually.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Storm VBlank's store for your physical copy of Retro City Rampage

Retro City Rampage is coming to the Vita soon (again), with just 3,000 copies of the physical release for collectors up for pre-orders on the 24th April (two days before I get paid dammit!") There was an original limited release back in 2015, but this is a cool way to hype up Vblank’s next game.

The predecessor to Shakedown Hawaii - which is also getting a limited physical release, with a release date of May 7 just announced - is an all-out pixel carnage-fest in the vein of the early Grand Theft Autos.

UPDATE: Shakedown Hawaii physical details will be here from May 3rd... Ladies and gentlemen, start your credit cards!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Pixel adventure My Big Sister on the way to the Vita

Adventure Game Studio has provided a rich crop of PC adventures over the year and Ratalaika has ported the engine to the Vita. The first fruits of this labour is Stranga's My Big Sister, a tale of two siblings, Luzia and Sombria who are kidnapped (if it isn't a dream, that is) and need to make it home.

The top-down view adventure has been on Steam for six months and garnered very positive reviews, with a sense of humour among the spooky goings on, and looks like a great fit on the Vita's screen, as long as the text is readable.

Expect a release soon. And check out the hastag #AdventureGameStudio to see all kinds of adventures released and in development from traditional point and clicks to 3D worlds - which might struggle on the Vita. Whatever, there's plenty of fresh games coming our way if sales and interest keep the developers, port teams and publishers interested.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Iron Snout snuffles up to the Vita soon

Continuing the indie-onslaught, Ratalaika and SnoutUp are bringing Iron Snout to all consoles including the Vita soon. A 2016 Steam pigs-vs-wolves hack and slash with overwhelmingly positive reviews, this mighty porker is free to play on PC, but I won't mind popping over a few quid for a Vita version, which presumably comes with the DLC.

It might look a little Flash-game, but with the attitude and sense of fun, looks like a dash of porky fun.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Super Weekend Mode parties on Vita this week

Ratalaika and Pixelteriyaki deliver something definitely different to the Vita this week with Super Weekend Mode. A tale of love hearts, the arcade game's princess heroine has to capture them when a thief makes off with her possessions. That's while avoiding the nasties falling down the screen and shooting the enemies with the twin breakout-style pads.

The game features three-button gameplay, over nine levels, with multi-tasking mayhem and in-game leaderboards. Might not sound much but it does look a challenge.

Furwind raises his hackles on the Vita

PlayAsia and Spanish developer BoomFire has partnered to bring us a new Vita game, Furwind (ported by JanduSoft) is a pixel platformer with a 1,500 Vita card production run. Available to order on the 11th April it comes with a collector’s box, game card, full colour manual, OST and certificate.

Note: Physical version sold out

Furwind is a game I haven't come across before, launched on Steam 6 months ago and has positive reviews, the Vita and PS4 editions are all-new so hopefully a PSN edition won't be too far behind for those who miss out on the physical release.

Certainly looks like a charming tale, based on this PC version trailer...

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Frane: Dragon's Odyssey brings a real-time combat RPG to the Vita

If we keep buying, they will keep coming I guess is the maxim here. Kemco has another RPG adventure on the way according to a new trophy listing. The Exe-Create pixel RPG looks pretty neat, for an 8-year old iOS game, with voice acting for leads Kunah and Riel, and Tales-of-style real-time combat, which makes it a bit more lively than most of their efforts.

Check out some clips among the 60+ part playthrough to get a better idea of the game.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Mod game GTA Vice City Shine o' Vice lights up the Vita

Right, I've pretty much avoided talk of hacks and mods on the Vita, but the volume of traffic is definitely skewing to unofficial gaming as Sony-approved PSN releases die down and the last physicals roll off the production line. So, as the hacking scene makes its final moves to break firmware 3.70 (search for them yourself), perhaps its time to open up.

While I won't condone piracy, GTA Vice City Shine o' Vice looks like the sort of thing worth diving in for. If you have a spare Vita or are planning on getting one for hacks and mods, this could be the mod game to make it worth your time. Yes, this could be an April Fool joke, but the game does exist and there's no reason it can't run on the Vita, but in general terms, things are looking lively on the mod/open source game scene.

Update: Definitely not an April's Fool is this San Andreas port running at 11fps but with the coders keen to have a hack at it to improve performance.

There's also a different mod that pushes the PSP GTA games into Vita native resolution. These are all things the original developers could have done to boost sales way back when, like adding tilt controls to LocoRoco or improving the look of PSone games (all have pros and cons, I'm just saying give gamers the choice).

In a few months there will be next-to-no more Vita games, and while we all have back catalogs and games we want to revisit, the lure of something new is strong. The Vita could easily become the go-to-device for open sources games,  and clever efforts like this...

Of course, I'm sure RockStar will have a legal hissy fit of some kind, but there's a huge modding community across the GTA games, so perhaps not. Also, you can't stop progress or free code flying around the net, so expect more of this kind of project to light up the Vita in future. Especially as lots of developers from the PSP era no longer exist.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shakedown Hawaii is almost ready to hustle

With a new trophy listing up and the news that the game is with Sony for Q&A, Shakedown Hawaii is pretty much ready to land thanks to VBlank's sterling efforts supporting older devices and consoles. The trophies are all suitably silly, but no platinum. Check out the guy's Twitter for plenty of action clips and the most recent full trailer is here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Review: NeuroVoider

I missed this game when it was released digitally, but it looked interesting and hung around at the back of my mind. So, when the Limited Run physical came up, I had to jump at it and now have the cool little case, instruction manual and trading card to remind me of a good decision.

Playing NeuroVoider immediately puts me in mind of the best in Vita indies, a hint of Spelunky, a dash of Steamworld with upgrades and roguelite-like features all bolted mechanically into a stylish twinstick shooter, driven by the finest soundtrack I've heard in ages.

NeuroVoider starts with a brain in a jar, like all good games should. But the jelly blob is soon guided into a mechanical shell, comprised of a motion system, core and weapons, all of which you can change, customise and upgrade over the course of a pyrotechnic adventure. Then its off to shooting things, with a choice of levels, a stream of targets and the mystery of how you ended up in the jar, and who's responsible.

Each level varies in size, the number of elite enemies patrolling the corridors and the power reactors you need to destroy to escape it. Some are dark and dingy, others modern and edgy, and periodically there's a big boss to take down. Depending on the difficulty level (arcade, rogue or voider), there's plenty of health and power to pick up to keep your mechy-thing moving.

Weapons include swords, guns, rockets plus a string of skill power ups to keep your health up or to whack away at the enemies. You can boost your way out of their fire zones, repair your health or form a shield to repel attacks, and that's just a few of the options. Between levels you can upgrade or swap out your component parts, comparing their effectiveness

While the mechanics aren't quite perfect (its a little too easy just to back up and pick enemies off from distance), the mix of gameplay types, the acid-tinged sci-fi setting, with constant glitching makes for a distinct look, welded into your retinas as the beats pummel your ears.

Then there's your choices of upgrades or repairs, and changes, will they be suitable the battles ahead? All of which makes NeuroVoider a hell of an achievement on the little Vita screen and I look forward to playing Flying Oak's ScourgeBringer, coming soon on Steam but likely on its way to consoles.

One tip, remember to save during the intermissions, otherwise you find yourself back at square one all too often, and the bigger trophies rely on competing the game multiple times. Its a shame the Vita only allows for single player, compared to other versions' four-player mode (and why there are other brain jars), but that's plenty for me.

The whole thing reminds me of playing a mini Diablo, not the Perfect Diablo II, but perfect little battles, a dash of upgrading and off to war again. That feels perfect for a handheld, and the whole visual and audio experience is pretty much perfect.

Neurovoider is a great game to play in the dark with headphones on, totally focused on shooting, maintaining health and enjoying the electronic atmosphere. I can happily pass hours trying to win and mostly fail, but its always my mistake not the game being too harsh.

Score: 10/10
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Price: £8.99 (PSN)
Publisher/Developer: Limited Run/Flying Oak
Size: 116MB
Progress: In love with a beautiful thing, and some shooting!

Zeroptian Invasion taking over the Vita

Josyan is a developer of fun PC games and Zeroptian Invasion  is one of his games headed to the Vita soon, via a trophy listing and developer confirmation. Judging by the fact all the trophies are gold or platinum, I reckon Ratalaika is on port/publishing duty.

The game is a throwback to Space Invaders with more wave styles and Spectrum to Amstrad-style graphics. All in all, I'm not expecting wonders here, but for a couple of quid it could be a fun shooter and another easy platinum.

UPDATE: Another day, another set of gold/plat trophies, enter Bouncy Bullets, a game that doesn't seem to exist anywhere in the universe except as a Vita trophy listing. No video, no dev claiming to own it, although forum posts suggest Petite Games is involved, so hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Review: Peasant Knight

Stop (left) or Jump (X), there is nothing else in life. Which would be pretty hard for any other game character, but the Peasant Knight lives in such a brutal world, these are the only control options. Do nothing and he runs to his doom, get it wrong - doom, get it a tiny fraction not quite right - doom. You get the picture.

Over 80 levels, each just a few seconds long when done right, players need to use those two moves with pixel-perfect and split-second timing to get past obstacles. They include towering flame launchers, spinning blades, portal doors, monsters and more, all set against some basic-looking platforms and the most empty of backgrounds.

With no world to admire, there is only Peasant Knight, his square tin hat and little triangular shield and some basic animation to distract. The gameplay, once players get the hang of it, is everything with an increasing challenge curve offered by each level to delay progress. There isn't even a best time challenge or leaderboard to encourage players to try again.

Simplistic, animalistic in the desire to succeed, I felt more like a rat trapped in a maze than someone enjoying a game, but it still has a primal appeal.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £2.99
Publisher/Developer: Ratalaika/4AM Games
Size: 31MB
Progress: Into the forties

Hectic week for Vita releases in Japan, 4 games out

Vita supplies may by drying up in Japan, but the games are still flowing with four games out this week as developers come out of their winter slumber. Among the usual cutesy visual novel fodder, Silvario Trinity Beyond the Horizon adds some punch.

Check out the trailers and start badgering the usual suspects for a translation, western release or whatever works for you.

We would be on for a five-for, but unfortunately, Konosuba RPG A New Blessing has been delayed from this week until June. Check out the release list for more JP launches and contemplate selling a kidney to import them.

Full Kiss (Entergram)

Silvario Trinity Beyond the Horizon (Light)

Spring Sound Alice Gram Snow Drop (Entergram)

Memories Off Innocent Fille for Dearest (5pb)

DRPG Labyrinth of Galleria revealing soon for Japanese Vita owners

The 2016 Japanese disturbing and saucy RPG Labyrinth of Refrain Coven of Dusk skipped a western release on the Vita, so don't get too excited now that Nippon Ichi has announced a sequel in Japan.

Labyrinth of Galleria: Coven of Dusk will add new characters, classes and the usual upgrades but with plenty of that step-by-step, silly-monster battling and adventuring.

The teaser site opens up in a couple of days, check back for more information then.

Monday, March 25, 2019

MetaGal blazes on to the Vita this week

RetroRevolution are a quirky pair of Thai/Italian developers focused on pure retro fun. Ratalaika brings their first effort to the Vita and PS4 in the heroic form of MetaGal, where players take control of Meta, a cyborg girl, who must rescue her creator from the leader of a rogue robot army.

To make matters worse, Metagal's sisters were also kidnapped by Creeper and he’s turned them all into battle cyborgs, in order to use their powers so that he can at last, rule the world! Meta must face her sisters, free them, and copy their abilities, all across eight stages of intense action, all for £4.99.

Features include:

  • Classic jump and shoot style platformer.
  • 16-bit graphics with unique environments for each level with detailed designs and different gimmick.
  • 30 Enemies types, excluding the various bosses.
  • Powerful new weapons that can be obtained by defeating each Gal Boss.
  • Lots of secret collectible items that can be used to power up your character.
  • Soft death penalty with "Gear" system allows player to resolve their mistakes with less frustration.
  • Unlockable new characters to play with, each come with their own powers and upgrades.

Strength of the Sword Ultimate still in development on Vita

Way back in 2015, I was rather impressed by Ivent's Strength of the Sword Ultimate, but probably too broke to back it. Which is why I'd assumed it had long since been canned, since the developer has gone quiet on Twitter and the game site for years - only posting updates visible to backers on the KS page.

If you are a backer then you will have seen this new Vita dev WIP video, showing it is still alive. For the rest of us - here you go...

Thanks to LRG for the tip! I'll put the game back on the release list. As for the game, it looks more like an angry Medievil as opposed to Chair's Infinity Blade, which I'd hoped for originally.

For further reading, SotSU went live on Steam last October and has got some good reviews, hopefully not long until the Vita version emerges. Remember, Kickstarter isn't totally dead for Vita owners, and hopefully a few more devs will see it as a funding option. 

A Vita-Go prototype leaks out into the wild

While this isn't the full-HD, full-Dualshock4 Vita 2 that I'm sure Sony has locked away somewhere, take a peek at something that Sony's lawyers will probably be hunting down right now. A Vita prototype slider unit currently up on eBay, labelled as DEM-3000H84.

Yep, meet the thicker-than-chutney Vita meets PSP-Go, a brainless idea showing either just how dumb or crazy Sony was back then. That's not to say I wouldn't bid for it, if I had $20K to spare. It comes with HDMI out, which the launch Vita really should have kept in, SD card support (really, Sony, was it that hard to add) and plenty of dev features.

Given the item is likely stolen from a Sony lab or during a show-to-developer tour, not really surprised no one has paid the asking price for it. Also very glad Sony never launched it (even in a final consumer-friendly, with proper styling, unit, as I suspect it would have been laughed out of the stores pretty much the Vita TV.

It looks very chunky, considering the PSP Go is a tiny little thing, and I have serious worries about the thumbsticks. Here's hoping someone gets their hands on the full-spec Vita 2 HD unit someday.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Kenka Bancho 2nd Rumble hits Japanese chart

A Vita game in the Media Create chart? Miracles still happen, so welcome Kenka Bancho 2nd Rumble (trailer) which squeaks in at No. 18 selling just over 4,000 copies and proving that pyhsical releases are still (just) worth doing if the brand is strong enough. That could be the last Vita game to make the charts, so enjoy!

On the hardware side, Vita stock has now presumably run out in most retailers as sales dived to just 870 units, quite the collapse from last week. That must mean there's only a tiny amount of new units to snap up around the world before we become reliant on second hand stock. So, if you haven't got a new Vita, time is seriously running out.

That also makes this the last chart I'll produce, there's no point watching the number fall to zero, as it inevitably will. Nine years for one hardware iteration, not bad indeed.

NOTE: In inexplicably good timing, Media Create is stopping publishing the chart data, so just as well! But that does mean one less source for sales data for future devices, which is bad news.

A final peek at the early years... showing the hardware only sold on big game releases and during the holiday season, unlike the Switch which sells consistently, and goes mental on big game days.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Infinite States promise a Vita Kickstarter for new game

No publisher or developer on the planet has any logical reason to publish a Vita game in 2019. But the cuddly Vita community still has fond memories and bags of appeal for those on the other side the touchscreen.

So, its good to hear Infinite State Games (of Rogue Aces and Don't Die Mr. Robot game fame) tweeted that they'd put up a Kickstarter to fund Vita development of their new pastelly-tinged title, unofficially titled Family Tree. Enough Vita owners responded and they've now confirmed they'll run a campaign.

However, it won't be anytime soon. "Quick message about the Kickstarter for Family Tree on Vita:
We’ve got day jobs and families, and knee deep in the Switch version. We will do this Kickstarter but PLEASE don’t expect it very soon. We’re at very full capacity."

Of course, Vita owners have to get behind the campaign whenever it launches, and the cost of development might be more than you'd think. There's also no chance of a physical version to tempt collectors - although it'd be good for ISG to put up some goodies perhaps even an Vita case and cover loaded with a manual, stickers and other fun stuff.

I'll blow the dust off and update the Kickstarter list, and appeal to any other developers who's next title could squeeze on to Sony's geriatric hardware that this could be a way to go - but all that relies on successful funding of the game, so keep an eye out.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sephirothic Stories tells 3D tales on the Vita

Get in the line for another Kemco RPG adventure. Sephirothic relates to the "tree of life" which gives a rather dull setting for their usual questing fodder. But the game does move Kemco into the 3D era with simple-looking worlds and pitched battles against the usual RPG hordes. Here's the trophy listing, expect a release fairly soon.

Pretty sure most previous Kemco titles have been 2D, which at least gives them a certain charm, this just looks pretty rough around the edges with slowdown, even in the mobile version.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Final Vita units still flying off the shelves in Japan

The Vita racked up another 3,000 unit sales in Japan last week according to Media Create, with those final production models likely being snapped up by importers and collectors. The number of people buying Vita consoles and physical copies of games is a cool thing to watch.

I guess the next question is when will Sony shut down the Vita PSN store? With more games being deleted in all regions, the race is on by gamers to secure safe downloads or physical copies to preserve the Vita's legacy.

As for whatever comes next, we have Microsoft now touting its own crossplay with xCloud on any device. There's Nintendo with a hopefully better-designed portable Switch on the way, leaving Sony looking increasingly out of the loop, having fluffed its lines (and early lead) with cloud and remote gaming play - the fluffed iOS PS4 recent update just the latest example.

Look at how ugly that setup is and think how good sales would be for a single portable dedicated HD gaming unit that could play Xbox and PlayStation games (perhaps even a joint development with PS/XB faceplates), also supporting back catalogue and retro titles? Never happen, will it???

Review: Awesome Pea

Proving there's absolutely nothing wrong with retro, along comes Awesome Pea, designed to look like its playing on an old CRT (you can turn off the CRT and tube effect settings if you don't like that style) while bringing a green-tinged dose of hardcore platforming. Its a good job the game has a freezer full of peas on hand, as you'll die, a lot.

The game has lots of nods to historical platforming (can we call it that yet?) Mario transport tubes, tower levels, train rides and more. To drive you are are some neatly composed chip-tune tracks, and pea is always doing his happy little dance, but otherwise isn't the most engaging of heroes.

At the start of pea's adventure, you just need to leap around the first level with some care, as the tutorial explains the few moves on offer. But soon, there's double jumps, burping frog fire to avoid, spiky blocks, rotating blocks, long falls, Stop The Express-style train levels and other nods to nostalgic gaming, all aiming to kill you. One mistake and its back to the start.

I held off reviewing the game as there was talk of a patch, which is now out. And while it makes some parts of the game better, my early reservations still hold true. There's no rock solid belief that your pea will jump on command - sometimes the sound doesn't trigger, sometimes the leap feels off, and the second jump might or might not happen. I find that lack of faith is disturbing, while multiple jump sequences compound the problem. You might land on the edge of a platform and get another jump, or you might not.

Since that's at the cornerstone of the gameplay, it is rather an issue, but since the levels are pretty short, you might not find it too stressful to go back and start again. Also, the green screen colour design makes it hard to spot incoming fire.

While there's a map screen, showing the series of islands your adventure stretches over, progress is on a strictly linear level-by-level basis, with no branching. So, when you get stuck, and you will get stuck, all you can do is try, try again. Or give up and go play something more forgiving.

That's worse as you only get trophies for collecting all the treasure on a level, increasing your chances of death, pushing it beyond risk-reward into painful territory. Perhaps Awesome Pea is geared toward speed runners, but I'm not one, so don't find the challenge all that enjoyable, and in the end I just gave up on it, especially when more mechanically secure but just as challenging games like Super Life of Pixel are available.

On the plus side, there's lots of potential on view here, and I hope PigeonDev continues to work at their craft and comes up with something a little stronger next time around.

Score: 5/10
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Price: £4.99
Developer/Publisher PigeonDev/Sometimes You
Size: 159MB
Progress: Given up by the 10th level!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Project Hardcore is now Ultracore

I gor right behind Project Hardcore in a heartbeat last year, not only because it looks great, but I think there must be plenty of other old unreleased games out there that might reappear if this proves a success. Now the Strictly Limited-published game from the original DICE has a new final title, Ultracore and a new logo and website.

While it might not get a Vita physical release due to end of production, I still look forward to giving it a mighty blast.

Celebrate 15 years of Monster Hunter with Capcom video

Monster Hunter might have been more of a PSP thing, with Capcom's dino-hunter title sending sales of Sony's original portable console into the stratosphere with the Monster Hunter Portable series. But it is also responsible for rival publishers trying to catch the wave, launching a range of games from God Eater to Toukiden among others, with Sony trying its hand with Soul Sacrifice and Freedom Wars that kept Vita owners happy over the years.

Of course, Japan has had Monster Hunter Frontier Z on the Vita, which along with Phantasy Star Online 2 has kept it a relevant and useful online device over there, still going strong with regular updates. As Monster Hunter World dominates in 2019, who knows what's to come future.

Monday, March 11, 2019

NIS America has one last encore for the Vita with Utawarerumono Prelude to the Fallen

NIS has just wrapped its spring Showcase event, and while the eager wait for lots of Vita news might be a thing of the past, the company has a parting friendly shot for us.
Discover the first chapter of a tale years in the making in Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen! Hakuoro, a man with no memories, must find his place in a strange new world and embrace the destiny that awaits him.

UPDATE: Now with trailer.

Finally, we can be rid of Utawarerumono (because of all the horrible things spell checkers do to the word)! but only after this new prequel tale coming early 2020! It'll be digital only, but should still be worth investing in if you've followed the series so far! If not, I'm sure a PS5 or Switch compendium will be along sooner or later.

The joys of a Vita with a US PSN account

Having stuck to the EU PSN since launch, getting a second Vita and tying it to the US PSN store has come as a breath of fresh air.

The US store is updated more efficiently and regularly than the EU version, making Sony Europe look like a bunch of slackers.

Prices are better (but remember you pay tax on US purchases, if you put some states in) so getting a $10 card means you can't afford a $9.99 game. Talking of, I found the simplest way to get US PSN credit is via eBay, plenty of people are selling US store vouchers and will email the code instantly (give or take time zones).  That's easier than monkeying around with Amazon or trying to use your EU PayPal account (and likely failing).

Note, use Wyoming, Alaska, Texas, Washington, Florida, Nevada or South Dakota to avoid paying tax on games.

Then there's the games that aren't on the EU store from classics like the PSOne Chrono Trigger, PSP's Ridge Racer, old Vita titles like New Little King Story and newer indies where the publisher can't afford the costly PEGI rating certificate like Ghoulboy.

And, as more games start to vanish from stores, being able to grab them from elsewhere might prove useful. I'll start to compile a list of differences (below), but do comment if you know of any major omissions or goodies on either store.

Even so, the likes of NFL, MLB The Show and others have already vanished from the US store (despite having placeholders), if you were thinking it would be a useful repository for sports fans.

As with so much Vita stuff, this is probably not news to most of you, but anyone buying second or third units to protect their investment might find spending time on the US store (or Japan or other Asian market) worth while.

Found on US PSN, not on EU!

Chrono Trigger
Chrono Cross
CyberBots: Full Metal Madness
Legend of Mana
Mass Destruction
Parasite Eve
Soviet Strike

Ridge Racer
Namco Museum Collections (1 to 5)
Soldier Blade

PS Vita
The Amazing Spider Man
Desert Ashes
DJMAX Technika Tune
Aisling's Quest
New Little King Story

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon rises for physical release

While we'll never get the full Ritual of the Night game, we're at that strange time in the Vita's life when all sorts of oddities get bagged for a physical release. Enter Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, the Inti Creates spin-off game from the Kickstarter project that ditched the Vita, coming to us from Limited Run with pre-orders next week.

If you like the cover art, the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Collector's Edition features a poster of original art from Tom duBois, the artist behind the likes of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse.

Castlevania fans will lap it up, but it won't quite fill that RotN hole in our hearts. On the plus side, we take what we can get and there's plenty of buzz around Bloodstained, so hope to pick one of these copies up. No word of how many copies will be available, but get your buying fingers primed for next Friday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Latest Shakedown Hawaii trailer is all business

The Vita physical version of Shakedown Hawaii is already being manufactured, so there can't be long to wait until the game hits the shelves and PSN, as probably the last major release for the handheld in terms of sales potential. A new trailer shows the GTA-style business potential of just some of the criminal enterprises in the game, along with the usual over-the-top carnage. Can't wait!

Vita sales almost double in Japan after end-of-production

Ah, the good old dead-cat bounce, when any product is snapped up before the end of its life. So it proves in Japan, where the new Media Create chart might lack any Vita games, but unit sales leap (a relative term admittedly) to 3,287 units.

While the news was only announced a week ago, it sent Japanese buyers (and importers) rushing to pick up new units as fans and resellers act before Vita becomes an increasingly rare collectible. Wonder how long it will go on for? Until all the last new boxes are finally off the shelves for ever.

Of course, Sony won't miss a few thousand sales a week, or the dribble of income from PSN and boxed game sales, and those pesky memory cards. But for fans the chase is on! Gotta catch 'em all (I think).

The next games that might just dent the quiet JP chart, Dead or Alive 6 is at no. 1 with only 26K sales are Full Kiss (Entergram) and KonoSuba RPG: God's Blessing (Entergram) out on the 28th March.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Pato Box getting a physical release

Fists up, ready to fight over 1,500 copies of Pato Box, the adventure boxing game starring a pugilist duck from Bromio and PlayAsia. It comes with a limited edition in a collector’s box with reversible art and game cart, a full color manual, dual CD original soundtrack and a numbered certificate for $34.99.

Upgrade complete, Vita slim in my hands

Due to money/life stuff, I've rocked my day one Vita OLED through thick and thin. But, with life getting better and the risk of prices going mad, now Vita production has ended, I finally grabbed a good-looking piano black LCD Slim model from eBay.

It arrived in the post today and is everything I hoped it was, having been well looked after! I set it up with a US PSN account to grab games that no longer come to Europe and to access Netflix. Plan on picking up a blue/orange one from Japan to round out the family soon, but for now my Vita investment, both in time and money, feels safe.

Comparing the two, old news to most, but all exciting for me, naturally the LCD doesn't have quite the sparkle that the OLED had. The design really evolved well, so slick and a billion miles ahead of how the Switch feels.

The new model is also very shiny and slippery, really want to rush out and buy a protective skin for it. On the plus side, it seems a bit louder, which might just be me and the WiFi seems to be faster/stronger - at first glance without measuring anything.

It's fun was going back and setting up a new PSN account with the icon and background, playing Welcome Park, but what's really impressive is how much better the US Vita store is than Europe's. I know games aren't come our way as PEGI charges make it uneconomic, which is why I've gone US - but the US store is better looked after, more up to date, has smarter sections and feels a little loved! Sony Europe is a damn disgrace for a major entertainment business.

A shame we can't merge or have a universal account, and a shame Sony US has totally stripped out the movie element from the store. I wonder how long even the basic store will last, but for now I can play

Aside from the US exclusive games, the current timing makes this seem like an ideal opportunity to go all the way back to the start, from Welcome Park to launch day games and so on.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Vita Production Done, Welcome to the Afterlife Party

Apparently, this Japanese PlayStation site (translated) confirms that production has finished for the Vita. That means no new units entering the supply chain, so prices will be shooting up any time now as people try to grab the last units for spares or gazumping. Presumably selling 1,500 a week in Japan just isn't good enough for Sony.

I've finally got enough money for a second unit, so will be risking it all for a happy colour edition (hopefully), given that official repairs will be costing an arm and a leg. Still no word on memory card production, which is all the more vital as western Sony continues to slowly not give a crap about PSN releases, and as more titles get pulled from the stores.

For current owners, we still have a raft of releases and more being announced to look forward to from a doughty gang of developers and publishers. And, at the end, I'm more than happy to start all over again with Uncharted, Persona 4 Golden, Tearaway and many other classics, plus PSone and PSP games that you can't play (properly) on another box, or without being welded to a massive TV screen!

Vita forever!

P.S. Naturally, this story is doing the rounds on the tech and gaming sites, and its amazing how few (if any of them) look for the slightest bit of positivity in the Vita scene, as if none of these writers like writing about games!.

Trophies pop up for Peasant Knight

Another week, another Ratalaika game, Peasant Knight is launching on Steam, PS4 and Vita soon, with a trophy listing having just appeared. There's a spot of video on the Steam page, showing a bright and cheery looking medieval two-button platformer on offer.

Set across 80+ levels to solve, there are plenty of traps, enemies and bosses to overcome. Having checked with the developer, the Vita version won't support MP and race mode. Still, they are very busy working on Devious Dungeon 2, ports of AdventureGameStudio titles and much more!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sharin no Kuni Vita update from the Kickstarter project

Kickstarter (remember them) project Sharin no Kuni: The Girl Among the Sunflowers is still coming to the Vita, and the developers (via a third party) are still trying to squeeze a physical release out for backers. Here's the latest from an update. The revamp of the 10-year old visual novel is complete and the final push is on.

About the status of the Vita version development

Recently, the number of comments from backers who pledged for the Vita version and are worried about the possibility of the version itself not existing has been increasing, due to the fact that the production deadline for the platform has passed. We want to deeply apologize for the lack of communication and for not answering our backer’s questions properly, which has understandably caused much dissatisfaction and raised your concerns.

First, we want to assure everyone that there are currently no plans of changing or removing any of the rewards we initially offered in the campaign. As we said in the update titled "Project Progress Update #11: Explanation Of Development Status And Revised Schedule", we re-evaluated the development schedule to give utmost priority to the Vita version the moment we knew about the deadline. As a result, right now the development of the Vita version has finished and we will proceed with the subsequent steps.

However, although the development of the Vita port itself has indeed finished, the manufacturing and publishing process has been consigned to an external company, and right now we cannot unilaterally disclose the progress of this process due to contract confidentiality terms.

At the very least, right now we can assure you that you will receive your Vita rewards, despite the production deadline having passed. We're currently still working on the manufacturing.

Right now we're in talks with this company, and after they finish we will let everyone know about the current status in an update as soon as possible.

Review: Access Denied

Hello, a 3D game on the Vita! Although as a puzzle game, Access Denied is hardly stretching the hardware. A series of 36 locked-box puzzles face the player, spinning each mystery device around with the triggers to get a better look at the complex designs of each physical puzzle.

Some have buttons or sliders, others have their own controls, number pads or sigils and hidden clues, often requiring some zooming in or out (triangle and square) to find the key details to solve the puzzle. Each one comes out of a mysterious lift on a desk that has various tools scattered around it, along with a clock showing the actual time.

Judging by the constant dripping, its either raining or there's a leak somewhere, and is that a storm rumbling in the background? While that helps create an atmosphere, there's no explanation or background as to why we're doing all this.

Most of the puzzles are pretty straightforward after some tentative stabs at what each one does. Understanding what you need to do can take a few minutes and sometimes the controls aren't particularly intuitive, adding an extra layer of angst. The further you go, there are puzzles on multiple faces of the object, some of which you need to constantly move between to work out a solution.

Beyond that, there's not a huge amount to say about the game, all we have is a no-nonsense puzzler that's nicely dressed up, but with none of the speed challenge of Squares or the quirkiness of Open Me! There's no different solutions or different ways to play, but I'd say you might just about get your money's worth.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £3.99 (PSN)
File size: 156MB
Developer/Publisher Stately Snail/Ratalaika
Progress: Platinum