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, grenades, beams, liquids 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, or craft new ones to spice things up.

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 when your health starts to dip? 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
More Reviews
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
More Reviews
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, 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
More Reviews
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!