Thursday, June 27, 2019

Attack of the Toy Tanks live on PSN

With Toy Story 4 out, there's always that more combative side in our nature that wants to see the military toys go to war, a la Small Soldiers. Attack of the Toy Tanks borrows that idea, and the Wii mini-game from Wii Play to bring some fun 3D battling to the Vita, thanks to Petite Games and Ratalaika.

Out now on PSN for £3.99, with lasers, traps and tricky level design, its a fun challenge (review up soon).

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 Vita-exclusive 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!

The term Gnosia means being able to recognize the form and the nature of people and things; the faculty of perceiving and recognizing. And there appear to be werewolf-type characters hiding in human skin, I think.

UPDATE: The game scored a 10/10 from IGN's Japanese site and is worth a translated read. Wonder if Famitsu 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