Monday, September 30, 2019

New Vita games rush this way with trophy listings

A few new games popped up as Exophase listings over the weekend. Deep Space Rush is one of those mystery titles, not on Steam and all searches only link to the new trophy listing. They talk about zones and monsters which gives us a fair hint as to what's to come.

Super Box Land Demake we know a little more about, coming from Juliano Lima (aka LightUp Games). Check out his blog, for more info on this fun adventure that comes on the heels of, and looks like an evolved project compared to Super Wiloo Demake (below), next up from him is Milo's Quest which I hope will also make it to the Vita.

Finally, and probably pick of the bunch, is Just Ignore Them from the twisted folk behind My Big Sister. A similar pixel adventure

Also on the way is more wordy fun with Tic-Tac-Letters from Powgi, a single player logic puzzle based on tic-tac-toe. Players start by placing letters so that there are no more than two Xs or Os consecutive in a row or column. Then continue with new letters and larger and more challenging puzzles.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Shovel Knight King of Cards heads to Vita in December

Yacht Club Games has finished off work on the final installments of the Shovel Knight adventure. The final episode is almost a year later than first promised, but hey - these works of genius take time and December isn't all that far away.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is the final campaign in the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove saga, and it’s bigger and grander than ever! Step into the regal shoes of King Knight, the Gilded Goon himself, as you shoulder bash and spin jump through all those who would oppose your reign! Travel through 4 new worlds and more than 30 all new courses, all on a journey to best the “Three Kings” who lord over the land.  Discover what it takes to become a true monarch, meet a friend or two, and amass a King’s ransom in items and loot! Refined platforming, exquisite visuals, story with heart, action-packed courses, glorious new bosses and more await in Shovel Knight: King of Cards!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Habroxia

Space, the final frontier. These are the - die you mothers! Sorry, some days I feel in peace and cosmic harmony with the gaming world and other times, I just want to blow stuff up. Today is one of the those days and here's Habroxia from Lillymo to provide the drug.

Somewhere between Xenon and the legendary Nemesis comes Habroxia, a sparkling dive into shoot 'em up nostalgia. It throws chrome-tinged vertical and horizontal levels at us with waves of ships firing chunky bullets at your vessel from all directions with a range of growing bosses (why do they have names, when there's no plot?) with heftier firepower and bigger health bars the further you get in.

On its own, it looks nothing too dramatic, but add all the little features and tricks like different bullet types, some of which you can shoot down, together and we have a challenging shooter with some impressive ideas and good use of Trophies to get us perfecting those trigger finger skills. For a start, you are blazing across one of the early levels, and all of a sudden your ship and the action rotates and we get a vertical shooter. Some levels, you have to rescue astronauts, who are tucked away in tricky corners (don't shoot them) and the challenge builds up with a persistent charge.

Along each level there are plenty of power-ups for your rockets, bombs and lasers, risking life and limb to collect them and health for your shields. Also, picking up credits means we can go mad in the store where you can permanently power up your ship to help out on the tougher levels. Each level is packed with asteroids, whoosy-radar things, ground installations and waves of attack craft. Far from bullet hell, you still need your wits about you, but the core levels follow set patterns, so you can learn where to dodge and what to take out first.

The controls are also a bit unusual, the right trigger fires your main weapon, left trigger and the right-stick fire your directional weapons and both triggers launch the third weapon type. The combination has the Vita shaking rather a lot but the alternate controls make more sense, using the shoulder button to boost. (bonus point to the game for having the controls listed in the digital manual!)

In play, there's progress from level to level, with no need to go back to the start. Combos give your score a bit of kick, depending on how long you can avoid enemy bullets, and new modes are unlocked when you reach a particular point. Invasion mode goes vertical with your mission to keep ships from reaching the bottom of the screen while Rescue sees those plucky astronauts in need of assistance.

Habroxia combines some lovely ideas, like the backstories of the astronauts, not some are quite perfectly implemented, while still adding to the sense of drama. A good spacy-handbrake turn sound would really top off the rotation mechanic, while some more imagination in the weaponry department would have been cool. Also, I hate that a space ship can still crash into solid land, surely some sort of collision avoidance is fitted to these things?

The music is rather plinky and doesn't seem to help the atmosphere but there's nothing that really stops this being a great game. With plenty to do beyond the core missions, Habroxia is plenty of fun, looks retro-gorgeous and is just a layer of polish off from being awesome.

Score: 8/10
More Reviews
Price: £5.79 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Lillymo Games
File size 37MB
Progress:  Bombs and big bad guys
(review code provided)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Now you can use DualShock 4 for iOS 13 games and iPhone Remote Play, no need for Vita 2?

The latest release of Apple of iOS 13 sees iPhone users easily able to pair a DualShock 4 controller over Bluetooth and play the latest Apple Arcade games.

A rush of launch titles like Oceanhorn 2, Chu Chu Rocket, Mini Motorways, Sonic Racing, EarthNight and around 70 others, with more set to come for a £4.99 monthly subscription make it a tempting move. The update also makes the Sony PS4 Remote Play iOS app usable!

Physically, all you have to do is hold down the PS button and Search on the DS4 for a few seconds with the iPhone's Bluetooth on, and it will appear on your phone, making mobile gaming a whole lot easier to control. I'm sure Android users are way ahead of me on this, and other MFI controllers are available!

Why Sony didn't allow the DS4 controller to take over from the Vita for newer games at any point, either for direct control or more natural remote play, who knows? After all, the Vita has Bluetooth and Remote Play, making it ideal for more flexible gaming.

And it was available long before the PS4 Remote Play app appeared on iOS. The brutal truth of which now makes the idea of a future Vita pretty much redundant. All you need is one of those bondage restraint clamps and your iPhone (or Android) and the DS4 represents the future of portable gaming - still looks butt ugly, but usable. Or, there's the iPad's bigger screen at rest on your legs for in-bed play with a bit less squinting.

Picture taken with my Vita so it still feels part of the family
So, enjoy the Vita as the retro device it now is, with the last of the studio and indie games on the way, as technology is moving on without it. Even a modestly recent iPhone has a way better screen for brightness and resolution, chunky speakers and stronger WiFi.

My little XR is devastatingly powerful with great battery life, making the Vita look like the relic it is, either for remote play or brand new games that Apple can attract with its massive budget to propel the arcade service into people's minds.

Using this super-phone/DS4 partnership, Sony's own developers don't have to worry about hobbled versions of PS5 engines for Vita 2 "exclusive" games, everything will run on the PS5 or PS 5 Pro with 5G streaming for Remote Play at home or away on whatever phone or other device you own.

Just in case you had the tiniest lingering hope of a new portable from Sony, as the new Switch Lite comes to sweep up seasonal sales, why would Sony try to compete when it can let iPhone do the legwork? And having only dabbled in iPhone gaming (Angry Birds, Fieldrunners etc.) this combo feels like a decent, workable, way forward, especially with the Apple Arcade lineup - and when that opens up on Apple TV, who needs a big box console for indies?

Yes, I'd love to see a Vita 2 or an official Sony PS4 Remote Player handheld, but for now this is as good as it gets.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Hole New World falls onto Vita

Hidden Trap has dropped an October release date for A Hole New World, a Unity-engined game announced back in the summer. A busy pixel-platform-shooter with a solid 8-bit-vibe to it, now with a 38-piece Vita trophy listing and a Play Asia limited physical, (1,500 copies), it sees your city being invaded by monsters from the Upside Down World!

As the Potion Master, you must defeat this evil with the help of Fäy, your companion fairy, and your collection of potions! With a wide range of characters across the city, you jump and shoot to fight enemies and bosses to acquire their powers!

Story Mode offers five different worlds, with Game+, Boss Rush Mode, Challenge Mode and multiple endings to keep us playing. There are over 30 different enemies, 7 boss battles and lots of secret characters to discover!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Shooter Habroxia getting a physical Vita LE

Lillymo and Eastasiasoft are bringing a cool-looking retro shooter to the Vita this month, and we get our own little physical LE (just the 1,500 units) too with an audio CD and other goodies. In Habroxia, players blast their way through a myriad of extra-terrestrial incursions through horizontal and vertical levels.

Habroxia features 15 levels with intense boss fights, rescue missions, shifting perspectives and plenty of surprises. A persistent ship upgrade system, three endless side modes, 50 different enemies and 10 unique boss fights should make for plenty of retro space shooting fun.

A Winter's Daydream frosts over the Vita

Answering the age-old question, what happens when your grandma transforms into a cute chick? A Winter's Daydream is a western visual novel coming to the Vita according to a trophy listing (including a platinum). Developed by Ebi-Hime, the plot, if that's what you want to call it, sees 19-year-old Yuu unable to stand his younger sister, Otoko, and the feeling is mutual. 

It’s been almost a year since Yuu saw her last, having escaped his dreary home town to study in the bustling city, but with the advent of New Year’s he finds himself obliged to return to his family to celebrate.
Unfortunately, Yuu’s absence has not softened his younger sister, and Otoko is just as sullen and surly as ever before.
Finding the atmosphere at home unbearable, Yuu decides to escape once more — not to the city this time, but to his grandmother’s snowy, secluded village.
The reunion between grandson and grandmother starts normally at first… until one moonlit night, when the pair witness a star streaking through the sky.
The following morning, Yuu enters the kitchen, still half-asleep, to discover...
“Who are you? What are you doing in my grandmother’s house?”
...that his grandmother has transformed into a cute young girl!
What is the reason behind his grandmother’s drastic change? Will Yuu be able to restore her to her original self? And why is she so adorable?!

The developer has a host of idol and similar games in his archive, with a strong artistic style and reasonable reviews, so here's hoping more head over to the Vita.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Tempest 4K goes physical on PS4, any chance of TxK?

There are many lingering injustices on the Vita, the largest being that one of its finest shooters, Jeff Minter's 2014 vector-fest TxK never got a physical release. If you want to support the old Ox, and I do hope he's getting some cash from this deal between Atari and PQube, then the newer Tempest 4000 for PS4 game is available in boxed form for EU types (the US version has been out for a while).

Hopefully the PS4 release (pic, below) will act as a nudge for someone, somewhere to dig up the Vita version and put that in a pretty blue case, even if we have to import it from Japan!

Cross-dressing romance mystery hits Japan in December

Another romance VN lurks zombie-style into action, hitting the Vita and PS4 in an update to an age old PC release. Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate: Bara no Seibo appears to be about cross-dressing agent for Shield 9 who infiltrates girls schools to solve crimes and mysteries.

Here's a peek at an earlier version's gameplay with English text. It lands just before Christmas in Japan, with no hope of a western release.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Romancing Saga 3 hits the west in November

That's funny, there I was giving the rapidly-shrinking release list its autumnal tidy-up and having confirmed that Romancing Saga 3 is due out in Japan on 11 November, Square only goes and confirms a same day western release too.

Here's the latest trailer with a plot run through, plenty of art and screens, digital-only naturally. No such joy with SaGa Scarlet Grace unfortunately.

Japanese Vita game end of year and TGS roundup

Japan has just a handful of Vita games on the release schedules for 2019, and most are in the updated/pseudo-sequel visual novel vein like Mellkiss from Entergram (first trailer) and Prototype's Cat Wearing Military Shoes (2nd).

Danmachi (3rd) Familia Myth livens things up with some cute RPG action, before possibly the Vita's grand  farewell in the form of Square's Romancing Saga 3, the only major release left by the look of it, arriving on 11 November.

There's still a lot of previously announced games on the release list, but I suspect most of these have already moved to Switch/PS4 only now, like the Chaos;Head Noah remake that I just scrubbed off the list. Fair enough, given the die off in interest, a few others have slipped in to 2020, but I'd be impressed if they ever arrived.

As for Tokyo Game Show, kicking off today, there's literally nothing I can find for the Vita on it, as you'd expect. But it'd be cool to see one or two new titles pop up in the Indie Game Area or a few more physicals.

Oh, here's one an updated visual novel (sigh) - Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate: Bara no Seibo (AXL/Entergram)

Games already announced that should be at the show (but probably not on Vita) include:

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition
Phantasy Star Online 2 latest updates
Romancing Saga 3

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Pantsu Hunter: Back to the 90s

The Vita's long lineup of Japanese games with an underwear fetish helped make it popular in the west, with the likes of Punch Line, Konosuba, Criminal Girls and Akiba's Trip all delving into some sort of fetish. With Pantsu Hunter, there's no need to wait years for the translation, as its a western effort at the mildly saucy visual novel/adventure from Ascension Dream.

The relatively simple aim is to relieve ladies of their underwear as part of a science experiment. Our "hero" in the guise of the hapless Kenji has a theory about love and knickers. Fortunately, we're only borrowing them from around their homes or the local hot baths by going through some 70s-farce style shenanigans over four chapters with a range of young ladies.  PSA - REMEMBER - stealing pants is still a crime!

With no manual saving, if you screw up then its back to the start. So take notes or make a chart of what helps you progress and what goes wrong. Each girl has a number of panties stashed in their location, and there good, true and many other endings to each segment. To help out, hold down the square button and you'll see all the action points in a scene.

Some interactions are obvious, others require multiple uses or this-item-on-that-object, all laced with 90s nostalgia from VHS machines to computer viruses and more. With  mildly erotic scenes, this isn't a deep game, with about four to five hours of play, with plenty of silly scenes that you might enjoy. Whatever your moral stance, it is gentle and a funny reminder of life if you've ever been a "good friend" to someone.

You can be too nice, too course, plain offensive and easily get booted back to the start. The sepia/pastel tone of the visuals adds a certain charm, and the music has that lounge lizard touch to it. The voice acting is perfect for the roles. while extra scenes reveal the inner pains and desires of the ladies, so if anything the game can teach bone-headed males to look beyond the surface.

Annoyingly, sometimes the text can be read out of order, or doesn't quite make sense. I guess the typeface could be a point larger on the Vita's screen, and there's still long loading times and hefty pauses, even though a recent patch has improved performance. The pace can really drag if you're trying to get back to where you were too, but with a little patience this is a nostalgic little trip through the perils of meeting and winning the hearts (or pants) of young ladies.

Score: 7/10
More Reviews
Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Ascension Dream/Sometimes You
File size 669MB
Progress:  Found some pants
(review code provided)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Review: Himno

Himno is a game of many levels. There are the character levels Himno goes up by exploring, dashing and collecting sparkly gems along the way. There are also the many physical levels you jump up and descend to find the exit to each "District", lighting torches to reveal more of the world. Then there are level wisps that you find from time to time, collect those (assuming your level is the same or higher) and you get a special power like extra jumping height and much more.

That's a lot to absorb from this ambient adventure where there's no real plot, no real goal and the only way you can die is by falling into the water at the bottom of each level. Exploration of the procedurally generated levels is done through jumps, wall jumps, wall hangs, dashes and using rising platforms to find the exit portal, that can be anywhere on the level.

The worst of these exits are by the water margin, often through a tiny gap, as you can risk a high level for a few tricky jumps to get there, with the slightly fidgety controls likely to fail you at the wrong moment. If you do get stuck, or don't want to risk instant death, you can teleport back to the start and try and find a different route.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the game is you can't look down to see what's below - turning you into a foolhardy leaper or a total coward, as the sound of the lapping water gets louder.

All the while, you are leveling up and maybe wondering what the hell is going on? But the game gives no real clues. Why does Himno have a sword if he/she never uses it? Why are the wisps here, what's the purpose of the garden at the start? Where did all the lights go? Or what powers the crazy bouncing lightning that can propel you across the level.

I do like Himno, with its great atmospherics and evolving ambient soundtrack, but a hint of justification for these actions would have been lovely. Also, one minute you can be bouncing along the level quite happily with a great sense of achievement, and suddenly one mistimed jump or failed action sees you plummeting away to the depths, or sometimes you just can't find a way to the finish and feel very deflated, which prevents the game getting a higher score.

The game is also very dark, hard to play on a Vita OLED in the daylight. I tried it on the PS4 and the controls feel more responsive and there's less of a light issue, but you would lose the gorgeous glows on the Vita's OLED.

Between this and Legend of the Skyfish, the Vita's indie credentials have had a good boost in recent weeks, here's hoping it continues.

Score: 7/10
More Reviews
Price: £3.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Breakfast Studio/Grab the Game/Ratalaika
File size 123MB
Progress:  Platinum
(review code provided)

Friday, September 6, 2019

Gory tale Distraint hits Vita next week

How wide is the Vita's screen? I hope its enough to cram in the super-wide display mode used by disturbing adventure DISTRAINT: Deluxe Edition, and still be readable! Distraint is a 2D psychological horror adventure game with very adult themes that tells the story of Price, a young man who forecloses on an old woman’s apartment.

UPDATE: Trophy list out

After seizing her home, his humanity is now gone - must be common for most yahoo-banking types. So begins his tale of regrets and blood & gore as he creeps through different locations, learning the backstory of Price and his motivations that led him down this dark path. Progress through the somber story by solving light puzzles across a variety of different scenarios and settings!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Review Vasara Collection

All I really want in life is the original Raiden on my Vita, but all PSN throws at me is Raiden V on PS4. Lacking that or my other fave shooter Ikaruga, here comes Vasara Collection to scratch my shmup itch.

In Tate Mode it offers a great dose of blasting fun across two games, but in regular mode the screen is too small and busy to do the games justice. Even with the pretty character art down the sides.

Note, the Vita version lacks the shiny new Timeless mode of the Steam/PS4 version and four-player mode, but that's not really a reason to pass on these smart shooters. On PlayStation TV, you do get two-player mode! Also note, the Strictly Limited physical release of 1,200 copies sold out in a minute, so PSN it is.

In Vasara, a pair of Visco shooters from the turn of the century, sci-fi tech meets fuedal Japanese history, with shogunates and lords shouting their curses as you race into battle. You can pick from a range of different pseudo-historical characters and their flying motorbike-type ships to ride, with modest speed and weapon power differentials. Then its into battle, hammering away at the enemy waves with the screen full of red gems for your melee power, power-ups for your weapons and endless streams of bullets to dodge.

The action starts out hectic and only gets madder as you go, but you can use those melee attacks and its ultimate form when the red Vasara gauge is full to repel bullets and powerful bombs to wipe out the enemy waves and the many, many boss ships. Vasara has branching paths and you'll need full concentration to slip through the massive barrages coming your way.

I love the core shooter part of the game, then though this probably a touch over my limit for bullet hell, or I'm getting worse as I get older. Also, the bikes seem a little large for the screen, but there's options to play on easy and add a bunch of continues in Free Play.

Hanging on in there until the Vasara gauge is often the only way to survive. I could do without the shouty interruptions too, but there's too much on my plate to worry about collecting the gold that falls from ground targets.

Such is the pace of the action, and as the screen fills with bullets and collectables, it does get overwhelming, especially when enemies drop huge flags when defeated. Also, when losing a life, your power-up tokens flock to the top of the screen and are a major risk to recover, usually coming down in a mix of gunfire.

When playing, I had little idea what the graphics actually looked like, as there's little time to focus. Watching some YouTube videos, the ground targets look a bit messy, with most of the love going on the pre-rendered 3D-like bosses, who are impressive beasts. The explosions look a little weedy, but on the Vita in the middle of the action, you really don't have time to notice and they look better and brighter on the OLED than these screenshots suggest.

With some impressive enemy designs, and a good blast of gaming history to enjoy, grab Vasara and lose yourself in the battle. It might not last too long, but there's plenty of carnage to enjoy.

Score: 7/10
More Reviews
Price: £8.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: QuByte/Strictly Limited
File size 190MB
Progress:  Shot stuff, had fun!
(review code provided)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Review Legend of the Skyfish

The Skyfish is a nasty rascal by all accounts. But, fair enough, if humans ravage the seas for all the fish, he's going to be a bit grumpy and we deserve everything we get as his fishy army take to the land and cast the people into the sea. Imagine how cross he'll be in the presumed sequel when modern man does nothing but dump plastic and garbage in the oceans.

Yet, somehow, the unnamed hero/heroine thinks the way to make things right will be to kill all the fishy monsters and solve puzzles to rescue their family - rather than restock the seas or eat less fish. Anyway, eco message over - enter Legend of the Skyfish,
This is a charming puzzler set across many tiny islands that sees the lead character helped by the Moonwhale and armed with a swiss-army knife fishing pole that can slash at enemies, pull things toward the player and pull enemies onto traps to avoid direct combat. Its a clever mechanic, using the right stick to aim the rod, which can be improved by augmentations like the Fish Slasher and Flash Caster as you venture further into the game.

Across islands, swamps and dry seabeds, you have to solve the increasingly complex puzzles, mostly opening gates or removing obstacles, while you get to dodge or battle enemies and avoid many multi-layer traps to defeat the end of level bosses like the giant armoured Grulak with his various attacks.

While the big monsters look a little scary, this is a game any young player can enjoy as the pace is fairly gentle and there's time to think about the problems around you. Each small step to success is rewarded with perky sound cues so you know you can move on. Checkpoints refill your life too on the larger levels, and there's the odd life heart dotted around in some of the more active areas of a level.

Charming in design, use of colour, with some neat water effects, suitable tunes and with fun enemies like the puffer fish and hermit crab, plus a little firefly friend to guide you to the game's treasures, Legend of the Skyfish has plenty of panache to draw you in.

It could do more with the various weapon types, and it is odd that can hack down an armoured beast but can't break through a small line of shrubbery to progress, or why not cut up mushrooms for health? But there you go, there's still plenty of dodging and puzzling to keep you mind on the mission.

Perhaps the only quirk of the game is that you can get near the end of a level and move to a "new" portal only to realise its an old one that takes you back to the start of the level, requiring a quick runaround to reach the exit.

Another slight annoyance is the iOS original had large full screen text and touch controls, that the Vita version loses as the focus is on the big-screen ports, still that doesn't detract from the overall joy of playing this cute-as-a-button adventure. Except for a few spots where the accuracy of touch would beat the stick, especially when timed switches have you racing against the clock.

Score: 8/10
More Reviews
Price: £3.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Mgaia/Crescent Moon/Ratalaika
File size 87MB
Progress:  Third World
(review code provided)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Chill with ambient platformer Himno, soon on Vita

Himno (Spanish for Anthem) is billed as "a peaceful, 2D platformer game with an infinite number of beautiful procedurally generated maps. Take a breath, and relax." Which after the recent rash of hectic pixel jump-die-repeat games will come as a bit of fresh air to harried Vita owners.

UPDATE: Himno hits PSN this week

A trophy listing suggests an imminent release for a game that tipped up on Steam earlier in the year. Developed by David Moralejo Sánchez, it has some stellar ratings and reviews, and looks pretty slick too, with a great ambient atmosphere.

Hope the screen is zoomed in a little for the Vita version rather than dinkifying those already tiny pixel characters, but otherwise I hope to be charmed and impressed by little Himno's adventures.