Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pocket Review - Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition

Duke Nukem might have been the most infamous first-person shooter in the 90s, but how does it hold up in the modern era? First and foremost, I have to give a huge shout-out to Abstraction Games for developing a fantastic port of Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition for Vita. The game runs smoothly, and it offers a wealth of gameplay options. The single-player campaign allows you to select from any stage in the game, including the game's many expansions, and at any difficulty. There are leaderboards, multiplayer battles, and a host of other features making this a feature rich port.

Abstraction amazingly crammed all of this content into this port, and everything works great. The bad side of this is that it all feels like a waste, as the original Duke Nukem 3D is awful. This waste of resources makes for a great showpiece for Abstraction, but just goes to highlight how tedious the original game from 3D Realms really was. The game features tiring level layouts with annoying gating issues. Enemy designs are ridiculous with painful AI. To top all of that off, the game's crude settings just help show how juvenile and uninspired Duke was and still is.

To help curb some frustration with Duke's design, there is a new rewind feature. When you die, the game allows you to skip back to any point of your playthrough to decide where to restart from. It's a great addition that many games could benefit from borrowing.

Sadly, even the rewind feature, you can't go back far enough to make Duke Nukem interesting. While packed full of content, there are many other FPSs from prior eras that are more deserving of a re-release than Duke Nukem 3D. Sorry, Duke. You weren't cool back in the day and time has done you no favors.

TLDR Abstraction did a fantastic job painting a turd.
Enjoyed By? Anyone clamoring for an FPS on Vita or those who have nostalgic longings for the past might enjoy this. 

This game was played on Vita via PSN through PS+.

Pocket Review - Woah Dave

Woah Dave is a modern take on the classic arcade game. With only one mode available at the start, players must progress further by performing better. Much like the first Mario Bros, the player controlled character begins in the middle of the stage and must defeat incoming enemies to earn coins and gain points.

Eggs and skulls drop from the sky and are the tools you use to stop the invading aliens. Skulls act as bombs and can be used to blow up the eggs before they hatch; just get out of their way before you get hurt yourself. The unhatched eggs can be used to smash aliens, but you have to be careful that they don't hatch on you. All of this is going on while you're jumping platforms, avoiding the rising lava, and dodging the ever-increasing aliens swarming the stage.

Enemies turn into coins when defeated and your purse total serves as your score. The more money you earn, the further you progress. The game is challenging, recapturing the old school arcade feel of days past. You start with three lives as you attempt to last as long as you can, and in doing so, you unlock new modes. Occasionally a Woah block will drop, and if you can grab it and toss it, it will "pow" everything on the stage to earn you a lot of coins.

I'll be honest, I'm pretty awful at Woah Dave, but it was still fun to dive into. I respect the concept in the same way I do the original Mario Bros, but it just didn't appeal to me. This genre has its place, and Woah Dave would have been right at home in arcades of the late 1980s. Lacking additional gameplay modes from the outset, other Vita arcade titles like Don't Die, Mr. Robot and Pix the Cat have more variety and appeal. As a free download, this one was worth a shot, but don't be surprised if you bail out quickly.

TLDR Old school fun gets old quick.
Enjoyed By? If you love challenging old school arcade games, this might be for you. 

This game was played on Vita via PSN through PS+.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pocket Review - Final Horizon

On first glance, it might be hard to tell exactly what Final Horizon is. When I downloaded it off PSN, I simply did so because it was free through PS+. What I found was a very entertaining strategy game on a micro scale. The developer describes this title as mini-Starcraft with killstreaks, and I believe that's a very apt description. It offers fast, bite-sized levels that don't wear out their welcome. Once I started playing, I didn't want to put it down.

Some might mistake Final Horizon as a simple tower defense game, but I don't feel that comparison is completely accurate. This sci-fi title has players completing brief planetary missions that are micro-sized, real-time strategy battles. You're given an objective such as destroy an incoming swarm or hold off an onslaught for a certain length of time, and then you are tossed right into the action. Missions are quick, challenging, and don't have a lot of padding. In place of gathering resources, players simply need to have a power generator in play on an resource spots. On other spots, you can build more generators to speed up the power increase or use that stored power to create a variety of combat turrets.

Deciding which tactic is the best for the moment is key, and this varies based on mission objectives and obstacles. Everything happens fast in Final Horizon, so you better be ready to build quickly and know when to upgrade. Deciding if swapping one structure for another, repairing a damaged unit, or unleash a killstreak perk are all decisions you have to make quickly. The game's foundation is simple, but it works wonderfully and could be built on to create something even more impressive.

The game's simple structure is not an actual negative, but it's about only real issue I have. The amount of enemies to battle, structures to create, and killstreaks available seems fine for the length of a single playthrough, but I would have loved to have seen more content and variety. Finishing the main story only takes about four to five hours, which is fine, but it seems like a testbed for greater projects to come. I can imagine this becoming a larger scale project with more depth, and I think it could be outstanding. For now, I do highly recommend Final Horizon if you want to play a fun strategy game that great to play in brief sessions and that cuts out a lot of fat.

TLDR It was great when free on PS+, but still worth it.
Enjoyed By? Anyone who enjoys strategy games in small bites would like this.

This game was played on Vita via PSN through PS+.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Flame Over Burning Up Vita Soon

It looks like Flame Over from Laughing Jackal will be hitting PSN within the next few weeks, if the submission process goes smoothly. Flame Over is fire-fighting game that features some roguelike elements such as perma-death and randomly generated levels. Players will make runs into burning buildings to rescue cats...oh, and people. The perma-death system is made less painful thanks to a persistent upgrade system.

Below are some new screens from one of the latest builds of the game. Keep an eye on the PS Blog next Wednesday for an exclusive Let's Play of Flame Over.

Nihilumbra Sticks to Vita Soon

Nihilumbra is a puzzle platformer from BeautiFun Games, and it's hitting PlayStation Vita in a couple weeks. The North American version hits on Jan. 27 for $9.99 and the European one hits on Jan. 28 for €8.99. As you can see in the trailer below, players control Born, a character born from the Void who learns to use color to transform the world around him. This ties into gameplay, as he uses brown to help him stick to walls and green to allow things to bounce off walls. Check out the media below for a closer look at what's to come.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nintendo Direct 3DS News Roundup

On January 14, Nintendo streamed a worldwide Direct presentation that filled out the calendar for the first half of 2015 for the 3DS in all territories, in addition to some major hardware news.

Hardware Announcements

The New 3DSXL will be the only version of the New 3DS that will release in North America for now, releasing on February 13 for US$199.99/C$229.99. In addition to the color options of red and black, there will be two special editions available at launch:
 (New 3DS images from @NintendoAmerica)
In a break from previous North American precedent, the systems will not include an AC adapter for system charging. Nintendo issued a statement to IGN indicating it was a move designed to keep the cost of the system down. (Source) Note: If trading in a system to upgrade, the AC adapter is required in most cases. Compatible adapters are available in Nintendo's online store for $5, but there will be a shipping charge of $5 as well.

In Europe, both the New 3DS and 3DSXL will be available beginning on 13 February, at a RRP of €169.99 for the smaller model and €199.99 for the XL. UK pricing is set by retailers, but GAME is taking preorders at £149.99 for the smaller size, £179.99 for the XL and £209.99 for the Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate limited edition. The Majora's Mask limited edition is available in Europe as well and will have the game preinstalled, but may have already sold out. The smaller New 3DS comes in white and black by default with twelve faceplates available, while the XL comes in blue and black.

(Images courtesy @NintendoEurope)

The Japanese Direct confirmed some additional faceplates for the New 3DS including a special Majora's Mask design for 2000yen in March, which will also come to Europe later. In addition, an adapter that allows older 3DS models to use Amiibo over infrared will launch in the summer. No word on a release in the other territories.

Software Announcements

A new Fire Emblem was announced for the 3DS. A summer release was announced for Japan as well as the subtitle (Fire Emblem if), but no date or subtitle was given for the rest of the world. Kozaki Yuskue returns from Awakening to head the character design, while Japanese manga writer Shin Kibayashi (Get Backers and Psycho Busters) has been brought in to handle the story. (Trailer)

Puzzle and Dragons Z and Puzzle and Dragons Super Mario Edition were both announced for localization, in a single package. The package will release in May in both territories. (Trailer)

Nintendo took a further step into the free-to-download space with Pokemon Shuffle, releasing worldwide in February. Functionally similar to Candy Crush Saga, the game does feature a stamina bar and microtransactions, though you may be able to replenish the stamina by StreetPassing as well? (Gameplay demo and explanation from Satoru Iwata)

Previously announced for Wii U, Mario vs Donkey Kong Tipping Stars will come to the 3DS as well and will be the first Nintendo game to have crossbuy in all territories. The game includes a level creator with sharing over Miiverse, and you can tip creators with the stars you earn in game so they can buy more creation tool. The game releases in March. (Trailer)

Citizens of Earth and Etrian Mystery Dungeon were among the highlights of NOA's 3rd party reel. CoE releases next Tuesday (January 20) and will be 20% off for the first week on 3DS/Vita. Meanwhile, Etrian Mystery Dungeon brings the Etrian artstyle to the rougelike genre on March 5 in Japan and as later confirmed by Atlus USA, April 7 in North America. Sister company Sega laid out their plans for the second series of 3D Classics, with After Burner II launching the day after the Direct and Fantasy Zone, OutRun, Fantasy Zone II and Thunder Blade to follow through March.

Renegade Kid's Moon Chronicles Episodes 2-4 was given a January release date, and a la carte or bulk purchase options will be available. Gunman Clive 2 was also pegged for January, but the developer later clarified the game is in lotcheck so a slip to early February is likely.

Story of Seasons, the new farming simulator from the original Harvest Moon team, had a trailer shown and a March release confirmed. Although the Direct initially only said "on the Nintendo eShop" XSEED later reassured fans that a physical release would be coming as well. (eShop sizzle trailer)

The last 3DS game before the New 3DS segment was Fossil Fighters Frontier, the third game in the dinosaur battling series. As with previous games, 8-4 is handling the localization. The game itself releases on March 20. (Trailer)

The first game with specific New 3DS features is Codename S.T.E.A.M, which will have Amiibo functionality for the Fire Emblem characters launching at about the same time. The FE characters will actually participate in battles, and if they fall you cannot revive them until the next map. The March 13 date given at The Game Awards was also reconfirmed. (Trailer)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D will have much less of a localization delay than the original Wii version, as the game releases April 2 in Europe/Japan and sometime in April for North America. Monster Games, who handled the port of Donkey Kong Country Returns to the 3DS, has been tasked with the port while Monolith finishes work on Xenoblade Chronicles X. (Trailer)

Third parties were also spotlighted with New 3DS-aided games. Bandai Namco's Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+ launches in February and can use Amiibo to unlock Nintendo plane livery. (Trailer)

A long rumored 3DS independent project, VD-Dev's "Iron Fall" appeared for the first time in public as Ironfall Invasion, a 60 FPS third-person shooter that uses the New 3DS's power for extra graphical fidelity and the C-stick for camera control. The game launches in February. (Trailer)

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate producer Ryozo Tsujimoto appeared to confirm that the Western versions would release day-and-date with the New 3DS, February 13. The additional control options afforded by the C-Stick was addressed, as well as the demo that will be distributed by codes in a manner similar to Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. (Trailer)

The final game shown in the Western directs was The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, and the use of the C-stick as an independent camera was highlighted as the chief New 3DS feature. (Trailer)

The Japanese Direct showed three additional new games whose localization will be a point of interest:  Hako Boy, a puzzle game from HAL Labs, Girls Mode 3 (Style Savvy in the West), and a 3DS version of Rhythm Tengoku (Rhythm Heaven) that includes all of the minigames of the GBA, DS and Wii games in addition to 30 original games. Trailers for Legend of Legacy, Theatrhythm Dragon Quest, Rodea the Sky Soldier and Atelier Rorona 3DS were included in the Japanese presentation.

As seen in the Japanese Nintendo Direct, Satoru Iwata packs quite a portable punch

All in all, an absolutely massive presentation for 3DS owners in which only one announcement isn't coming out in the next few months, and that's not even counting later information such as the release of Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX at the end of May. Be prepared for an expensive, but hopefully extremely fun first half of 2015.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pre-Order Grim Fandango Remastered

Those interested in pre-ordering Double Fine's upcoming Vita release Grim Fandango Remastered can now do so via this PSN link. The game is listed at $14.99 and will release on 1/27, and though it is only listed as PS4 the game has been confirmed to be cross-buy. For more details on the overall package or about other platforms, check out the game's official site

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pocket Review - CounterSpy

CounterSpy gave me a less than stellar first impression, though I feel like I was partly to blame for that. My own expectations had led me to hope this game was going to be more like Shadow Complex, but that's not what this is. CounterSpy is actually a cover shooter that encourages staying in the shadows without being a strict stealth game.

In CounterSpy, players progress by locating launch plans hidden throughout the game's linear stages. The Russian and American governments are both attempting to destroy the moon, and you have to steal these plans in order to stop them. After collecting all of the plans, you can breech the launch area and attempt to destroy the missiles. Areas must be completed without causing the alert level to drop below DEFCON 1. When spotted enemies will attack, but will only alter DEFCON if you allow them time to radio for help or leave an area without eliminating those who've detected you. Alert level persists between stages, so you have to find ways to lower it for your own safety. Often stealth games punish anything less than a perfect effort, but CounterSpy finds ways around some of the more frustrating aspects of stealth gaming while retaining its fantastic spy setting.

The game offers tools to assist you in your mission to save the moon from government idiocy. Players starts with just a pistol, but can purchase new weapons, many of which are silenced. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses, and you can only have four equipped per mission. Players can also purchase perks such as silent running or precision aiming which last for a single level to help make things more manageable. Finding your most effective weapons and upgrades is key as some might prefer using a tranquilizer for a safer, yet slower progression while others might desire a speedier, more aggressive approach.

While it took a few missions for me to wrap my head around exactly what CounterSpy expected from me, I ended up really enjoying my time with it. I ended up beating the game on all three difficulties and even replayed it until I obtained all the trophies and collectibles. A single playthrough took about four hours, but I ended up putting around ten into it by the time I was finished. My only complaint is that I would like a little more content. Not that CounterSpy is lacking for what it is, but I started running out of things to do right as I was having the most fun and really getting good at it. I really hope Dynamighty takes this formula and expands on it. While still a little rough around the edges, the foundation build here is great once you get in the swing of things.

Recommended? Absolutely, just go in with reasonable expectations.
Enjoyed By? If you enjoy action or stealth games that don't harshly punish being detected, try this.

This game was played on Vita via a personal PSN purchase by the reviewer.