Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pocket Review - Injustice: Gods Among Us

After the success of the ninth Mortal Kombat game, NetherRealm was given the task of crafting a new fighting game staring characters from the DC universe. The 2D fighting game that came from this venture is Injustice: Gods Among Us, an alternate dimension adventure in which Superman's now the bad guy. The PlayStation Vita version of Injustice: Gods Among Us was released as part of the Ultimate Edition which came out over six months after the initial release and includes all the downloadable content and characters. This is great, because this means there are a ton of characters to choose from in the game's arcade and online modes. One thing Injustice is not lacking in is variety, from characters to gameplay modes, NetherRealm has packed this game full.

The story segments are a highlight of Injustice's single-player modes. Like Mortal Kombat before it, the campaign will take players through multiple chapters each staring a different character. During these chapters, players alternate between cutscenes and battling foes. The story mode is great because it gives players a taste of each character and without having to play through every character individually just to get a piece of the story like fighting games of old. The only problem with this is the source material. If players are not familiar with the world of DC, Injustice does little to introduce the characters and their backgrounds during the campaign itself, which leaves the story mode feeling a little weaker than Mortal Kombat, where less prior knowledge was required.

Outside of the story mode, there are plenty of other options for fighting. There is the standard arcade mode where players can fight other AI-controlled opponents, the S.T.A.R. Labs missions where players attempt to perform specific tasks during a fight, and also the online mode where players battle against other human-controlled characters. Online play is impressively fast and stable, but it suffers from the same problem that plagues many other multiplayer modes where it can be hard to find a match if you aren't playing at the right time. Fighting games really should work on a passive or asynchronous method for pairing players up for online play.

Injustice is a solid fit on the Vita, but it doesn't feel as polished as Mortal Kombat. The combat is smooth and responsive, but the move sets just don't feel as natural. This could likely be just adjusting to a new fighting game, but other recent fighters have felt easier to adapt to. Battles animate well on the small screen, though characters are rather small and lacking in detail. And in the story mode, cutscenes look low res and the framerate is very inconsistent. The entire package just doesn't feel as well put together as it could be.

At the end of the day I enjoyed my time with Injustice, having picked it up at a discount, but I don't see myself playing it as much as I did Mortal Kombat. In fact, I found myself wanting to reinstall MK as soon as I finished the story mode. It's fun, but without having a strong attachment to DC, it's easy to put out of your mind when you finish the main campaign.

Recommended? Yes, especially if you can find it on sale. Lots of replay outside of the story mode.
Enjoyed By? Anyone who enjoys a story-focused fighting game or who loves the DC universe should enjoy this.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tiny Troopers Invade this Summer

Twin-stick arcade shooter, Tiny Troopers Joint Ops, will be hitting PlayStation Vita this summer. This previously mobile-only series is getting new life on all three of Sony's current systems (Vita, PS3, & PS4) and will feature cross play and cross save functionality. Hopefully, we should get a release date soon, but until then enjoy the new screens.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Akiba Strips in August on Vita

Upcoming action title, Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed is coming to PlayStation Vita on Aug. 12, and will be available both digitally on PSN and physically via retailers for $39.99. The game will feature dual audio, and below is a trailer with samples of the English voice acting. Enjoy the other new media as well.

Pocket Review - The Swapper

The Swapper is a 2D side-scrolling, puzzle platformer originally released on PC and now being brought to the PlayStation Vita by a team at Curve Studios. The game begins as the protagonist crash lands just outside of an abandoned space station and must venture through it in search of a way home. In order to make it through the station, players will need to hunt down orbs used to unlock new areas. Orbs are hidden in rooms filled with puzzles, and are where the game's primary mechanics comes into play.

In The Swapper, players are able to create clones by aiming a cursor using the right stick to a desired location and pressing the left trigger. Holding down the trigger slows movement and allows for more accurate positioning of a clone. The player can create up to four of these doppelgangers, which will then mimic the player's movements and can be swapped between by targeting a clone and shooting them with the swapper tool. By dropping clones in the proper location, moving them around, and swapping between them, players should be able to maneuver around the puzzle rooms and collect orbs, but it is not as simple as it sounds.

Rooms are often filled with colored lights that hinder progress. Red lights permit creation of a clone, but block swapping while blue lights restrict clone creation, but allow for swapping. Rooms also feature pressure plates, movable blocks, and gravity inverters which further complicate all of the already complex movements required to solve each area. Puzzle rooms start off rather straightforward, but near the end of the game players will have to think outside of the box and use some complex maneuvering to progress. Just like Portal, when I solved one of the harder rooms I felt like a genius, but many of the latter areas just left me feeling like an idiot.

The story is also of interest due to how wonderfully subtle it is. Things are bad on the space station, but the game doesn't come out and tell you directly why that is. The plot unfolds gradually overtime through memory logs and occasional dialogue exchanges. The few characters found during exploration deliver their dialogue without ever hindering the action, which greatly helps this indirect method of storytelling by never getting in the way. This helps add an extra layer of depth to the game's setting, as learning about the fate of the prior occupants of the space station is creepy.

Overall, The Swapper is a great experience, even if things got a little too tough for me a couple times toward the end. It plays wonderfully on Vita, which is great because it's a perfect game to play in small bites. I knew little about this one before picking it up, but I'm glad I did because it really impressed me. I highly recommend it, especially if you're looking for a challenging puzzle platformer that will eat up a half dozen hours or so.

Recommended? Yes. This one was a blast, though some of the puzzles got very challenging toward the end.
Enjoyed By? Anyone who enjoys puzzles should like this. Reminded me of Portal minus the humor.

This game was played on Vita via a PSN code supplied by the publisher.

CounterSpy Sneaks to Vita Next Month

CounterSpy is an upcoming side-scrolling, stealth game coming to PlayStation Vita soon. This exciting action game will have you sneaking around in an attempt to stop evil forces from destroying the moon. It launches on Aug. 19 in North America for $14.99. CounterSpy is also cross buy across Vita, PS4, and PS3 and features cross save functionality as well. Enjoy the screens and new trailer below.

In the meantime, you can read more about CounterSpy via the latest PlayStation Blog post from the game's lead designer, David Nottingham. Like Hohokum, CounterSpy is also part of the PS Story PLAY 2014 deal.

Hohokum...I Have No Idea

Hohokum...looks whimsical, and I have no idea what it's about. But who cares? It's coming to Vita on Aug. 12 and will be $14.99 (or $11.99 if you pre-order through PS+). It's also part of the PS Store PLAY 2014 deal along with The Swapper, Rogue Legacy, and Counter Spy, which more details here.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pocket Review - Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack

Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack was likely the most original and enjoyable title to hit the PlayStation Vita at launch. It follows the same format as the little known 2011 PlayStation Network release Tales from Space: About a Blob, where players control a blob in a 2D environment as it has to continuously eat items in order to grow larger. It feels very much like a 2D Katamari with a platforming twist.

For example, the game's first area is a college, so players will take their blob through the frat house and other collegiate areas. The blob will eat his way through all the items in a dorm room, devouring every small objects in its way until it’s large enough to absorb a cork covering the drain, sending the blob flying through the pipes and popping out in the next area. Some of the areas are quite challenging and will likely require many attempts to pass, but the game is so full of variety and crazy stages that the challenge is worth it.

Though only available as a digital download, it is easily worth the purchase, especially compared to some of the other full-priced, packaged titles that were available at launch. The game has plenty of content along with leaderboards for those seeking some friendly rivalry. Mutant Blobs Attack was a fantastic addition to the Vita library and a great game to wave the banner for smaller digital releases on the system.

Recommended? If you enjoy fun, do no miss this one. It's simple, challenging, affordable, and enjoyable.
Enjoyed By? Anyone seeking a cheap, fun experience.

This game was played on Vita via a PSN code supplied by the publisher.

Pocket Review - Dungeon Hunter: Alliance

If you have an iOS device or a PlayStation 3, you've already had an opportunity to play Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, and for much less than the asking price of this version (still $26.99 in 2014). The PlayStation Network release in 2011 brought multiplayer to what was initially a single player iOS release, but offered little additional content. The Vita release brings the same experience on the go. It supports four-player Wi-Fi and local co-op, but also suffers from the same tedium found in the other releases.

The worst part about this situation is that Gameloft has released newer versions of Dungeon Hunter on iOS, one of which even offers multiplayer. It shows that Gameloft has new ideas, but Ubisoft instead opted to bring out the original game again. That said, anyone playing Dungeon Hunter better not be playing for the story, as there is little interesting going on in that area. While it can be somewhat enjoyable in the drop-in, drop-out multiplayer mode, the monotony still sets in pretty quickly. It's a simple loot-grinding game with characters that are too small to notice if the loot changed on them, defeating the purpose of gathering loot in the first place.

It's a shame that Sony’s Warrior’s Lair was cancelled, because it could have easily been better than this. At least that's would have been an original game, not a port of a port of a shoddy iOS game. There was very little effort put into Alliance beyond simply making it technically sound on the Vita. It played fine during my brief adventures, and I was able to join and host games with no problems, but I cannot say I ever had fun during any of those sessions or in single player.

Recommended? Do not waste your time, but if you cannot help yourself, try a cheaper version first.
Enjoyed By? Someone who wants a pricey, yet awful Diablo clone.

This game was played on Vita via a PSN code supplied by the publisher.

Table Top Racing Starts its Engine Soon

Micro combat racer Table Top Racing is coming to PlayStation Vita early next month. This action racing game has a single-player championship mode and online multiplayer for up to four racers. It will run £4.99/ €5.99/ $7.99 when it releases in North America on Aug. 5 and on Aug. 6 in Europe. For now, check out these screens.