Friday, May 1, 2015

Ultratron's Time is Coming

The twin stick shooter, Ultratron, from Puppygames and Curve Digital is hitting the Vita on May 12. It will be cross buy for Vita, PS4, and PS3 and will run for $9.99, though launch discounts are planned. If you missed the earlier story, here's some screens and a trailer for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pocket Review - Broken Age

When I backed Double Fine's adventure game, I did so only because I was caught up in the excitement of the Kickstarter rush. I'd never played a Double Fine game before, wasn't a fan of PC adventure games, and honestly had little idea what I was actually backing. I even held off on playing Act 1 on PC, but when it was revealed that Broken Age was coming to Vita, I knew I'd actually have a good chance of playing it there. It was worth the wait to get the complete version in one neat portable package.

For those who didn't play the first half on PC when it was released in January of last year, Broken Age is a modern take on the point-and-click adventure genre. Players take turns controlling both Shay, a young boy living on a spaceship, and Vella, a young girl tasked as being a sacrificial offering for her town. Both characters have their own path to follow, but it's possible to swap between them at any time. This is helpful for when you start getting frustrated or simply desire a different perspective for a bit. Shay and Vella are both well-developed characters with a lot of personality, so with the way there stories play out it's almost like having two games in one.

Both characters have two acts to work through, divided up by a noticeable change in perspective for each of them halfway through. Act 1 is very strong, with a fantastic balance of experimentation and exposition, though Vella's side is easily the best of the bunch. She travels from town to town, meeting new people, and figuring out how best to interact with everyone. While the required methods for progression are not completely obvious, finding the right item to use in the right place is never so obtuse that the problems can't be solved with just a little creative thought. At least that's the case in Act 1.

Act 2 is a bit weaker, mainly because the character development is already in place and isn't furthered as much. Some of the puzzles are more complex, with the overall experience feeling like it required way more trial and error than the first half. There were a few points where I felt like I knew exactly what the game wanted me to do, but since I'd overlooked a single item I couldn't progress. And there were other times when I was stumped for way longer than I'm happy to admit. Likely due to the structure of the game and how both halves have to tie together, Act 1 feels much tighter in design than Act 2.

On the other end of things, the story, dialogue, and voice acting in Broken Age are absolutely fantastic. The brief introduction of Vella and her family at the start of the game gives more depth within that short amount of time that other titles give throughout their entire length. You are giving a reason for doing what you're doing right off and it carries through the whole game. Most everyone Vella meets along with the way is full of personality and offers some of the most well-written dialogue I've seen in recent memory. Shay's side is a slightly more solitary experience, but even still his interactions with Spoon, Gary, the yarn people, and the rest of the folks on the ship are entertaining. In fact, the entire collection of sentient cutlery in Broken Age is fantastic, offering great lines of imaginative and humorous dialogue. Not since Toy Story have I felt such compassion for or emotional attachment to inanimate objects like I have here.

While the first half of the game is easily the stronger of the two parts, both combine to deliver one of the most best gaming experiences I've had so far this year. Broken Age is a perfect fit for a handheld platform, as it controls well using either buttons, the touch screen, or a mix of both. While I might not have known what I was getting into when I backed Broken Age, I'm extremely happy that I did. I've found a new love for this old school style of adventure games and am excited to what new experiences are to come.

TLDR A fantastic adventure game with outstanding dialogue whose first half is better than its second.
Enjoyed By? Anyone who enjoys a charming story and a puzzling adventure should check this out.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Track List for Persona 4 Dancing All Night

Thanks to information I received from play-asia, we have a full track list for Persona 4: Dancing All Night. It will be hitting the Vita in Japan on June 25, 2015, and while it's been confirmed for 2015 in North America we're still waiting on an official date. For now, check out the track list below featuring some remix from folks such as Akira Yamaoka and Norihiko Hibino to name a few and a new trailer.

  • “Specialist” (“Never More” ver.)
  • “Time to Make History”
  • “Your Affection” (“Never More” ver.)
  • “Heartbeat, Heartbreak” (“Never More” ver.)
  • “Pursuing My True Self” (Atlus Kozuka Remix)
  • “Backside of the TV” (Lotus Juice Remix)
  • “Snowflakes” (Narasaki Remix)
  • “Signs of Love” (TK Remix)
  • “Best Friends”
  • “Like a Dream Come True” (“Never More” ver.)
  • “Signs of Love” (“Never More” ver.)
  • “Time to Make History” (Akira Yamaoka Remix)
  • “Heaven” (Norihiko Hibino Remix)
  • “Now I Know” (Yu Miyake Remix)
  • “Shadow World”
  • “June’s Theme”
  • “Shadow World” (Atlus Kozuka Remix)
  • “Best Friends” (Banvox Remix)
  • “Pursuing My True Self” (Shinichi Osawa Remix)
  • “Maze of Life”
  • “Heartbeat, Hearbreak” (Towa Tei Remix)
  • “Your Affection” (Daisuke Asakura Remix)
  • “Dance!”
  • “Pursuing My True Self”
  • “Reach Out to the Truth” (Dancing on Persona Stage)
  • “Electronica In Velvet Room”
  • “Never More”
  • “Shadow World” (De De Mouse Shadow Swing Remix)
  • “Reach Out to the Truth”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Don't Forget Idea Factory International

At a recent press event, Idea Factory International revealed Amnesia: Memories as one of the company's upcoming titles for Vita. This otome visual novel will be released digitally this August on PSN and will feature five different guys as love interest options. There are multiple story paths along the way, so there's twenty-six different endings possible. Check out the reveal trailer and other assets below.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

STFU, This Game is Coming Out Soon

Over on the PS Blog, it was revealed that new characters are coming to the Vita version of Super Time Force Ultra when it launches this spring. Joining Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida are the main character from Journey and Sir Galahad from The Order 1886. These characters will also have special trophies tied to specific challenges. No specific date has been given, but the Capy team says it will be hitting soon and will be cross-buy, so keep an eye out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Giant New Trailer for Bite-sized Titans

This new Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows off some of the game's locales, combat systems, and character customization. Check it out while you wait for the game to hit the 3DS later next month.

Pocket Review - Element4l

When I first wrote about Element4l after the initial press release, I was a tad unsure how the game would work since the developer mentioned that players would not be directly controlling the characters. After a brief hands-on sessions, things finally made sense. There aren't really four different characters to swap between as much as a single main character with four unique, elemental abilities to take advantage of during play. Once I got the hang of the controls and broke myself of trying to use the directional pad to move, I found the game to be a creative alternative to traditional gameplay that worked great in concept, but frequently had me wanting to smash my Vita in anger.

Players use the power of air, ice, fire, and earth to progress through stages that increase in difficulty as you go. The power of air allows for brief moments of floating, but the bubble will pop if it hits a wall or floor. Ice is more durable and can slide on sloping platforms and float in water. Fire can briefly dash forward and is able to bounce off lava on walls. Earth power basically just acts as a heavy stone that causes the character to drop faster. All four of these elements are mapped to their own button and act together as your complete moveset. For example, if you're on a flat surface and want to move forward you will need to become air to float then execute the fire power to dash forward before quickly using ice to slide along the surface using the built up momentum. Thankfully, there are very few flat surfaces to worry about, so prepare for lots of drops, loops, and falls to get you from point to point.

While this is a creative method of control, some of these stages are just outright frustrating. Sliding down a hill with enough momentum to be able to glide across a gap before resting long enough to recharge your power before moving on is one thing, but when you add in another series of complicated movements afterwards that must be completed before losing momentum it gets a little rough. It took lots of trial and error to figure out the best path through an area to the next checkpoint, and even once I knew what to do it often felt like luck played a bigger part in being able to pull it off as flawlessly as the game required than my own skill did. I enjoy a challenge and was able to get through the entire game, but it took a while. My frustration at each area was short lived, as I was ready to dive right into the next challenge after long stretches of failure.

Element4l is a very interesting game in concept and despite my constant deaths, I still enjoyed the experience. With the exception of the few lines of pop culture-filled dialogue that gave me a chuckle, there's very little chatter or reasons to progress through these areas. Outside of that this game seems to fit alongside games like Flower and Journey in terms of creativity, though it lacks the environmental storytelling those titles offered. If you enjoy a challenging puzzle platformer, Element4l is definitely worth checking out, but don't expect to be brought to tears by anything other than some of the difficult stages.

TLDR Element4l is challenging, to the point of frustration in some areas, but is still worth checking out if you enjoy a creative platformer with a unique control scheme.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

Sayonara UmiharaKawase + Hits Next Week

The new PlayStation Vita version of Sayonara UmiharaKawase + was originally scheduled for a vague Spring 2015 release, but now we know that it's hitting PSN on April 21. Listed as a 'Rubbering Action’ physics based puzzle platformer by the publisher, Agatsuma Entertainment, this game features four playable characters, 60 new or revised stages, and even includes the original 1994 version as well.

When it hits PSN next week, Sayonara UmiharaKawase + will retail for $19.99. There are also plans for a Japanese and Asian launch on April 23 with a physical version planned along with a digital only release in Europe to follow. For now, check out the new English trailer and some new screens.

Monday, April 13, 2015

An Interview with Mighty Rabbit Studios - Breach & Clear

Though only previously hinted at before, I was able to chat with Josh Fairhurst from Mighty Rabbit Studios today to confirm that Breach & Clear, a tactical strategy game currently available on Steam and other platforms, will be coming to PlayStation Vita before too long. Here's what Josh had to say about the pending release.

Michael A Cunningham (Pocket-Console): The original Breach & Clear seems to have done well on PC, what pushed the decision to bring this to Vita?

Josh Fairhurst (Mighty Rabbit Studios): I'm a huge fan of the Vita as both a player and a developer. I've actually wanted to put something out for the Vita for a very long time. As luck would have it, our publisher was looking to expand the reach of the original game and I used that as an opportunity to finally move into Vita development.

MAC: How has the control mapping to Vita worked? Any sacrifices having to be made in terms of controls?

JF: No sacrifices have been made. We've made sure to retain the touch controls of the original mobile version of Breach & Clear while simultaneously adding in full controller support. Players can choose to play B&C entirely with the front touch screen or entirely with the controller (or a combination of both). Thanks to this, the game will fully support the PlayStation TV.

Fun fact: the Vita version will actually be the first version of B&C to have controller support!

MAC: What are some of the key differences you've had to deal with in terms of development between the Vita version and the mobile releases?

JF: This our first release on "real" hardware and by that I mean a platform from one of the big three (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo). It was important for us to make sure we did this right. B&C was entirely touch based when we started the Vita version so our first step was making sure we fully supported the controller.

The second step was ensuring that the game ran as smooth as possible with no crashes or major bugs. With mobile and Steam releases there is very little that gets in the way of pushing a new update, so it’s fairly easy to patch out bugs as they’re found. Dedicated gaming consoles and handhelds on the other hand all have fairly involved processes for each update. It was absolutely imperative that we delivered a game that was solid as a rock from the ground up. I feel like we've hit that mark!

MAC: You mentioned on Twitter doing a lot of optimizing to get this one running smoothly on Vita? Could you share a little about the optimization process and challenges? How's the framerate working?

JF: We went into the Vita version not really knowing what to expect in terms of performance and quickly realized a lot of optimization was needed. It's not that the Vita is underpowered – it's just that we had recently come of the PC version with nearly limitless resources. We spent nearly a month shaving precious milliseconds off of our frame times. In the end, we've got a game that runs at a consistent 30FPS. It's possible we could improve that even more as we're still optimizing the code as we move towards launch.

MAC: What's the rough release schedule for the Vita version looking like right now?

JF: We're hoping to be through certification with Sony by the end of this month so that we can launch sometime in May. So far the probability of that happening is looking pretty good!

MAC: Any future Vita development plans after finishing this project? Saturday Morning RPG, perhaps? B&C Deadline?

JF: Absolutely – like I said earlier, I'm a huge fan of the Vita! If we can bring a game there, we will. Keep your eyes glued to our Twitter account or the PlayStation blog for announcements from us.

MAC: Are there any other notes you'd like to share with handheld gaming fans (aka TeamHandheld)?

JF: I'm personally a huge fan of physical game media and I know that a lot of other handheld gamers are as well. There's just something special about actually owning a game instead of intangible digital bits. Thanks to Brian Provinciano's trailblazing efforts with Retro City Rampage, it may be possible for Mighty Rabbit Studios to produce physical cartridges of our Vita releases. It's something I'm very interested in doing and hopefully it comes to fruition.

As with the previous question, keep your eyes on our Twitter account as we'll announce any physical releases there first. I wish I could announce something definitive here, but nothing is set in stone yet!

We here at Pocket-Console along with the rest of #TeamHandheld send our thanks to Josh Fairhurst as well as the rest of the Mighty Rabbit Studios team for their support of handheld gaming. Readers can look forward to the release of Breach & Clear before too long on the PlayStation Network. Follow the Mighty Rabbit team on Twitter as well as the Breach & Clear official game account for more info.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pocket Review - Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Unlike my experience with the original Hotline Miami where I went in expecting something along the lines of a 2D Grant Theft Auto, but instead got a crazy, violent, puzzle action game, I knew what to expect from Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. The formula doesn't deviate from the first game much, but that's fine since it ramps up the challenge, the variety, and the crazy in just the right amounts.

 I'd love to go in depth about the story in Hotline Miami 2, but these games are so trippy that I'd have a hard time explaining if even if I fully understood every aspect. Based around the investigation of mass murders in the Miami area, the game jumps around in chronology and swaps characters frequently (often too frequently to keep track of who's who). One minute you'll be a cop looking investigating the murders, the next a writer seeking the bigger story, and the next a group of mercenaries battling through jungles. While the story is really out there, it fits perfectly within the game's murderous and violent setting. As someone who enjoys a real mind-screw of a story, it worked well for me.

Story aside, the real hook to Hotline Miami 2 is its gameplay. What on the surface appears to be a simple action game is actually a very strategic, almost puzzle-like experience. Stages generally consist of multiple areas or floors to shoot or smash your way through, with you having to start over in that area if killed. Players often have to use their fists to start, but quickly find melee weapons or guns to use. Working through an area requires you get the enemies before they get you. This can mean moving stealthily to catch foes unaware or finding ways to lure victims to you. You'll be using bats, guns, saws, and sometimes a mix of both as there's even an option to control two characters at once. If you die, you can quickly press X to restart and you're right back in the action.

Finding the right method for getting through each area is often a bit of trial and error due to pesky enemy placements. Thankfully, there are methods to mitigate some of these issues such as auto-targeting enemies with the press of a button and being able to view more of the map by using the front touch screen to see a little further away. You can't move the screen all the way across the map, so there will almost always be a guard or a dog just out of view to keep you on your toes. The auto-target feature is handy, but doesn't always respond as you'd want it to, especially when needing to quickly aim at a charging enemy. Outside of having to start an area over, there's no real penalty to dying. It affects your grade at the end of the stage, but that's all. There's nothing quite like struggling through an area and then finally finding your groove to gracefully move through it cutting through enemies like butter.

Hotline Miami 2 is one of the few games lately that I've finished and immediately wanted more. The brutal, over-the-top violence is simply a backdrop for the strategic gameplay that keeps you going back for more. While the story might leave you thinking you've accidentally taken illegal narcotics, it feels right at home with the fast and often nerve-wracking levels. I greatly enjoyed the original Hotline Miami, and this latest installment gave me more of what I wanted by offering more variety in characters, weapons, and stages. As solid of a follow up as this was, I truly hope there is more for this series, because I can't get enough.

TLDR A fantastic, strategic action game that ramps up the crazy of the original.
Enjoyed By? If you enjoy a good challenge and don't mind a crazy story and lots of violence, this one's for you.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.