The Vita Report

The trailer made this look like a fun, wacky game with a colorfully retro look and sound, but I just couldn’t get into it. The gameplay consists entirely of holding down X, aiming, and letting go. That’s it. Occasionally you can unleash a powerup move, but it doesn’t happen very often or seem to help a great deal. Mainly it’s just that same aiming combo over and over and over again as you stand there motionlessly. It’s tedious, the aim doesn’t seem quite right sometimes, and the constant need to hold down the X button kinda makes my thumb hurt too. Oh well. Next.

Some people are not going to like this, but I just didn’t like this series enough to finish it all. I liked the first game the best of what I played. It felt very much like a clone of Mario 64 and had a nice looking world and a good collectible system, but it also had some serious control problems. The camera wasn’t great, making judging all the tricky jumps tricky business. Not impossible, but sometimes frustratingly difficult, especially when the 2nd jump on the double jump seemed to have a really bad habit of sticking and ruining your jumps. Even worse were the vehicle controls. Those hoverbike things (I already forget what they were called) had such awful handling that all the driving levels and driving challenge areas were pretty painful. They almost drove me to quit more than once, but I had gotten so far already that I kept on going.

The second game actually improved on the platforming controls a lot. Moving and jumping felt much smoother and more precise. Unfortunately, they also completely ditched everything I liked about the first one and turned the game into some kind of kiddie-dark pseudo-open world game with a heavy focus on vehicles, which seemed to somehow control even worse than before. Soooo much time is spent driving around the “open world”, which is really just a huge area full of nothing but clutter between far away objective points. For some reason they decided to make the city a huge, sprawling maze too, which is weird given that there’s nothing to actually do there. They really went overboard on all the walking and driving NPCs all over the place too. So basically when you need to drive across town for your next objective, you’re just plowing through piles of civilians and constantly crashing into other vehicles and all the many tight corners. You can adjust the hover height level, which I guess is supposed to help you navigate these parts better, but both the ground and air are usually so cluttered that it doesn’t really matter.

These long and unpleasant treks between each mission are bad enough, but the missions themselves weren’t much fun for me either. A mysterious lack of checkpoints in missions, which forces you to start the whole level from scratch each time you lose or die, and some rather unpleasant objectives like the dreaded escort missions, just didn’t work for me. An awkward new gun mechanic didn’t help matters much either.

I don’t know, maybe you’d have to have grown up with these games to appreciate them. I’m sure people from other generations that try to play my favorite old NES games probably find them very clunky and annoying too *shrug*. I just couldn’t bring myself to finish the second one and moved on to something else.

Oh, a pixel art horror game. Finally something I can enjoy, right? Sigh. Nope. Didn’t much like this one either. It has an interesting premise and looks nice enough for what it is, but the execution is really questionable. It’s set up like a roguelike, where there are no saves/checkpoints and if you die once it’s game over. I’m…not really sure why though, because it’s a really slow paced adventure/survival horror. Each time you start over you’re forced to play through a lot of forced sequential scripted events, most of which just involves walking back and forth between the same two sections of the game. Doing this part once is fine, but after having to repeat it all for the fifth time or so, it’s pretty repellent. You know, I never even got to see the combat in the game. The first time I played, things ended early due to me accidentally triggering an alternate bad ending. Next time I guess I made a wrong choice and got automatically killed in a cutscene. Next time I got a little further, even finally running into some actual enemies, but I still had no weapon and there were bad guys in every direction I ran, so eventually I just ended up dying again. I just don’t know why they went with this halfassed roguelike system and didn’t even allow you to hurry through all the slow scripted stuff in the beginning. Having to do that all every single time you die is insane and unfun. Pass.

Ahhh, finally something fun. That was an annoying bad streak for a while there. I’m generally not a fan of the steampunk aesthetic, but this was just such an oddly fun game for being all about mining. It seems to often be lumped into the Metroidvania genre, but I think that’s a bit misleading. There are very few set levels. Mostly you’re just digging your own way through giant patches of increasingly tough dirt, searching for all the gems you can carry. It seems kind of silly when you think about it, how all you really do in this game is dig around for gems, which the only thing you can spend on is better gear for…digging around for more gems. It’s oddly compelling though. There is combat, but you really don’t use it much at all. Other than the fact that it’s side scrolling and has a map, I don’t really see how it fits into the Metroidvania category at all. Anyway, fun game though.

Another steampunk game? Sure, why not. This return visit to Steamworld instead takes the form of a turn-based tactical lite-RPG. It wasn’t quite as compelling as Steamworld Dig, but it’s still a very enjoyable adventure with a pretty decent amount of content. The battles get really difficult after a while too. I probably should have turned it down a notch, but the game made a point of telling me that “experienced” was the recommended and intended difficulty, so I took that as a personal challenge for some reason. Anyway, I made it through eventually.

In related news, it’s since been announced that the upcoming Steamworld Dig 2 will be coming to Vita again, so I’ll definitely be checking that out.

And finally, everyone has probably heard of this game by now. It’s a side-scrolling Dark Souls clone. It does quite a good job of creating a Dark Souls type of experience, without being too derivative. Playing a game like this in 2D is a bit odd. One less dimension means it’s often a lot easier to hit what you’re aiming at since the baddies have one less dimension to dodge into, but this works both ways. There’s much less space for you to furiously dodge-roll into when you get into a sticky situation.

I’m not sure what the point of adding a second form of currency was. You can use gold to buy items at some shops instead of salt (souls) and you lose a chunk of gold when you die, but still have to go retrieve your salt if you want it back. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem to really add anything. I guess I saved some salt by not having to spend it on store items, but then there weren’t very many shop items that I needed to buy anyway. *shrug*

Something about an intricate inter-connected Souls type of world seemed harder to keep track of than it did in the 3D versions too, though maybe this was just because I didn’t play it as heavily as I usually did with the Souls games. Not that it’s not a fun game, I just don’t often put as many hours into Vita games as I do full ones. Anyway though, good game if you like this sort of thing, with many tough levels and enemies. Good times.

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