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.

The Vita Report

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This seemed like a fun little vertical shoot-em-up with pretty good graphics, but the joke was on me because it turns out that this game follows some godawful free-to-play mechanic where you can only make progress by grinding the same levels over and over again for hours or as the internet informs me, by spending real money on buying special ability cards. Even worse, I didn’t see anything about these cards or any purchases anywhere in the game. I guess those features are only for PC and full consoles? So I would have no choice but to grind endlessly. Yeah, no thanks. Congratulations Infinite Dreams Inc., you suckered me out of $3. Very impressive.

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This one was a side scrolling shoot-em-up that looked a little more flashy and didn’t seem to have any slow grinding involved. They got me again though. There’s no free-to-play aspect here, but there is a bottleneck where you can’t play the last few levels until you meet certain conditions. I played through most of the game, but was locked out of the last level because I still needed to find at least 4 secret keys in each of the preceding 6 stages. I was only missing a few, but I tried a few times and just couldn’t seem to find them. I tried to look for more information online and found that some keys would only appear if you had above a certain rank at just the right time. I tried to look for the ones that weren’t like this, but the guides were pretty vague and I couldn’t seem to find anything in the areas they described. With my only choice apparently becoming another endless grinding scenario, I just gave up and moved on. Another $3 wasted. Wahhh.

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Oh good. This was a bit more fun. Dragon’s Crown is kind of an RPG/beat-em-up with a pretty fun combat system and some bizarrely over-sexualized lady characters that were the subject of some controversy back in the day. Ehhhh, let’s not even get into that whole thing again. Anyway, the game is fun enough, but sure loves to give you the runaround. Sidequests will send you back to the same levels over and over again and the main story even becomes a continuous loop eventually, wanting you to play each and every level over and over again with increasing difficulty because….reasons. I’ve come to realize that despite the nice visual design and gameplay that Vanillaware brings to their games, they sure do like to pad things out with a lot of forced repetition. Muramasa was much the same, and I hear Odin Sphere was too. I kind of wish they’d just let these games end normally and go out on a high note instead of all this artificial lengthening, but I guess some people are into this kind of never-ending repetitive post-game content. Oh well.

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One of the free games of the month on PSN, Neon Chrome seems to get compared to Hotline Miami a lot, but it really isn’t that kind of game. It’s a top down dual-stick shooter, but that’s about the only thing they have in common. This game is a randomly generated roguelike that’s got some pretty enjoyable gameplay. This is another game that suffers from a poor ending and repetitive post-game content though. You have to fight through 27 floors to win, with a boss fight every 5 floors or so. The first boss is a giant robot spider thing, the second is a big robotic worm, the third is some flying tank thing, but then the fourth is…three of the first giant robot spiders, and the fifth and final boss is…another giant robot spider, and that’s it. This is not one of those roguelikes where the bosses are randomly selected from a big list either, those are all the bosses every time.

As usual with a roguelike, once you win you’re expected to start all over again, but this time it’s even harder. With the lack of variety in bosses and no new characters or anything particularly exciting looking worth spending more time unlocking, I just stopped after the first victory. I would maybe give it a play again someday, but it just didn’t have enough going for it to warrant immediate multiple playthroughs like Binding of Isaac or Risk of Rain.

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Lone Survivor is a game I’m still not sure how to feel about. It wants to be a 2D Silent Hill, and in some ways it’s very successful at that. The pixel art is nice, the sound and music are effectively creepy, and the need to sleep, eat, and maintain your character’s mental health add an interesting twist to things. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of enemy variety, a nearly incomprehensible plot that seems to have taken a lot of cues from David Lynch, and a very abrupt and unsatisfying ending. Still, it’s entertaining enough for a short diversion, if you’re really into Silent Hill type games.

The Vita Report

Another excellent retro game from Nicalis. VVVVVV evokes memories of weird, crappy old Apple games I’d play on my mom’s Apple IIc, but in a good way. Great, challenging gameplay mechanics and an awesome soundtrack. Very short though. Something like 2.5 hours to get 100% of the main campaign. Fun while it lasted though.

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The Vita Report

downwell

Roguelike game with a retro kind of Gameboy style to it. Sounds like a winner in theory. You fall down a ridiculously long well, jumping on creatures heads or shooting them as you go down, and that’s about it. Unfortunately I made the mistake of approaching it like other roguelikes and tried to approach things slowly and carefully, but apparently in this game it’s better to rush down as fast and crazy as possible so you can build up this combo meter and get better money and health bonuses and etc. I had already gotten used to getting through more than half the game in the slow, careful style, so I basically had to relearn how to play the “proper” way from scratch, and well, that kind of put me off of the game, so I just moved on. Maybe I’ll try it out again someday…

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The Vita Report

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Wizorb is basically Arkanoid, except everything looks almost exactly like Link to the Past. The promotional material for the game tries to make it look kind of semi-RPG like a Zelda game, but it’s really not. There are shops where you can buy power-ups that you lose when you die, and you, being a “wizorb”, do have spells, but only a few, and you never get any new ones. No, this is just a game about hitting balls to break blocks. One that has bizarrely large chunks of levels between checkpoints. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as it looked from the trailers, but it was ok.

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Now Playing: Risk of Rain (2013)

This has been the most fun roguelike I’ve played since Binding of Isaac (though I admit, my experience with these games is still limited). It doesn’t have anywhere near as much content as Isaac, but it makes up for it partially by having such varied abilities for all the different classes.

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The Vita Report

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First time (successfully) playing an Oddworld game. It was pretty fun. The way you could keep missing prisoners, who would all die if you moved on without them, always put me off in the past. I never knew about those little trap doors, or that there were some pits you could jump down into for secret areas instead of instant death, or that you can use your chant to possess enemies, which the game waits way too long to tell you about for some reason. Yeah, things could have been explained a little better and this particular version of the game is a bit glitchy (many glitches, freezes, and the weird inability to use any of the other usually acceptable programs while it was in use), but still mostly good in that Out Of This World kind of way.

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The Vita Report

As in some various Vita stuff over the last few months that I just don’t feel like doing whole individual posts for. Stuff like…

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Uuuugh. I tried and tried to like this, but I just kept putting it down and not wanting to pick it back up again. It’s so damn slow paced and the interface is so very awkward. Exploration is in this weird place between top view and isometric, is zoomed in too close, and has no map, so you’re constantly wandering around these identical looking places, constantly manually rotating the camera in 90 degree increments to try to get a good view of things, and mostly just wasting your time as it turns out there’s not much to be found and really nothing of importance to be said by all the people waddling around. Combat is equally clunky and boring. You use a combat system that seems needlessly and ineffectually complicated, which mainly consists of you just button mashing your way through a lot of incredibly repetitive battles. You’re supposed to be able to use different attack combinations with varying effect and the game tells you that you can keep track of experience levels of each combo in your menu, but you go look there and it just lists a bunch of Japanese names with numbers next to them and doesn’t bother to tell you what combo any of them actually are. Maybe I need to go read the manual or something? I don’t care. Bored.

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