and now for the thrilling conclusion…
Oops, got a little behind on writing this one. This is all stuff I played before the recent trio of Vita reviews I did on A Most Agreeable Pastime.
A puzzle platformer from…the creators of God of War? Strange. It’s a decent little game, but this kind of game is definitely not Santa Monica Studios’ strongest suit. It has an interesting visual style, but it doesn’t really do anything you haven’t seen in every other game like this, with no new additions to make it stand out. I finished the main story and just stopped there without bothering to go on to the challenge levels or DLC expansions. I guess you could do worse if you want a quick puzzle fix and see it on sale for a few dollars, but I wouldn’t suggest that you go out of your way to try it.
This was a free game of the month from a while back. Another puzzle platformer, but this one’s very different. You just kind of roll your way through levels without a lot of direct control over your “character” most of the time. You’re just a weird energy ball really, and all you can do is change to each of the 4 elements, and so each change will let you survive certain situations or increase your momentum so you can keep rolling on to the next set of obstacles. For example, changing to fire lets you survive fiery environments, air lets you raise upwards, water lets you flow through tiny spaces, and so on.
There are other advantages and disadvantages to each element and the levels begin turning into increasingly complex roller coasters of death. It actually gets quite difficult in the later levels, and sometimes trying to get your guy to roll at just the right speed and direction can start to feel more like luck than skill, but I still ended up enjoying it all quite a bit. One of the best free games I think I’ve played on here. Definitely worth checking out if you’re into this type of game.
After being so disappointed by the Jak & Daxter games, I kind of expected this series to end up being about the same, as they so often seem to be mentioned side by side with each other. Boy was I wrong though. Ratchet & Clank is everything Jak & Daxter tried to be, but mostly failed at. The controls of your character and your vehicles are actually functional and solid, there’s a huge selection of weapons and gadgets and they’re all very fun and easy to use, and the levels are huge and really well designed, full of interesting obstacles, enemies, and secrets.
What a huge game too. So much bigger than I expected from this kind of game. I actually have only played the first of the trilogy so far because the first one was so long I thought I’d take a break to play some other stuff before jumping into the next one, but I have high hopes after the impressive first entry.
And another free game of the month, which is…surprise, surprise…another puzzle platformer. This is a color matching game where you have to change the color to make various platforms and obstacles appear or disappear accordingly. I know I’ve seen this feature in other games (but I can’t think of which), but they usually stick to 2 colors and Hue apparently decided to expand on this formula by using 8. The puzzles are well designed and a bit tricky, but not frustratingly so. Another surprisingly good game for a freebie.
Yet another free one, but they can’t all be winners. Forma8 is kind of a Metroidvania, except you play as a flying orb that moves excruciatingly slowly and there’s not nearly as much focus on combat as there usually is in such a game. I guess this is for the best because the combat is really clunky. I only had two weapons during my several hours with the game, a basic attack that shoots an incredibly short-ranged circle of energy out around your body, which turns out to be useless against most enemies, and a tougher, longer ranged missile attack…except it’s a charged attack that you can only fire this one out of your backside, so I’m sure you can imagine how this can make for some extremely awkward combat when you’re a slow-moving flying orb and to hit something you need to position yourself facing away from the enemy while holding the secondary attack button and then let go at precisely the right moment to hit your moving target. Fun times (not really).
I struggled through more of the combat than I’d have liked, but what ended up putting me off all the way was the horribly slow pace. Movement is just so very slow and the levels are large, twisting caverns that are full of a lot of empty space, and all the typically required Metroidvania backtracking becomes painfully tedious. I just got too bored and moved on to the next thing.
Aaaand you guessed it, one more free game of the month. This one was ok. Decent enough twin stick shooting mechanics bogged down with forced co-op mechanics even in singleplayer, a horrible story and characters, and some other really clunky design decisions. Still, the shooting was fun enough to entertain me for a few hours. I wouldn’t really recommend paying for it though. There are much better twin stick shooters and/or co-op action games out there.
A fun Gradius-style shooter that I already did a full review for: Review of Super Hydorah at A Most Agreeable Pastime
A short pixel art roguelite dungeon crawler that I also already did a full review on recently: Review of One More Dungeon at A Most Agreeable Pastime
And finally another roguelite that I also already wrote a full review on: Review of Xenon Valkyrie+ at A Most Agreeable Pastime
I wanted to say a few more things about it now that I’ve finished though. My high opinion of the game hasn’t changed, but damn the last few things to conquer in this game were tough. If you want the real boss and ending you have to beat the game with the 2nd and 3rd characters, but not just beat the game normally, you have to take a detour through each characters respective secret set of levels, then come out the other side alive and finish the rest of the game again. This unlocks the 2 halves of the ultimate weapon, the Xenon Valkyrie.
Then you have to take the first character, buy the Xenon Valkyrie (which you have to do for each attempt), beat the game yet again, and then you can finally enter the hidden final area which is suddenly a side-scrolling shoot-em-up battle against the real final boss. It’s kind of a light bullet hell fight, which doesn’t seem too horrible, except all his attacks kill you in one shot and of course, if you lose you have to start back at the beginning of the game again. Luckily this only took 3 tries, but at about an hour per try, I was really starting to lose patience with it, so I’m quite glad that’s over with.
That wasn’t quite everything though, as there was still the dreaded super secret area, the Blackstorm Lab. This place was made up of 4 levels full of extremely tough enemies and taking place in almost total darkness. There are no shop/rest areas between any of the levels and the entrance is found very early in the game so you have no choice but to enter it at a very low level. Then if you can finally manage to get through the 4 levels, you’d expect there to finally be a shop/rest area, but nope, it throws you right into a really nasty boss fight that you need some serious health to survive. I finally made it, but this took quite a few tries to finally conquer. I lost count of how many exactly.
Even with those extra frustrating bits, it was still one of the better Vita games I’ve played. I keep getting the music stuck in my head too. Think I’ll have to pick up the soundtrack.
So that’s all for this edition of The Vita Report. In fact, this might be the last one of these you see for some time, as a recent development may be causing me to put the Vita down for a long period of time. What exactly does that mean? Well, I’m not gonna tell you right now, but you’ll hear all about it soon!
P.S. Finally hit 100 followers. Not going to make a whole post about it, just allow me this one moment of boastful celebration! Thanks to all of you fine people for reading!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Finally got around to playing this. Yes, I waited specifically for it to come to Vita, because I just like playing this kind of game on there more. Anyway, pretty much everything they say about this game is true.