PS Vita Game Review: Flyhunter Origins [2014]

Flyhunter Origins [PS Vita]

Flyhunter Origins 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], Steam, Android, iOS
Genre: 2D Platformer
Developer: Steel Wool Games
Publisher: Ripstone
Price: $6.99
Release Date: December 9, 2014

Flyhunter Origins is a family-friendly platformer that has a bit of an interesting pedigree behind it. The game’s developer, Steel Wool Games, is led by a quintet of Pixar veterans, and their animation background is definitely an asset. Their talent is on display during the game’s aesthetically-pleasing cutscenes, and these moments send the game off to a promising start. It’s a shame that these positive impressions start crumbling down as soon as the gameplay kicks in.
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PS Vita Game Review: Table Top Racing

Table Top Racing [PS Vita]

Table Top Racing 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], previously on iOS and Android
Genre: Arcade racing
Developer: Playrise Digital
Publisher: Ripstone
Price: $7.99
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The idea of bringing a free-to-play mobile game to the Playstation Vita is a risky one. Mobile ports have been done in the past with disastrous results — Dungeon Hunter Alliance and Asphalt Injection, to name a couple, were marked up considerably higher than their smartphone counterparts despite not bringing anything new to the table. Thankfully, that is not the case with Table Top Racing, the latest release from Ripstone.

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Video Game Review: Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

Stick It to The Man!
System: PS Vita/PS3
Genre: Adventure/Platformer
Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Ripstone
Price: $12.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: December 3, 2013

It seems like every Tuesday there is a fun, new indie title that hits the Playstation Vita. Last week was especially fruitful, as it brought about the strategy RPG, Rainbow Moon, and Stick It to The Man!, a bizarre and oftentimes hilarious adventure from Ripstone.

In the aptly titled Stick It to The Man!, you play as Ray Doewood, a hard hat tester who gets knocked into a coma thanks to a freak accident. His world is turned upside down when he awakens to find a large, 16-foot pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his head. To make matters even stranger, his newfound appendage allows Ray to read people’s minds. This new talent becomes especially useful when Ray finds himself on the run from a mysterious chain-smoking figure known only as The Man. It’s your job to “stick it” to The Man while also saving your girlfriend from his evil clutches.

With dialogue penned by Adventure Time writer, Ryan North, the game’s wacky storyline never ceases to amuse. During my playthrough, I ran across all sorts of people — a pregnant man, a zombie jazz band, a woman with a white teeth fetish, and even Santa Claus himself. Best of all, every single one of these characters can have their minds read. In the creative world of Stick It to The Man!, anything seems possible.

Stick It to The Man! [2013, PS Vita]

The gameplay is a mix of platforming and point-and-click adventure. The platforming parts aren’t all that difficult, although there are a few tricky bits where Ray has to swing past enemies (usually The Man’s henchmen) in order to get to the next area. The adventure elements come into play when Ray needs to use his pink spaghetti arm. The Vita version takes advantage of the system’s touch controls by allowing you to physically touch the areas where you want to use this arm. This is much easier than using the right analog stick, especially since you will be using Ray’s spaghetti arm quite a bit.

Each of the game’s ten chapters are loaded with puzzles, most of which require some sly mind reading to solve. Occasionally, after hearing someone’s thoughts, a sticker will pop up in their thought bubble. Ray can then grab this sticker with his giant arm and apply it somewhere else that might make sense. Certain buildings and other parts of the screen can also be pulled back (again by using the touch screen), revealing more characters and objects that can be used to solve puzzles.

The solutions aren’t immediately obvious, especially since so much of the game’s demeanor is offbeat with seemingly random situations, but they do make sense in the end. There is also a helpful map that points out possible areas of interest, thereby lowering the chances of getting stuck. There were still a few areas where I was seriously scratching my head as to what to do, but a little bit of trial-and-error was usually enough to get me by.

Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

One area where Stick It to The Man! really excels is its overall presentation. The world is set in a beautiful 2D paper environment that has an almost Burton-esque aesthetic. On the audio side, a great deal of attention was put into the voice acting — every single one of the 100+ characters has their own dialogue, all of which is well done. The game’s snazzy jazz soundtrack is also a good fit for the overall style, as is the title screen’s inclusion of the 60s psychedelic jam, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)“.

Now, for all of its positives, there are a couple of minor issues worth noting. For one, on the Vita’s smaller screen it can be occasionally difficult to see the small white outline where a sticker can be placed. There were times where I would waltz right on past an object that I could have used to solve a puzzle, unbeknownst to me. I also noticed some sporadic drops in audio, where the dialogue would cut out for a split second, thereby creating a slight delay. Hardly anything game-breaking, but issues nonetheless.

Since Stick It to The Man! is a cross-buy title, one purchase nets both the Vita and PS3 versions. For fans of adventure titles or just quirky humor in general, this is well worth a look. The 5-6 hour campaign is the perfect length for a title of this nature, and it’s quite easy to pick up and play. There really isn’t anything like it on the Playstation Network.

8/10

 
(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)

Video Game Review: Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

Stick It to The Man!
System: PS Vita/PS3
Genre: Adventure/Platformer
Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Ripstone
Price: $12.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: December 3, 2013

It seems like every Tuesday there is a fun, new indie title that hits the Playstation Vita. Last week was especially fruitful, as it brought about the strategy RPG, Rainbow Moon, and Stick It to The Man!, a bizarre and oftentimes hilarious adventure from Ripstone.

In the aptly titled Stick It to The Man!, you play as Ray Doewood, a hard hat tester who gets knocked into a coma thanks to a freak accident. His world is turned upside down when he awakens to find a large, 16-foot pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his head. To make matters even stranger, his newfound appendage allows Ray to read people’s minds. This new talent becomes especially useful when Ray finds himself on the run from a mysterious chain-smoking figure known only as The Man. It’s your job to “stick it” to The Man while also saving your girlfriend from his evil clutches.

With dialogue penned by Adventure Time writer, Ryan North, the game’s wacky storyline never ceases to amuse. During my playthrough, I ran across all sorts of people — a pregnant man, a zombie jazz band, a woman with a white teeth fetish, and even Santa Claus himself. Best of all, every single one of these characters can have their minds read. In the creative world of Stick It to The Man!, anything seems possible.

Stick It to The Man! [2013, PS Vita]

The gameplay is a mix of platforming and point-and-click adventure. The platforming parts aren’t all that difficult, although there are a few tricky bits where Ray has to swing past enemies (usually The Man’s henchmen) in order to get to the next area. The adventure elements come into play when Ray needs to use his pink spaghetti arm. The Vita version takes advantage of the system’s touch controls by allowing you to physically touch the areas where you want to use this arm. This is much easier than using the right analog stick, especially since you will be using Ray’s spaghetti arm quite a bit.

Each of the game’s ten chapters are loaded with puzzles, most of which require some sly mind reading to solve. Occasionally, after hearing someone’s thoughts, a sticker will pop up in their thought bubble. Ray can then grab this sticker with his giant arm and apply it somewhere else that might make sense. Certain buildings and other parts of the screen can also be pulled back (again by using the touch screen), revealing more characters and objects that can be used to solve puzzles.

The solutions aren’t immediately obvious, especially since so much of the game’s demeanor is offbeat with seemingly random situations, but they do make sense in the end. There is also a helpful map that points out possible areas of interest, thereby lowering the chances of getting stuck. There were still a few areas where I was seriously scratching my head as to what to do, but a little bit of trial-and-error was usually enough to get me by.

Stick It to The Man! [PS Vita/PS3]

One area where Stick It to The Man! really excels is its overall presentation. The world is set in a beautiful 2D paper environment that has an almost Burton-esque aesthetic. On the audio side, a great deal of attention was put into the voice acting — every single one of the 100+ characters has their own dialogue, all of which is well done. The game’s snazzy jazz soundtrack is also a good fit for the overall style, as is the title screen’s inclusion of the 60s psychedelic jam, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)“.

Now, for all of its positives, there are a couple of minor issues worth noting. For one, on the Vita’s smaller screen it can be occasionally difficult to see the small white outline where a sticker can be placed. There were times where I would waltz right on past an object that I could have used to solve a puzzle, unbeknownst to me. I also noticed some sporadic drops in audio, where the dialogue would cut out for a split second, thereby creating a slight delay. Hardly anything game-breaking, but issues nonetheless.

Since Stick It to The Man! is a cross-buy title, one purchase nets both the Vita and PS3 versions. For fans of adventure titles or just quirky humor in general, this is well worth a look. The 5-6 hour campaign is the perfect length for a title of this nature, and it’s quite easy to pick up and play. There really isn’t anything like it on the Playstation Network.

8/10

 
(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)

Video Game Review: Men’s Room Mayhem [PS Vita]

Men's Room Mayhem [PS Vita]

Men’s Room Mayhem
System: PS Vita (also on Android and iOS)
Genre: Line Drawing “Bathroom Simulator”
Publisher: Ripstone
Developer: Sawfly Studios
Release Date: May 21, 2013

The mobile gaming market is full of quirky and eccentric titles, often available for mere pennies on the dollar, but there is a surprising lack of such options on the Playstation Vita. Enter Men’s Room Mayhem, an off-the-wall “bathroom simulator” that has to be seen to be believed.

In this $1.99 downloadable game, you play as a bathroom attendant who is in charge of directing patrons to the proper urinal/toilet and then getting them out the door. Moving them to the sink to wash their hands is optional, but even in the digital world it feels dirty to not demonstrate proper hygiene.

Men's Room Mayhem [PS Vita]

The characters that show up to the men’s room are a lively, varied bunch, including chefs, the elderly, drunks and even, gasp, a woman! Moving them around is as simple as sliding your finger across the screen, and this is basically a line-drawing game in the most bizarre form possible. If you run two characters into each other, they will fight, causing a bloody mess that sends them out the door together. If you don’t get a patron to the urinal (or toilet, if necessary), they will urinate on the floor and flee the premises. Naturally, these are not healthy options, and you don’t get any points for your failure as the attendant.

The game is split into different waves, with each one growing increasingly more difficult than the last. As more and more men show up, the chances of provoking fistfights and unwanted messes increases tenfold, often creating a chaotic screen. If five incidents like this occur in one wave, it’s game over.

Men's Room Mayhem [PS Vita]

There are two ways to play: normal or blitz mode. The normal mode has you pick a location (of which there are seven, ranging from hotels to disco clubs) and then partake in the regular round of waves. This mode also shares a number of in-game challenges (such as avoiding fights through three waves, or achieving a certain amount of “near misses”) to keep things fresh, but only three can be earned with each playthrough. This makes the process tedious at times, as it requires stopping and restarting the game in order to get a fresh set of objectives. Unfortunately, this is an inconvenience, and it feels like these were included to superficially extend gameplay length.

Normal mode also starts off slow, with the first two waves requiring some serious patience to persevere. Each wave is only around a minute long, but the first two seem to crawl along since the bare minimum of patrons show up. By wave three, the pace quickens, but it would be nice to have the early stages just a tad more challenging. There are also “clean up” mini-games in between each wave, and these consist of frantically rubbing the screen in order to scrub the sinks and urinals, as well as mop up any blood and/or urine on the floor. I’m not a huge fan of these intervals, but they at least go by very fast.

Blitz mode eradicates the pacing issue by just setting a three minute time limit and throwing character after character into the men’s room. For those looking for nothing but frenetic mayhem, this is the best option.

Men's Room Mayhem [PS Vita]

If trophies are your thing, this has a decent amount of ’em. Most are pretty straightforward, with many revolving around serving specific characters or finishing mission objectives.

For just a couple dollars, Men’s Room Mayhem offers some unique fun, and it’s a solid timewaster. Some gameplay aspects could be cleaned up (ahem), but it’s hard to argue with the price. Also, the marketing team deserves props for their hilarious trailer (slightly NSFW):

7/10

 

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.

Video Game Review: Knytt Underground [Vita/PS3]

Knytt Underground [Vita/PS3]

Knytt Underground
System: Vita/PS3 (also on PC and Mac)
Genre: Platforming/Metroidvania
Publisher: Ripstone
Developer: Nifflas
Release Date: December 18, 2012

Upon first glance, Knytt Underground looks small. The main character, Mi Sprocket, is very tiny, and she only takes up a miniscule part of the game screen.

The first couple chapters of this Metroidvania-esque 2D platformer do little to disavow this idea. The first chapter introduces Mi and her gameplay mechanics, but it can be finished in an hour. The second chapter is even quicker, as a new character, a bouncy ball, is used to speed through the playing area.

Then the third chapter appears.

Knytt Underground [Vita/PS3]

All of a sudden, this relatively pedestrian game world is opened up into a MASSIVE new environment. Over 1,800 rooms are now accessible, each one different than the last. No longer does the game feel small — now it’s nearly overwhelming.

With the game now completely unlocked, both Mi and the ball can be used at whim. It is imperative to take advantage of both characters, as some areas can only be reached with one of them. Mi is a gifted climber, whereas the ball can jump/bounce much higher.

The name of the game here is exploration. This is an enormous world full of little nooks and crannies, with plenty of secrets hiding in the dark. There’s always something new to discover, and it’s easy to get sucked into the digging experience. There were times that I would sit down to play a quick session but ended up playing for hours instead. There’s something to be said about wanting to keep pushing forward, just to see what the next room has in store (and then the next, and the one after that, etc.).

Knytt Underground [Vita/PS3]

Part of what makes the game’s exploration so addictive is that the atmosphere is so engaging. The often-dark visuals are simply gorgeous, aided by occasionally breathtaking backgrounds that sway back and forth. In the 1,800+ rooms, there are a number of locales to discover, meaning there is plenty of eye candy. I kept advancing simply to see what I would stumble upon next. Adding even more to the game’s alluring aesthetics is a beautiful ambient soundtrack that lends way to a zen-like, almost cathartic experience.

It’s unfortunate then, that these moments of zen are sometimes interrupted with a haphazard attempt at storyline progression. The game’s plot is nonsensical, full of sprites, fairies, pixies and other fantasy creatures. Not-so-veiled attempts at religious allegories are brought up, as there is an ongoing dispute between the Myrmidons and the Internet (atheists). Pieces of the narrative are put together via quirky dialogue that is stumbled upon while pursuing side quests, but even after putting in a good dozen or so hours into the game, I was just as confused as I was at the beginning.

The story and the ensuing head-scratching dialogue add little to the game, and I would actually have preferred if there were no narrative at all. There is a damn good exploration game underneath this, and improved writing would have really pushed this in the right direction.

Knytt Underground [Vita/PS3]

As it stands, there’s still a lot to love with Knytt Underground. The in-game world is so big that it’s easy to get your $15 worth just by casually exploring the area. I kept finding myself coming back to this game, simply because of its relaxing gameplay and visually stunning atmosphere. It should be noted that this is also one of the select few cross-play titles available, meaning that it can be played on both the PS Vita and PS3 with cloud saving capability. For those interested in Metroidvania games or platforming exploration in general, Knytt is certainly worth a look.

8/10

 
(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)