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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Video Game Review: Velocity 2X [PS Vita/PS4]

Velocity 2X [PS Vita/PS4]

Velocity 2X 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4
Genre: Shoot ’em up, platformer
Developer: FuturLab
Publisher: FuturLab
Price: $19.99 (cross buy, free for PS+ members)
Release Date: September 2, 2014

Velocity Ultra was a bit of a sleeper indie hit on the Playstation Network last year, and today sees the release of its much-anticipated sequel Velocity 2X.

Whereas Ultra innovated with its unique hybrid of shoot ’em up gameplay and puzzles involving teleportation, 2X expands upon this template by bringing in a brand new dynamic: side-scrolling platforming. The transition between shmup action and platforming is seamless, and it tactfully brings together two genres that you normally wouldn’t think of combining.

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Video Game Review: Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4/Steam]

Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

Crimsonland 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4, Steam
Genre: Top-down shooter
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Price: $8.99 (cross buy)
Release Date: August 19, 2014 (Vita)

Crimsonland is an apt title for a game that lets you paint the landscape red with the blood of your enemies. Originally released for the PC way back in 2003, this kinda-cult classic has been remastered and released on Steam, PS4 and PS Vita. For this review, I am focusing on the Vita version.

In this top-down shooter, you play as an unnamed soldier with your goal being to kill everything in sight — including aliens, spiders, zombies and mutant lizards. These enemies flood the screen in large waves, dozens at a time. Certain levels push that number closer to 100, creating some ridiculous mayhem on screen (with no slowdown either). As you wipe out more and more enemies, the game’s backdrop begins to turn red — a fitting portrait of the chaos around you.

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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: The Swapper [PS Vita/PSN]

The Swapper [PS Vita/PSN]

The Swapper
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U
Genre: Puzzle platformer
Developer: Facepalm Games & Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Price: $19.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The Swapper is a puzzle-platformer that just oozes atmosphere. Originally released for the PC last year, this Facepalm Games adventure received overwhelming praise from critics and fans alike. This week, the ever-prolific Curve Studios is set to introduce this indie hit to a whole new set of gamers via the Playstation Network.

Set deep in space on a seemingly abandoned space station, The Swapper places you in the role of a lone explorer who is trying to make sense of the situation. The feeling of isolation here is undeniable — you are just one person alone in a massive, eerie location. Shortly upon arrival, you gain access to a mysterious new weapon, dubbed the Swapper, that gives you the ability to create clones of yourself — up to four at once. At first it appears to be a neat little tool, but soon it’s clear that it may have some unexpectedly heady consequences.

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PS Vita Game Review: MouseCraft

MouseCraft

MouseCraft
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: Puzzle adventure
Developer: Crunching Koalas & Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Price: $14.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: July 8, 2014

Don’t let its uninspired name fool you — MouseCraft is not related to Minecraft (or Warcraft, Starcraft or any other “crafts”). The latest release from popular indie publisher Curve Studios is actually a puzzler that plays out like a hybrid of Tetris and Lemmings.

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Titan Attacks! [PSN: PS3/PS4/PS Vita] Review

Titan Attacks!

Titan Attacks!
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Windows, Mac, Linux
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Developer: Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Price: $13.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: May 6, 2014

Curve Studios has been on quite the roll lately. Over the last several months, they have brought popular indie hits such as Stealth Inc, Thomas Was Alone, and Proteus over to the Playstation Network. This month they have dabbled into the retro world of arcade gaming with Titan Attacks!.

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Video Game Review: SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4, 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: Platformer, Adventure
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Price: $9.99 [cross buy for PS Vita/PS4]
Release Date: March 18, 2014 [PS Vita/PS4 release]

SteamWorld Dig is a game that feels so familiar yet so unique at the same time. Dubbed a “hardcore platform mining adventure” by its developers, it plays out like a combination of Spelunky, Terraria and the Metroidvania genre. It also just happens to be a perfect fit for the Playstation Vita.

The game places you in the role of Rusty, a steambot who visits the long-abandoned mining town of Tumbleton (current population: 3) at the request of his uncle. Upon arrival, Rusty becomes determined to dig and dig some more in hopes of finding valuable ore that can breathe some life into this barren town.

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

Originally armed with just a regular pickaxe, Rusty is eventually able to upgrade his arsenal by finding and selling gems and minerals to the few people in town. By continuing to explore deeper underground, hidden mines and powerups can also be found. These provide new abilities to make traversing the increasingly tricky subterranean areas a bit more manageable. Over time, Rusty can learn how to run faster and jump higher, both of which become quite crucial as the game goes on.

Of course, there is more to the underground than just minerals. There are all sorts of creatures roaming around, as well as some that can be found hibernating within individual blocks. If you manage to wake a creature without destroying it in the process, you can quickly find yourself in a world of hurt. That’s not even mentioning the automated lasers and barrels of dynamite that become more and more common the deeper you go.

If you happen to die, you will lose a large portion of money and whatever ore you happen to be carrying with you at the time. You can still go down and retrieve what you left behind, but you will have to do so with less health. There are certain items that can be purchased to help with the constant up-and-down platforming, including teleporters (which are appropriately expensive, given their worth).

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

The overall exploration can grow to be downright addictive. As Rusty acquires new equipment, more areas can be traversed, and he can dispatch of enemies more quickly. The constant upgrading of drills and other gadgets brings to light the wonderful Metroidvania aspects of the gameplay. By getting new toys to play with, you can go back to other parts of the mine and get to places that were unreachable earlier. I found myself constantly saying “oh, I’m just going to dig until I get to the next marker”, only to end up playing much longer than I planned.

The game’s design really is terrific, as it leads you into new abilities and gadgets at a perfect pace. The first 10-15 minutes are a bit slow since Rusty can only use a pickaxe, but the game opens up quickly after that. On top of that, every playthrough contains a randomly generated underworld, meaning that every experience will be different.

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig is relatively short — I completed my first playthrough in just over four hours — but it still manages to have a good amount of replay value. I barely scratched the surface of things to do in my first campaign, and I immediately started a second one to see what I missed before. If you’re a trophy hunter, there are quite a few that will provide you with new goals to hit during each session. Best of all, there’s no filler at all — you pretty much just jump in and play right away.

The game nails nearly everything it sets out to do, but I couldn’t help wanting more. I know that this is a small downloadable title, but the gameplay is so enriching that I would love to find even more areas to explore. There is so much potential here for an even better, bigger game, and I really hope that this isn’t the last we have seen of this world. Still, as it stands, this is one of the biggest early surprises in gaming this year.

9/10

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

Video Game Review: SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4, 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: Platformer, Adventure
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Price: $9.99 [cross buy for PS Vita/PS4]
Release Date: March 18, 2014 [PS Vita/PS4 release]

SteamWorld Dig is a game that feels so familiar yet so unique at the same time. Dubbed a “hardcore platform mining adventure” by its developers, it plays out like a combination of Spelunky, Terraria and the Metroidvania genre. It also just happens to be a perfect fit for the Playstation Vita.

The game places you in the role of Rusty, a steambot who visits the long-abandoned mining town of Tumbleton (current population: 3) at the request of his uncle. Upon arrival, Rusty becomes determined to dig and dig some more in hopes of finding valuable ore that can breathe some life into this barren town.

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

Originally armed with just a regular pickaxe, Rusty is eventually able to upgrade his arsenal by finding and selling gems and minerals to the few people in town. By continuing to explore deeper underground, hidden mines and powerups can also be found. These provide new abilities to make traversing the increasingly tricky subterranean areas a bit more manageable. Over time, Rusty can learn how to run faster and jump higher, both of which become quite crucial as the game goes on.

Of course, there is more to the underground than just minerals. There are all sorts of creatures roaming around, as well as some that can be found hibernating within individual blocks. If you manage to wake a creature without destroying it in the process, you can quickly find yourself in a world of hurt. That’s not even mentioning the automated lasers and barrels of dynamite that become more and more common the deeper you go.

If you happen to die, you will lose a large portion of money and whatever ore you happen to be carrying with you at the time. You can still go down and retrieve what you left behind, but you will have to do so with less health. There are certain items that can be purchased to help with the constant up-and-down platforming, including teleporters (which are appropriately expensive, given their worth).

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

The overall exploration can grow to be downright addictive. As Rusty acquires new equipment, more areas can be traversed, and he can dispatch of enemies more quickly. The constant upgrading of drills and other gadgets brings to light the wonderful Metroidvania aspects of the gameplay. By getting new toys to play with, you can go back to other parts of the mine and get to places that were unreachable earlier. I found myself constantly saying “oh, I’m just going to dig until I get to the next marker”, only to end up playing much longer than I planned.

The game’s design really is terrific, as it leads you into new abilities and gadgets at a perfect pace. The first 10-15 minutes are a bit slow since Rusty can only use a pickaxe, but the game opens up quickly after that. On top of that, every playthrough contains a randomly generated underworld, meaning that every experience will be different.

SteamWorld Dig [PS Vita/PS4]

SteamWorld Dig is relatively short — I completed my first playthrough in just over four hours — but it still manages to have a good amount of replay value. I barely scratched the surface of things to do in my first campaign, and I immediately started a second one to see what I missed before. If you’re a trophy hunter, there are quite a few that will provide you with new goals to hit during each session. Best of all, there’s no filler at all — you pretty much just jump in and play right away.

The game nails nearly everything it sets out to do, but I couldn’t help wanting more. I know that this is a small downloadable title, but the gameplay is so enriching that I would love to find even more areas to explore. There is so much potential here for an even better, bigger game, and I really hope that this isn’t the last we have seen of this world. Still, as it stands, this is one of the biggest early surprises in gaming this year.

9/10

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

Video Game Review: OlliOlli [PS Vita]

OlliOlli [PS Vita]

OlliOlli
System: PS Vita
Genre: Skateboarding
Developer: Roll7
Publisher: Roll7
Price: $12.99 ($10.39 for Playstation Plus members)
Release Date: January 21, 2013

OlliOlli, a rare PS Vita exclusive, is a 2D skateboarding game that could potentially revitalize a genre that has laid dormant for years. Skating games reached the point of oversaturation years ago; who would have guessed that a small indie title like this could manage to be such a breath of fresh air?

It’s amazing how much OlliOlli does with so little. The control scheme is reduced to what is essentially two buttons: the left analog stick and the X button (with the left and right bumpers being used to rotate the skater, if desired). This seemingly simplistic method is actually deceptively complex. The left stick is used to perform tricks and grinds (of which there are over 120 total), while the X button is used to stick the landings. This takes some getting used to — after years of playing Tony Hawk, it feels weird not to use X to ollie — but it really doesn’t take long to start to feel natural.

The decision to require an extra button press in order to perfectly land a trick or grind is a stroke of genius. By hitting X at the last possible second, you will get a “perfect” rating that delivers the most points possible. This adds a whole new element to the gameplay, as you can pull off the world’s best combo but get little in the way of points if you don’t nail the landing. The game also keeps you on your toes by requiring the analog stick to be pushed down in order to achieve a “perfect” grind. Again, there is a little bit of a learning curve here, but once everything clicks, it’s as smooth as can be.

OlliOlli [PS Vita]

There are 50 levels in total, and each one has a set of five challenges to complete. These are similar to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in that some challenges are for hitting a certain point total (both overall and for combos specifically), picking up spray cans scattered through a level, hitting certain gaps or pulling off a specific trick. At first, they start off innocently enough, but it doesn’t take long for the requests to get more and more difficult.

If you’re able to complete all five challenges on an “amateur” level, you will have access to its corresponding “pro” level. If you’re able to five star every single level in the game, you unlock the extremely challenging RAD mode. Good luck with that.

There are also “Spots” that can be unlocked by completing each level. These are basically condensed stages that are set up to maximize combo potential. The idea is to string together as many tricks and grinds as possible before you either hit the ground or reach the end of the stage. The game will take note of your best score and tell you your current position on the world leaderboards. I managed to make it in the top 20 once or twice, but surely that will go down as more and more people start playing. It’s fun to see just how far off you are from the world leader, but it would be even better if there were a way to compare your scores with those on your friends list. Perhaps this is something that could be added in with a patch?

There’s also a neat little mode called Daily Grind that’s reminiscent of Spelunky‘s daily challenges. A new level is crafted every day where you get one chance to pull off as big of a combo as possible. You can practice as much as you like, but only your “official” run counts. It’s a fun way to keep the competition going.

OlliOlli [PS Vita]

While there is plenty of content to offer, what makes the overall package so great is that it is so easy to pick up and play. Each level lasts for about a minute, and there is a big yellow button in the left hand corner of the screen that can be used to restart at a whim’s notice. Trust me, you’ll get well acquainted with this button. Everything also starts immediately — there are no delays whatsoever. By keeping everything streamlined so well, this just adds to the addictive nature of the game. It’s one of those “oh, I’ll just play one more level” type games where it’s easy to get sucked in and play for hours without knowing it (a la Super Meat Boy).

In terms of its presentation, OlliOlli offers little in the way of eye candy. The graphics aren’t anything special, and it’s often difficult to differentiate between certain tricks. However, Roll7 really nailed the soundtrack. Its mix of upbeat and chill electronica has a certain hypnotic feeling to it. Quite the contrast from the raucous punk rock songs in Tony Hawk, but it works surprisingly well.

With its twitch gameplay, precise controls and seemingly unlimited replay value, OlliOlli pretty much hits all the right notes. It could benefit from friend leaderboards and more customization options, but these omissions hardly detract from what is an overall addictive and enjoyable experience. If this game is any indication, 2014 is shaping up to be a hell of a year for PS Vita owners.

8.5/10

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