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: Dyad [PS3]

Dyad [PS3]

Dyad
System: Playstation 3 [PSN]
Genre: Racing, Puzzle, Shooter, Music
Publisher: ][
Developer: ][
Price: $14.99
Release Date: July 17, 2012

Every now and then a game comes around that defies classification. Such is the case with Dyad, an exciting new PSN downloadable title that blends together puzzle, racing, shooter and music elements while sprinkling a few drops of acid to the mix. For those infatuated with wild visuals and vibrant colors, this is pure psychedelic bliss.

It’s a bit difficult to actually describe Dyad, as it is one of those games that just needs to be played to understand. While perusing trailers and gameplay videos, I was more confused than anything. The flashing lights, frenetic racing and kaleidoscopic colors looked overwhelming, and I had no clue what was going on. From an outsider’s perspective, I suspect this is a common occurrence. However, as soon as I picked up the controller, everything just clicked.

Dyad has 27 levels, and the core gameplay has a similar theme throughout. Each stage takes place in a tunnel, and you control a squid-like character that can maneuver in the form of a circle. Various enemies and obstacles are presented off in the distance, and it is your job to manipulate these for your benefit as you frantically push forward. Each level has its own goal, and these help spice up the overall gameplay. Some early levels require “hooking” enemies together in order to boost speed, whereas others require the use of “lancing” in which foes are essentially consumed.

While the gameplay may sound confusing in text, the actual learning curve is quite simple. This is a textbook example of “easy to learn, difficult to master.” It’s possible to whip through the 27 levels in a matter of a couple hours, as all it takes to move onto the next is finishing a stage with a one star rating (out of a possible three). By getting the full three stars in a stage, a brand new challenge is unlocked in the form of trophy levels. In these, you are given a much more difficult goal to complete before time is up, with the reward being a trophy. In some of the later levels, it’s hard enough to get three stars, so completing many of these trophy levels can be an astonishing achievement in itself.

Since Dyad is a single player affair, any and all replay value comes in the form of beating these challenges while also trying to move up on the online leaderboards. Normally I don’t care about my online rankings, but I felt a tremendous sense of pride when I was able to finish a trophy level fast enough to be ranked sixth on the worldwide leaderboard. In that sense, it could easily get addictive to continually try to push your way to the top.

While the gameplay is impressively well-tuned, most people will be interested in Dyad because of its hallucinogenic properties. This is very much an audio/visual experience. While vivacious colors flash on screen, the game’s electronic music is perfectly synchronized with the action, creating something of a sensory overload. While screenshots give an idea of what the game looks like, the overall immersion from this is something that must be experienced. Many of the later levels move at breakneck speeds, creating a chaotic feel that certainly warrants the game’s preemptive epilepsy warning.

It is therein where Dyad’s biggest weakness can be found. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the action on screen, especially as momentum builds faster and faster. There were a few instances where I resorted to button mashing until things slowed down a bit, and occasionally my character was moving so fast it was near impossible to play strategically. While a bit problematic for attempting to achieve high scores, these reckless segments are still thrilling, albeit not in the same manner as others.

Quite simply, I haven’t played anything like Dyad before. While it has throwbacks to other games such as Rez and Tempest, it is very much a fresh and unique experience. The frantic gameplay and polychromatic visuals aren’t for everyone, but for those willing to give it a chance, it won’t take much to get hooked. Dyad is one of the more intriguing titles to be released this year, and I am looking forward to seeing what designer Shawn McGrath comes up with next.

8/10

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

Video Game Review: Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

Vanquish
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Imagine Gears of War on crystal meth.

Vanquish is intense. Really intense. This game just oozes testosterone. There are muscleheaded freaks, massive explosions, big guns and huge robots. Hell, there’s a button to smoke a cigarette. Best of all, there is never a dull moment.

You play as one of the aforementioned ‘roid abusers named Sam Gideon, a highly-skilled soldier with cutting-edge armor. After Russia — go figure — bombs the hell out of San Francisco, Gideon and several special forces are sent to fight the Commie bastards and save the good ol’ U S of A. Obviously, this is pretty basic stuff and it’s been done a million times before, but Vanquish is a type of game that is not played for its story. Come for the firefights, stay for the explosions.

Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

As a third person shooter, Vanquish throws you right into combat and doesn’t let up until your mission is complete. The combat mechanics are what you would expect – cover, shoot, lob a grenade, repeat. However, as a unique DARPA soldier, Gideon has access to some pretty cool features. For one, he can slide ridiculously fast. This is perfect for maneuvering around large open areas, particularly during the frequent, massive boss fights. Sam is also able to slow down time for brief periods, which allows him to dodge bullets and get in some rapid fire shots on enemies. This feature is automatically triggered when Sam is low on health, and this is an excellent way to buy some time while he gets back to full strength. Gideon also has access to an impressive array of weapons, all of which can be upgraded along the way. It doesn’t get much better than throwing an EMP grenade to disable the enemy and then zooming in with a rocket launcher to blow them away.

It’s difficult not to get swept up in the frenetic pace that Vanquish thrives in. There is one problem with this, however: the good times end far too soon. I completed the game on Normal (which was still a good challenge) in about 5 1/2 hours. After completing the campaign, there isn’t much else to do. Sure, you could go through it again on a higher difficulty, but it’s all single player or bust. There is no co-op option, and online play is nowhere to be found. It’s really a shame that these features were excluded. Vanquish would be perfect for co-op, as it would be a blast to share this high-octane experience with a buddy. It’s almost inexcusable that there are no multiplayer options at all.

In essence, Vanquish is a quick shot of adrenaline that serves its purpose for the campaign’s 5-6 hour length. It is a gorgeous game with lots of pyro eye candy, and its fast pacing pulls no punches. A little more depth could have went a long way in this game, but it’s still a lot of fun for what it is. However, unless you are dedicated to multiple playthroughs to obtain maximum value, Vanquish may be best suited for a weekend rental.

7/10

Video Game Review: Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation
System: Playstation 3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Housemarque
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Dead Nation is a top-down shoot ’em up game in which you play as one of two survivors in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Your goal is to survive through ten different levels while slaughtering countless zombies along the way. Early on, you are given basic weapons – a rifle with unlimited ammo, an SMG and a shotgun, to name a few. As you progress, you can obtain new weapons and also upgrade anything you get your hands on, including grenades and armor. This upgrading system is a great addition and adds some depth to what is otherwise standard shooting fare.

The game uses the analog sticks as its primary controls — the left stick is used to move, the right is used to aim. Unfortunately, where Dead Nation differs from other similar titles (Zombie Apocalypse immediately comes to mind) is that it requires the use of another button, R1, to shoot. This takes a little bit of time to get used to, and it never really feels natural. I’m not sure why the developers didn’t just allow the right stick to control aiming AND shooting.

Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation is a challenging game, and it has a tendency to get absurdly frustrating. Housemarque made bold claims before the game’s release date that this would have more on-screen zombies than any game ever made. While it is true that an impressive number of zombie hordes come out of nowhere (and the variety in enemies is equally strong), the game’s top-down view is sometimes too high up and distant to get a good view of all of them. There are occasional problems with straggler zombies coming out of nowhere and getting in cheap hits. The extended camera angles and generally dark atmosphere make it hard to see these loners. On higher difficulty levels, getting hit with these cheap shots can be a major problem.

Although Dead Nation is a solid single player game, it is best played co-op, especially on the higher difficulties. Housemarque put together a well-made zombie shooter, but the odd controls and occasional frustrating gameplay hold it back from being a step above the rest. I got the game on sale for $7.50, and that’s not a bad price. If you can find a similar deal, go for it, but otherwise I would hold off unless you are a big fan of all things zombie.

7/10