Browsing through my PlayStation Plus backlog on the Vita some time ago I cam across a game that promised several hours of platforming fun and good humor. I had only played one LEGO game before and that was LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean on the PS3 and I had no problems with the game, although it definitely was an easier, simpler title than what I usually play. Based on my experience with Jack Sparrow and the company, as well as having heard that every LEGO game is very similar to the next one, I though I would give LEGO Lord of the Rings a try on the handheld console.
I launched the game, created a new save file and… I didn’t play through the first ‘tutorial’ battle. I can’t really put my finger on it but something was wrong. I didn’t like the combat, everything seemed poorer and of lower quality than what I remembered from the Pirated LEGO game. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since the LOTR game is a port of the 3DS title and was not developed with the Vita in mind. Still, I wasn’t enjoying it and I decided to play something else instead. Some weeks later, however, I talked about the game with other players on The Vita Lounge forum and I got encouraged to give the game another chance, especially since it offered an easy and relatively quick platinum trophy. This sounded more like something that would convince me so I clenched my teeth, played through the first battle again and I mostly enjoyed the rest of the game.
Hotline Miami seemed like a perfect fit for the PlayStation Vita, with retro-looking graphics, the ability to pick it up and play for shorts periods of time and the gameplay which felt very arcady. Also, it looked like a good trophy boosting candidate with a challenging, yet not discouraging, platinum trophy at the end. I’ve been meaning to check the game out for quite some time, having heard many people praising it very much, but my less than perfect experience with other well-reviewed ‘indie’ games, including Spelunky and Stealth Inc., made me reconsider everytime I went to the PSN Store. Ultimately, I gave in to temptation when Hotline Miami got an insane discount and I picked it up for around $3. Obviously, the NA region got it for free on PlayStation Plus the following month, which may mean it is coming to EU as well sometime soon. Still, as the rest of this post will show, I do not regret spending the money and I would have probably spent the full price earlier had I known what the game had to offer.
The Last of Us was my favorite game of 2013 and one of the best, if not the best, PS3 games I’ve ever played. I remember that the game was supposed to come out on a Friday and I placed my preorder weeks before the release. To my surprise, I got an e-mail on Wednesday before the launch date telling me to come over to the store and pick up the game. For whatever reason, I got The Last of Us two days before the official release date. Unfortunately, I was too busy to get into it and I didn’t want to fragment my experience so I still had to wait until the weekend to play through it. However, I decided to at least see how the game looks and I played through the prologue and it blew me away. The visuals and the sounds were amazing but, most of all, the story that began to unfold was breathtaking.
More than half a year has passed since the launch of The Last of Us, which I already beat 3 times, but on Valentine’s Day 2014 Naughty Dog did something they had never done before and released a single-player add-on to their game, bringing us an extra story chapter – Left Behind. I divided this post into three parts, first giving you my non-spoilery impressions of the game, then moving into spoiler territory and finishing with a short trophy guide. I encourage you to leave your comments and impressions below but make sure you’ve beaten the single player campaign of The Last of Us and the Left Behind chapter before diving into the latter two parts of the post!
My adventure with the HD remake of the Jak and Daxter trilogy on the Vita came to an end. I finally beat Jak 3, which I enjoyed more than Jak 2, even though the games look, sound and play very similarly. Naughty Dog pretty much reused the engine from the previous game, upscaling the models and upgrading the audio-visuals. Unfortunately, the Vita versions suffer from dramatic frame rate issues, especially with many characters on the screen at the same time. Still, the visual quality is not the most important thing in this 10-year old title and there’s no denying that the game is fun to play, with diverse missions, challenging platforming sections and cool boss battles. And you should know by now how I feel about boss battles…
I bought Killzone Mercenary the week it launched here in Europe and it was my first card released games I got for the Vita. The handheld being my travel console of choice, I prefer digital games, since I don’t want to carry the cards with me. Yet, it’s nice to get a physical game once in a while and since I expected big things from Killzone, I decided to add its box to my collection. I’ve written about my adventures with Killzone Mercenary before and I’ve been enjoying the game ever since I started playing it five months ago.
Being the trophy whunter I am, I considered having a go at the Platinum trophy but the prospect of spending many hours playing online and thinking I would suck at it made it seem unreachable. However, it turned out that multiplayer was fun and I was able to compete with many of other players and after around 50 hours of gameplay the final trophy popped up in the upper right corner of the Vita’s display.
I had to take a break from all the platforming madness that comes with the Jak and Daxter Trilogy and decided to go for a shorter, more story-driven experience. I’ve been hearing good things about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons but I was cautions enough to avoid spoilers, believing I would find the time to play this game some day. The truth is, not much time is needed to play through Brothers but it does leave an impression, similar to titles such as Journey, which was among the top games of 2012. In Brothers, just like in Journey, not a single (understandable) word is spoken, although there is much more direct communication in form of body language and pseudo-talk. Still, the main source of entertainment, although I don’t think this is the best word to use here, comes from the visual prompts and the display of emotions by our protagonists.
The beginning, the story takes us to a world of Nordic-like mythos, where we see the younger of the titular brothers on a hill, by a tombstone, remembering his tragically departed mother. A cut-scene shows the woman drowning during a storm, her son not being able to drag her back up to the rowboat. The reminiscing is interrupted by the older brother, who needs help transporting their ill father to the village doctor. It turns out that the only way to save the only remaining parent is for the boys to go on a long and dangerous journey to a mysterious place, where they might be able to find the medicine. Not thinking twice and not looking back, the two brothers start their mission and let the player join their adventure.
After I completed Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy a couple of weeks ago, I was really looking forward to tackling the two remaining titles in the main Jak and Daxter trilogy. I loved the platforming emphasis of the first game and, even though the camera work was lacking sometimes, I had a very fun and challenging experience. That’s why I thought that what was about to come next was even better. Naughty Dog had two more years to fix some of the controls and game modes and deliver a difficult, amazing platforming experience.
However, they decided to go in a different direction. An open world, guns, more vehicles, more varied gameplay, less platforming. I decided not to look anything up about the game before playing it, in order not to ruin the surprise (10 years after the fact but what the heck…) and indeed, I was very surprised. The game I was playing was, more or less, Jak and Daxter: Grand Theft Auto, with less emphasis on stealing cars. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and certain parts of the game can go back to the depths of hell they came from, but I had fun with it anyway and ended up unlocking the Platinum trophy in less than two weeks.
I am a relative newcomer to PlayStation gaming. I got my PS3, my first Sony platform, just three years ago and I wasn’t really familiar with all the studios and IPs that PlayStation had to offer. Sure, I played Crash Bandicoot many years earlier but I didn’t recognize Naughty Dog until a friend recommended a little series called Uncharted to me. Still, having played and platinumed all three of Drake’s adventures, and having enjoyed The Last of Us more than other games last year, the names Jak and Daxter didn’t really ring a bell.
Luckily for me, the HD remake of the Jak and Daxter trilogy was made available to PlayStation Plus subscribers last September in Europe. I was out on holiday and with no Internet access to grind the Killzone: Mercenary Platinum, so I decided to give the platformer a go, not expecting anything and feeling that it would take me just a couple of minutes to go back to Spelunky or Stealth Inc. Well, 3 days, 4 hours and 45 minutes later, the Platinum was mine and now I’m really looking forward to beating the remaining two games in the series.
The choice to beat this particular game was made by you, the readers, who took part in my poll, asking for help in deciding which title to 100% next. Resogun beat The Last of Us which is still waiting for its turn. Thanks for taking part and I hope you will also help me next time I’m inflicted with analysis paralysis. So, after a longer than expected Christmas and New Year’s break, let’s go back to the bronze, silver, gold and platinum colors that we love best.
The PlayStation 4 has been with us for over a month now but the flow of games has not yet really started. Other than the launch titles we still need to wait a couple of months for new ones, excluding smaller games and ports from previous systems. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to play and my trophy adventures on the PS4 are proving it. I already beat Contrast, a rather pleasant platformer game, which I discussed not long ago on the blog. After that, I moved on to the second game Sony offered for free to PlayStation Plus members – Resogun.
A spiritual successor to Super Stardust, developed by Housemarque, many gamers have anxiously awaited Resogun more than most of the other launch titles. I have never played the previous space shooter by the Finnish studio but I did beat Super Stardust Delta on the PlayStation Vita and I still put Dead Nation near the top of my favorite PlayStation 3 games so I looked forward to Resogun, however with less excitement than many others.
With 6 months behind us (see part 1) let’s have a look at what kept me coming back to the PlayStation Vita since May.
OK, so maybe I was almost a year late to the Sound Shapes party but it wasn’t over by the time I got there. Not only that, there’s new content coming out for it even now, especially with the PS4 launch just behind us. The game is as simple as they get – you roll around as a small ball that can stick to some surfaces and is harmed by red elements in the environment and the goal is to reach the end of the stage. A very basic platformer game, it would seem. What lifts Sound Shapes beyond such a simple premise is its music design. With tracks composed by artists such as Deadmau5 or Beck, the songs become richer and richer with every note our little protagonist collects on its jumpy merry way. All this adds a rhythm element to the game and makes it that much more fun to play. There are several quite distinct worlds (records) to visit, each one with a unique visual and audio style, and all of them are worth exploring.
The features of Sound Shapes don’t end here, however. Beating the game unlocks the Death Mode, which introduces much harder levels that can sometimes be challenging even for platforming savants. We are also offered a channel editor with sounds and shapes (ha!) unlocked throughout the campaign. Similarly to LittleBigPlanet, the amount of user-generated content is staggering. And last but not least, the Beat School mode asks the player to recreate a sample loop prepared by the game designers. I spent most of my time solving those little puzzles. Not only do I like a musical challenge, all those silver trophies are worth going through the levels and the game awards a single trophy per challenge.
In summary, Sound Shapes is another game that offers almost unlimited content with several interesting modes and tons of trophies for the hunters out there. Even though it is also available on PS3 and PS4, I liked it best as a portable experience, playing a level or two whenever I had some time.