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.
Where do I start, where do I start? I’m very close to saying that this has been my favorite Vita experience so far and one of the most rewarding Platinum trophies on the system for sure. Whenever games like this one become part of PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection, I feel like I’m robbing the developers. Velocity Ultra is worth a retail box price, without a doubt.
Again, it starts with a simple enough idea. A spaceship the player controls is moving from bottom to top and its task is to save as many human survivors of an alien invasion as possible, as quickly as possible, and killing as many enemies as possible. Based on all those factors, the pilot is awarded a medal and, obviously, the PERFECT one is the only one that’s good enough. Another of the easy to learn, difficult to master titles. Completing the game can probably take just several hours but grinding through the levels, trying to beat the clock and not miss a single of the survivors becomes challenging after a few levels. There are 50 stages in total, each one building on the experiences of the previous ones and adding something extra. The learning curve couldn’t have been designed better. By the time the game-changing mechanics of teleports and switches are introduced, the pilot should have mastered the basics of the game. The player never feels left out to dry by the developers, moving on always feels within reach but it still requires focus and usually more than a couple of attempts.
I can’t recommend Velocity Ultra enough. Is has to be one of Vita’s best games and the developers at FuturLab deserve all the praises they got for porting the PlayStation mini Velocity to the Vita. Make sure to give this title a go before the sequel Velocity 2X comes out.
The first game I ever played on my PlayStation 3 was Burnout Paradise by Criterion Games. I loved the crazy game modes it had to offer and the amazing multiplayer component with many challenges that could be completed by up to 8 drivers. I was aware that Need for Speed: Most Wanted was a different game, more focused on the pursuit mechanic, but for a mere 20 EUR I decided to give it a go on the small screen. Unfortunately, NFS was nowhere near as fun as the almost five years older Burnout. Sure, there are many cool cars in the game, fun races to be had, long jumps to be performed and storm drains to be driven in. However, the game lacked the excitement and craziness that I enjoyed so much in the other title.
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of driving games in the first place, so a title that doesn’t offer much more than racing, and avoiding cops is still racing to me, can’t be top on my list. The most fun I had with Need for Speed: Most Wanted was driving around Fairhaven, looking for billboards to crash through and gates to smash, which I believe says a lot. I also liked some of the multiplayer challenges that included jumping over stuff or performing long drifts. Basically, I mostly enjoyed those parts of NFS that were the main focus on Burnout Paradise.
Still, I don’t want to discourage you from the game. I’m sure it can be lots of fun for those driving gamers who care that they can ride in a real Lamborghini instead of a stunt-focused buggy and who enjoy straightforward racing more than crazy shenanigans like driving down a ski jumping hill. In any case, even though the visuals on the Vita are nice, I would recommend checking the game out on the big system instead.
I don’t really think I need to write much about Rayman. This franchise has been with us forever and I don’t believe it needs to be recommended to anyone. As far as platformer games go, there are fewer titles that can get anywhere near to what Rayman has to offer and the Vita edition of Origins is up there with the best ones of the series.
Rayman Origins is all about jumping on platforms, jumping on enemies, punching enemies, avoiding enemies and collecting stuff… and you should already know that a completionist such as myself loves collecting stuff. Each stage of the game requires the player to save a certain number of Electoons, which can be done in several ways – collecting a given number of Lums, beating the level below a time threshold or finding secret locations in the levels. Obviously, all this can’t be accomplished in a single playthrough which dramatically adds to the game’s replayability. Some levels will have the player riding a mosquito shoot’em up style or chasing a chest containing a Skull Tooth. On top of that, collecting special Relics hidden in the stages’ environment will unlock other playable characters. Rayman learns new tricks, such as gliding or swimming, as he progresses through the world, which keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting.
There’s so much things to do in the game and even though it’s mostly the same jumping and running around, often in the same exact levels, it never gets boring. Aiming for the 100% completion can be very challenging but ultimately extremely rewarding. Rayman Origins utilizes some of the Vita’s functionalities, namely the touchpad which can be used to pop ‘bubblized’ enemies or collect Lums outside of Rayman’s reach. Using this feature makes the game somewhat easier.
If there’s one reason not to play Rayman Origins it has to be playing Rayman Legends, although I would still recommend not skipping over the former. A must-play for all Vita owners.
What thatgamecompany did with flOw and Flower on their way to the amazing Journey, DrinkBox Studios did with the Tales from Space series, which resulted in Guacamelee!. Two ‘practice’ games which were great titles in and of themselves, leading to something much bigger, much better, and very polished. Obviously, the two series have very little in common other than the path the developers took, but such a model is worth mentioning anyway. Well, come to think of that, there is something else…
Guacamelee! is a Metroidvania style game taking place in Mexico with an agave farmer turned luchador as its protagonist. This already sounds fun. Add to it a demonic skeleton, the world of the dead and chickens, lots of chickens, and you get an amazing 10-hour long platformer game. Our her, Juan, on his journey (cough, cough) to save his loved one will travel through mystical forests, snow-covered mountains, underground caverns and he might even visit hell, if you buy the DLC. He learns new tricks which allow him to go back to places that had been out of his reach previously. There’s also many fighting moves that can be learned for money which make dealing with hordes of skeletons and other devilish creatures more effective. The game uses a cartoonish visual style and is full of references to pop culture, including other video games. There’s no other way to describe it other than pure, unadulterated fun with sound mechanics and incredible amount of humor.
If you own a Vita, there’s also no better time to get Guacamelee! with all the crazy Christmas discounts popping up all over the place. Even without them, the game is completely worth the $15 the nice people at DrinkBox are asking for it.
A slight change of tone and scale, compared with the previous game, wouldn’t you say? Killzone: Mercenary was the first Vita title I got at launch and there’s no denying that it pushes the handheld’s capabilities to the limits. As far as technical aspects go, Killzone: Mercenery really shows what the Vita can do. It looks and sounds great, the gameplay is exciting and rich and there’s even mulitplayer that isn’t dead yet and we’re still waiting for new maps for it.
The single player campaign revolves around a mercenary Arran Danner whose only motive seems to be earning as much money as possible during the war, a view that is certainly shared by his boss, Anders Benoit. Not to spoil anything, but in an action game like this, there’s bound to be a twist or two, so things aren’t exactly what they seem from the start. The environments Danner has to fight his way through are pretty diverse ranging from official government buildings on Vekta to off-world refineries and are certainly something to look at on Vita’s beautiful screen. There’s also a companion app on the Vita, Killzone Mercenary Digital Art Book, which nicely describes all the locations and shows additional concept art, which is a cool gesture towards players.
I’ve already written about the gameplay in Killzone: Mercenary here and here so I’d rather not repeat myself. In any case, if you’re looking for a full-fledged console experience on Sony’s handheld, there’s few titles that can match Killzone.
This brings us to the final month. Again, I wrote about Tearaway a few weeks ago so it’s best if you go back and read that. Media Molecule’s latest title is to Vita’s peripherals what Killzone was to its processing power – a perfect example of what the handheld can do. Wrapped in a charming story told in a similar tone we know from the LittleBigPlanet series, yet certainly distinct from it.
It’s really a shame Tearaway was released so late since it really shows how all the fancy interfaces can be used well and not as gimmicky addons, forced onto a game. It probably could’ve saved us from the terrible invisible ink segment in Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Tearaway is full of customization options and tries to build up a community on tearaway.me, encouraging players to take in-game pictures and offering them real-life papercraft models that can be printed out and folded into squirrels, trees and more fantastic objects. The game itself is pretty simple, except for a few platforming stages, and even collecting all the hidden objects isn’t that much of a challenge. But the story it tells and the way it does it is certainly worth experiencing.
That concludes the top 13 games of the 13 months I’ve owned my Vita. There are certainly other games that are worth recommending that didn’t find their way onto the list but those 13 titles alone show that the Vita isn’t flatlining, there are games to play on it and there are more still coming. What has your experience with the handheld been so far? What titles are you excited about in the future? I would really appreciate your feedback in the comments below the post!
All game images sourced from http://psnprofiles.com