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!
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.
Let me start by saying that the first time I started this game I was certain I would play it for half an hour and never go back to it. The first races were just too easy and the cars looked just too small and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it. But then, the challenges started to become more difficult. I no longer managed to beat the threshold time to get all three medals for each of them. I realized that the fastest times on the leaderboards were up to 30 seconds better than mine. Finally, I broke and I decided I would not put this game down until I managed to shave enough seconds off my total time to unlock its most difficult trophies.
It’s the challenge of MotorStorm RC that kept me coming back for more. It’s a classic case of a game that’s easy to learn but very difficult to master. The premise sounds easy enough. A Micro Machines clone that offers several game modes, including straightforward racing, drift challenges, hot lap time trials and pursuit (overtake a given number of enemies as fast as possible). The courses are very short and seem simplistic at first glance – most of them have literally 5-6 turns and it takes on average 15-20 seconds to complete a lap. Nothing so far seems too appealing. But the fact that the race is over so soon makes the challenge to push the boundaries by hundreds of milliseconds at a time that much more exciting.
When Sony announced during E3 that Driveclub would be available at launch for PS+ members I got excited that an interesting game such as this would be waiting for me to download the day I get my console. I’m not a huge racing game enthusiast but I was looking forward to seeing a great-looking driving title on my PS4. Unfortunately, Driveclub got delayed and another title got added to the PS+ Instant Game Collection – Contrast. It launched with the PS4 but is also available on PS3, MS Windows and Xbox 360.
Obviously, we’re talking about two games that couldn’t be different both when it comes to gameplay and ‘new-genness’. Still, I wasn’t too upset because everything I saw about Contrast looked very promising. The setting in the 1920s Paris, the cool shadow shifting mechanic, the characters. Unfortunately, some control issues and glitches in the game made it less enjoyable than it could have been.
So here’s something I haven’t done on my blog yet. It’s a Platinum Tracker post for a brand new game. Tearaway launched here last Friday and I knew it was a must-have for the PlayStation Vita so I didn’t hesitate much and got it. The fact that it’s cheaper than most other Vita retail games was also a nice bonus. Since the game is new I will avoid spoilers in the text and the screenshots I took are also spoiler-free so don’t worry if iota’s (or atoi’s) adventure is still ahead of you (or should I say, You?).
In Tearaway, the player controls an anthropomorphic envelope, called iota, on its quest to deliver a secret message to an even more mysterious recipient. We don’t really know much about this task until the very end of the game where everything suddenly sense and is incredibly rewarding. On his way, iota meets many friendly characters who try to help him and who are fascinated by the You which appears in the world’s sun. As you can see in the screenshot below, the You is… you, the player. The most interesting point about this fact is that You can directly interfere with the game’s world using all of the PS Vita’s capabilities.
When I first beat Spec Ops: The Line, it left me with more questions than answers and I wasn’t sure what to think about the game. The hype around it was enormous and I heard many people say that it had been their Game of the Year candidate in response to my writing about the game previously. Well, three weeks have passed, I did my second playthrough on FUBAR difficulty and… I’m still not sure if I completely understand the story, the ending and the drama that unfolded. (As always, SPOILERS ahead)
Let’s get back to the beginning, or at least what seems to be the beginning. Delta soldiers Walker, Adams and Lugo are given the task to figure out what happened to the 33rd Infantry after a sandstorm that hit Dubai. The division, led by Colonel John Konrad, volunteered to assist the civilians weather the storm and evacuate the city. The conditions got so bad, that all communication was lost and it was up to our three protagonists to investigate what happened.
What starts like a simple search and rescue scenario quickly turns into hell, as the player-controlled Captain Martin Walker and his squad have to face not only the refugees but mostly the remaining soldiers of the 33rd in a seemingly never-ending carnage. The violence in Spec Ops is excessive and showcases the anti-war sentiments of the game. Piles of mutilated bodies, very graphic scenes of burnt soldiers and civilians and the gut wrenching image of a mother protecting her child from a white phosphorus air strike leave an imprint on the brain and make the player question his decisions all the way through.