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Disclosure: 30lives received a review copy of The Evil Within from Bethesda Softworks.

The Evil Within_20141013014022It amazes me how much goodwill Capcom has managed to piss away nine years after releasing Resident Evil 4—a game that (deservedly) sits on every videogame enthusiast’s all-time top five. After releasing two lackluster sequels, a couple more middling spin-offs, and about half a dozen ports, it’s safe to say that we’re all ready for this series to ride off into the sunset (hah! thought I’d make a zombie joke, didn’t you?), at least for the time being.

As cliched as this may sound, The Evil Within is a true return-to-form for the series; albeit one produced under a different moniker, for a different company, and with an entirely different cast of characters. The essence stays the same however, as TEW is directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami under his new development studio Tango Gameworks. It’s no small coincidence that the series started slipping as soon as Mikami released his reins; and if anything this game proves that Mikami can produce excellence without being constrained by Resident Evil’s now-convoluted mythos.

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Messy!

It is painfully clear however that Mikami has some sort of affinity for policework (and vaguely hispanic avatars): your protagonist Sebastian Castellanos starts off as an unassuming investigator that somehow winds up in a city filled with grotesque zombie-like creatures (wink), creepy raven-haired kids, and of course: a chainsaw-wielding brute set to tear you to pieces for some reason. I always assume it’s because you banged his sister. You never mess with a man’s sister. Anyway, Sebastian and friends find themselves in this twisted environ and feverishly attempt to escape, and of course are met by exceedingly-absurd opposition from not only the ugly creatures that populate their coordinates, but—only a spoiler if you’re an absolute idiot—also themselves. If you haven’t gathered from the game’s title (or hell, even the Japanese title Psycho Break), a good chunk of the game is dedicated to questioning the human condition; yours and your comrades.

For anyone who’s seen a horror movie from the last fifteen years, The Evil Within’s narrative may feel like predictable, run-off-the-mill pap. I’ll concede that point and fire back that its way better than 90% of the garbage most of us have to wade through. (without a skip button!)

Instead of simply relying on horror tropes for quick scares, The Evil Within also features more contemporary chills: you’ll see a lot of non-sequitur scenes in this game, much in the vein of Alan Wake or Deadly Premonition, except far more unsettling.  For instance, a madhouse door leads into a field of sunflowers… But why? Without spoiling too much, at that point in the game, you’re already questioning every single wrench the game throws at you, a sense of helplessness that I haven’t felt in a videogame since Capcom’s own Haunting Ground. (say, whatever happened to that game?)

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A fair warning to all the s-a-w-f-t gamers out there, softened by eighth-generation console trappings: this game is hard.  Harkening back to the first Resident Evil, weapons and ammo are in scarce supply. You essentially have five guns in the entire game, and a pretty badass multi-functional crossbow, but none of them are of much use as you’re probably going to spend the majority of the game scampering around to avoid enemies and find what little scraps of ammunition or curative items the game provides throughout each of the fifteen chapters. Hey, the genre is called survival-horror, ain’t it? Its tough, but fair, a quality that I found endearingly old-school.

That’s not to say that the game completely lacks modern game design niceties: of course the game offers an (optional) upgrade system, one that is fueled by “green gel” (pause) that you find hidden throughout each of the acts. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the game as it felt to me that there was a real risk and reward system at play here: given that

Everything has to be a god damned Metroidvania nowadays, huh?

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Its not all sunshine and sunflowers however: at times I found the game’s reliance on trial-and-error—especially during boss battles—to be incredibly frustrating, further compounded by the fact that the game is inexorably unoptimized, with long loading times cropping up everywhere; puzzling because the game installs on first load and seems to page from my system’s hard drive a lot. .

Alas, these are but small complaints in the grand scheme of things. The Evil Within is the Resident Evil 4 sequel y’all have been pining for. And even if the game aspired to be nothing but that, I can dig it.

They will die. A lot.

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When a game gets touted “The Demon Souls of tactical RPGs”, one would expect a game wherein you will die over and over. For Kadokawa/NISA’s Natural Doctrine (stylized as NAtURAL DOCtRINE), that is the absolute truth. Though the frustrating difficulty is the only thing it shares with the games from the Souls series.

The world is made up of nations all competing control over a rare resource known as “pluton”. This rare material is essential for constructing important trinkets and also needed to cast magic. Producing pluton is not something humans can do as the raw ore that it is refined from is deadly to humans. This does not apply to goblins though, so a lucrative industry is born out of raiding pluton mines and murdering those poor goblins.

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Neophyte warriors/love team Geoff and Vasily are recruited by rifle-wielding, potion-throwing Anka to initially accompany her for some mine raiding. Along with some friends they meet along the way they are thrust into a scenario more than what they bargained for. Natural Doctrine‘s story is relatively good so I won’t be going beyond that for the sake of spoilers. Don’t let the boring starting sequences turn you off as it really gets interesting later on.

Just like most games in the SRPG genre, the story is advanced by a series turn-based battles on a grid map. What makes ND unique is the grids are not just one character per square. One grid takes up a bigger area on the map and up to four regular sized characters (some units take up more than one slot) can be in the same grid at a time. Although the character’s movement is still based on a number of squares per turn, you are free to position them within the square. It’s sort of like a combination of the Valkyria Chronicles and Final Fantasy Tactics system. Smart positioning is a must. Your life will be easier if you learn how to utilize environmental covers and guard weaker party members. Make one mistake of leaving your mage open and the next thing you know he finds himself on the receiving end of a goblin boomstick barrage. Oh, and if that happens it’s GAME OVER for you as losing one party member fails the whole mission. Nice!

The mechanic that you will absolutely need to master is the Action Link. Every action/command that one of your units do on his/her turn has link conditions that if met, will enable other units to take a turn outside his/her usual turn. This essential tactic can turn the tide of the often overwhelming battles that you will face if executed correctly. Because turns are determined by unit speed, being able to kill the enemy next on the initiative queue (shown on the top of the screen) gets you an enormous battlefield advantage. If the circumstances permits, you can decimate all enemies without any of them getting an attack out.

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Of course the enemies have access to the same Action Link system as you and they usually outnumber you.., not to mention they are programmed to know everything there is to know about the system while you try to figure it out outside the very basic explanation in the tutorial. So there’s that.

Haha.

Outfitting your characters is necessary to tackle the ever-increasing odds against you. Units prefer specific weapon types like swords/shields, guns, staves and bombs. Some characters can change weapon types mid-battle with no penalty and are more versatile. Accessories increase your stats and you can equip each unit two of them at a time. Equipment are gained in the battlefield via monster drops or by opening chests. There is no currency to spend or shops to use them on although you can farm dungeons multiple times to get more items from chests. Opening chests also give you an amount of pluton every time. The pluton is used by your magic-users to cast spells as a substitute for magic points. It seems very limiting but magic is very powerful in this game and can often be used to turn the tide in your favor when used tactically.

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Units learn skills using a straightforward skill tree specific for each character. A party member gains a skill point (Geoff gets two) every time he/she levels up. Spend points to activate either passive stat-boosting skills or an active skill that either adds a new command or enhances a an existing one. Consumable items are also gained through skills. For example, a skill gets a unit two potions for use in a mission and gets replenished for the next one. One awesome thing about the skill tree is that you are free to spend and unspend skill points as you see fit without restriction. This encourages experimentation and helps to find the right approach dealing with missions.

The visuals leave a lot to be desired. The anime art looks good but the 3D models and animation are not what you would expect especially if you are playing the PS4 version. The game is available on all three Sony platforms (PS3/PS4/Vita) and have cross-save functionality so I kinda understand that it needs to work within the weakest system’s specifications in order to have the same performance on all platforms. It’s still not an excuse considering it is a retail release. Muddy textures and clunky animations all over. Definitely needs more polish.

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The music annoyed me the first few stages mostly because I was always dying and had to listen to the same grinding tracks over and over but it got better as the story furthered. Cutscenes are fully voiced. The english voice work is a notch above what you would expect from a NISA release but a welcome japanese voice option for the gamers who want it is included and can be toggled anytime.

Like I said, Natural Doctrine is available for all three Sony platforms but it is the first of its kind on the PlayStation 4. So if you are itching to play a really challenging strategy RPG on your next-gen system, many hours of gameplay awaits with your purchase. If you only have the PS3 and you think the frustrating difficulty will put you off, then there are many games in the same genre available to you from its vast last-gen library. The game is perfect on the PS Vita as it lends itself beautifully for on the go gaming.

There is a separate online multiplayer mode included that is unrelated with the single-player campaign. It is a deck building card game but since the game was not released yet at the time I was playing it, I was not able to find anyone to play with online. So I can’t really say anything about multiplayer.

For this review, I played the PS4 and PS Vita versions. I did not try on the PS3 but I’m sure it looks and plays almost the same.

Mission Accomplished (Pros):

  • Very deep battle system: The game rewards you for smart tactical planning but will rape your butt the moment you make a mistake.
  • Interesting story: Starts slow but really picks up fast. A nice change from the lackluster story other games in the genre are known for.
  • Skill tree experimentation: You are free to learn and unlearn skills as much as you want means getting as strategic as much you want.
  • Not bad voice acting: Character banter in and out of missions are enjoyable. Although Vasily might grate on you (like FFXIII’s Vanille)

Mission Failed (Cons):

  • No mid-mission save: You can be playing for half an hour and then die. Some missions have halfway checkpoints but they are still far in-between. Much frustration.
  • No currency or shops: I don’t know but I like my RPGs where I can buy stuff.
  • Mediocre graphics: Hey, I’m playing on the most powerful console in the world but what the hell is this? lol
  • Tutorial not in-depth enough: The enemies know all the quirks of the action link system from the beginning but you are just given the gist of it and will have to learn as you go. So they will enjoy murdering you a lot early in the game.

Mission Stalemate (Love it or Hate it):

  • Difficulty cranked up to 11: Even on easy mode the enemies seems to be cheating. And some enemies can wipe your entire party in one fell swoop. Still, everything can be countered with smart positioning and careful planning
  • Grinding for items and level: Some like to grind, some hate it. I don’t mind, though.

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NAtURAL DOCtRINE

Developer: KADOKAWA GAMES

Publisher: NIS America

Available for: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

Date: September 30, 2014

Thanks to NISA for providing us with the review copy.

Fairy Fencer F is a tough sell. It’s what most people like to call a ‘niche game;’ meaning a game that will only appeal to a specific minority of PlayStation 3 gamers. Set in a world that combines modern settings and medieval fantasy with magical beings that turn into weapons.

The game takes place in a time where two deities are locked in an endless grudge match. In an act of desperation, they both decide to seal each other with an innumerable barrage of swords. However, most of the swords miss and end up in the human world where they are known as Furies. These weapons have spirits within them that are known as “fairies” and those spirits engage in pacts with humans to release them from their seal in exchange for a wish granted to the savior. Humans who form these pacts are hence known as “fencers”.

Enter Fang, a lazy jerk wishes for nothing more than to sleep and eat all day. After pulling a sword from the ground, in the hopes to get an endless supply of food, He unwillingly gets pulled into a contract with an amnesic fairy named Eryn. He then sets off on an adventure to collect furies in order for him to recover Eryn’s memories. While the game’s main plot is nothing special, It makes up for it with an enjoyable cast of characters and fun events that add a tinge of lightheartedness.

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Fairy Fencer F shines most in its fun battle system which is a nice mix between turn-based and real-time elements. Anyone who has played the Neptunia games or Mugen Souls will be get used to it very quickly. During your turn you get to move around the field in real-time while your enemies hold still, providing you with all the time necessary to plan out your moves. Choosing From sword, knuckle, glaive, axe etc. attack types, you exploit enemy weaknesses to deal more damage. Further adding to dynamicity of battle is the “tension”, this gauge fills up as you deal and receive damage but goes down as you get healed and miss attacks. Tension increases your physical attack the more filled up the gauge is and at a certain point you can “Fairize” which greatly increases your stats.

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Outside of leveling you can augment your characters with “Weapon Boosting” in which you choose upgrades for your each of your characters separately with WP (Weapon Points) you gain from battling. These upgrades can range from as simple as stat increases to new moves and skills for exploration. The moves you take into battle are set in the combo editor where you customize each hit of your combo that is assigned to the cross, triangle and circle buttons. Equipping other fairies creates a “resonance effect” that gives bonus stats and other special effects that are strengthened by pulling the swords that sealing the gods.

The quest system on the other hand is shallow and doesn’t contribute anything to the plot. Most of these tasks are basic kill/fetch quests that tell you to “go hunt ten of these”, or go “gather five of these” which makes it feel more like chores rather than quests. The pub where you obtain quests usually has several missions at a time but don’t mistake that for freedom of choice. Nothing is keeping you from accepting them all because most of the tasks are naturally finished through your routine grinding. This makes quests no more than mere bonuses for grinding as opposed to meaningful tasks that reward the player for the extra effort.

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The overall look of the game is rather sub-par due to the fact that the game reuses a lot of assets from other games. While the 3D models of the characters are decent, most of the backgrounds and terrain are somewhat low-res and makes it feel cheap but the particle effects of moves are flashy enough to entertain. But the beautiful 2D art makes up for it and is brimming with personality. The soundtrack on the other hand shines with high quality songs that are reminiscent of classic final fantasy tracks. The voice acting on the Japanese side is superb but the English cast does manage a job in selling the characters as well.

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The main theme and atmosphere of the Fairy Fencer F is nothing you wouldn’t expect from the wacky crew at Compile Heart. With plenty of quirky characters who are parodies of stereotypes and 4th wall breaking jokes. Tons of fan service is not unexpected, with plenty of well-endowed women and lots of little girls that will satisfy everyone’s preferences. Unlike other Compile Heart games; However, It felt like the game was trying to tell a more compelling and serious story but its overtly cute art style doesn’t really help it.

Fairly Phenomenal:

  • Fun and engaging combat
  • Entertaining character interactions
  • Awesome Soundtrack
  • Deep upgrade system

On the Fence:

  • Sub-par graphics
  • Tons of reused assets

Prior to playing Battle Princess of Arcadias, All I knew was that it was a side-scrolling action RPG and somewhat resembles games like Dragon’s Crown or Muramasa: The Demon Blade. But that alone made me want to try out the game for myself and I was happy to have played it, for the most part.

Battle Princess of Arcadias is a downloadable PlayStation 3 game developed by Apollo Software and published by NIS. The story surrounds a battle princess named Plume and her quest to defend the kingdom of Schwert from evil monsters. But, as one might be able to deduce, the narrative here is anything but serious. As a matter of fact, that helps Battle Princess of Arcadias‘cause, as it comes off as a light-hearted stroll down fantasy lane with plenty of charming characters to boot. Despite this being a title that emphasizes gameplay above anything else, though, it still manages to take special care of developing a fairly large cast in a comprehensive way. In fact, the plot can become so front-and-center that certain scenes between dungeons can drone on for far longer than desired, simply because there’s quite a bit of text to read while the game tries to flesh out its world.

The game’s focus partitions into three distinct slices. Most common and obvious is the form of a traditional 2D beat ’em up. From Double Dragon to Muramasa, the need to roam across the land and smack the crap out of monsters is a call to adventure no one, battle princess notwithstanding, can deny. Arcadia’s modest attack suite, a light and heavy attack for each character, is confidently basic with the ability to string together different combos to spice it up. In the game, only one of three different characters at any given time. Blocking is not really encouraged due to the fact that it breaks your combo which goes into your overall rank at the end of the stage.

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Outside of these basic battles, there are also sieges and skirmishes that you can take part in. Sieges will have you and your brigades do battle against a single boss enemy. These battles are rather tricky, as you have to maintain your brigade’s formation and watch out for your own health and the enemy’s attacks. Formations are basic, a middle ground between attacking and defense. Attack formation is high damage but lowered defense and of course defensive formation is the exact opposite of attack. You must use the morale that you have gained during battle to switch out the different formations, with each switch reducing morale by a certain amount. There is also a retreat option if your brigade gets low in health. This option is great to try to quickly replenish your units but leaves you all along against a boss that you really cannot do damage against. Once you have done enough damage with your group, you can stun the boss and then with 100 percent morale, you can unleash a showdown move. This will have you button mashing the square button before the time runs out to attempt getting a high-powered attack.

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The third type of battles are skirmishes. These are sections that have players amassing troops to face off against an army of enemies. In this mode, players are asked to do what they did in the first but they are to also issue commands to their underlings. In this, we get a sort of strategic combat that really helps deepen the battles at large, as the straight-forward hacking and slashing components previously mentioned can be a bit shallow. It feels odd initially to go from playing the game in a typical beat’em up way to having to think tactically and adapt to situations on the fly; being able to order attacks, defensive maneuvering and retreats all come into play here, requiring a sound mind to topple the enemies that stand in a player’s way. In fact, these portions are extremely difficult simply because folks have to take on waves of enemies until a certain condition is met. It’s not a cheap difficulty, however; if players die, it’s on them, not some flawed mechanic 0verlooked in the development process. Lastly, we have the boss encounters. These work in the same way as the formation battles, except they’re usually a bit harder given the circumstances.

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From any point of view, Battle Princess of Arcadias’ looks quite nice. Or at, at the very least, it shows well does in screenshots. It’s also careful to make its characters sweet without feeling too saccharine, suggesting an appreciated amount of restraint in the art department. That being said, characters don’t animate particularly well – often times Arcadias feels like a highly polished browser game – but it’s something you seem to get used to after few hours have passed.The menu and interface are clean, intuitive and easy to navigate. The audio does a nice job complementing the aesthetics, with a soundtrack that is especially whimsical. Dainty compositions mixed with rocking anthems in boss battles were just the right blend to keep me hooked. There isn’t a dual voice-track option, which means Battle Princess of Arcadias‘spoken dialogue is all Japanese, which is perfectly fine with me but might turn some people off.

Pros:

  • Fun but somewhat simple gameplay
  • Deep equipment customization
  • Beautiful 2D art
  • Awesome soundtrack

Cons:

  • Uninspired  level progression
  • Shallow Story
  • Stiff animations

 

Battle Princess of Arcadias

Developer: Apollo Software

Publisher: NIS America (PS3)

Available for: PlayStation 3(Digital)

 

only magic can support those puppies.

Kill ‘Em All!1

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The Witch and the Hundred Knight

The Witch and the Hundred Knight sounds like a storybook fairytale full of magical creatures, royalty, enchanting forests, lavish kingdoms and eloquent speaking characters to fill your imagination of happiness and love. The game has all of this actually, with an extra spoonful… no, mouthful.. no, maybe a tub full of evil with an awesome soundtrack and deep and strategic gameplay. Development started in 2010 and was released in Japan on July 25, 2013. The localized release for the US is on March 25, 2014 while Europeans can except the game to release a little earlier on March 21, 2014. The Witch and the Hundred Knight (I’ll shorten it to Witch Knight) is an Action-RPG with Rogue-like qualities where your main goal is to help your master pretty much destroy the world. You play as the Hundred Knight, a tiny black familiar that kinda looks like Midna from Twilight Princess, to serve the foul-mouthed, slender, pretty, and powerful swamp witch, Metallia. You start out as a dumb and weak familiar with little to no abilities but as you progress through the unique and interesting story, you’ll start to figure out a lot about the game’s setting and the mystery of Metallia’s life while learning strategies for combat. The dialogue in WitchKnight is one of its best qualities as it will keep you interested in reading/listening through the whole script. It also comes with both English and Japanese voice acting. You’ll slowly start to realize why Metallia is a stone cold bitch as you learn more about the story, while accompanied by character art in the dialogue screens.

only magic can support those puppies.
Only magic can support those puppies using that Bra.

The soundtrack of WitchKnight is incredible as it feels cheery and quirky despite the game’s dark humor based storyline. It doesn’t feel repetitive at all and helps keep you alert through some of the grinding you need to do. Most enemies have their own voices too and the sound of the pillars you need to find is an important part of the gameplay. Witchknight has a nice storybook look in terms of its stage design and colors. They all seem to look good together as if it looks like a painting. Although the game is 3d and plays in 720p, the in-game character models really could have been much better. It’s already 2014 and even if the game was developed in 2010, the character models could have looked a little bit more… “HD,” a little sharper and a little less PS2-like. Would have been great if they could have made the characters stand out from the background more, especially Metalllia’s. For the gameplay, combat is basically hack and slash with some QTE’s for dodging. However, as the tutorials will show you, there is a lot more to the gameplay that it seems. You will need to develop a strategy per stage due to the Hundred Knight’s GCals, enemies and weapons. Gcals is basically like charmander’s flame. As you move through the stage, it slowly lowers until reaching 0 which will make you incredibly weak. You also have access to 5 types of weapons, with 3 weapon qualities among all of them. The rogue-like nature of WitchKnight also gives you random loot and weapons, a limited storage space (at first) and random bonuses depending on how much combos you pull out. There’s also a damage-chaining and a grading point system that could have used a tutorial but is actually easy to figure out once you notice it. There are many mixes of strategies that you’ll need to use every time you go out to fight, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Because of the combat system and customization you’ll be doing, the game can be pretty easy or pretty hard, depending on what you use and what level you are. Stat growth is dependent on what facet/form you will use throughout the game. While it might be tempting to spam attacks, the 5 weapon system will actually make you think about not spamming certain attacks to certain enemies. I recommend playing in Hard mode, just so it feels more fun.

You need to use specific weapons or your damage will be worthless.
You need to use specific weapons or your damage will be worthless.

Despite the need to grind in some stages, it doesn’t really feel boring and you definitely need to be alert because you need to monitor the Gcals, your HP, and what weapon you use, and the way of attacking you do. It’s hard to go on auto-pilot mode because of this, and that’s a great thing for the game. WitchKnight has a top-down view style and the controls are solid. The game also allows you to move the camera around which is very useful for this type of game. A concern about the camera though, is that certain stages have elements like trees or houses that block and hide your character. This is mainly annoying during combat, especially since you need to know what’s going on and what to do. And again, the character models sometimes blend too well into the background that it may sometimes be hard to find enemies especially if their colors are similar to the stage. Thankfully, the locking system will be able to counteract some of these issues. Those character models still really should look better even if the game was developed in 2010.

Stages look nice and painting-like but the Character models really could have looked much better.
Stages look nice and painting-like but the Character models really could have looked much better.

Another negative thing about the game is that even though it guides you through a tutorial for many of the features of the combat system and the game itself, most of the tips appear only during the loading screen and there is no ability to find these tips in the options or extras. The tips are very useful and could have been easier to access. But I guess it also makes the game more challenging, so it didn’t bother me that much and it helps players think about things which is something of a lost art these days. No tutorials option might alienate stupid people though. Some of WitchKnight’s features such as raiding houses and upgrading weapons do become useful, it also feels unrewarding and unneeded at times. Repeating the stages also doesn’t feel necessary to finish the game. Only super-completionists may really appreciate these features of WitchKnight. In conclusion, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a solid, well-made game. It’s very enjoyable to play, the story is great and interesting (for me anyways), the characters are very unique and have plenty of personality, the soundtrack is great to listen to and is well worth buying the Limited Edition for. 1 – GET IT? METALLIA’S JAPANESE PRONOUNCIATION SOUNDS LIKE METALLICA, SO I USED METALLICA’S FIRST ALBUM AS A REFERENCE FOR A TAG LINE. IT IS ALSO A REFERENCE TO THE EVILNESS OF THE WITCH METALLIA

:yes I Liked These

  • The combat system in relation to the item customization
  • The music is great and should be in your playlist
  • The characters are fun
  • Metallia is such a great heel
  • I like the dark storyline; if you think it’s too dark, you’re too sensitive

:kobeyuck  I don’t like these

  • The PS2-like character models in 2014
  • So many bars at the HUD to monitor
  • Sometimes the background and elements makes your characters hard to see

Spelunky

Developer: Mossmouth, Bill Software

Publisher: Mossmouth

Available for: PS3 (Aug 2013), PS Vita (Aug 2013), Xbox 360 (2012), PC (2009), Steam (2013)

Reviewed: PS3 and PS Vita version

Spelunky is a game that takes you deep into a deep magical cave filled with treasure and wonders. But don’t let that fairytale premise get to you. If you underestimate this gem of a game from developer Mossmouth, this tough and sometimes controller-hurling platformer will bury you alive.

Randomly generated levels are the backbone mechanic of Spelunky. The genius of it is even though they are all random, every component of the levels seem to work together like clockwork. Unfortunately, they are all working together towards the goal of killing you. They will achieve that goal many times. True story: I died 90 times before I even got a glimpse of the next main area.

Dying in the game can’t be more hardcore. Finger twitched on the jump button while traversing some spikes because of that sneaky spider? It’s all over. When you bite the dust, you start from the beginning of the game (unless you unlock a shortcut), all the money you’ve been saving up for items, including the items you already have, go poof! All gone.

The game will not reward you with tangible power-ups or anything of the like. You use the knowledge you gained to help you on your next foray into the caverns. The aforementioned spikes for example, you will soon learn that walking through them is harmless and will take care that your finger does not stray to the jump button or it’s gonna be spelunker-kebab time. It’s essentially learning from your mistakes and observing how things work so your next try will be more successful but you can’t just memorize everything because of the levels are all random. Genius.

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Rescuing a damsel in distress gives you one more life point for the next level.

You always start with four bombs and four ropes. These help you traverse the levels to suit your needs. Bombs are useful to blast a path to a goal — be it an item/treasure or the exit to the level. The rope enables you to get to hard to reach places or avoid falling to your death. Other items or more of your basic items can be found from crates and pots but the more unique items, like gripping gloves that enables you to climb walls, are sold via a shopkeeper who appears randomly within the levels. There are also other trinkets like stones and bones that you can use in a number of ways like triggering a trap or throwing to kill an enemy when your trusty whip can’t do the job (square button).

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The game’s main trapping is the Adventure mode. This can be played single-player or multiplayer co-op. The PS Vita shines with multiplayer because each player have their own screen and can go wherever they want in the level as opposed to having to stay on the same screen when played on a TV or monitor using multiple controllers. I haven’t tried multiplayer yet so I can’t say anything about it in this review.

Purchasing Spelunky on PSN entitles you to both the PS3 and PS Vita versions (Cross-Buy). The two versions are compatible to play together for multiplayer. I forgot to mention that the multiplayer modes in Spelunky are local only. No online for a game like this is a missed opportunity in my opinion but being able to play this on the go on my PS Vita is a really good trade-off for lack of online.

Spelunky has been available for the PC and from the Xbox Live Marketplace for quite some time now but the PSN version, specifically the PS Vita one is the version to get if you have the system. With how the game plays, you would want to play as much of it as possible to get good at it. And believe me, getting good at it feels awesome.

The Good Stuff:

Challenging gameplay — Game will keep you on your toes all the time. Dying is a learning experience.

Awesome risk-reward system — Trying things out and learning how to tackle various situations is very satisfying. You start every do-over with more knowledge to go further.

Randomly generated levels keeps the game fresh everytime — You can’t just memorize the game so you will have to rely on your experience and skill.

Playing it on anywhere on the PS Vita — Spelunky anywhere. Hellz Yeah.

Cross-Buy and Cross-Play — Buying Spelunky on PSN gets you both PS3 and Vita versions and they can play together. Aww…

The Bad Smelly Pit:

No Online Multiplayer — This is a missed opportunity. You would think being a game that has been out for years now (original PC version was released 2009) and has co-op, they would’ve added online for the 2013 versions. But nooooooooo.

No Big Bosses — I’m not sure if this game needs them, but I love fighting big bosses. So yeah. lol

Things That Could Swing Either Way:

High Difficulty — I love challenging games but believe it or not there are people who don’t! OH MY!

In Closing:

Spelunky‘s challenging gameplay is geared towards the classic core gamer. Try it out if you think you are up to the challenge. Countless hours of fun (and dying) awaits you.

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Dive Kick is a fighting game that literally uses only two (2) buttons to play. The D-pad is of no use in this game so there aren’t any complex input patterns or chain combos you have to memorize in order to pick up this game. As a matter of fact, one or two games in, you’ll automatically “get” this game. Despite the simplicity of the game’s control, Dive Kick is able to draw in fighting game newbies and veterans alike with a surprising amount of depth. I also have to point out that I’m a very casual player of fighting games.

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Timing is the name of the game:

With the game in a perpetual state of sudden death, one hit is all you need to win a round in Dive Kick. Each of the thirteen (13) characters in the game’s roster play differently even if your input device is limited to only two (2) buttons. The variation in play style of each character lies in how high they can “dive” (jump), the angle of their kick, the velocity of said kick, and then there are some x-factors which are special moves activated by pressing the two buttons at the same time and the kick meter powers (super moves). You goal is simply to trick your opponent into a position where they are unable to avoid your dive kick (you can’t block in this game). As I said, anybody can pick up on this game without having to go through rigorous move-list memorizing and single player training on combos and learning the proper timing of special moves. You can play this game with anyone, even people who have no aptitude or interest in playing games in general.

One shot is all you need to win
One shot is all you need to win

Talking Trash:

Even if tensions would run high, I believe trash talking plays an important role in fighting games because its one of the best tools to psyce people out (just don’t get too personal). Dive Kick goes out of its way to highlight people when they are sucking real bad with the fraud and choke detection system. These “systems” basically just add insult to injury when a player fails to win a single round or lose the game to  a five to zero comeback all in good fun. Also, for the first time ever (I think), head shots matter in a fighting game! Kicking someone in the head will not only give you a rush with a “headshot” victory banner, you will also render your opponent dizzy for the next round making their dive kicks less effective for a fixed period of time on top of cancelling out their kick meter (super move bar). There is even a gem you can equip before a match called the YOLO gem (self explanatory) and nothing is more humiliating than getting your ass kicked by someone with that gem.

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Stretching Out The Game:

There are thirteen (13) characters with funny background stories which will compel you to finish story mode just to see what hilarity ensues at the ending for each character. Outside that, there is online multiplayer for casual games and ranked games. You’ll need to go online and fight ranked matches to acquire all trophies which will take quite some time because the feats you have to pull off aren’t exactly easy (if you don’t cheat and farm them with a friend). Other than that, it would really depend on your group of friends or if the game is actually going to show up in your local tournament. Dive Kick is actually an EVO approved game.

Good Points:

There is enough depth and fun to go around for everyone in this game for fighting game veterans and people who couldn’t care less about the genre.

It’s a great game to break out anywhere (you can play versus mode with two human players on one PS Vita) it’s a great game to kill time with.

Dive Kick doesn’t take itself seriously despite the raves of people on how deep the game is. The creators of the game still treat Dive Kick as a parody game and with that, there is a lot of good laughs to go around from the character back stories to Uncle Sensei’s pre-match tips.

Bad Points:

The simplistic controls will eventually bare down on you despite of the depth of the game. It will be hard to play this game for extended periods of time.

Things Which Can Go Either Way: 

The intentional comedic character design, dialogue, and character voices may not appeal to everyone or may not get the jokes because there are a lot of references to fighting games and culture. I don’t get most of them.

The art style and character design will not appeal to everyone.

Dive Kick will probably piss hardcore fighting game veterans when they lose to a clueless newbie (which is entirely possible).

Do Not Fall (Run For Your Drink) is a platforming/puzzle game where you play as a Bunny who is trying to make healthy drinks like pineapple juice or water. Actually, I’m not so sure with the story either but that’s not really important. The goal of the game is to finish each level and reach the goal using platform jumping and dashing, puzzle solving, and unlocking doors by gathering the scattered keys in each level. Sounds easy but almost each tile that you step on breaks apart in roughly 1.5 seconds. Not to mention the various obstacles and annoyances (I don’t consider them enemies) that you have to evade or allow to fall to their deaths. There are also challenges in each level with certain conditions that can make the gameplay much more challenging.

You may have low expectations when you first look at the game (I know I certainly did) but when you get into the game, you’ll slowly realize that you’ve been playing it much longer than you scheduled yourself to. The game presents you with three modes: single-player, multiplayer and online. two Difficulty levels with Normal (two lives) and Hard (one life and things move around faster just a teeny tiny bit).

Do Not Fall (2)

Visually, the game looks good. Even with the bright and colorful graphics, you can still have a sense of depth from the background and the game’s main area. You’ll also be able to tell the depth of certain tiles if they are higher or lower (or maybe not if you’re panicking about the time limit). Character design looks plain and dated but that’s not really a problem for most people. There are some nice CG movies about the drinks but I don’t know why it’s there.

The game’s background music isn’t memorable but it isn’t annoying either. I can describe it as happy and relaxing but you might forget about it while playing the game itself. There’s no voice acting in the game aside from the standard dying scream and some “YEAH I’LL WIN!” words from the main characters. Sound effects like when your dash ability has returned are great and can be helpful to finish the levels.

The gameplay itself is actually pretty fun and frustrating at the same time, which is a good thing. The first levels are cake and may turn people off but as you progress, the game becomes more challenging with bigger levels of multiple depth and harder obstacles. There will be a lot of trial and error and a lot of deaths along the way which will piss you off and make you want to finish the game some more. I played the game mostly on normal mode because I wanted to enjoy the game more. Hard mode is pretty fun for people who want a challenge as the game becomes a little bit faster and checkpoints are gone. Each stage also has a challenge such as not getting hit by sheep, or collecting a certain amount of screws.

Do Not Fall (3)

Replayability is average because I feel that the game doesn’t have enough appeal for most people to continue playing it after they complete the game. Aside from the grading system of F to S, completing the challenges and bonus stages, I don’t think I would crave playing it for a long time. Multiplayer mode can be fun with real human beings but I wasn’t able to fully take advantage of it because I am a basement dweller and I only played with the very simple minded AI. There are 6 multiplayer modes that are based on Soccer, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and others. There are also worldwide scores for competitive people and an online mode that may or may not have a community (currently).

For $10 on the PlayStation Network, this game is pretty fun and well worth the money especially if you want a nice happy fun game that can relax and slowly enrage and raise your competitive spirit. My main negative for the game comes from the fact that you can’t change the controller layout or even use the D-pad which would be great for this game.

Killer is Dead is a third-person action slasher from the creative mind of Goichi Suda (Suda51) from Grasshopper Manufacture. The game’s tone is highly stylized and its plot outrageous enough to ruffle some feathers causing a sort of online debate between an XSEED employee and a guy who made a video dissing Suda 51. There were probably more discussions on Killer is Dead in a similar light (sexism, objectification of women) but honestly I wouldn’t focus on it so let’s get past that and get into everything else about the game as “Gigolo mode” is not the only thing going on for the game.

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We’ll never know how she does that trick. Aliens.

You play the role of Mondo Zappa who works for an “execution agency” which fulfills job requests to execute killers. Each main episode will take you to different places from a dinky back alley to the moon and face off against weird and freakish monstrosities called “Wires” who were once people but corrupted by an energy coming from the “Dark Side of the Moon” (he he he). Each plot character helps you out during the course of certain missions. Mika Takekawa, your plucky live-in assistant revives you when you run out of health for a price which you pre-pay by purchasing a “Mika Ticket” from the gift shop. Simply put, these tickets are continues. Vivienne Squall, is your boss who gives you a ride when chasing mobile targets or provides you with suppressing fire in dicey situations. Bryan Roses, a full fledged cyborg, is the chief of your execution office, when he isn’t taking on clients who end up skipping the payment portion of an execution contract, he brings in the heavy artillery by setting up a Gatling gun  to take out targets from a distance in certain missions. Mondo doesn’t seem to remember too much about his past but slowly regains his memories as the plot unravels his unmistakable connection with the dark energies coming from the moon.

You have two modes of attack in Killer is Dead, your katana and your cyborg arm which can turn into a machine gun, drill arm, freeze gun, and charge pulse rifle. Mondo can unlock attack skills by gathering moon crystals from killing Wire minions. Speaking of crystals, while they drop randomly from underlings, you can force a specific type of crystal to drop upon killing them by executing them. The execution sequence triggers when you have a high chain combo and knock an enemy’s HP to zero, you will then be prompted to select the Square, Triangle, Circle, or X button each of which will force a copious amount of crystals to drop from each bad guy. Mondo’s left arm is powered by blood crystals so you will need a blood resupply every now and then so you’ll definitely want to keep your chain combos up to maintain a seemingly endless supply of blood (like there is any shortage of that in the game). There really is a lot going on the screen when you get into the meat of the game so you’ll be mashing buttons in a certain pattern like crazy which is what I believe such action games are all about. If you’re not mashing buttons enough, you’re probably playing a crappy action game.

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Good Points:

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Blue streaks come out of your katana when you up your attack speed through making high-chain combos.

Killer is Dead has a very rewarding combat experience when you get a hang of the game’s combo and defense system. Mondo’s attacks increase in speed and flare when you start stringing up high number combos (20 hits and above) and that’s when everything goes wild. You will be facing enemies from all directions and some of them will even shoot your from a far. Getting the hang of executing “dodge bursts” and “just guards” will treat you to a string of bloody-cool finishing moves and make you feel a million times cooler than you are in real life (obvious exaggeration may have to be pointed out here).  You can tell that the game is developed for anybody to have a real blast because you can score in a lot of lucky dodges and guards simply by mashing buttons. It’s a good thing that mashing buttons can get you through a stage, but only mastery of the game will net you a highest possible rank in a mission so the game is still challenging even if complete noobs can enjoy the game.

The music of the game is a great accompaniment to the mash-ups of locations, Suda 51’s inspirations for the game (Bayformers, James Bond, and Samurai Champloo), and even  specific situations (like the intimate scenes with the Mondo girls). There is a healthy mix of music genres in the game to keep it refreshing all through-out the game.

Bad Points:

There really isn’t anything to get behind the fragments of the game’s plot. Not like I was expecting extensive back stories on characters or anything but aside from the cool fight mechanics in combat, the plot of the story is barely fascinating or amusing and the punch lines for the jokes in the game were weak, very weak. A lot of things just simply didn’t make sense even if they are being tied up to the main story line but hey, unicorns! Let’s not bother explaining why they exist in the game, I guess Suda 51 and the rest of the team were taking LSD when they thought of that.

Display issues. Frame rates drop frequently when there are a lot of elements or particles on screen and on top of that there are times when the camera angles would mess up your view causing you to lose track of your targets or surroundings that would break your combo chain and possibly cost you the highest rank in a mission. I get hit with bad angles a lot and they tend to become very frustrating.

The mechanics for “gigolo mode” in Killer is Dead are extremely awkward for people who’ve gotten past the “curiosity” stage of growing up. I believe there is no need for an in-depth discussion on why would one feel uncomfortable with having to stare at women’s breasts, crotch, or hips (without the woman taking notice of your blatant eye-banging)  to muster enough courage to present gifts to women to gain affection and eventually make her agree with sleeping with you. The Gigolo glasses that come as DLC with every launch copy allows you to see the women in lingerie  (just like every boy’s dream of having “x-ray specs). The reasons you’ll be doing gigolo mode (hopefully) is to acquire new left arm attachments and for trophies. If you’re motivated by anything more than that, I would seriously recommend that you seek #help. For the record, the Gigolo Glasses increase your courage at a higher rate so I use them in the game so I get to see them in their lingerie all the time.

While we’re on the topic, I might as well touch the part were you get intimate with the Mondo Girls, specifically (Natalie, Koharu, and Betty (bonus DLC vampire.) There are three intimate scenes which just get more risque. Betty is basically a re-skin of Natalie whose scenes are pretty much your generic Hollywood movie scene while Koharu’s scenes play on men’s fantasy of a traditional Japanese girl with a hidden beast locked away inside her. When you get intimate with Koharu, there are taiko drums banging in the background and then you know why there is a hard, banging, and rhythmic beat going on right? I don’t know if I’m just wired the wrong way but I found it funny because it was obviously intentional and people, haven’t you not all done some kinky stuff in your lives?

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If its any consolation to those who would be deeply offended by this mode, one Mondo girl (Scarlet) does not operate within the confines of said gigolo mode but rather is the issuer of challenge missions where you have to beat regular bad guys with certain conditions such as (kill one type of enemy only, killing anything else means mission failure) and they’re not exactly easy. That’s more replay value right there.

Things That Swing Either Way:

Playing the game is easy but mastering it is hard. You can play through the story and the side quests without having to master the game and/or have mad twitch skills. However, I believe that people who like challenges should purchase this game and aspire to score a platinum trophy. I’m telling your right now getting a “plat” in this game would be a big achievement.

You will simply look too damned cool in this game. If stylized violence is your thing (not if you want to murder people IRL, okay?), you need not look further.

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In line with scoring platinum trophy, the game’s main missions are very short (6-7 hours tops). If you wanted to, you could finish the game in one sitting and it’s not even going to be that hard. If you don’t like exploring side quests or finding hidden items within stages, there isn’t going to be much value for you especially if you think  that the story line jumps into any sort of deep or existential discussions and similar (pretentious crap) themes people will gush about.

I have yet to find Juliet Starling in the game so that is more reason to go back to the game and the mere fact that a game crossover is included in the game as a secret rather than a DLC is certainly something refreshing to see in this day and age. Then again, an exuberant chainsaw wielding cheerleader may not be for everyone. So there’s that too.

Juliet_Starling_in_Killer_is_Dead
What happens between them? I don’t know. I have to find her first.

In Conclusion:

Killer is Dead has core game mechanics which rewards players who learn them with a fun time hacking, slashing, and shooting people in style. The game’s over-the-top treatment of everything points to the obvious that things are grossly exaggerated in the game so there is little merit to attack the game because of the Gigolo Mode. While possibly done in poor taste, they may have lost sales but let’s not start a revolution over it. While not being one of those “serious games”, the humor in the game is severely lacking so the game barely got a chuckle out of me even though some parts were meant to be funny. The music of the game sucks you into the mood real good whether you are busting through a Japanese fortress, dueling on the moon, or getting intimate with the Mondo Girls which sets a pretty good bar in terms of musical score for games. The violence and sexual content of this game however will make me think twice about letting kids (and immature people in general) playing this game. Killer is Dead is one of those games you don’t want to buy for your kids or if you do, better give them “the talk” and set them straight because if this is their reality for dating women, help…

If you’re going to pick-up Killer is Dead, I suggest you wait for the R1 version of the game which includes a 25 track OST and an art book for all launch copies. The R3 copy I bought just has the “Smooth Operator” DLC which is also included in the R1 copy of the game.

Oh and the game is in dual audio so you can go English voice or Japanese voice. I prefer the English voices but Mondo sounds nothing like a James Bond in both audio options.