2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.
JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.
You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.
Super Hydorah (PS4, Vita) – At this point, someone should just give Locomalito ALL the money he wants just so he and his music generating genius pal, Gryzor87 along with the team at Abylight Studios can get more of their “retro” games ported to home consoles. As with Maldita Castilla EX, this game recalls the glory days of 16-bit shmups on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, complete with optional scan lines if you want to squint a wee bit too much when trying to recapture your glory days. This game doesn’t play nice at all, starting out with a nod to the Gradius games and then getting supremely tough as the game progresses.
Sure, some of you shooter aces will indeed ace this one in a day, But as you well know, completing a game like this doesn’t mean you’re done with it at all. Replay value is high here and yes indeed, you want to invite a friend over to play co-op because you know you want to yell at someone for messing up and is it your ship on the top or bottom of the screen that got blasted into space dust by that rather massive boss? Okay, that’s me projecting my lack of skills onto you, but you know a game like this will get you hooked in and coming back for more until you can beat it on one credit. Super Hy-ly recommended and yes, it’s a Cross-Buy game for both consoles.
Cursed Castilla (Maldita Castilla EX) (PS4, Vita) – Locomalito’s excellent homage to Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins/Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is so perfectly made that Capcom might want to maybe hire him to cook up an indie sequel or brand new entry in that classic franchise. The game is tough as nails, but fair once you realize your skills need to be dead on if you want to see one of the four endings.
This Cross-Buy game will test your reflexes and make you a better player at those older classics while making you appreciate Locomalito’s talents at making some of the best “retro” games you’ll ever play. Granted, try telling the easily jaded kids this and they’ll gripe about the total lack of hand-holding, ten different screen size options and a few other things they’ll claim are keeping them from beating this one. Eh, you know the drill – show them how it’s done and then get up, hand over that controller or that Vita and tell them it’s their turn. On the flip side, if you’re rotten at the game yourself, I’d bet there’s some guy or gal you can pass that controller or Vita to who’ll show you a few tricks as they make you feel really old.
Splasher (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) – Super fun and super tough side-scrolling platformer with a colorful character painting the town (well, dangerous factory) pink and yellow as he tries to escape confinement and take down the usual big evil boss du jour. The game’s a pretty solid love letter to the twitch platformer and if you’re a speedrunning fanatic, you’ll love this one because boy, does it demand precision and perfect timing with that paint and water spraying mixed with crazy levels and enemies trying to cut your trip short.
Thanks to the game’s solid developer pedigree (the dev lead worked on two well-received Rayman games) and a dedication to being as fun as possible, Splashteam’s got a winner on their hands any platform maniac will want to try and blaze through multiple times. It’s not quite the insanity Super Meat Boy was, but it’s going to do its level best to make you want to toss your controller a few times when all is said and done. it took my well-aged behind ages to complete this one, but I’m glad I did and it’s probably one of the last of these games I’ll play thanks to my slowing reflexes. Or not, as my skills come and go based partly on how well a game does what it does if everything clicks.
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry! (PC, PS4, Switch) – Famed developer Two Tribes goes out with big bang with their final game, a tough as nails side-scrolling blaster that also packs a punch in the humor department thanks to some great voice acting and consistently snappy writing. Don’t expect things to go easy on your skills, as the game’s pretty hard at the beginning and doesn’t let up one bit.
Imagine a cross between Metal Slug, Metroid and a few other console and arcade classics with tight controls, intense challenge and a nicely warped sense of humor and you’re about halfway there. This isn’t a game you’ll blow through in a day unless you’re a shooter deity with an extra notch on your belt you need to fill. Or you can blow through it in a day if you like, but don’t be surprised if you try and strangle your Dual Shock 4 a few too many times because you’ve put too much pressure on yourself. Yep, this game can be brutally hard when it wants to get your attention. Oh yeah, the soundtrack here is also good stuff.
Let’s cut things off here and this posted – I’ll have another set of indies up in a day or so. I’m going to ping-pong between films and games with a few capsule and long form reviews until I catch up to a more normal backlog that’s easier to manage.