Capsule Reviews: Ratalaika Ravings (1 of 2)

I’m at that point in my gaming life where I’m really appreciating all the shorter indie games I get codes for simply because most of these titles are a blast to play and have a bit of replay value in cases where you’re hooked in and don’t mind having at it a few more times with a game you’ve enjoyed. Anyway, the fine folks at Ratalaika Games have been really great at dropping some fine budget titles that range from great to surprisingly good, so here are a few you may want to take for a spin:

metagal-squareboxart-01-ps4METAGAL ($4.99, PS4/PS Vita – Cross-Buy, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One): Or, MEGA MA’AM, if you like. Indie developer RETRORevolution’s cool little game is a nicely crafted mash note to Capcom’s classic hard as nails franchise, and while it’s not in the same class as as that long-running series, it makes a good enough impression that I’d love to see some sort of followup down the road.

The game has fun with its references and that titular character has a few amusing lines that keep the experience light and airy through the mildly to major challenges you’ll face. Character design and the overall artwork are stellar stuff, recalling the 16-bit MM titles, while level design is a bit of hit and miss. Well, you’ll be missing a few jumps here and there and taking hits thanks to faith-leaping and some enemy placement that assures you take those hits and like them (slap!), but that’s par for the course in the platforming game, folks.

As with a MM game, you can choose to play in a linear fashion or hop around, taking on the eight stages as you see fit. Sounds and music are also appropriately retro, so expect to get a grin going throughout this one every time you fire it up. I’ll gripe here about not being able to shoot up while climbing and the too easy to nab Trophies, but overall this one is a nicely priced budget gem that deserves a Buster Shot recommendation when all’s said and done.

metagal 05

(sings) “What goes up, must come down…”

Score: C+ (75%)

iand-me-squareboxart-01-ps4I and Me ($9.99, PS4/Vita – Cross Buy, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One): This one’s a cute-looking single player puzzler from developer Wish Fang that demands a certain level of patience once you’re past the rather simple tutorial stages. That tenner gets you a 92-level experience you won’t complete in a single sitting unless you crave an overdose of charm as well as an absolutely lovely soundtrack that will likely send you into nap-land in about a half hour of play.

The seasonally themed maps are all quite pretty (there’s an Asian watercolor style that’s flat-out gorgeous), and while a bit repetitive, the gameplay is more than solid thanks to tight controls that keep your brain focused on solving each puzzle and not fussing with movement issues. Two cats enter, two cats have to leave – it’s that simple, but expect it to not be so simple.

Wrapping one’s head around some of the craftier puzzles will be the toughest part if you tend to think too linearly about movement. But that’s the thing this game does its best at: making you think outside the box while you’re trying to get your cute cats inside those little boxes. Bonus points for the poetry elements throughout and kinda maudlin tone the game slides into as it purrs along.

iand-me-screenshot-04-ps4

Sonic? is that you? Nope, gold ring aside, that’s a pest to watch out for in this game.

Score: B (80%)

 

daggerhood-squareboxart-01-ps4Daggerhood ($4.99, PS4/PS Vita – Cross-Buy, Switch, Xbox One): Ooh, crafty, crafty! Woblyware’s absolutely fun and even more challenging than you’d think retro action/platformer game has a novel idea in its knife-tossing loot-swiping lead, Vincent S. Daggerhood and some nice level designs that put his skills to the test. Don’t worry at all about plot here, as it’s not what you’re paying that budget price for at all, pal.

A hybrid of speedrun style gameplay with a no penalty for mucking up restart function (and yep, thou shalt muck it up quite frequently), there’s a bit of design brilliance here as well as a total test of reflexes and replaying maps until you nail then down. That said, this is also a great little game to pick up and play at one’s leisure as well as one to go back to when that need to greedy-grab some loot and stick it to some baddies fix is required.

Finding all five treasures to steal and that often hard to nab pixie in each level is tricky enough, but the game also tosses in a few bosses that need to be dealt with or avoided that will really keep your fingers on their toes. While I don’t want to epitomize this game too fiercely, it’s definitely the pinnacle of magic knife teleporting retro side-scrollers currently available, for what that’s worth. Or, about five bucks (plus tax, where applicable) if you’re on a budget and want to slap a dollar  value on the amount of fun you’re getting.

daggerhood 04

The bird is the word… and that word is spelled P-A-I-N.

Score: B (80%)

 

Heroes Trials PS4Heroes Trials ($5.99, PS4/Vita, Cross-Buy, Xbox One): Oh, it’s certainly inspired by The Legend of Zelda and similarly nostalgic adventures, but Shinyuden‘s game is more a super-condensed and super-fast way to earn an easy Platinum, if that’s what you buy these games for. The timed nature of the combat plus the smallish maps mean skilled players will likely see the ending in about an hour or so before they move on to their next budget release or onto a bigger deal game they paid about ten times as much or more for.

While yes, that’s indeed a short play time, the game actually has a bit more content past its easy Trophies, so that price point is just fine once you dive into the game a few times outside that initially zippy first play.

While the visuals are more or less reminiscent of early PS2 era games, they work well enough to make the game a decent enough pickup for fans of that system craving a trip back in time. Sure, repeated enemies do rear their same-looking heads (and bodies) too often, but as noted elsewhere, that’s par for the course, this central casting thing. Sounds and music are just fine overall and at the end of the day, these Trials are worth taking if you like a more bite-sized experience. Still, Shinyuden deserves the chance to make a bigger and better followup that opens up the world even more with a bit more polish to the combat mechanics and possibly, a few more playable characters.

Heroes Trials 02

Is it “Go on red” or “Go run FROM red”? I forget.

Score: C (70%)

That’s it for today, but we’ll be back tomorrow with a few more from Ratalaika you may want to try.

-GW

Review codes provided by the publisher

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