Well, between getting sick a few times and kicking myself back into gear (or restarting things when I get better – “Prowler needs a jump!”), quite a lot of smaller games have been filling my backlog over a bit of time. For most of these, I’ve done notes on them and have even a few incomplete drafts, but it’s been a bit of minor hell in sitting down to complete some of them when one gets into “Hmmm, so what’s going to hurt today?” mode when some of the usual aches get a bit fussier. That said, as I’m currently in decent shape (Whee! Ow.) and sure, you do need to read a bit more on my writing (I guess?), I’ve resorted to a bunch of short form reviews on a bunch of budget-priced games that may interest you if you’re curious and want to expand your horizons.
The Tower of Beatrice: (PS4/PS Vita, $5.99 each) Puzzle-filled point and click adventure, anyone? Developer Fairy Forest and publisher/port house Sometimes You have a pretty basic, short game here where if you’re a fan of these types of games, you don’t want to look up solutions because the fun comes from figuring out what goes with what as the things you need to do get more obtuse. You play a thief in search of a magic book now trapped in the titular tower by a witch who first tests you, then wants you to work for her. The potion making stuff is nice, but a bit underused for my tastes. Still, it’s nice to see used here in a pretty well-done manner.
If you’re and point and click veteran, much of this will be routine stuff that you can play with one eye closed. On the other hand, if you’re just in it for fast trophies (a lot of folks seem to be into that), the game may fluster you into cheating to net everything in a hurry when things get the tiniest bit confusing (some puzzles in the game can be a bit perplexing when they’re not explained well and are counter-intuitive on purpose). The translation is also a bit jarring, as seems to be the norm with so many imports these days, but I liked a few things about this one. Still, it’s more of a time killer between better titles at the end of the day.
Score: C- (70%)
Jack N’ Jill DX (PS4/Vita Cross-Buy, $4.99): Simple looks aside, there’s a LOT of game here for the money. Yes, it’s a retro side-scroller that looks like classic Game Boy title where you move automatically (or, death comes quite fast and often until you get a grip on things). But with 140 stages, a reverse mode and yes, you can even play as Jill rescuing Jack after a bit, the game will have you hooked in with a grin and your face and a few grimaces from plenty of restarts when you hit enemies and traps when you miss jumps or hit something that takes you out. Trophy hunter? Well, you’ll love that this doles out a few that drop so fast you’ll be grinning from ear to ear each time you hear that familiar sound. Speaking of sound, the music is also really good here, by the way.
This one’s cross-buy and that DX version packs in loads of content over the original on PC, so if you have a Vita handy, you can take it on the road with you wherever you go. Personally, I preferred playing this at home because I didn’t want people outside to hear me yelling at the game when I failed a few too may times while I got used to the auto-scrolling, but that’s just me, I guess. Still, it’s a fun little gem of a game from developer Rohan Narang and Ratalaika Games. Recommended.
Score: B (80%)
Bird Game+ (PS4/PS Vita, $4.99 each): While it’s painfully short at three levels, there’s an added Endless mode in developer Bryan Taybor and Ratalaika Games’ mix of runner and fight simulation (well, bird flight simulation) game that’s welcome if the hand-drawn art style here floats your boat. Depending on your skill level, it may take less than an hour to complete the entire game’s story, but that depends on how you deal with all the game tosses at you, from wind gusts to some giant bosses that can be tricky to get rid of.
This one feels like the most interesting of experiments, where you may appreciate it for its art and animation, some super easy trophies dropping, and that you can likely complete it in the time it takes some games to fully download on your console of choice. The music is oddly relaxing as well, but then again, a too tense score would make this less palatable by far, I think. The assorted minimalist sound effects really do their job well enough at conveying what’s happening. while being both amusing and convincing simultaneously. While the aforementioned brevity is a flaw here, some might find this a near great and challenging time killer if they like things short and sweet. Personally, I thought it could have been longer, but it does make for a really decent arcade-like experience.
Score: C+ (75%)
Mochi Mochi Boy (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $4.99): This super cute and colorful game that uses only the D-pad or analog stick seems dirt simple at first (the first 10 levels can be played practically blindfolded), but soon gets intense and a good deal harder as you tackle 138 levels and 10 randomly generated dungeon maps. Rescuing slimes is the name of the game here (hey, they’re your pals!) and the one move at a time controls are that way for a good reason, as warping to new areas and careful movement is key.
Eye pleasing visuals and catchy tunes? Check. Pretty addictive gameplay you can’t put down? Double check. Easy trophies if you want them? Yep. In other words, this is a very good and fun time from Pixelteriyaki and Rataliaka Games that’s short, yes, but don’t be surprised if you don’t go back to it because it does what it does so well and while it’s pretty much a variant on an old game, it’s a case of familiarity bot breeding any sort of contempt.
Score: B+ (85%)
Super Weekend Mode (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $4.99): Multi-tasking is the name of the game here and well, both sides of the brain and as well as your reflexes in both hands will be sorely tested in this short but very tricky game from Pixelteriyaki and Ratalaika Games. While it looks like a simple throwback to arcade classics (a bit of Breakout here, a little Space Invaders there, a touch of flawless rhythm game timing to add to the stress), the game’s series of boss fights require a fair bit of skill as you need to shoot them while collecting hearts, avoiding skulls, and knocking away dust bunnies in very rapid succession.
This would be hell as a co-op person game if played with an uncooperative assistant on your couch, or a super fun time with a fellow good player. But guess what? You play it totally solo and have to have expert timing as you’re controlling two independent ships or bases and need to nail perfect shots, moves, and knocking away those bunnies… OR ELSE. Yeah, it’s going to be easy for some and tough for others, but you have to commend the developer for making you earn those trophies during the time you’ll spend here. In other words, it’ll be a super weekend (or less) for some, and a super pain in the butt for others while they learn the ropes.
Score: B (80%)
Zeroptian Invasion (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy. $4.99): This one was a memory filled and very re-playable nostalgia run for me, blending a number of ideas from well done classic arcade games such as Space Invaders, Galaga, Galaxian and a few others into a really solid, really fun and yes, decidedly old-school hard game that looks and feels as it’s from sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. For me, it works just about perfectly because it’s not trying to do more that feel like a throwback and that simplicity is what makes it work so well, so kudos to developer Josyan and Ratalaika Games for teaming up to get this out.
Some of the younger crowd and/or gamers who put visuals first might not appreciate the bare bones look, proper (and optional) use of CRT filtering and the brilliant sound of the appropriately retro tunes here. But it all gets the thumbs up from this reviewer because its a game that, at the end of the day more that justifies its nostalgia and purposely repetitive gameplay. It’s also just the right blend in terms of tough but fair gameplay and that’s a really fine thing to see when a game goes tot for this look and nails it (and at a budget price point, too).
Score A- (90%)
Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns (PS4, $6.99. PS Vita, $2.99): From indie developer USANIK and Sometimes You comes a pretty fun and very challenging game where you’re in charge of a lawn care with a twist. Between the precision required to control that lawn mower (and optional animals you can play as later), the Bomberman meets PAC-MAN vibe and those charmingly blocky graphics, this one’s quite interesting and pretty quirky, to boot. The game offers up some great levels that as things go on, will take a few retries to mail, and with some stages ramping up in difficulty to some tough areas, you’ll need to make every tactic you’ve learned count.
While the game can be completed somewhat quickly, like most everything else here. there’s a replay factor here that owes a debt to those arcade classics of old where you’ll want to bust this out in order to beat that high score more than once. That and this also works a kids game where that offspring might be bad at the tougher stages, but will get better and beat what’s here with a little practice. Besides, how else will you get the little ones to appreciate real yard work when it’s their turn and they’re a bit older?
Score: B (80%)
I’ll stop here and post this, but there are a few more games like this that are nice throwbacks and relatively cheap, too. Heck, if you wanted to buy a new console and load it up with nothing but these games and the others I’ll be listing, well. that’s a thing you could do and be happy with if you’re into short games, most of which feature a retro style of some sort.
Back with a few more listings tomorrow.
-Review codes provided by the publishers