With the PlayStation Store often being flooded with undiscovered, quality titles, demos and DLC each week, at the end of each month we’re going to bring you a round up of some of the stuff you should be looking into (as well as some stuff you should be avoiding!). This month we have reviews of StrongBad’s Cool Game For Attractive People Episodes 1-5, along with the return of Pixeljunk Shooter and Sonic. On the demo front we give PlayStation Move Heroes and Mortal Kombat a good testing, before moaning about overpriced DLC. Pix N Rush gets put to the sword on the PSP minis front, along with Enigmo, and each month we take a look back at some of the lesser known classics on PSN, this month being Supersonic Arrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Enjoy.
Navigation and Content
If you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this page, you’ll notice there is a lot of reading. Well, if you’re in a hurry and looking for something in particular, here’s how…
Below this paragraph is the contents table, what you’ll find here this month…If you look to the left of each heading/game, you’ll notice a [TAG]. All you have to do is press Ctrl + F, type in the tag corresponding to what you’re looking for and skip straight to what you want! For example, if you were looking for the StarDrone review, you simply press Ctrl + F then type in [SD] and click ‘Next’ until you get to the review, easy! With that, here’s what’s in this months round up…
- [SBCGFAP] StrongBad’s Cool Game For Attractive People
- [PJS2] Pixeljunk Shooter 2
- [SD] Stardrone
- [STH] Sonic The Hedgehog
- [PNLR] Pix N Love Rush
- [ENIG] Enigmo
- [MK] Mortal Kombat
- [PSMH] PlayStation Move Heroes
- [NFS] Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Triple Pack
- [SARPBC] Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars
[PSN] PSN Titles
[SBCGFAP] StrongBad’s Cool Game For Attractive People Episodes 1-5
I’ll be honest…Before SBCGFAP, I’ve never so much as set eyes on anything from the Homestar Runner universe. But does that mean if you’re not a Homestar Runner fan, that you won’t get anything from this five episode bundle of point and click goodness? Definitely not…Although I’m told by an avid fan of the series that without the knowledge of the previous Homestar stuff a lot of the jokes are probably getting lost of me, the game still provides enough laughs to be a worth a look in…
It plays out in much the same way as the Monkey Island and Sam and Max games…You highlight an object, and some dialogue pops up on the screen. You acquire items, and you combine these with certain characters/pieces on the environment and the story advances. While it’s not going to exactly set your heart racing, it’s designed to be a more laid back, thoughtful adventure. It relies heavily on it’s witty dialogue rather than engaging gameplay, and that’s enough to keep you playing through every episode from start to finish.
Unlike those other point and click titles I mentioned, StrongBad does mix it up a bit with the odd minigame thrown in for good measure. Examples include Snake Fighter V (a very basic beat ‘em up spoof), Teen Girl Squad (where you make your own story by using items with female stick figures in different scenarios) and story related events such as The Free County Triannual Race To The End of The Race…Or something. While none of these exactly ooze replayability, they help break up the text that makes up the other 80% of the game.
There’s a couple of things to do outside the main adventure too…There’s ‘Obscure Trophies’ to collect, which allow StrongBad to rank up. While ranking up has no bearing on the game whatsoever, you’re at least greeted with a PSN Trophy upon scaling the lofty heights. Then you can try your hand at a couple of prank phone calls, go around shouting abuse at random characters and causing havoc with a pair of sheers, the choice is yours.
Overall, at just £11.99 you’re getting a great deal…With all five episodes put together in one package, that’s less than £2.50 for each part! If you’re looking for something a bit more fast paced then I wouldn’t bother with SBCGFAP, it’s for the most part not much different to reading an interactive book, albeit with puzzles that need solving. But if you’re into the likes on Monkey Island, StrongBad’s mad tongue will keep you entertained for the whole saga.
[PJS2] Pixeljunk Shooter 2
The original Pixeljunk Shooter is unquestionably one of the gems of PSN. So what’s new in the sequel? Well, if I’m honest, it feels more like DLC that could’ve gone with the first game as opposed to a full blown new game. While the original had a special blend of both twin stick shooting and puzzle solving, the sequel does a good job maintaining this theme, but at the same time doesn’t really do much to build on it.
That’s not saying it’s a bad game, it’s in fact very good. Your objective is still to rescue as many survivors as possible, collecting bonus Diamonds along the way…Let too many die, and it’s restart time for you. Enemies are virtually the same apart from the new ‘Bullet Stormsters’ (which can only be killed by first weaving through volleys of bullets) and a couple of more generic enemies, as are the dangerous substances you’ll come across, but by no means is it a disaster. In fact, if for some strange reason you’d played this one before the first, you’d probably enjoy it more…By the end of the first, I’d already seen that melting ice requires lava or an ignited gas, and that water turns lava to rock, it takes too long dwelling on the mechanics I’d already seen before kicking into action. Episode 6 is completely fresh however, instead focusing on expelling beasties with light, as well as making you avoid the areas which are plagued with darkness until you find a way to light them up. Spend too long it darkened areas, and Phantoms will leap on your ship and send you down. If the whole game brought this kind of new gameplay to the table, it would’ve achieved a perfect score. The team also deserve credit for the bosses…Each one is completely unique and provides a solid challenge…Each requires thought, and there’s that perfect balance between being too easy and fish crushingly difficult.
There are a few new gameplay perks though, but neither of which are particularly well used. The Hungry Suit essentially turns PJS2 into Digger HD, which has you chomping away at rock, four direction style. It gives the game a more tactical edge, since one wrong move can see either you, or any of the survivors you’re rescuing, crushed within a heartbeat. The thing is, this mechanic only rears it’s head in a couple of levels, and could’ve been used to give the game a lot more variety. The Light Suit is also a welcome new addition to the game, and gives the light based sections in Episode 6 a new dimension, but again we don’t really see much of it.
There is an online portion of the game now, but I won’t spend too long on it as it’ll probably be completely dead come on the end of the month. Despite only having a couple of maps, it’s not bad…You simply have to rescue more survivors than your opponent, taking turns in both Attack (Get Survivors) and Defence (Kill the Attacker). Win games and you’ll get points, which you can spend of new special items to use in battle. It’s unlikely to be something you’ll play hundreds of games of, but it’s not bad for an afterthought. I would advise just leaving the game if you’re matched up from someone on the other side of the globe though…Some games become nearly unplayable.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend PJS2, just don’t expect anything revolutionary. It’s barely even a shooter, it’s more of a puzzle game with twin stick shooter elements, so do bear that in mind before you take the plunge. Still, it’s only £6.29, and for that price, it’s definitely worth a look.
StarDrone looks set to be one of those games that creeps onto the PlayStation Store that next to everyone overlooks. It sadly launched the same day as the much more high profile Pixeljunk Shooter 2 so never really got much of a look in, despite it not costing much more than £3 if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber.
So, what do you do in StarDrone? Well, while it’s hard to explain exactly how it pans out, think of it as weird combination of Pixeljunk Eden mixed with classic pinball and you’re halfway there. You can fire your Drone in any direction at the start of the level, but after that, it’s all down to how well you can redirect your little machine…There’s certainly no time for stopping here. Grabbing on to hubs placed around the level let you swing in any direction, misjudge the swing and you could swiftly be seeing ‘Try Again’ displayed on your screen sooner rather than later. Objectives range from simply completing the course in front of you, to destroying all the enemies, to collecting hundreds of stars without getting destroyed. Of course, it sounds a lot simpler that it actually is…Spike traps will kill you with any kind of contact at all, and going into a minefield has quite obvious consequences, and will chew through your fragile shield in seconds. You can bite back by collecting enough stars to enter Rage Mode, but overall you’re best off avoiding the threat if you’re running a bit short of star power. Then there’s all kinds of unique contraptions such as bumpers and speed bossters, which send you flying about all over the shop.
It must be said…Stardrone is far from an easy game. While the first 15-20 of the game’s 50 odd levels are there to gently introduce you to the StarDrone world, after them the difficulty shoots up. You’ll be needing to swing round corners with precision to avoid the spikes, and to earn a Gold Medal you’ll be needing to plan a route in advance too. The pace your Drone travels around the levels is entirely up to you, game speed can be set on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. If you’re looking for Golds, 10 is pretty much essential is most cases, whereas playing on the slowest setting will see you struggling to net a Bronze. The difficulty is what makes StarDrone so compelling…You always feel you can do it with a few more tries, and it’s made less frustrating that even when you do encounter a really tough level and fail miserably, you know it’s only a couple of minutes long so it’s not like you’ll be wasting your life getting back to where you were before. That’s only if you’re the type of gamer not afraid of a challenge though…If you’re the type of gamer who wants an easy ride, and hates restarting levels 20 or more times, then StarDrone is definitely not for you. Some levels will punish you at first, but in the long run they make you a better player.
Perhaps one of the only minor niggles is that swings are pretty hard to gauge sometimes. I don’t know if it was just me, but at first at least, the trajectory of swings from the hubs just didn’t feel natural. With practice you improve, but compared to Pixeljunk Eden which did a similar thing but offered something you could just pick up and judge without any prior play, you feel that it could perhaps been worked on a bit. The guide line helps overcome this on the slower speeds, but at the highest speed you’ll barely be able to see the line let alone react to it.
StarDrone is a game worthy of far more attention than it’s gotten. If you have a thirst for an alternate pinball game with all kinds of shiny lights in space, then it’s definitely worth downloading. The difficulty might prove too much of a challenge for some in the latter stages of the game, but stick with it and you have one of the undiscovered gems of PSN.
[STH] Sonic The Hedgehog
Ah, how can you ever go wrong with Sonic The Hedgehog? Ok, you had the recent Sonic 4: Episode 1, which while good, just lacked that extra spark that the original has. Where the original Sonic excels is that rather than throwing cheap deaths at you like it’s newer brother, and relying on a hit and miss and homing attack to see off the Badniks, it’s just you, your speed and your jumping. It’s just pure platforming.
It’s a game that never feels dated, despite the visuals being several gens old, they still maintain style, which in my opinion is more important than running at 27464 frames per second. So as you make your way through the six zones, collecting the six Chaos Emeralds in the awesome tilty stages along the way, each area feels unique, and the level design reflects that. It’s not some thrown together mess of traps, a lot of thought has gone into every twist and turn…When you die, you always accept that it’s your fault, and next time you maybe change your strategy a bit. It’s what things used to be…No upgrades, no special powers, just you getting from A to B. And it’s pure brilliance.
Anything new at all then? Well, yes. As well as twelve Trophies for you to collect, Sonic also offers leaderboard support, for you to show off your retro headgehog skills. You also have the ability to save at ANY point in the game and reload, meaning that you’ll be able to stumble through the game regardless of whether or not you had the skill to beat the original. I seem to remember me failing on that damn Labyrinth zone as a kid more often than not, so when I saw that beautiful Save Game option of the menu I breathed a sigh of relief. I still hate that zone , mind.
With Sonic arriving on the Store this week (or last month free for PS Plus subscribers), it’s definitely worth buying again. Even if it is the tenth time you’ve bought it, the original Sonic The Hedgehog is STILL one of the platforming classics.
[MINIS] PSP minis
[PNLR] Pix N Love Rush
As a March freebie for PS Plus’ers, you can hardly moan at Pix N Love Rush. It’s platforming at it’s most primitive…It’s a nod to all the 8 bit games in years gone by, with flashing pixellated visuals along with a splattering of bright neon colours. Visually it’s certainly oozing with style, but unfortunately the gameplay aspect might not cut the mustard for some….
It’s problem is where it IS a homage to classics of the past, it works on the most basic of platforming mechanics…All you can do most of the time is jump. While the big hitters of the past such as Mario and Sonic are able to pull this off and still provide timeless fun, Pix’s problem is that it’s not long nor strong enough to be so simple. In the game’s modes, you’re either asked to see how many points you can rack up in 5 minutes, see how long you can stay off the ground, or go the full distance of 125 levels in Unlimited Rush mode. The problem being in each mode you’re doing exactly the same thing, jumping from A to B, so there’s next to no variation at all.
It’s not all bad though, it can entertain in short bursts, which is I guess is what PSP minis are designed for. Building your combo can be quite fun at first…Collect enough coins the colour theme on the screen gets more and more retro…Get the highest multiplier and Pix N Love Rush will look more like a now ancient Game and Watch console. Overall the visual style was probably the highlight of the game for me…Can’t say I’ve seen too many games like it in that department.
If you’re looking for a simple platformer and you’re a high score junkie you could do a lot worse than Pix N Love Rush, but if you’re hoping for a challenging platforming adventure you’re probably best off looking elsewhere. Pix N Love Rush is one of those ‘Marmite’ games you’ll either love, or miss the point of entirely. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything that really screamed ‘Play me again!’ for me at least, but I’m sure that anyone more into a quick fix while on the move would get more from it than I personally did.
While the likes of Pipe Mania have quenched our thirst for redirecting water flow from A to B, Enigmo takes the simple formula and puts a brand new twist on it. As a whole the game feels like Pipe Mania meets Lemmings…While there are no suicidal creatures on offer, your aim is to use the variety of tools at your disposal to get water droplets from the dispenser to fill up the tank. It’s so simple, yet more often than not it fries your brain.
In would be easy if all you had you had to do was pick up the dispenser and tip the water in, but it’s your job to deflect the mad droplets. Different materials have different properties…A sponge works to absorb water and take some of the velocity of the droplets out, while bouncy planks sends the water flying high into the air. After the first handful of levels, some serious though needs to go into what you’re doing…It even gets to the point where you need to get multiple paths of droplets from A to B, and at the same time.
The materials on offer vary each level…Sometimes you’re flooded with stuff that isn’t actually any use on the level, just to confuse you, it’s up to you to work out what the best approach to take is. The key above all else here is trial and error, it’s very much a thinking mans game…If you want something fast paced, you may as well look elsewhere.
The scoring system could’ve been better though…All you can do if complete the level quickly for a score bonus, there’s nothing more to it. Deflecting the water past certain parts of the level on the way to the exit, for example, would’ve added that little something extra to it, so it’s only time above everything else.
Overall, Enigmo is a very fun puzzle game and definitely worth downloading if you don’t mind high blood pressure and an aching head. While the levels themselves are intense in the mental department, it makes completing them that much more satisfying. And at the low price it’s going for on the Store, it’s definitely a game worth considering if you have some spare credit knocking about.
[ADDONS] Game Add-Ons
[NFS] Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – Triple Pack
Remember back in the good old days when Criterion’s own Burnout Paradise offered us so much for free? A bike update, a day night cycle, new vehicles…Even Big Surf Island was only about £7.99! And while I’m well aware that it’s not Criterion who’re at fault for the horrendous pricing of the latest Hot Pursuit DLC, it’s a shame that it’ll set you back so much.
There’s actually three packs here…Each costing you £5.49 separately. So, you’re saving a whole 48p by opting for the whole lot at £15.99, thanks EA! While you might think that when broken down, the pricing doesn’t seem that bad, it really is. All you’re getting is a new online mode, a bunch of new cars and a small selection of new events. The packs individually are miniscule…It’s like they were designed to be one pack altogether but EA decided to chop it up to make a bit of extra cash. Even the Trophy list reflects this, with the combined value of silverware on offer only equal to ONE standard piece of DLC…
The events are essentially rehashes of everything you’ve seen before…It goes without saying that Hot Pursuit is a VERY good game, but why need we pay £15.99 for more of what we have on the disc already? If it was £7.99 for the pack, it would be a great buy, but as it is, it just seems that your money would be better invested elsewhere.
[MK] Mortal Kombat
While recent Mortal Kombat’s haven’t exactly set the world on fire, things could be looking up for the latest entry in the brutal beat ‘em up series. The demo offers you the first handful of levels from the ‘Ladder’ mode, or if you’re more traditional, that’s basically Arcade mode to you. There are four characters on offer, thankfully including my personal favourite, Scorpion. While I’m not a massive fan of the genre (I’ll happily play beat ‘em ups, except Street Fighter as I can’t cover up my awfulness by spamming buttons), it was pretty good…
It’s nice and fast paced, and energy bars don’t drain too fast either…I had absolutely no idea how to pull off the series’ signature Fatalities, but I’m sure they’re as brutal as ever. I was able to pull off a couple of basic combos, but again I had no idea how to pull off more complex ones. A Moves List you say? You were expecting me to actually remember button combinations rather than press random buttons in a random sequence and see what happens? Well, I have no idea what you were thinking…
The A.I was bordering on horrific but that’s probably because I was only on Medium difficulty. They didn’t even launch an attack for the first couple of rounds, and I in fact checked whether I didn’t have a second controller plugged in and idle, they were that unanimated. It was on the third part of the ladder where the opponent actually threw a punch and I was relieved, even though he didn’t do much more. Hopefully the harder difficulties will be a bit more challenging, otherwise you’ll be wasting £40 to watch your character kick a test dummy to pieces most of the time. Visually, Mortal Kombat looks shiny if unspectacular too.
The demo’s worth a go if you like beat em up’s and/or blood and/or remembering things, and it’s not much over half a GB either, unlike certain other demos. Yeah, I’m looking at you PlayStation Move Heroes…
[PSMH] PlayStation Move Heroes
On paper, PlayStation Move Heroes should be one of the best games ever made. Combining characters from Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank and Sly Raccoon, you have a platforming pedigree there of the highest calibre. So why is it then that the game itself is so underwhelming?
Well, I’ll tell you…Rather than combining the Heroes and making one super-awesome platformathon, we instead get a bunch of PlayStation Move minigames, exactly what everyone over the age of 10 was hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be. The controls themselves are terrible, seeing you waggle your Move helplessly and your on screen character flaps about, it makes Racket Sports look…Well, still awful, but slightly less awful. Out of the 5 challenges you get in the demo, none of them will make you go out and buy the full game. In fact, it feels like someone has taken 5 of the greatest PlayStation characters, and Bentley, and dragged their corpses through a field of manure.
In a word, horrible.
[BFTP] Blast From The Past
[SARPBC] Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars
A game based around playing football with cars. How could you possibly go wrong? SARPBC is a strange one…Despite most people who actually give it a go getting hooked on it, it never received the commercial success of say Flower of any of the Pixeljunk games. Yet the online community is still thriving after over 2 years now, so clearly Psyonix have done something right.
It’s a simple concept – You take control of a remote control car and try and score as many goals as possible. Think of it as FIFA’s Be a Pro mode, but with cars, with matches ranging from 1v1 to 4v4 types. The offline campaign is a collection of mini-games designed to get you adapted to the world of SARPBC, and aside from the quite frankly terrible A.I, they’re pretty fun to play through. You get rewarded Stars depending on how you perform, and completing challenges unlocks new cars that can also be used online. No EA style pay-to-unlocks here! And online is where you’ll be spending most of your time…
Normally you can get an idea of what a game is like from words and pictures alone, but here’s a community made montage showing some of the best goals scored in the online world…It’s just a taste of what’s been achieved in the game:
Not bad, eh? Although offline it can be fun for a while, the real time sink is online. Aside from the cries of ‘WTF U LAG’ and ‘OMG U CHEAT’ from those ‘Pro’s’ who take a pasting, it’s one of the most fun and addictive games on PS3, let alone PSN. Online is split up into Ranked, Unranked and Team flavours, with Ranked and Team stats being logged on the leaderboards. Despite a somewhat…Ok, I’ll just say it, the Gamespy rating system is absolutely terrible…It’s pure brilliance. Due to the fact the ball doesn’t ‘stick’ to you like it does in FIFA when you’re dribbling for example, it opens up a huge multitude of play styles. So at any time, you can choose to do a bit of Messi-like dribbling, where at other times, in the famous words of Richard Keys, you might just want to ‘Smash it’. There’s loads of possibilities on offer.
SARPBC is one of those games you just NEED to try…It hasn’t got nearly half the attention it deserves. At only £7.99 it really is a steal, especially when you consider several players have racked up over 10000 matches! That’s 50000 minutes for just eight quid…Not even including Unranked matches. So what are you waiting for…Go and download the excessively long named awesomeness now.
So that’s it for this month! Well done if you’re reading this bit at the bottom, be sure to check back next month for a round up of all of PSN’s finest in April…