Draw Slasher Review

Draw Slasher, originally a game designed for smartphones has made its way to the PS Vita. Designed to make use of the machine’s touch screen controls, the game hopes to bridge the gap between handheld console and smartphone style devices.

Originally released in 2009 as Draw Slasher: Dark Ninja vs Pirate Monkey Zombies on iOS the idea is that players use the touchscreen to slice and dice the various enemies on the screen. It is a game that was designed to fit the iPhone due to the lack of button control and did a fine job of keeping the action fast and frantic, but without being cumbersome and awkward. The move to Vita isn’t a risky one as such, but having buttons on the console means many people are wary of touch only control.

It matters not with Draw Slasher, as the game was designed from the ground up with touch control in mind, so using buttons just wouldn’t suit. To be totally honest too, having AAA titles and a barrage of Indies is wonderful, but having these quick pick up and play style games is also very welcome, as there are some excellent iOS and Android titles that the Vita is missing.

Draw Slasher is a very simple game to play, with levels that get increasingly difficult to play, but also continue to feel rewarding. The main mode is Story, that is told in different chapters, using this mechanic to essentially stop the game becoming overly repetitive, which due to the nature of the gameplay, is something that can easily happen. It is handled very well here and as said a welcome change to just trying to beat a highscore on the same level all the time.

Although levels are set in a single screen, they aren’t confined to simply the area of the screen. Players can move left and right to scroll across each level as they fight to decapitate and slice up the enemies. They will come from the background, from the left or right, singularly or in groups. Some will easily be dispatched, others will take a few more slicing motions to kill and bosses will take yet more effort.

There are a few issues with the touch controls though. Moving from left to right is a simple tap on where you want to move, which is fine, but to jump through the air requires a motion that is almost identical to the motion you need to make to attack an enemy. It doesn’t particularly ruin anything, but when the action gets even more frantic you can find yourself almost swiping away in hope rather than tactically.

That said, it is a great way to grab a bit of short term entertainment, especially when you add in the other modes such as challenge, which has some set rules that you have to beat. Beating a combo target to earn one, two or three flames (note the change from stars). These add some nice longevity to the game and to get three flames on every challenge does require a fair amount of repeat play.

Draw Slasher isn’t a system seller, but it doesn’t claim to be. What it is though is the sort of game that the system needs, quick pick up games that made iOS as successful as it is today. At £3.99 it does seem expensive when compared to the 69p types on iOS, but you will easily get more than your money’s worth.

BIT.TRIP Presents Runner 2: Legend of Rhythm Alien Review

After his exploits in the previous BIT.TRIP games Commander Video is back to running in everyone’s favourite retro themed series. To try and describe the madness of the plot is somewhat pointless but we can say it’s something to do with our hero crashing his spaceship in a strange place and then deciding to run a lot.

Unlike previous entries into the BIT.TRIP series, Runner 2 is no longer 8 bit styled in terms of how it looks. The stages are now rendered in a glorious array of crystal clear colours and everything is also much bigger on screen. There are still retro looking levels to be unlocked but the majority of the time you will be screaming along at breakneck speed in a more HD friendly landscape.

Gameplay is based on a fairly simple concept. You start at one end of the course and run continuously to the other. Players have no control over Commander Video’s running and he continues on until you reach the end of the stage or crash into something.

As you run along different types of obstacles will appear which need to be negotiated. This starts out with players simply needing to jump over things but on an almost level by level basis the obstacle count increases and thus, so do the moves needed to get past them.  Soon you’ll be locked in a rhythm of jumping, sliding, kicking, spinning and dancing in order to reach the end of each course.

As well as avoiding obstacles you also need to pick up the gold bars that are in each course. There are normally between thirty to sixty gold bars in each level and collecting them all triggers the chance to get bonus points by Commander Video being fired, head first, into a target at the end of the course. If you think the course is too easy you can also jump over the mid-point checkpoint to put the game into challenge mode for even more points. Still not enough? Then you can spend your fleeting free moments making our hero dance to gain even more points. The score attack aspect of Runner 2 is here to stay for a very long time.

Once you master that even more moves are introduced and everything keeps getting more hectic to the point it all begins to blur into a state you aren’t quite sure the human brain should be able to deal with. It’s at moments like this that you realise where the ‘rhythm’ part of the title comes from. Perhaps deceptively, Runner 2 is not really in the same category as endless runners such as Canabalt. It should really be grouped with games like Rrequency, Parappa the Rappa and is perhaps most similar to Vib-Ribbon.

Courses are also deceptively packed with things to find and navigate. Many of them have multiple routes with some leading to hidden objects such as new costumes, while others will take you to a different exit. This in turn will lead you to hidden levels or the much sought after ‘Key Vault’. Conquering the Key Vault will then open up even more routes and collectables in the courses found in that world.

An array of map icons is present for each course to help keep track of your progress with the ultimate goal to have each level completed, with all collectables found, the bonus bull’s eye hit at the end of the course and the mid-point checkpoint jumped so the game goes into challenge mode. Levels get hectic very early on so it’s a relief to find that each course gives you infinite lives to get through it. When you hit something you will move back to the last checkpoint and lose any points or objects you have acquired. The unlockable retro levels remain hardcore and give you three lives with which to navigate them.

The game can still be maddeningly frustrating at times as once you lose your rhythm in a level it can be near impossible to get back. You will persevere though as everything is fair and each collision results in a lack of skill from the player or in the fact you haven’t reacted to something quickly enough. Learning each level does come into play but we rarely came up against the sort of ‘memory test’ gaming with objects you had no way of avoiding first time that games like Donkey Kong Country used to employ.

Overall, it’s easy to recommend Runner 2 on any system. On the Wii U where there is a lack of decent games at the minute and it becomes a pretty essential purchase (and yes, it can be played on the pad). The charm and fun present are not easily found elsewhere and it’s great to see something which sets itself out as a pure gaming experience without the pretentious overtures that many bigger budget games now have. It’s both something old and something new and you should stop reading now and go and buy it.


Let’s Fish! Hooked On Review

SEGA Bass Fishing on the Dreamcast is arguably one of the greatest fishing games ever made. It has its own fishing rod peripheral and was a genuine joy to play. There were a long line of ‘me too’ titles that followed, with many on Sony’s PS1 console, which ranged from awful to fairly decent. None though could match the fun of SEGA’s effort.

Let’s Fish! Hooked On from SIMS Co tries to recreate the fun that was to be had with the Dreamcast game. What we have here is an arcade fishing game that adds a story mode to drive the game forward. It has some nice ideas, but fails to deliver on the whole.

First off, what made SEGA Bass Fishing so good, was the use of the fishing rod that came with it, using this really drew you into the game. What Lets Fish! tries to do is recreate that sense of involvement by moving the action from just a series of button presses and using the Vita’s touch screen abilities.

The problem here is that this doesn’t quite feel intuitive enough. The layout is fine and the on screen prompts are clear, yet something just feels a little off, the game plays a lot better using the optional button controls. You can react quicker and the inputs feel a lot more reactive than the touch screen.

The game plays out much how you’d expect, you cast your line aiming to the general area you want, then using a power gauge you work out your cast length and accuracy. You dangle and tease your bait under the water until you get a bit, then enter a series of Quick Time Events as you attempt to reel your fish in. You need to reel it in, while keeping your catch on the line as well as making sure the line tension doesn’t go too far and end up snapping.

It has been a formula tried and tested many time previously and as said the touch controls offer nothing ground breaking, keeping you playing with the buttons instead. The other area the development team to to make Let’s Fish! stand out is the story mode progression. You pick your character and essentially the idea is to take them to the number one fisherman in the world. Players are presented with a calendar of events from which they can enter, each varying in difficulty.

Each event has a series of objective, which range from simply winning the tournament with the biggest haul, or meeting challenge criteria which help the player level up. All fairly standard stuff, but it is well presented and does a decent job of moving players through the game. Again it isn’t groundbreaking and just gets the job done.

There is a tutorial included, but it simply just takes you through the control system. It fails to explain the different baits and where they are useful. Nor does it tell you why you should do certain things once your line is cast. There is almost a view here that people are playing this and that they have come in from a fishing background. Not explaining what different baits will attract different fish is a major oversight. There isn’t even a library or compendium of the different types of fish.

That being said, it isn’t a bad game, once you feel your way around for a while, you do start to work out the little quirks and what you should be using, where you should be using things and what effect it will have on your ability to catch fish. The World Tour mode is fairly meaty and there is a lot of variation to the locations (well as much as you can get with lakes) and the moments you catch a fish are rewarding.

The Anime style cut-scenes work really well and is the real standout part of the game. Nothing new again, but the stories are well presented and have moments of humour that work really well. It is a nice attempt to break up the game and stop it becoming repetitive and monotonous. We are not talking Persona 4 levels of story telling here, but better than some attempts.

Let’s Fish! Hooked On is simply an average game, one that you will go back to once in a while, but not one that you will seek out to play. It is a game that does the basics well enough, but could have done with more time engaging the player. It is by no means a game you should avoid, but neither is it one that you should rush and download.


Wired Productions to Bring Back Music Maker eJay

You may remember a time during the PS2 era when music makers were doing the rounds. One of the most popular of these was eJay. 

Wired Productions are bringing eJay back under the name eJay Pure and have a Kickstarter in place to get the project off the ground.

One of the best things about the original releases, was that anyone was able to pick it up and try their hand at making music. With the eJay coming to iOS and Android Wired Productions hope that bringing this package to a whole new audience could help uncover some talent that people never knew they had.

eJay Pure will be free for everyone to download and enjoy. You will get the full eJay experience from the first moment. If you enjoy what you create, you will be able to further your experience by purchasing additional features and buying many thousands of samples which will be constantly created.

eJay Pure is being developed from the ground up for touch screens so that the user interface is intuitive and the experience is fast and seamless.

Wired have been working on eJay Pure for 9 months, and have completed pre-production, technology tests, R&D, and have even started making some of the cutting edge samples that defined the eJay experience.

If you know about eJay products, you’ll know what is coming. Anyone that has had an eJay experience remembers it fondly. These products were fun, innovative and probably had a huge impact on your life! If you don’t, then you are in for a treat. A productive app, that has all the feel good elements that will have you shouting from the roof tops.

You can find their Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wiredproductions/ejay-pure

Guacamelee Review

Drinkbox Studios of Mutant Blobs Attack fame are back with Metroidvania styled Guacamelee. 

Based around the character of Juan Aguacate, a down on his luck Mexican who through a series of events is thrust into the role of a Luchador and charged with saving the world. Guacamelee takes players on a wonderful journey of fun, action and adventure.

One of the main strengths of Guacamelee is the way the game builds the story alongside discovery and introduces new mechanics. As players start out, Juan can jump and has but a single attack, yet as you progress more of the world opens up and more moves and techniques become available.

It is a mechanic of Metroidvania games that has stood the test of time and it is no different here. As stated Juan has limited powers early in the and the map will tease you with various areas and barriers that you will not be able to reach. Yet as you move through the story Juan unlocks new abilities, that not only allow him to access those previously unobtainable areas, but also new fighting moves that make dispatching enemies all the more fun.

There are simple things like the ability to wall jump, or some more obscure ones like turning into a chicken and getting access to areas through small tunnels. Moving from basic attacks to being able to pull off special moves is wonderfully done, throwing enemies into other enemies, pile-driving them to the ground, suplexes and punts all feel great to pull off.

It is the pacing that really works though, at no point do you ever really feel like you are grinding through an area, as you reach a part of the story where you really need that extra ability, the game will introduce it at the right moment, by breaking open totems that will pass on these new abilities via a goat-man who explains what you have unlocked and what it will do for you.

The game takes place in two realms, the ‘Land of the Dead’ and the ‘Land of the Living’ which initially can only be switched by jumping through portals that are placed in strategic places, yet soon the ability to switch at will becomes available. This adds some interesting mechanics to both combat and platforming. Some areas will require you to switch between the two realms multiple times, such are jumping between walls, where one is in the land of the dead and the other in the land of the living. It creates moments where you need some quick thinking and quick fingers to be able navigate properly. It’s far from frustrating through and in particularly difficult areas, you find yourself wanting to push on, rather than give up.

Combat too uses the two realms and battles that include enemies from both realms at the same time can get really intense, especially as you have to be in the right realm to tackle the enemy from said realm. Again it requires you to think and act fast. Once again though, as with the platforming, the combat is slick and satisfying, using a mixture of attacks, throws and defensive rolls will see you have plenty of fun battling the enemy.

The controller layout works and is vital to the enjoyment of the game. X is jump, Square is attack, Triangle performs a grapple and Circle a special attack. Dodging is on the right-stick or LT and switching realms on RT. It all comes together really well creating a wonderful fluid experience.

It’s not just the sublime mechanics that make Guacamelee stand out though, visually it is glorious. Combining a very retro 2D style with an art style that screams Latino from the very get go. On the Vita’s OLED screen everything is so crisp and sharp. There are tons of little touches of humour thoughout too, such as the posters for Drinkbox’s previous game Mutant Blobs Attacks, but with the Spanish text on the poster, as well as the odd little homage to some famous game you might recognise.

If there is one complaint about Guacamelee, it is that maybe it is a little too short. The game can be completed in around six to eight hours, maybe less for some people. Far from outstaying it’s welcome like some games can, you are left wanting more. It isn’t that the game has a poor ending, that leaves you feeling short changed, it is more that you just want to play more, to carry on exploring and opening up new areas and getting more of that sweet combat.

Luckily Guacamelee is Cross-Buy, Cross-Save and Cross-Play, so once you finish on the Vita, you could always start again on the PS3, maybe with a little co-op this time, all at no extra cost. That said, the game feels better as a single player experience on the whole and a perfect fit for the Vita, which is why Gamestyle finished the entire thing on that rather than the PS3 itself, but we will go back and play it again, because it is just that good.

Guacamelee isn’t the second coming of anything like that. It takes a tried and tested formula and just delivers. It gets the basics right and makes sure fun is at the forefront of what it does. Great platforming, wonderful adventure, silky smooth combat and the perfect balance of challenge and enjoyment. To truly joyful experience from start to finish.