Tag Archives: psvita

Rainbow Skies (PS3, PS4, PSVita)

Rainbow Skies takes everything ‘RPG’ stands for and has fun with it: weird in a good way, enjoyable in an even better way. Does the name of the game ring a bell? This tactical RPG marvel comes from the same makers as the fantasy role-playing game Rainbow Moon!

Rainbow Skies promises a colourful and vibrant world, filled to the brim with friends and foes, murky dungeons, turn-based battles, towns, shops and everything else your role-playing heart desires. And the game sure doesn’t underdeliver: characters can be leveled, equipped and customized as you see fit. With side-quests and achievements for the collectionist and for everyone who wants a lot – and we do mean a lot! – of bang for his buck.

The game starts out as almost every RPG does: a spiky-haired hero wakes up in bed. Enter Damion, recovering from one hell of a hangover. Not quite ready for his final exam as a monster tamer. The town he lives in, all up in the sky, is constantly threatened by monster attacks. Of course all hopes are on a new generation of monster tamers. However, Damion manages to botch his exam by accidentally destroying the compound the monsters are held in. While he tries to cover up his mistake with his examiner and friend Layne, things take a turn for the worse. And it doesn’t get any better as he gets tangled up between two rival super powers. His fault: he shouldn’t have gotten up since he knew that is was going to be ‘one of those days’.

This game won’t take you by the hand but isn’t one to abandon you either, as any info about the gameplay is given to you on a need-to-know basis. Which makes for a gentle learning curve with the freedom to get to know the game at your pace. Wether it’s for long gaming sessions or short gaming bursts.

As with almost all games in the genre, gameplay is divided between exploring safe towns, battling your way throughout enemy-ridden areas and tinkering with your characters. You’re probably not even surprised that battles start as soon as your character collides with a monster. Which is when the turn-based fun starts: you get to make your move, the enemy gets to make his move and once you’re close you’ll get singed by a fireball. Bummer. In retaliation you get a bit closer and make the baddie bleed. Of course, it’s only that simple during the first part of the game. Later on, you’ll need to pummel screenfilling crowds. Luckily, your sword-wielding hero is not alone in his quest. He’ll soon be joined by the archer Layne and later on by the spell slinging Ashly.

As a tactical RPG, Rainbow Skies heavily depends on your thinking cap. Heck, you’ll even see those caps during the short and sweet tutorials (which, by the way, can be consulted again afterwards). After the first few fights you won’t survive by just hacking, slashing and burning your way through hordes of enemies. Especially not during boss fights. You’ll need to plan ahead and make smart use of your skills and magic prowess. Not too much use, mind you, as they’ll drain some sort of magic meter. Which, of course, is much better than having your life meter drained. Once a skilled is learned, it can be leveled up by using it during battle. And, oh, did we say they are rather flashy and nifty to look at?

Battles never bore aseach enemy has its own tactic and you often see them in lots of combinations and formations. Stay on your toes lest the enemy tramples them! Speaking of which… The difficulty curve is rather gentle but can be easily adapted to the likings of the experienced gamer. Don’t feel like level grinding? Then don’t. Really! Just customize the game to your liking, whether you’re rushing through the story mission, getting your kicks out of the many side quests or burning through your health recovery potions on the highest difficulty setting.

Rainbow Skies gets big points on running gags. Especially the one on Damion’s spiky hairdo. But the game shows its true colours during hectic battles and even more so with its many side quests. Collectionists will be happy to know that progress and achievements are easily tracked. Heck, there are even awards depending on how many side quests and achievements you completed. The optional content won’t leave you asking for more. There even is a turn-based fishing game. Yes, you read it: turn-based fishing game! Really!

Thinking of upgrading from a PS3™ to a PS4™? Or would you rather play this game on the go? Your money isn’t wasted as the cross-save support has you playing on all systems. Even on PS Vita.

So, what’s the catch? A game this much fun has to have a catch, right? Not exactly. The game’s aesthetics may not exactly be on par with most games, but they are polished nonetheless. And although the humour is quirky and over the top, some jokes may be a bit farfetched or even get stretched out too much after a while. But none of this distracts from the core gaming experience of Rainbow Skies, which is solid, attractive and just plain fun. No level grinding required. The developers sure listened when gamers complained that Rainbow Moon, the predecessing game, was a bit more demanding in that department.

Rainbow Skies is a nice game to start out with if this is your first tactical RPG. Got some or a lot of experience? Ramp up the difficulty and knock yourself out. Even collectionists get their kicks out of this. This is not a question of to buy or not to buy. Rainbow Skies knows how to cater to a wide range of gamers.

Marco

Neurovoider (PSVITA)

neurocoverI’m a brain. One of the last intact human brains left, after the total annihilation of mankind by robotkind. Since then, I’ve been floating around in my a tube. Preserved by the droids to experiment on. A hairline crack in the glass seems to be my salvation. The tube breaks, and I hop to my escape. I manage to board my grey matter into a battlebot, and take over its functions. It’s on!

Neurovoider’s plot sounds like that of a cheesy scifi movie I’d gladly watch. Combined with the retro-look and equally retro and cheesy synth-soundtrack, it makes me feel as if I’m back into the eighties. The only thing preventing me from actually believing it, is seeing the PSVita in my hands.

Neurovoider is a twin-stick shooter, with RPG elements. The robot is controlled by moving one stick, aiming is done with the other. At the start of the game, I get to choose from three different types of droid. The defensive type which is more about armor and shields, the offensive type which is all about guns and a third middleground kind of type which favours evasion and guns. Using loot dropped by enemies, robots can be upgraded and adapted.

neuro3

This upgrading and modding proves to be critical. As I advance in the twenty or so levels, it becomes clear I won’t make it using the same tactic over and over again. Enemies seem to get better and the occasional bossfight forces me to think and analyse. Finding a pattern in a series of attacks is key in surviving here.

neuro2

Levels are randomly generated, so replay value is high up there in the clouds. It’s just a shame that this conversion for Vita lacks the one thing that made other versions so damn enjoyable: 4 player coop.

A nice shooter that I can keep playing. On my own unfortunately…

Jan

Alteric (SWITCH/PSVITA)

altericnxgThe world is square. Especially if you’re a rectangular thingy.

Alteric offers a challenging platformer with hardcore gameplay. Are you up to the challenge? Great! You’re playing as a white square moving throughout levels while avoiding obstacles. Your goal is to reach a giant triangle so you can advance to the next levels where you can. Well, you know… Wash, rinse, repeat. But of course it gets harder every time, as there are even more bottomless pits, circular saws, deadly spikes and laser beams awaiting you after every corne… uhm, triangle.

The game holds you by the hand for the very first levels and then mercilessly drops you into the frying pan. To the point where reaching the goal is either because you’re getting better every time or just got lucky.

The game uses crispy clear minimalistic graphics. Lame? Not at all! You wouldn’t want to get distracted while you’re focusing on an incoming projectile while trying to avoid a circular saw that’s coming from behind you. Just to reach a series of moving laser beams. And you can forget about that pause button: the action just continues. Are you standing on a slope? Keep moving as not to glide from it. Something coming your way? Keep running! The game doesn’t cut you any slack. It keeps you on your toes the whole time. Whether because you’re being hunted by a mob of angry little squares or because the floor is giving away while you’re trying to reach the end of a room.

Alteric - Afbeelding 2

One of the key mechanisms of the gameplay is the ability to switch between worlds. Stumped by a wall? In the other world it’s just a passage way. Can’t double jump your way over a pit? Warp back and find a very temporary safe platform. The difficulty ramps up quickly. You’ll soon find yourself switching between two worlds while trying to double jump from one danger to another.

You would almost forget there’s a story to this game. You’re the soul of someone who died. A piece of light energy trapped in the alien space between two worlds. But forget about the story. You don’t play Alteric for its plot twists.

You won’t play this game for fun either. Actually, you will… At least, as long as you don’t get discouraged easily, just because you tried some level for the umpteenth time before you finally reach the goal or just give up. There are some save points but they are meagerly spread around the deadly rooms. Most levels don’t even have any save points at all and require you to finish them in one go.

The end level bosses are a welcome addition. Call them ingenious, frustrating, murderous or anything you like. After their defeat, they’ll give you lots of satisfaction. And bragging rights!

Alteric - Afbeelding 3

The controls demand precision, just like the game expects precision from you. That makes things fair. Except for that one button that changes the environment. That one got mapped unfairly. You move with the control stick or with the buttons below it. You jump with the A button. But why, oh why did they have map the button to change worlds to the Y button? Nothing as frustrating and cramp inducing than trying to coordinate and push four buttons at the same time. But, hey, maybe there will be an update? In that case, I do hope that the shoulder buttons are used too. It would make the game just that slightly easier. And so much better to handle.

Care for a challenge? Can’t go wrong with Alteric if that’s up your alley. Be prepared for a world of hurt, cursing and frustration though! But, after all, that’s why you’re a gamer, isn’t it?

Marco

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (PSV)

umodpacknxgSometimes, I just can’t seem to get in to a game. Wether it’s the story that’s too boring, disappointing gameplay or clunky controls… I just don’t seem to connect. JRPG’s for instance: there’s simply no love between me and them. Something about Japanese roleplaying bores me. But still, I keep trying them. Because the intertubes and gaming colleagues keep telling me I’m missing out. So I decided to download Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, as an ultimate attempt to get into JRPG’s…

The main character wakes up in a weird, cold world, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. He’s suffering from extreme memory loss. He doesn’t know where or even who he is. He’s rescued by a girl with cat ears and a tail. She takes him under her wings and together they set off on an adventure.

Exciting story, with an air of suspense and mystery. Enough to grab and drag me into the game, one would think, but alas. The weird humor and Japanese voice-acting are too distracting. Having to read dialog and exposition for the first fifteen minutes doesn’t help much either. I wait impatiently for a bit of action.

When that action finally comes after fifteen minutes, all brightens up a little. Me and catgirl are set loose on a pack of wolf-like creatures. Just like any tactical RPG, characters each move and attack in turn. The battle goes smoothly, and the creatures are souffléd in a matter of minutes. After that, another chunk of plot unfolds, and I’m once again banished to the x-button, clicking away dialoguescreen after dialoguescreen.

umod2

Utawarerumono’s greatest strength also appears to be its biggest flaw. The story is huge, well written and very immersive, but sadly, the action disappeared under all that narrative weight. It seem I’ve been reading for hours before a battle unfolds. And after the battle, another big pile of plot is shoved onto my plate. Then I get to make a choice to move the plot forward in one direction or another, and then…  another big chunk of plot unfolds.

umod1

While I’m impressed by the design, the story, the visuals and the gameplay of the actual battles, Utawarerumono ultimately doesn’t seem to be for me. Fans probably have been eagerly awaiting this, but I would’ve preferred this story in comic, book or manga format.

Jan