Worms, Dancers, and Rag Dolls Caught in November’s PS+ Slump
It’s been a year of ups and downs for Sony’s free offerings through their PlayStation Plus (PS+) subscription service, but the last few months have led to a particularly noteworthy upswing, especially their October titles. Unfortunately, that momentum has been halted with their November selections. Lacking a significant AAA-caliber title isn’t something new to their slates, but the general lack of interest this docket generates with uninventive sequels, arty platformers, and a bland party-atmosphere fighting game really pulls down one’s enthusiasm. Let’s hope they end the year strong; until then, let’s take a look at the game on offer for this round.
For over two decades now, the Worms have been waging war amongst themselves in exuberant, humor-injected tactical combat, spawning clones and spinoffs aplenty. Battlegrounds isn’t a particularly innovative title for those aware of the series, as it’s largely a port of the previous installment, Worms Clan Wars, onto modern consoles. Turn-based strategy combines with an arsenal of quirky weapons in the creation of relatively family-friendly warfare, containing over 60 types of weapons and the return of specific character classes for the worms. Both single-player campaign progression and multiplayer competition are available, though the lack of innovation in its gameplay components restrict the appeal of Battlegrounds to those seasoned to the series who aren’t expecting much beyond more of the same.
The mechanics of the side-scrolling platformer have a predictable, relatively strict rhythm to them, which has made it possible for developers to expand upon their framework in inventive ways. The folks at Plastic hope to dazzle with artistry and metaphorical representations in Bound, in which a lyrical dancer — also a princess — maneuvers through the responsive landscapes of her mind as she relives her memories. This falls more into the style of experience that has made thatgamingcompany’s catalog so worthwhile, operating less on challenging level design and working more towards a beautiful and immersive landscape in which the player can get lost. An absence of difficulty and the game’s reliance on the framework of platform design have too heavily impacted the game’s reputation, though, overpowering its artistic merits.
The strategy and precision involved with playing the pair of R-Type shoot-‘em-ups has given the franchise an enduring reputation as an arcade classic. Over the course of thirty years, the composure required to conquer those two games has continued to be a noteworthy gaming feat, to such a degree that the games have repeatedly been released on various formats since their heyday. R-Type Dimensions bundles together both R-Type and R-Type 2, offering both the original graphical presentation and updated 3D visuals that can be switched at any point during play. Cooperative play has also been included, while modern additions involving a “Continue” function lets the player pick up from a checkpoint. If you want the original R-Type experiences, they’re there; if you want a more accessible version, that’s there as well.
Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic
It’s hard out there for indie fighting games, having to land brows with enough impact to make themselves known underneath the likes of Injustice, Street Fighter, and Smash Bros. To stand out, they’ve got to deliver an experience that’s both different from their competitors yet can scratch the same itches, including a novel hook in its concept and versatility of competitive modes. Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic banks on its charming action-figure design winning over those who end up playing it, operating on the notion of the player’s combatant defeating waves of enemies in a 2.5D environment, with the PlayStation’s motion controls largely in mind. Multiplayer tends to be its focus, either couch play or the online option that was added later on, but the simplicity of its fighting mechanisms fails to hit hard enough to really resonate among genre fans.
Side-scrolling brawlers have the tendency to strike a memorable chord with gamers, something that stretches back to the classic cabinet arcade days with Golden Axe and up to last generation with Castle Crashers. The fun of the setting and controls might play a key role in their popularity, but a big part of the appeal comes when a second player joins in on the fun, either by popping in a quarter or hitting the start button. Dungeon Punks takes a little bit from all those games in the subgenre, from bits of Altered Beast to the exaggerated tempo of Dragon’s Crown, and combines them with RPG-lite customization, a half-dozen classes to choose from, and dense fantasy-inspired levels. Certain limitations wall it off from being considered of the same caliber as the others, notably some clumsy controls and the inability to either play solo (without CPU teammates) or online, but it’ll get the job done as a couch beat-‘em-up.
Broken Sword 5
One thing that Sony has been really good about over the past year: they’ve routinely includes point-and-click style of adventures for a change of pace. This month’s inclusion is Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse, the latest installment in a two-decades-old series, in which series lead characters George and Nicole embark on an adventure across the globe in search of a mysterious painting. The graphics have naturally been updated, but by all accounts fans of the series feel it’s true to the tone and intentions of the franchise, while new players also seem to dig the mystery and the characters. Perhaps not as good as its predecessors, but still a worthy installment.