Beyond Mad Max, Sony’s PS+ Freebies For April Are … Ahh, Mediocre!
At this point, finding interesting and worthwhile titles across three different platforms to offer as freebies through the PS+ subscription service – ones that Sony hasn’t previously offered — must be a bit like hunting down valuables in a post-apocalyptic environment. The truly noteworthy ones have been mostly salvaged from the depths and offered to their customers, leaving titles of increasingly lower value shoved in the cracks for another date. Sony’s lineup for the month of April prove that the pickings are getting slimmer, especially if one considers what’s already been offered as free downloads through competitor subscription services. PS4 owners will be getting a better-than-expected wasteland sandbox game that ties into a popular film franchise, but the rest of the titles don’t offer much to make the digital scavenging worth the effort. Let’s explore the games.
While it was released the same year as George Miller’s triumphant return to his wasteland universe with Fury Road, Mad Max wasn’t designed to tie directly into the film. Avalanche Studios, the folks responsible for Just Cause, had this game in the pipes for several years and originally planned to release it a year before Fury Road; therefore, while the names and landmarks are recognizable, they aren’t of a shared universe. Mad Max attempts to capture the same spirit of Miller’s original intentions, though, with gameplay hinged on vehicle modifications and combat, powered by a story of Max Rockatansky seeking vengeance and yearning to reclaim his iconic car, the Interceptor, from marauders who belong to familiar circles. Those who enjoyed Mad Max did so at full throttle through a versatile and visually striking open-world landscape, accelerated by adept driving and combat controls alongside its customization aspects. Critics weren’t so won over by its spare storytelling or quest structure, though.
For the most part, the Trackmania racing franchise has spent its time as a popular PC title, developing a reputation for its difficulty hinged on quick reflexes and reaction time. Turbo marks the first time that the series has showed up on primary consoles, sporting the familiar addictive fantasy-racing concept of attempting to best one’s personal time on 1 of around 200 tracks, spread across bright environments. The simplicity of its controls can be deceptive, as the design of the levels and the profoundness of the vehicles’ speed produce a tough experience that, based off critical comments, almost seems masochistic in how it provokes and almost demands repetition. An in-depth track creator extends the fun and interactivity, allowing custom levels to be shared with others.
In Space We Brawl
If you were to transform Asteroids into a player-versus-player game and injected it with a heap of color, then you’d essentially have In Space We Brawl. Floating obstacles complicate the “brawls” between players as they utilize the classic twin-stick control scheme to both blast through obstructions and land blasts on their opponents, to which players are also able to engage in local versus matches with friends. Critics are quick to point out that … well, that’s about all there is to In Space We Brawl, and the absence of online multiplayer makes the brawling a lot less stellar than it could’ve been.
It takes confidence and a little guts for Sony to offer two games from the same genre in one month of PlayStation Plus freebies, because the two titles need to be different enough to stand apart and not feel like … y’know, the same kind of freebie. While Toy Home is also a racing game, it couldn’t be more different than Trackmania Turbo: its pacing is slower, its controls less demanding on reflexes, and it incorporates SIXAXIS motion controls for its piloting of literal toy cars zooming around rooms of a house. The general consensus is that there isn’t much beyond the surface of Toy Home, though, and the motion controls are more trouble than they’re worth.
Games that pay homage to classic genres, or even specific titles, walk a very fine line separating respect to their inspirations and outright copying ‘em, relying on the elements of what they did right like a crutch. 99Vidas has the essence of beat-‘em-up classics like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon coursing through its veins, injected into a Brazilian-infused realm that deliberately cobbles together elements of ‘80s and ‘90s popular culture. Pixelated graphics, quirky music, and side-scrolling combat hammer home the retro feel, featuring nearly a dozen different playable characters that can be unlocked and online co-op play with friends. Similarities to other games of its ilk end up being both a selling point and its flaw, as critics have noted that there’s little beyond the genre reverence and dogged repetition of controls.
It may seem rudimentary, but the way Q*Bert utilized jumping between squares along its tiered, pyramid-like puzzle grid was one of the most successful early usages of a 3D space in videogames. It achieved depth of an environment while also retaining the personality of the cartoon characters moving closer and further away on the grid, and that’s a big part of why Q*Bert remains an iconic game entity over thirty years after its release. After enjoying some renewed interest due to cameos in recent movies, Q*Bert received a reboot with … uh, Q*Bert Rebooted, which contains spruced-up graphics as well as the original visual presentation.