Fights, Puzzles, Giants Insects Tossed In With March’s PS+ Games
Over recent months, Sony has admittedly done a reputable job of sticking with independent, lesser-known titles for their PS+ freebies. What’s discouraging about that is how they’ve been solely dedicated to such titles, at the expense of including a few recognizable heavy-hitters that could offer more direct satisfaction from their subscriber base. Alas, March ends up being no exception. From a visual-novel fighting game and an environmental puzzler to a new sports game reminiscent of air hockey with Frisbees, these are unique-enough arcade diversions that lack the notable, robust titles to counterbalance their smaller-scale aims.
Somewhere between air hockey, dodgeball, and the original Pong lies Disc Jam, High Horse Entertainment’s semi-futuristic sports title. Players take control of competitors who hurl and catch — or miss — a large disc headed at their opponent’s goal zone on the opposite end of a court. They’re fully able to use the walls to ricochet the discs for strategic bounces down that way, though. A collection of different players offer slightly tweaked play-styles and can be customized in appearance, while the game’s interface allows for either singles or pairs matches both locally and online. Disc Jam was released at the beginning of March.
Media Molecule accomplished something with Tearaway similar to what Laika film studio continues to do while surrounded by CG-animated movies. With this 3D action platformer, they crafted a look for their adventure that feels textured and realistic, and that’s a result of production design that sticks to authentic folded-paper aesthetics for the characters and setting. In an adventure that breaks the fourth wall by urging the main character — either a guy or a girl — to deliver a message to the actual player themselves, Tearaway liberally taps into interactivity, customization, and motion controls for its distinctive experience. Unfolded expands upon the original Vita framework for the PlayStation 4 and its more versatile game controller; the upgrade has been heftily praised as one of the better family-friendly games out there.
Under Night In-Birth
Combining fighting games and visual novels may sound peculiar, but the likes of BlazBlue, Persona 4: Arena, and Melty Blood prove that it’s something that can really work with tight controls and engaging characters. In the same way, Under Night In-Birth directs its attention toward that same niche, introducing an entirely new slate of characters to interact and battle within a stunning anime-oriented visual design. Alongside a story that involves a magical, insanity-caused darkness covering regions of Japan and the warriors who battle against it, developer French-Bread’s latest creation introduces a collection of seven characters with distinctive powers and fighting styles that elevate the fighting game’s variety. Both the single-player narrative and multiplayer competition have earned positive marks from fans of the genre for its unique characters and well-executed combat mechanics.
Earth Defense Force 2025
Imagine a modern-day cross between Starship Troopers and the classic sci-fi movie Them! … then take away most of the story carrying it forward. What you’ll essentially be left with is Earth Defense Force 2025, a third-person shooter from Sandbox that picks up eight years after their previous game. Military personnel respond to reports of giant bugs invading a city, which immediately puts the player in combat situations against large insects tearing through buildings. From there, Earth Defense Force 2025 plows through a wide series of missions as the player takes control of four different solider class types, each of which has access to hundreds upon hundreds of different weapons for their bug-slayin’ needs. Some might feel that the singular focus on action gets a little repetitive and tedious too quickly, but the B-movie charms and chaos should still satisfy the right audience.
A little wizard, reminiscent of the Black Mage from the original Final Fantasy games, takes on a sequence of platform puzzles in the delightfully designed Lumo. Players hop, skip, and jump over obstacles as the protagonist progresses through an arrangement of isometric dungeon-like rooms levitating in front of blue, cloudy nothingness. Of course, the difficulty and complexity of the challenges escalating the deeper into the environment they go. Critics have cited some frustration with the controls, something that’s understandable for a game so reliant on the precision of jumping. However, the inventiveness of the puzzles themselves still seems to keep many players under its spell.
Canada-based developer DrinkBox has developed a knack for bringing bold, ethereal personality to bright colors and blocky designs. While this started in their Blob series, it actually came more to fruition with Guacamelee, their lucha libre-fueled beat-‘em-up tale of heroism, spirit realms, and chicken clucking. They’ve taken the darker, eerier elements of that game and distilled them into Severed, a first-person, gesture-driven game that features a young female warrior navigating through a treacherous dreamlike realm of her own. Ability enhancements and calculated thinking in how to defeat enemies make for an entrancing gaming experience. However, those expecting something just like Guacamelee’s side-scrolling and humorous energy should probably cut those expectations loose.