PS+ Offerings for January Ring In New Year With Small-Scale Fizzle
At the PlayStation Plus camp, a trend began forming at the end of last year that seems to be carrying over into 2017. Instead of offering a few noteworthy AAA games in the free download roster, they’re keeping the focus on rather small and independent titles, with the most recognizable one this month going to a remastered version of an early-90s point-and-click adventure game. A sequel, no less. Granted, this ensures that a good number of subscribers will certainly be treated to something completely new, yet the absence of any strong value heavy-hitters might start to become a bit trying for some folks. A steampunk stealth platformer, an oceanic tile-matching puzzle app, and a grim tactical war experience attempt to offer enough diversity and novelty to compensate for the lack of a bigger title. Let’s explore the games.
Day of the Tentacle: Remastered
Developed and released in the late-80s by LucasArts, the original Maniac Mansion has been credited as one of the most influential installments in the point-and-click adventure series, both in graphical presentation and storytelling. The sequel, Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle, continues the universe of the original game, focusing on bespectacled Bernard and his friends as they attempt to save the world from … well, a tentacle, and they do so by solving puzzles and vaulting across time. Despite the reputation of the original game, Day of the Tentacle is also seen as its own monumental advancement, spit-polishing and beefing-up what worked really well before, an experience that was, as featured here, remastered early in 2016 by Double Fine Productions to largely critical acclaim. Also playable on the Vita.
This War of Mine
The true grimness of war frequently gets put on the back-burner in the realm of video games, simply because the developers understand that a healthy dose of entertainment value needs to even out the bleak tones. In This War of Mine, 11-bit Studios sees how far they can push the limits with that: they drop the player in the middle of a fictional war-torn city inspired by mid-’90s Bosnia, into the perspective of one of many different unseasoned conflict survivors who must use their skills to continue surviving in and around their volatile location. The game heavily relies on tactical decisions and depicts the proceedings in a 2D interface, which produces a deliberate and methodical strategy survival experience. That’s worth keeping in mind before charging into the fray.
Different types of competitive vehicle games have spiked in popularity as of late, largely due to the arrival of Rocket League. Recalling the likes of Micro Machines and Rock ‘n Roll Racing, BlazeRush keeps its ambitions simple while tapping into a relatively similar competitive streak: it offers a series of cars and tracks to pick from, then pulls back the camera and views the fast-paced destruction as players race and fire upon one another. Three modes are spread across three game world on which the races take place, where the cars can snag different kinds of artillery along the way to help take out opponents. BlazeRush centers itself on local multiplayer, split-screen and offering up to four players at once on the track with the option to hop in at anytime.
Featuring a delightfully colorful art style that captures a dusty steampunk spin on London, The Swindle offers something of a rogue-like experience in its random generation of buildings for a group of thieves to infiltrate. The character navigates through a platforming maze of levels, in which the focal rogues are aiming to take control of an artificial intelligence designed to prevent high-tech robberies. They also work in some of their other regular business ventures in hacking computers and creating sources of income, squeezing in the activity while working against a 100-day timer before the AI takes effect. Critics have noted the difficulty of The Swindle as a deterrent, but its quirky style and rate of reward seems to offer enough of a bounty to continue pilfering. Also playable on the PS4 and the Vita.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath
If you’ve played item-matching games like Hexic or Puzzle Quest, then Azkend 2: The World Beneath will feel incredibly familiar. What’s different — well, slightly — lies in the story being told alongside the match-3 gameplay, taking inspiration from the stories of Jules Verne in its nautical-themed adventure. Vivid icons of shells, fossils, and binoculars complete the desired voyager aesthetic as animated cutscenes help to remind the player of the narrative alongside the puzzle gameplay, which also comes equipped with a few different gameplay modes based on time trials and re-completing the dozens of levels made available. It’s a sequel to a mobile app and follows a specific formula, but there’s a little something extra there wading under the surface.
While playing a classic 8-bit game, have you ever had the thought: “Hm, I wonder what just a little bit more modern graphical strength would do to this level?” Perhaps enhancing the depth of an obstacle or the complexity of a boss. Titan Souls seems like it constantly operates under that desire. Acid Nerve’s game is rendered in beautifully ornate pixelated graphics as the enigmatic hero crawls through levels of a dungeons, engaging big and challenging “titans” with a single arrow within each layout. Acid Nerve’s game certainly has nostalgia and whimsy going for it, though the repetitiveness and punishing difficulty might sour some on the experience.