Semi Racing, Handball, and Pigeon Dating Comprise Infamous PS+ Games for September
Over the past year, a trend had begun to settle into Sony’s PS+ freebies on a month to month basis. The company would offer a handful of secondary, yet intriguing games that fall in the indie, arcade, or just straight up under-the-radar niches, but neglect to pair them with a substantial AAA or noteworthy title to bolster subscriber enthusiasm. After a righting of the ship over the past few months with the right balance, now Sony has gone in the opposite direction. They’ve included one very strong title as the cornerstone of its free downloads, then surrounded it with uninspired, often lukewarmly received indies of several platforms. It begs the question: can one game carry an entire month? It comes close, but not quite this time. Let’s take a look at ’em.
inFAMOUS Second Son
Morality systems in videogames — which also falls into the spectrum of a Karma Meter — can be tricky, as they often wobble along the line between authentic transformation and role-playing of a character and the reward-based system of the player experience. It’s an issue that other action-RPGs have tackled with varying degrees of success across roughly twenty years, from Knights of the Old Republic to Fable, and it’s surprising how little certain contemporary games stray from the lopsidedness of that paradigm. inFAMOUS Second Son delivers a robust third-person superhero experience befitting the entries that came before it. Jumping ahead ahead seven years to tell the story of new protagonist Delsin Rowe, the player navigates a sandbox environment with his newly-gained powers to control elements commonly found in urban environments. That aspect of Second Son works splendidly, but the game’s responses to his decisions fall into the binary “good vs. evil” morality system that’s existed for decades, and it shows.
Strike Vector EX
Arcade flight simulators have been in short supply on consoles over the past decade or so, to such a degree that the announcement that Crimson Skies — a game going back two generations — would become backwards compatible sent a legion of fans into euphoria. In swoops the like-minded Strike Vector, which sets its sights on crafting an experience that captures both the classic, fast-paced energy of arcade cabinet experiences from yesteryear with a science-fiction edge. Toggling between first-person precision and third-person speed controls similarly to regular FPS games, Strike Vector accelerates through tight spaces for breakneck arena-style multiplayer combat, though a lack of additional content surrounding its well-executed, nostalgic premise might cause it to run out of gas for some.
In the Twisted Metal car-vs-car fighting franchise, there’s a semi-truck named Darkside that provides a unique experience when selected as the combatant in the game. Surrounded by fast speedsters and large clunky behemoths with specific powers, the semi’s blend of moderate acceleration, power, and control involved with balancing its wheels while hooking around corners offered a compelling, albeit underappreciated alternative in the arena battle design. That’s the same kind of appeal presented by Truck Racer, which essentially duplicates the same-old formula of track racing games with a pack of semis speeding and swerving along both dusty and stable roads. With a graphical interface and visual tone similar to Burnout Paradise, Truck Racer lets its concept speak for itself, capturing the destructive mayhem of the races in a simple, unrealistic, but lively package.
The sport of handball fits somewhere between basketball and soccer, two games that, obviously, have been highly represented on consoles for decades now. Of course, while playing handball in person, there’s enough deviation in strategy and physicality to lead someone to pursue the sport as an interest; whether the same holds true for a videogame of said sport, which maintains popularity in countries outside the US, is another thing altogether. Handball 2016 gives it a whirl, though, replicating the sport’s maneuvers alongside dozens of real European teams and with play-by-play commentary.
We Are Doomed
If the folks at PixelJunk had decided to tackle the Asteroid-like twin-stick shooting arcade game, then it probably would’ve looked a whole lot like We Are Doomed. Much like Geometry Wars, Vertex Pop’s creation boasts vibrant colors, unique geometric shapes, and a unique soundtrack, only the aesthetic they go for — blocky designs for transitions and explosions, more pastel and softer colors — lands on something categorically different. Unfortunately, the diversion in art design tends to be the only real distinguishing trait here, almost as if We Are Doomed functions more as a skin layered atop previous games than its own creation.
And finally, there’s Hatoful Boyfriend, which is also called … Pigeon Boyfriend. It’s a
dating sim visual novel that takes place in a school for pigeons, and, well, you can put two and two together in terms of what you’ll be doing in this oddity.