When I think of Sony’s Japan branch, I think of all the oddball titles they’ve made in collaboration with smaller studios. Games like Rain, Mister Mosquito, or Tokyo Jungle.
Developed by Crispy’s, a seemingly now defunct developer based in Tokyo’s Chūō ward, Tokyo Jungle was published for the PlayStation 3 on June 7, 2012, with western releases following in September of that year. The middle release of their output, it followed MyStylist, their self-described “fashion life support tool” which remained exclusive to Japan following its February 2008 release for the PlayStation Portable. And to my knowledge, their 2014 endless runner Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, made in collaboration with Grasshopper Manufacture, remains their last published work. Oh, and they also revamped Tokyo Jungle for mobile devices and the PlayStation Vita, although that version is shamefully unavailable to play anymore.
Years ago, during a PlayStation Network flash sale, I picked up Kurulin Fusion for a buck. A block-matching puzzle game for the PlayStation Portable, its sole claim to fame is the fact that Nobuo Uematsu served as musical director. The legendary composer, best known for his involvement with the Final Fantasy series, didn’t actually contribute any music for this game, however. Instead he provided instruction to Kenichiro Iwasaki, who arranged techno remixes of classic Johann Sebastian Bach compositions. Regardless of Uematsu’s level of involvement, the soundtrack was a delight and full of hummable earworms. The game, on the other hand… Continue reading Kurulin Fusion [PlayStation Portable] – Review→
Last month, while grinding out weapon trophies in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, I’d play Pac-Man Championship Edition DX as a palette cleanser. Much in the same way Ms. Pac-Man expanded upon the formula introduced by Pac-Man in the early 1980s, this 2010 release expands upon Bandai Namco’s 2007 original. That’s to say the changes, new maps and features, are minor but solid improvements on an otherwise fantastic game. When I focused solely on improving my score, I was able to lose myself to the mesmerizing flow of continually changing mazes and satisfying sounds of points racking up. These positive feelings were mired only by my desire to obtain the game’s trophies and subject myself to repetitious challenges. Continue reading Pac-Man Championship Edition DX [PlayStation Network] – Review→
I haven’t played much of Dyad, outside of a quick level or two. Its Tempest style gameplay is something I should enjoy, but generally don’t. It isn’t the first game to riff off of Tempest with a psychedelic style (that’s Jeff Minter’s wheelhouse), but it was the first one available on the PlayStation 3. Controlling a particle, players slingshot through a tunnel taking inspiration from the Large Hadron Collider. Slingshotting and lancing through other particles extends one’s combo, and thereby score, which, at its core, is the name of the game. I’ll likely play this more, at some point.
Dyad was developed by Shawn McGrath and published by Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket. It was first available on PlayStation Network July 17, 2012, with a PC release following on April 24, 2013. Perhaps best of all though, is the PC commercial.
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearlyevery game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
Now this is the sort of game that gets me excited about video games! There’s something about the zany concepts and systems that video games of Japanese origin tend to have that really excite me. So when I first heard about this title, I figured I’d be into. Fast forward to many months after its initial release and it happens to be discounted to $0.99 on a PSN sale and of course I bought it. Fast forward to today when I’m writing this, and I still haven’t played it. Jenny has played it somewhat, stating that she thought it was weird and kind of difficult. From what I gather, it’s a survival game set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where you play as an animal and attempt to procreate and ensure your future lineage. Pomeranian dogs seem to the favored avatar too. That’s what I’m talking about!
Tokyo Jungle was developed by Crispy’s! in conjunction with Sony Computer Entertainment’s Japan Studio. It was originally released physically for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on June 7, 2012, and had its North American release exclusively on PSN on September 25, 2012. I’m not familiar with the developer, although it appears they’ve developed a handful of other games – mostly Japanese only.
Lauded by many as a purveyor of the intellectual evolution of video games, thatgamecompany has received high praises in recent years for developing minimalistic video games that leave an emotional impact. Released just a few weeks ago for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network, Journey continues this trend.
Journey, is about just that, a journey. The journeyer in question travels through harsh environments on an unspecified quest. Lacking dialogue and an overt narrative, Journey is open to interpretation, which is what the bulk of this review will encompass – my interpretation of Journey. Before that, I’d like to briefly discuss the game.
Controlling the journeyer I navigated deserts, ruins, and mountains, all the while figuring out how to get around the occasional impediment, usually by jumping. When connected to the internet, people would randomly join my game and we’d attempt working together. Groups never exceeded two players, although I met three or four throughout the length of the game. These few players were never a hindrance but cooperation was tough due to the inability to directly communicate with each other, more on that in my interpretation. Speaking of which, let’s dive into it.
Set in the far-flung future, the journeyer I controlled was on a mission of enlightenment. The world he lives in might at one point have been described as the pinnacle of civilization. But the people eventually turned against each other and nearly destroyed the world in a process of unending war. Now, remaining humanity is in search of a reason; a reason for the past, a reason for the future, a reason to continue living in a harsh, unforgiving world.
Believing the enlightened one residing high atop a mountain at the peak of the world would have an answer to his questions, the journeyer set out. He didn’t get to skip down a yellow brick road either; his quest led him through an unforgiving desert that never seemed to end. Blanketed throughout this near-infinite desert were the ruins of the long destroyed ancient civilization. Their murals contained descriptions of similar journeys from ages ago. The wall paintings mirrored the journeyer’s travels with uncanny precision, and helped lead him to his destination while reminding him that he was no different from those who lived generations before him.
Along the way, the journeyer occasionally met contemporaries who also sought enlightenment. Lacking a common language but sharing a common destination, the journeyer aided the fellow travelers he met and developed an emotional bond with them. Even though communication was difficult because of the absence of a shared language, the journeyers were able to cooperate by studying body movement and using simplistic noises. The journey was tough and those he met did not always make it. The journeyer missed their presence, but knew he had to continue.
Obstacles in the journeyer’s way became ever more prevalent as he continued. Getting past them required thinking through straightforward puzzles, executing tricky jumps, and navigating around enormous enemies.
It wasn’t long until the journeyer reached the foot of the mountain. It was there that the red-orange of the desert ended and the white of the mountain began. Snow pelted the journeyer as he made his ascent. Fortunately he was not alone in this stretch of his journey. A fellow journeyer also reached the foot of the mountain and they inched forward, body against body, fighting with all their might to push forward against the howling snow. At points the winds were so strong that all they could do was brace onto windbreakers sticking out of the ground to not get blown off the mountain, no doubt placed there by journeyers before them. This part of the journey was tougher than anything previously encountered, but the journeyer prevailed, albeit alone.
When he crossed into the summit, the journeyer met with the figure that he’d seen scrawled onto the ruins, the figure that he’d been seeking, the enlightened one. Though he made noises that the journeyer was unfamiliar with, he could somehow understand the enlightened one. He said little, but what he said left a major impact on the journeyer.
“The civilizations before your time destroyed each other because they focused on their differences rather than their similarities. You may think you and the journeyers you met on your way here are far different, but you share more than you think. Without cooperation, you never would have reached me.”
“I can’t tell you what the future holds, you decide that. You pushed forward, now reflect on all that you’ve done. You sought enlightenment and you achieved it. It wasn’t the destination that you needed, it was the journey. Now shut up about Mass Effect 3’s ending.”
So that’s one way I interpret Journey. Pretty bleak huh? Civilization, reaches a pinnacle and then freefalls into a rapid decline through never-ending war culminating in the near destruction of EVERYTHING. So, does this interpretation reflect my inner lack of faith in humanity? Personally, I’d say yes and no. I’m an optimistic person, but I can foresee a future where humanity eventually destroys everything (although I imagine everyone can picture that). I’d also say my interpretation of Journey is derived from similar stories in entertainment. The story I envisioned is in no way a new idea and I know I’ve encountered it in multiple formats, such as books, movies, and other video games.
Although my interpretation also has positive messages too, namely that we can overcome any differences we perceive in each other. Cooperation eased the journeyer’s travels, even though he worked with journeyers far different than he, they couldn’t even speak the same language! Yet, the journeyers found a way to understand each other and overcame many obstacles.
The minimalistic nature of Journey has left me ruminating on it more so than any other game I’ve played. It was a brief, however enjoyable experience that is very open to interpretation. I’d recommend Journey, especially if you’re able to experience it with someone else.
If anyone else has played Journey, what’s your interpretation?
Blue Toad Murder Files in its entirety consists of six episodic downloads wherein one to four players assumes the role of a detective and solves crimes. The first episode, Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma is available for free on the PlayStation Network and my friend and I recently played through it.
Developed and published by UK based Relentless Software, Blue Toad Murder Files is a departure from what they’re known for: the Buzz! series. At the same time, they’ve used their experience and crafted a game that is fun with friends, cooperatively or competitively.
Set in a picturesque British village with banal villagers who talk in a nearly foreign tongue, to me (an American) Blue Toad Murder Files seems as British as it gets. But that’s part of the game’s charm. When it comes to detectives, Sherlock Holmes and the work of Agatha Christie are forefront in my mind, never mind that Hercule Poirot is Belgian…
Anyways, my friend and I soon witnessed the mayor of Little Riddle get shot and we began questioning the villagers attempting to find the culprit. Nearly every time we talked with someone they had a puzzle for us. We were supposed to solve these ourselves but we worked cooperatively. The puzzles reminded me of the ones I saw in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Puzzles didn’t fall into one category and for all twelve of them we were asked to do something different. The difficulty was well paced and we had fun attempting to get the gold medal on each one.
Blue Toad Murder Files: Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma couldn’t be tackled in a free fashion; it was a guided adventure that gave us all the information it had and then tasked us with putting it all together and coming to a conclusion. I loved the setting and the character’s and dug the variety of the puzzles. It took us about an hour to play through and I suspect we might play through the rest. If that’s the case, expect another write-up over the game in full.
So I wrote about Eufloria yesterday and the thing I’ll likely remember most about it is its minimalist art style. Directly after playing the demo for Eurfloria I tried the demo for Sideway: New York and its art style will probably be the thing I remember most about it, although it’s a very different art style.
For some reason the character I played as was turned into graffiti art. In this state, he was confined to moving along the sides of buildings as he searched for a way back to his normal self. Confined as he was, movement was limited to a 2D plane, although I could walk on any surface I could get to.
Progressing between different walls and buildings was very cool to watch. As long as there wasn’t something hindering my path, like a rain gutter, I could walk to different sides of a building, roof included. When I did this the camera would swing around and revert to a view from the side. Being able to walk like this also added a few puzzles based around gravity, thanks to multiple ways to get onto some surfaces.
I came across a few different types of collectibles but didn’t pay much attention to what they were for. There were also enemies and this brought to light a problem I had with Sideway: New York. I didn’t like the amount of health my dude had; he would die very quickly. Another thing, because of the art style, it was sometimes hard to decipher what I was approaching. There was graffiti all around me, and unfortunately, the enemies and obstacles resembled non-interactive art when they were stationary.
Those are minor gripes though; I could’ve taken it slower and paid more attention to my surroundings. I think Sideway: New York is a styling platformer. It looks really good in motion and the hip-hop soundtrack matched the game well. Sideway: New York was developed by Canadian based Playbrains and published by Sony Online Entertainment. It was released on PSN on October 11, 2011.
Originally released on the PC in 2009, Eufloria is a real-time strategy video game developed by Alex May and Rudolf Kremers, with Brian Grainger composing the soundtrack. I’m writing about it now because it was published on PSN earlier in the month by Omni Systems Limited. Eufloria’s visuals and soundtrack are minimalist and relaxing, contrasting the seemingly violent nature of the gameplay. I controlled seedlings and moved them from asteroid to asteroid conquering them and any enemies in my way. After a little research however (see: Wikipedia) I found out the game is based on a scientific theory of planting trees in space.
I played the demo for Eufloria and was immediately struck by the art design. All that was noticeable was a few round asteroids populated by small red flying seedlings and a tree or two. This was all set on fluorescent light bulb-like background, not space. The soundtrack gelled with the art design; it was sparse and calming with an occasional pickup in tempo and volume.
There were a handful of stages in the demo and I always began with at least one asteroid under my control already. My objective was to branch out and spread my seedlings far and wide. To get more seedlings I planted trees on the asteroids, which required ten seedlings, but these trees produced seedlings. These stages contained at most about ten asteroids so it wasn’t tough work, I’d just amass a large cadre of seedlings and move them around.
I did encounter enemies in the form of diseases. They looked just like my seedlings, only gray. They operated the same way so they had asteroids under their control to. To overcome my enemies I’d gather a large group of seedlings and overwhelm them by sheer number. This was a simple solution but it didn’t require much strategy. The final stage in the demo was tougher and led me to believe I wouldn’t always be able to win by numbers. Something I didn’t consider was the stats of each asteroid. They had unique strengths revolving around energy, strength, and speed.
It wasn’t hard to grasp what I needed to do in Eufloria so I was dismayed by how slowly the game moved, even with the speedup button enabled. Then again, I didn’t implement much strategy, opting to steamroll my enemies. That probably wouldn’t be a viable solution for the entirety of Eufloria, hopefully at least. I was impressed with the relaxed nature of the visuals and the soundtrack, and I enjoyed the simple strategy gameplay, but I’ve had my fill of Eufloria.
A self-described action/puzzle video game, StarDrone was released last week on PlayStation Network. StarDrone was developed in Ukraine by Beatshapers and published by TastyPlay.com. I don’t think the game is worth the eight dollar asking price; then again, you can download it on the PC for three dollars.
StarDrone presented ten stages for me to play through in the demo. I controlled an orb that floated through space randomly but I could “attach” myself to other orbs’ gravity and propel myself in other directions by circling them and letting go.
Set on top of a backdrop of stars, each stage was a confined area that was full of orbs and collectibles. My objective varied between the stages, but they all revolved around collecting something. I navigated around each stage collecting what I needed to and it was pretty easy, although my feats were never good enough to be granted anything better than a silver medal. Towards the end I was introduced to enemies and walls with spikes. The enemies weren’t troublesome, but the spikes turned one stage in particular into a challenging test of timing.
I wasn’t too impressed with StarDrone. The stage design was interesting; I didn’t feel like I was traveling the same path twice, then again, collecting objects didn’t present much of a challenge and I found the game boring. StarDrone supports the PlayStation Move so that’s cool I guess, but I’m indifferent about the game.