Late last week Sony released their new PlayStation Mobile service, a service that intends to allow consumers to enjoy PlayStation-style experience on a whole bunch of handheld and mobile gadgets. Despite the initial selection of titles also being readily available on some Sony tablets and Xperia devices, we grabbed five of the currently available titles and put them through their paces on our PlayStation Vita – who doesn’t like thumbsticks, right?
Developer: Crash Lab
Up first was Crash Lab’s mazey puzzler, Twist Pilot. Your job is to guide a spinning stick-thing with eyes (technical term) through carefully crafted mazes without touching the walls. All of the crafted mazes are designed specifically to compliment the placement of power-ups, bad guys and health scattered amongst them that all help and hinder in there own unique ways. Power ups include mechanics such as speeding up or reversing the rotation, shrinking and enlarging and levels are designed cleverly enough so that picking which power-ups to take on-route to the finish line will make a big difference on level clearance times, which is incidentally the real goal to Twist Pilot. Controlling the stick-thing is a case of using the touch screen as directional input. It feels okay, but a little awkward at times because you’ll constantly be re-applying your finger to move. Being able to utilising the control sticks (especially on the Vita) would have been a nice option to have, even on the non-analogue stick devices that use virtual versions instead.
Visuals are quite clean and sharp and everything runs smoothly throughout. Music on the other hand is quite variable, ranging from Mexican trumpets to country jigs that whilst all being quite jovial and upbeat will either drive you mad or make you tap your feet, depending on your disposition. Overall, Twist Pilot doesn’t really set the world alight or ever feel that engaging. Saying that, it’s decent to look at and there is a lot to plough through including achievements, leaderboards and a three-star system akin to Angry Birds that rates your endeavours to collect all the coins in the fastest times. So there is some good time wasting to be found here, despite the mediocrity.
Super Crate Box
You may have already played Vlambeer’s platformer/shooter, Super Crate Box, since it’s original release in 2010. If you have, then you’ll already know the incredible willpower I had to muster up to put it down and do some reviewing. For those who haven’t, the premise is pretty straight forward; grab the crates whilst enemies rain down from the top of the screen and loop back again twice as fast once they reach the bottom. Every crate gives you a new weapon to even up the odds though including shotguns, pistols and even flamethrowers that all manifest randomly and replace your current weapon. Super Crate Box is all about the leaderboards due to only a few levels and characters being available to unlock asides from the weapons themselves, all of which is obtained by, you guessed it, grabbing crates.
There’s a wistful joy to bouncing around the screen whilst shooting and collecting that constantly reminds you of how great gaming can be even without kingsize budgets. In fact the whole game, including menus and audio, are a throwback to the old 8-bit classics and the retro look not only increases the appeal of Super Crate Box, but totally suits it. Bottom line, Super Crate Box is ludicrously addictive and utterly charming. Go get it.
Developer: Pompom Games
In Rebel, our PoW turned escapee protagonist has the misfortune of his prison being located on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. Seeing as he’s somewhat doomed regardless he takes it upon himself to take as many of the bad guys down with him. So with no weapons at hand the aim of Rebel is to essentially to, well, run away. There is motive to the madness though as running in smart patterns causes enemies to shoot each other and every now and then booty is dropped around the island to collect. Adding all this to your stash lets you purchase new power ups such as armour or speed boosts for your next attempt.
Rebel looks quite nice on the Vita screen as the little orange jumpsuited escapee dots around the screen under barrage from turrets, trucks and helicopters. What’s worrying is the lack or different islands to play that only equate to a few, one for each game mode. These alternative modes can be unlocked in the same way as the power ups and all offer something to strive for. Unfortunately, it won’t take too long before gameplay overall starts feeling a bit frivolous and repetitive; there’s no leaderboards so you’ll only be competing with yourself which is slightly disappointing. There is just enough here that makes Rebel worth picking up though, but with more different varieties of enemies, some leaderboards and some extra locations to play in, it would have been much better.
I’ll just start with this, I love this game. Fuel Tiracas is basically a test of reflexes, the type of easy pick-up and play game you give to your non-gaming work colleagues and then show them how pitiful and meaningless there life is by destroying their score. Of course that never happens, but the intention is always there. You’ll be given the task of powering up a bunch of reactors. This is achieved by furiously tapping buttons in a whack-a-mole type fashion as they pop up on screen – sounds easy right? Wrong. It’s not just about filling up power bars, but keeping them in the threshold and not going over. Added to that you have an increasing number of reactors to power up simultaneously and when powering up one, the other reactors begin to lose power.
Leaderboards are present and correct, as are the super-crisp visuals that despite not really needing to excel, look great regardless. So all in all, you’ll almost zone out as peripheral vision and high concentration drag you into the game and with Fuel Tiracas depending itself on the touch screen, it makes this title a top choice for the Vita and compatible mobile devices. If PlayStation Mobile can continue housing games like this, they’ll be doing themselves no harm whatsoever.
Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender
Aqua Kitty represents another one of the more interesting titles currently available. In this world milk is in short supply, forcing the young feline population to drill into the untapped reserves of full-fat white stuff beneath the ocean floor. Of course, we all know how dangerous the sea is, meaning kittens have had to board their underwater vessels and defend any mining operations under threat. There’s definitely some influence from old classic arcade titles in this two-way side scrolling shooter/defender game. Aqua Kitty does a good job of paying homage to the arcade era whilst playing very tidily in its glorious audio and visual 16bit guise.
You’ll initially be placed into a campaign map selection screen. Here you can select between a decent number of levels once unlocked or replay old ones, all of which share the same goals albeit introducing new enemies or power ups along the way. The main task is to stop your mining kitties being abducted away from their posts by shooting the invaders and clearing the level to finish up. It’s certainly a title that will appeal to most people due its innate ability to get you to play one more level and eat away willingly at your time. All in all, it’s certainly up there with the best games currently available and should be amongst your first forays into the PlayStation Mobile arena if you’re looking for great quality and top value.