Sideway: New York – fun platformer at the right price

During my visit in England recently, I came across a PSN demo on my friend Ranulf’s PS3 that he really liked. I thought I’d give it a shot, and it turned out to be a game that’s just over a year old, and one that I’d seen before, probably on Youtube, but hadn’t tried myself. It turned out to be just as cool as it initially looked – a 2D platformer with graffiti-inspired story and style. The main character Nox has to navigate his way in a graffiti-world that he unwillingly gets sucked into, and needs to find and fight the evil Spray. In the modern gaming era, the 2D-platformer genre has been diminished to a state where it’s mostly getting indie, modestly-priced entries on PSN/XBLA/Steam. There are some notable exceptions, like Rayman Origins, but those are quite few and far between. That said, having indies work on 2D platformers is not a bad thing at all – nowadays, they’re the ones most willing to innovate (be it due to willing to make a name for themselves, or just sheer passion and desire to deliver something unique – a drive that many big companies in the industry have either lost or are too afraid to exploit anymore). Sideway features some of that much-needed innovation, combined with game design concepts that have been tested and proven through the years.

Sideway New York Cover

Game: Sideway: New York
Developer: Playbrains
Platforms: PlayStation Network, PC
Original release: 2011
Territories: All
Price: $9.99

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Mega Man

Despite my large backlog of more recent games, I still love to do some retro gaming on the side (and by “retro,” I mean 8-bit and 16-bit games, even if many would already put the PS1 era in that category). Recently, I decided to finally give some attention to a game I spent quite some time with as a kid, but could never beat – the original Mega Man (or Rockman, as I knew it back then). For old time’s sake, I got the Japanese version that I was familiar with. Playing on my PSP and willing to see it through to the end, I was no stranger to abusing save states… The game just requires considerable skill to be beaten, especially by a first-time player. But, even so, I thought Mega Man had kept its magic through the years.

Rockman Title Screen

Game: Mega Man
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: NES, Mobile, Wii/3DS Virtual Console; Mega Drive/Genesis (part of Mega Man: The Wily Wars collection), PlayStation (enhanced remake), PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube (part of Mega Man Anniversary Collection), PlayStation Portable (as Mega Man: Powered Up – enhanced remake)
Original release: 1987
Territories: All

The first Mega Man game is often criticised and considered inferior to the sequels (especially Mega Man 2 and 3), but I’ve always felt that criticism was a bit unfair. It laid the foundations for what Mega Man would become – one of, if not THE signature series for the NES, later spawning countless other games (in several separate series) and even a couple of cartoons. Pick a stage, go through it, defeat the robot master at the end, collect his special power to use later against another robot master. A simple formula in hindsight, but, for its time, it was something very original. The game’s notorious difficulty doesn’t do it any favours (as a kid, I would manage to beat 5 robot masters, only to give up at the Guts Man stage because of those moving platforms in the beginning…), but at least there are unlimited continues (even if there were no passwords) and you don’t lose your progress. It’s also quite fulfilling to choose the right power (as long as you have it) and be able to defeat a robot master in 3-4 hits instead of like 20.

This review provides screenshots captured by me.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

After beating the first Uncharted, I immediately jumped on the second one. It’s the one widely considered the best in the series, with the highest scores from both fans and critics and all, so my expectations were higher than the ones I had from the first game. Suffice to say, Uncharted 2 delivered. It improves on the first game in many ways, the most obvious one being graphics, while keeping the tight adventure gameplay which, if a bit linear, keeps you on your toes pretty much constantly. Drake’s second adventure is a memorable experience, adding some much appreciated polish to what we saw in the first game.

Uncharted 2 Cover

Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2009
Territories: All

Uncharted 2 is a marvellous game, and this is a case where this adjective is used in its full meaning, rather than just thrown in for good measure and in attempt to appear more literary. The PS3’s graphical capabilities are pushed to their limits (even though I’m yet to play Uncharted 3, so who knows…), Naughty Dog proving themselves to be masters in this department once again. There are some clear improvements over the first game, such as an increased amount of different environments and the introduction of stealth attacking. Of course, there are also some things from the first game that are not present in the second, such as aiming grenades or balancing with the Sixaxis, and the brutal combo, which was “replaced” by the dubious counterattacking. There are also no jet ski stages, quite likely a case of fans’ complaints getting through. 🙂 But these are just details – at the end, the overall package is very satisfying.

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Vice: Project Doom

After I published the Top 10 Hidden NES Gems list, several readers (especially people from GameFAQs) immediately suggested other hidden NES gems that I had missed. I hadn’t had the chance to play most of those, and I quickly found and added them to my PSP. Many 5-minute trials later, I had chosen the next NES game to play, and it was Vice: Project Doom, a game that would have surely made that list had I played it earlier. It managed to grab me from the very beginning, and that’s not an easy task for an NES game, with many of the best ones starting slow or just being notoriously difficult from the get-go (I’m looking at you, Bionic Commando).

Vice: Project Doom had no such problems. After a couple of cool cutscenes (the one played if you wait a while on the title screen being quite intriguing), I found out that it was a cool car game a la Spy Hunter where you could shoot at your enemies from your car. A couple minutes later, I found out that it was just one of the several playstyles the game offered (later I’d find out there were three in total). The most stages in the game are side-scroller ones, with the aforementioned driving and also first-person shooting via moving a target across the screen taking place in a few of them. The game is just great fun, it offers a good challenge, but keeps it reasonable (there are infinite continues, making it possible for a first-time player with a little patience to beat it without abusing save states).

Vice: Project Doom Cover

Game: Vice: Project Doom
Developer: Aicom
Platform: NES
Original release: 1991
Territories: Japan (released under the name Gun-Dec), North America

This is another review where I am providing my own screenshots, captured, like Wonder Boy’s, on the PSP.

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Scarygirl

In a world full of run-of-the-mill shooters, sequels, and even indie games that try so hard to be different, they end up looking the same, Scarygirl is a game that really stands out. While the game in itself is not that different from your typical 2D platformer, the art style is incredible, and it was the first thing that impressed me and prompted me to play all three Scarygirl games available.

Scarygirl Cover

Game: Scarygirl
Developer: TikGames
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

The Scarygirl I’m reviewing here, the PSN/XBLA/PC version, is the most polished of the three, but I have to also highly recommend the browser version, which is the best browser game I’ve ever played (and you can pass on the PlayStation Minis version, which is a watered-down version of the browser one – but it’s still the one that got me into the Scarygirl franchise because it was free with PS Plus during the period when PS Plus was free due to the PSN hacking fiasco :)).

Scarygirl is a 2.5D platformer (the game takes place in 3D environments, but movement is in one 2D plane at a time) with a nice combat system which has combos and blocking. It supports couch co-op for 2 players (a feature many game developers seem to have forgotten about) and is a good deal of fun with a partner. The gameplay is quite varied, featuring, aside from the normal platforming, also swimming and wall-climbing segments. Jumping is a bit floaty and not precise enough, but you can fly a small distance forward through the air by holding the jump button. The bizarre art style is truly the highlight, it gives the game a unique feel and a lot of charm.

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Wonder Boy

As someone born in the 80s and having grown up with this kind of games, I love retro games. I owned an Atari 2600 Jr., later a bootleg NES, then a SEGA Mega Drive II. Additionally, I spent a lot of my time and pocket money at the arcades… These early experiences contributed greatly to shaping me up as the gamer I am today.

As I enjoy playing classics I’d never had the chance to back in the day, some of my reviews here will be of such games. Back in the day, games were simpler, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Such were the times. In result, these reviews may also be on the short side, but that’s cool as long as the message gets across. And, if anyone decides to give such an older title a shot after reading a review of mine, then I will be happy.

The first title getting this treatment is a game I had only seen in the arcades when I was little. It’s SEGA’s original Wonder Boy, the first installment in a very fascinating series (whose never-released-outside-Japan-before entry Monster World IV is coming soon on PSN and Wii’s Virtual Console) that was a cult favourite at the arcades and on consoles alike. I am reviewing the SEGA Master System port of the original arcade game, which is actually quite faithful to it (unlike many other console ports of arcade games of the period).

This is also the first review where I am providing my own in-game screenshots. 🙂

Wonder Boy

Game: Wonder Boy
Developer: Westone
Platforms: Arcade; SG-1000, SEGA Master System, Game Gear, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC; Mobile; Wii Virtual Console
Releases: 1986 (arcade, SG-1000); 1987 (other 8-bit systems); 2004 (mobile); 2008 (Wii VC)
Territories: All

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