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Vitamag

REVIEWED!


Welcome

Hello Vita Gamers!

lst many people It's the first issue of 2017 and whi w that there is are still knocking the Vita, we kno r with plenty yea still plenty to get excited for this r may be the yea This t. men of games still in develop there are but , port sup ful ning mea final year of any and we this e writ I still around 200 games coming as will be here to cover the lot!

REGULARS Paul Murphy PMurphy1978

Founder s the news from PSX as well as new We kick of this January issue with the of one with on, ecti Coll e Gam ant on the latest games to hit the Inst as well as an interview with the team e, tim e som for ths mon st nge stro behind the upcoming Oceanhorn.

y new reviews and we have 9 of the As you'd expect, we also have man stuck into, with Root Letter and Lara latest game reviews for you to get gside cover title Hue. Croft Go the pick of the games alon r st hot picks, the best games this yea Also in this issue you'll find our late e urit favo ir the on in the community as well as the thoughts from those them? with e agre you Do experiences in 2016. get some great classic reviews from Our print edition readers will also not join them in subscribing to get earlier in the Vita's life cycle, so why additional great content?

is my last regular issue of the I'll leave you with the news that this venture but am leaving you in magazine, I'm heading over to a new team who will manage this for the the capable hands of Kyle and the read of your support, whether you have foreseeable future. Thanks for all one issue or all 23!

WANT TO JOIN OUR AWESOME PSVITA TEAM OF ENTHUSIASTS? WE ARE LOOKING FOR NEW TALENT FOR THE WEBSITE AND THE MAGAZINE! IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, PLEASE VISIT WWW. THEVITALOUNGE.NET/JOBS FOR MORE DETAILS! PLEASE CONSIDER SUPPORTING OUR PATREON – IT WOULD REALLY BE APPRECIATED AND WOULD GO A LONG WAY TO SUPPORTING WHAT WE DO! FOR $9 PER ISSUE YOU WILL GET A PRINT COPY OF THIS MAGAZINE DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR! YOU CAN FIND OUR PATREON PAGE AT WWW.PATREON.COM/THEVITALOUNGE INSID E!CYBEDERTVELOPER FE HR Filled with the

INSID E! DESPACVELOPER FE E AT

The o nly

OVER

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VitamVitamVitam Vitam Vitam ag ag a g ag ag The Vita Lounge Magazine ‘s

Vitamag REVIE WED !

EDITORIAL TEAM REVIE REVIE WED WED ! ! Executive Editor / Paul Murphy @pmurphy1978 Editor-in-Chief / Kyle Wakeling @teflontactics Deputy Editor / Jenny Jones @Kitty_has_Klaws

REVIE WED !

MAGAZINE DESIGN Art Editor / Jhonatan Carneiro @JhoCarneiro REVIEWED!

SANDEEP RAI WENT TO PSX AND TELLS US ABOUT EVERYTHING HE PLAYED!

06 NEW RELEASES THESE GAMES ARE RELEASING THIS MONTH. ANYTHING FOR YOU?

07 HOT TEN THE VITA GAMES COMING SOON THAT WE ARE MOST EXCITED FOR

08 PLAYSTATION PLUS WHAT'S NEW IN THE IGC THIS MONTH?

08 COMMUNITY GOTY OUR COMMUNITY FRIENDS TELL US WHICH GAMES THEY ENJOYED IN 2016

32 THESE ARE THE BEST VITA GAMES RELEASED SO FAR THIS YEAR. HOW MANY DO YOU HAVE?

INSID E!DEFE EGX RE CA ND

LORD 100% EST AN E! S! LIC! GLITCHE mon D MOR IND D! HTSP lates WIN! WIN LIMthly PSVita m EER! WIN! WIN LIMEPENDENT A E! WIN! WIN LIM t PSV ita ne agazi ND F FIND ITED RUN FIND ITED RUN FIND ITED RUN ws, re ne an ILLED OUT M GA OUT M OUT M GA GAM views ORE MES WITH ES ORE MES WITH OR d W WITH E ON packe ON PA ON PA , featu PAGE ITH US! GE 39 US! GE 39 US! VITA d wit 39! ! ! res a ‘s h Vit‘s CONT ‘s nd co a co ntent! ntent! ‘s ENT! AT EAT, NUCL URES INCL EAR GO UDIN G LF & MOR E!

04 PSX

‘s

38 PATREON STARS

Issue 21 | January WEBSITE TEAM Timmy Garrett @timmygarrett40k Reece Heyworth @rheyworth07 Brandon Crisp @crispyn64

THIS MAGAZINE WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT THESE AWESOME PEOPLE! THANK YOU!

@PSVitaMag CONTRIBUTORS Sandeep Rai @2_Old_4_Gaming Tyler Robertson @TylersNewGroove Jamie Saul @TheJamieSaul Kresnik Ahtreide @Kresnik258 Jon Harding-Rathbone @BorderlineJ Marcus Blackstock @kacboy Tyler Olthoff @Imsohappy77


to your

Magazine!

DEVELOPER FEATURES

10 FDG ENTERTAINMENT OCEANHORN IS A CROSS BETWEEN THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, FINAL FANTASY AND THE MANA SERIES. WE CAUGHT UP WITH FDG ENTERTAINMENT TO FIND OUT MORE.

REVIEWS 12

Hue

18

Knobswitch

24

Battalion Commander

14

Root letter

20

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

26

The Keeper of Four Elements

16

Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure

22

Neon Chrome

28

Lara Croft Go

thevitalounge.net SPECIAL THANKS FDG Entertainment @FDG_Games Blue Maxima BlueMaxima Your PSVita @yourPSVita My PSVita @MyPSVITApl Jakie Henry JH_BOOS GadgetGirlKylie GadgetGirlKylie Limited Run Games LimitedRunGames and Play-Asia.com @PlayAsia

@TheVitaLounge COVERAGE Are you a developer? If you are working on PSVita content and want to get it covered for FREE in either the magazine or on the website, then we would love to hear from you! Please send an email to press@thevitalounge.net and add us to your press lists. If you have a game coming out soon and want us to tell other Vita owners, get in touch!

patreon.com/TheVitaLounge DISCLAIMER The Vita Lounge is an independent PlayStation Vita enthusiast website and magazine. All content featured is used with permission, and is used to promote existing and upcoming titles for the PS Vita. We are not endorsed or affiliated with Sony or PlayStation, or any of the companies featured. © 2015-2016 The Vita Lounge


Written by Sandeep Rai

@2_Old_4_Gaming

Sandeep Rai has been playing videogames since his dad bought a BBC Micro back when he was 3 years old and has never stopped. He's owned most of the major consoles over the years but ever since buying a PSP, handheld gaming has been his main source of gaming.

Since 2014, December has become a big month for Vita owners. The PlayStation Experience is Sony's chance to show us that they have not forgotten our favourite handheld, with new games and releases announced during the keynote. I thought the PSX 2016 keynote was light on Vita news compared to previous years but I did get the chance to try some upcoming Vita games on the show floor. The show floor had only several playable Vitas but there were other games coming to Vita in 2017 playable on PS4. I was lucky enough to go hands on with some of them and talk to the developers of the games.

Salt & Sanctuary As a huge fan of the Souls series this was the game I was most looking forward to playing. The demo lasted around 10 minutes and involved travelling through a level slaying monsters to reach the end boss. Talking to the developers, the Vita version still needs more work until it's complete. There were moments during my playthrough when the developer commented on there being slow down that I didn't even notice. The only moments of slow down I did notice was when I picked up an item. I didn't find any problems during battles which was really the most important thing. I thought the game played well and it has me more excited for when it does eventually launch on Vita.

Shakedown Hawaii This game was announced in 2015 from Vblank Entertainment, the makers of Retro City Rampage. It plays very similarly to RCR and after a few moments or re-learning the controls I felt right at home playing Shakedown Hawaii. The protagonist is the same character from the original game but he's now a 60-yearold man and you can feel that in the movement. He's much slower which makes it more of a challenge to out run cops. I had a good conversation with the dev about the differences between Shakedown Hawaii and RCR and one of the things he said was that the references to old school video games are mainly gone as he wanted to make this an original game with an original style. One of the big objectives of the game is to take over the city by acquiring buildings. Every building is available to acquire through story and optional missions or by buying them. The buildings also have different effects on the gameplay and can unlock new missions. For example, if you buy a shop then you will need to take out competitors, including online competitors, to grow the business. Other additions to the game included new weapons, destructible environments and a jungle area mission where the action becomes like a bullet hell shooter. I played Shakedown Hawaii on a Vita and really enjoyed it. Whether you are doing story missions or just battling the cops, the game is just fun. The game is scheduled for 2017 and the dev confirmed to me it will be 100% identical to the PS4 version with cross-buy and cross-save enabled. 4

Vitamag

thevitalounge.net


Heart Forth, Alicia Heart Forth Alicia wasn't playable on a Vita during the show but I had the chance to play the PS4 demo. After playing for 15 mins this has now become my most anticipated Vita game for 2017. I loved the 2D art style and the music. What really sold the game to me was the gameplay. It was fast and smooth and very easy to pick up and play. The controls felt intuitive and reminded me of Rogue Legacy in how you move, jump and attack. I played and beat the first boss which was a fun battle that forced me to change up my tactics for the different stages of the fight. Assuming the vita version plays as well as the PS4 version then I think this will be a great game. Speaking to the devs, the game will be coming to PS4 first with the Vita version planned for later in 2017.

Fallen Legion I got to play Fallen Legion on a Vita during PSX. The demo was different to the PS4 demo. The PS4 demo was a longer mission whereas the Vita demo threw you immediately into a difficult boss fight against a Werewolf. On my first go I was just mashing the buttons trying to figure out what each warrior in my party can do and I quickly lost them all. After playing the second time I realised there was a rhythm to the gameplay that involved attacking at key moments to chain actions to trigger special attacks and defending at just the right time to avoid damage. The game looked and played amazingly on the Vita. It seems like a game you can sink a lot of time into to master its systems and I look forward to doing that when it's released in 2017.

YIIK YIIK is best described as a JRPG set in 1990's America. It reminded me a lot of World of Final Fantasy in terms of the dungeon exploring and puzzle solving elements of the game but there are no random battles (thank god!). The style of the game really sets it apart with lots of references to American pop culture in the 90's. My party's weapons were vinyl records, a keytar and a samurai sword. I enjoyed the battle system which involved specific button presses at just the right time to maximize your attack or defence. I find turn based JRPGs with the standard attack/magic/item system can get boring so it was refreshing that YIIK kept me on my toes. Also, the music was good and fit the game perfectly. I played the demo on a PS4 and the Vita and PS4 versions are planned to release in 2017.

Windjammers Windjammers was announced during the keynote and got a lot of cheers although I hadn't heard of it before. It's a fast-paced competitive sports game where you need to dash across the pitch to catch the ball and try to throw it at your opponent’s wall. I had a lot of fun playing Windjammers against one of the developers on a PS4. Although it's a sports game, the speed and style of the game felt more like an arcade fighter like Street Fighter 2. The sounds of catching and tossing the ball also sounded more like a beat em up rather than a sports game. The game will be best played sitting next to a friend which may not be possible for all Vita owners. I can see the game being fun on Vita for solo players but my early thoughts are that PS4 will be the best place to play Windjammers, @PSVitaMag

I enjoyed all 6 games and what struck me during the show was that they're all very different to each other. They have left me feeling very positive about the Vita's prospects in 2017. Vitamag

5


NOW WE ALL KNOW THAT SOME GAMES CAN APPEAR OUT OF THE BLUE AND RELEASE ON OUR FAVOURITE HANDHELD WITH ONLY A FEW DAYS NOTICE, BUT HERE ARE THE KEY TITLES THAT WE CAN EXPECT THIS MONTH!

Spheroids

Asdivine Hearts

Xenoraid

January 10th NA / 11th EU

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemist of the Dusk Sky

Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star

Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers

January 10th NA & EU

January 17th NA / 20th EU

6

Vitamag

January 10th NA

January 17th NA / 20th EU

January 31st NA

thevitalounge.net


Ho eN THE VITA GAMES WE ARE MOST EXCITED FOR!

OCEANHORN

oceanhorn.blogspot.com.br

THE DEER GOD

crescentmoongames.com @cm_games

YIIK

ackkstudios.wordpress.com @ackkstudios

MUSOU STARS

@koeitecmous

NEW DANGANRONPA V3

DRIFTER

celsiusgs.com/drifter @celsiusgs

@spikechunsoft

SALT AND SANCTUARY

ska-studios.com/salt @skastudios

MONOCHRONO

4cornergames.com @Monochrono

CALIGULA

TOKYO XANADU

@aksysgames @PSVitaMag

cs.furyu.jp/caligula Vitamag

7


What's new on the IGC this month?

Azkend 2: The World Beneath

2.8 "While traveling from Liverpool to New York, your ship was pulled down into a massive maelstrom. You woke up in a place that may never have been gazed upon by the eyes of men. From now on, your goal is to ascend from the center of the Earth and find your way back to civilization. Azkend 2 is a casual match-three puzzle game with more than 60 levels of impeccably polished gameplay. Discover and equip more than a dozen unique powerups, and complete hidden object minigames on your journey.” – PlayStation Store

Day of the Tentacle Remastered

4.4 Day of the Tentacle is back in a remastered edition that features all new hand-drawn, high resolution artwork, with remastered audio, music and sound effects. Players can switch back and forth between classic and remastered modes, and mix and match audio, graphics and user interface to their heart’s desire. We’ve also included a concept art browser, and recorded a commentary track with the game’s original creators!” – PlayStation Store

“Azkend 2 is a decent match 3 puzzle game with a short but interesting story to play through, there’s nothing really adventurous here and ultimately a lack of interesting content makes it hard to keep coming back.” – Reece Heyworth

“Day of the Tentacle Remastered is another classic Double Fine title that has been given a facelift for the PlayStation Vita. The puzzles can be challenging and the game can be completed in around five hours, but those five hours will provide you with a hilarious story, great characters and puzzles that hold up even though they are 23 years old! If, like me, you are a point and click fan then Day of the Tentacle Remastered is one you don’t want to miss!” – Charlie Large

Polls Apart!

Last month's games! Last month we received Colour Guardians, Tiny Troopers Joint Ops and VVVVVV in the Instant Game Collection. Here's what some of you had to say about them!

Source: Twitter 492 votes. @PSVitaMag

Vitamag

8


The Swindle

Titan Souls

4 From the safety of your rickety airship, you can modify your thief with new skills, tools, and all manner of technological horrors to tackle the richest and most secure buildings in London. All the buildings you’ll be robbing are randomlygenerated, so you’ll never get the same level twice. Have you got what it takes to pull off The Swindle?” – PlayStation Store “The Swindle is a frantic and frustrating heist game in all the right ways. It’s a challenging crime caper that will test every one of your skills as you try to avoid detection and make off with the most loot possible. Your own greed may turn out to be your biggest adversary in the end as wanting too much could result in you getting nothing at all. The quest for the ultimate swindle is a long and challenging one, but it’s ultimately an extremely rewarding one as well.” – Brad Gruetzmacher

@PSVitaMag

3.5 “Between our world and the world beyond lie the Titan Souls, the spiritual source and sum of all living things. Now scattered amongst the ruins and guarded by the idle titans charged with their care, a solitary hero armed with but a single arrow is once again assembling shards of the Titan Soul in a quest for truth and power.” – PlayStation Store “With some fantastic enemies and well thought out puzzling gameplay you will find a very challenging and satisfying game here, but there may well come a point where that challenge transfers into frustration and rage, and outside of the boss encounters the game really doesn’t offer much else.” – Paul Murphy

Vitamag

9


FDG Entertainment

oceanhorn.blogspot.com @FDG_Games

Hi Thomas, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little bit about FDG Entertainment and how you/ they got into developing games? We started our company in 2002 with Java Mobile Games! Our company name was FDG Mobile Games at that time and we’ve been among the first companies to produce and publish mobile games at all. All the production was based on networking with individuals around the world, not studios. We provided game concepts, project management, QA and looked for paid freelancers to work on parts of the games. When we started our games career and while working on mobile games, we always wanted to go bigger and make real videogames. Fast forward 14 years and here we are working on games for consoles too :) You recently announced that you will be bringing your game Oceanhorn to the PSVita. Can you tell us what Oceanhorn is about? That’s right! We recently released Oceanhorn on consoles and received lots of messages from players and fans who asked to bring this game to Vita as well. After we ran a Twitter poll with overwhelming positive response, we decided to do it and released a teaser image of the game running on a Vita console. 10

Vitamag

HAVE YOU HEARD OF OCEANHORN? DEVELOPED BY FDG ENTERTAINMENT, IT'S DESCRIBED AS A CROSS BETWEEN THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, FINAL FANTASY AND THE MANA SERIES OF GAMES. WITH A VITA VERSION RECENTLY ANNOUNCED, WE THOUGHT WE SHOULD CATCH UP WITH THOMAS KERN FROM THE STUDIO TO FIND OUT MORE! We always wanted to combine the action and puzzle elements from Zelda games with the emotional journey of the Final Fantasy and Mana series. When you play Oceanhorn, you’ll find various nods to these games. Join a young boy on his quest to find out what happened to his lost father. Explore the islands of Uncharted Seas and unravel the mysteries of sea monster Oceanhorn. While travelling to more than a dozen islands, you’ll need to make new friends, find ancient weapons and items, and use your wits and skill to overcome enemies, obstacles, and bosses. How much is there to see and do in the game? The player will explore many different islands including dark mysterious settings like an island which is just one big graveyard but also bright and sunny places. There’s a lot of variety and you’ll need all your wits and skills to overcome the obstacles and enemies. What made you want to bring the game to the Vita? Oceanhorn was originally a mobile game and it looks fabulous on small screens. The Vita is a fantastic little hardware with great controls and a big high quality screen so naturally we’d totally enjoy playing Oceanhorn on it. Our recent Twitter poll results proved that there’s a viable community for PSVita out thevitalounge.net


there who’d also love to play the game on this console so we said alright let’s do this! Are you managing the port yourselves? Do you anticipate any problems bringing the game to Vita? All the ports are done at our partner studio Engine Software from the Netherlands. They’ve proven very professional and we’re really happy with the quality of the console ports they made so far. Engine Software really understands the hardware they develop for and will be able to get the most out of it. We don’t see big problems to bring it to Vita – the prototype is running ok already. How long do you think the porting process could take? We think it will take about 3 months from today plus the TCR (QA) process. We expect to release it sometime Q1 next year. What is it you like about the Vita? Have any games stood out to you? The Vita is a very powerful handheld with a @PSVitaMag

great screen and it’s just fun to play on it. We enjoyed games that took advantage of the hardware like Tearaway and Uncharted but also enjoyed Guacamelee and Ys 7 tremendously! Oceanhorn 2 is currently in development what are the chances of a Vita version? The sequel of Oceanhorn isn’t produced by FDG Entertainment, this one is coming from Cornfox & Bros. directly – please contact them for more information. Finally, of the two released Vita models which do you think is the best - the OLED or the Slim? We love the OLED screen!

We would like to thank Thomas for his time with this interview. Oceanhorn is currently expected in Q1 next year. Do you like the look of it? We will bring you more news as we have it. Vitamag

11


Written by crispyn64

@crispyn64 crispyn64

1 2 9 PSTV 658 MB Publisher

curve-digital.com @CurveDigital

Developer

huethegame.com @huethegame

Released

NA: November 29th EU: November 30th

12

Vitamag

Innovation is essential when it comes to certain (if not most) game genres. While games like arcadefighters live and die by sticking to a wellestablished formula, puzzle-platformers need to introduce something new to truly be considered a worthwhile experience. Games can of course be innovative in a number of ways, such as aesthetics and storytelling, but the most important aspect to be inventive in has to be the gameplay. Great puzzle games strive to find new ways to stretch our minds and ability to solve unique sets of problems. Great platformers create ways to assess our control, whether it be of speed, accuracy, patience, and so on. Blended together, they should make an excellent test of imaginative association, memory, and all-around mental discipline… that is, if the people that create them know what they’re doing. In the case of Hue, well let’s just say someone must’ve done something right! Starting with the aesthetics, Hue is a very sharp and beautiful game. What I mean by that is not that the game is some sort of jaw-dropping visual marvel, but rather its elegance comes from its finely-crafted simplicity. Shapes are well-defined, animations are smooth as silk, and the overall design is pleasantly cartoony. The black foreground and character models are delightful constants placed against

the variables of color, and the transparent lines used to illustrate them make for a nice finishing touch. Soft piano music sets a somber and reflective tone for the world, one that never feels out of place or too repetitive. Combined, the superb visual and sound design make this an enjoyable game to watch. Next comes the story which is expressed through letters you find throughout the game. Your journey is one of finding your mother, or at least finding out what’s happened to her. Her excellently voiced notes give you a recollection of her work as a scientist: studies related to our perception of color. The writing is certainly strong enough to warrant plenty of eagerness in finding out what happens next, but I do have a few little gripes about how these pieces of narrative are doled out. For one thing, it begins to feel a bit sparser during the second half of the game, but that may just be due to the difficulty of the game increasing, harder puzzles making it take longer to reach the next letter. Another issue is the fact that these chunks of story are always followed by a long, fairly empty corridor for you to run through as the dialogue plays out. I suppose that at least the corridors ensure you won’t be distracted by puzzles when trying to listen to the voice acting. Now onto the most important part: the gameplay. When it comes to puzzleplatforming, Hue definitely leans more on the methodical puzzle-solving side, rather than on platforming. You don’t need to be quick at all to play this game, as activating the color wheel automatically slows down time. When the game progresses, you add thevitalounge.net


and eventually fill this color wheel, using it to determine the color of the background. The interesting thing about this mechanic is that anything in the foreground that matches the color of the background will disappear, visually and physically. You’re expected to use this in a wide variety of ways and the puzzles tend to evolve, not from the addition of another color, but from new color-changing gameplay elements and hazards. There doesn’t seemed to be any imposed meaning of the colors once they’re obtained, they’re simply there to expand the amount of color switches you’ll need to do in each puzzle. Boxes, lasers, paint, and other things gradually get introduced alongside obtaining new colors, and stacked together these things pose quite an innovative challenge. While switch-based maneuvering isn’t entirely new to the genre, never before has it made so much visual sense, and altogether feels like something unique to wrap one’s mind around. Most of the stages are reliant on positioning and very rudimentary timing and so the game doesn’t offer much of a

challenge when it comes to platforming. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, the game is still really enjoyable, but it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity. One last note, this time about the game’s performance. For the most part it ran without a hitch but by the end of the game, and this may just have been my Vita’s fault, the final stage was totally bugged. An obstacle that’s meant to fall when walked under fails to trigger, and it’s absolutely integral to the completion of the puzzle and progressing forward. After checking forums, trophy pings and checking with a couple of other reviewers, it seems like this isn’t a common issue and the game certainly is beatable (although the trophy list is crossed with PS4 so I can’t tell if the majority of other people earned this trophy on the PS Vita or PS4 version of the game). Much to my dismay, I couldn’t beat the game on the Vita alone, so just consider this a “buyer beware”.

VERDICT A stylish puzzle-platformer with more emphasis on the puzzle than the platforming. Story and voice overs, visual, sound, and game design: Hue checks all the boxes for quality. Color me impressed.

@PSVitaMag

One very disappointing technical hiccup aside, Hue is a sleek and smart puzzleplatformer with great presentation across the board. It looks good, feels good, tells a gripping story and manages to challenge but not frustrate the hell out of me with its puzzles. Almost undoubtedly a prime candidate to add to one’s collection. It also comes with a colorblind mode for those that would need it.

4.4 Vitamag

13


Once there, you discover that Aya died 25 years ago – 10 years before you supposedly received the letters from her – and no-one knows anything about the pen-pal who Max describes.

Written by Kresnik Ahtreide @Kresnik258

6 10 10 PSTV 1.3 GB Publisher

pqube.co.uk @PQubeGames

Developer

kadokawa.co.jp

Released

NA: November 8th EU: October 28th

14

Vitamag

The world of visual novels has been a fairly recent revelation for me. Thanks to an intriguing trailer, my first experience was with DanganRonpa: Trigger Happy Havoc – which gently eased me into the genre with its murder-mystery story and numerous gameplay elements. It wasn’t until 2015’s Steins;Gate that I really got to grips with a ‘pure’ visual novel that required little interaction, yet that game ended up becoming one of my favourite games on the handheld.

It’s a very loose thread, but it provides enough motivation to pull you in and keep the mystery going throughout the early chapters. Max uses the letters Aya wrote to him – many of which mentioned her friends by nicknames such as ‘Shorty’ or ‘Four-Eyes’ – to track down her classmates who are now 15 years older and question them on her whereabouts and unravel the mystery.

The game plays like a mix of a point ‘n’ click adventure and a classic visual novel. You’re given a number of options for interacting Fast forward to this year and Root Letter‘s with the environment – you can use the trailers presented it as a mix between the ‘ask’ command to talk to anyone around two – some of the gameplay elements of Danganronpa with the choice-based narrative you; the ‘check’ command to click on and of Steins;Gate which led to my interest being trigger items in the area or the ‘think’ piqued. I’m pleased to say that by-and-large, command to give you hints about what to Root Letter is a great game – but it’s let down do next. You’ll often be given multiple by a number issues that stop it from reaching conversation topics when talking to other characters, but there’s always a correct the dazzling heights of its contemporaries. choice to make and other options simply You’re immediately dropped straight into the add small bits of superfluous dialogue. story as a character who uses the nickname of ‘Max’ (relating to his tendency to go ‘to the In general, the game’s chapters follow the same cycle – you’ll read an old letter from max’ with things). While rummaging though his belongings he finds some letters from his Aya that describes a classmate; you’ll use what you know to find out where they are old pen-pal Aya Fumino whom he abruptly now; then you’ll gather evidence to prove stopped corresponding with 15 years ago. Among the documents is – mysteriously – an they are the person from the letter and then grill them on what they know about Aya. To extra undated letter which he never read at begin with, you’ll head across Matsue the time, which reveals that she killed talking to other characters who will give you someone and must atone for her sins. This clues to gather important items, which in kicks Max into action to visit the town she turn will lead you to further locations and grew up in to discover who she killed and characters to interact with. where she went. thevitalounge.net


Once enough information has been gathered, you’ll enter interrogation mode, during which Max will attempt to get the classmate to confess they’re the person from Aya’s letters. This involves listening to their denials and rebutting with facts – a certain sentence or piece of evidence at the right time to show they’re lying, until they break down and reveal key information to you about Aya’s whereabouts. It’s an effective system – highly reminiscent of the class trials from DanganRonpa, that often got me thinking about where the conversation was heading next. Sadly certain features during interrogation don’t work as well as others – the game also features a mechanic named ‘Max Mode’ where four options will cycle on screen and you have to choose the most appropriate to rebut the statement of a classmate. These are often impossible to figure out and merely rely on guess-work until the correct answer is chosen and ended up being a frustrating mechanic that I wish hadn’t existed (thankfully, there’s no punishment for picking the wrong choice).

my immediate thought was “I bet he’s not fat anymore”, yet the game labored this point until Max finally made the connection many conversations later. Max is also an inherently unlikable character and never develops or matures. While someone like Okabe from Steins;Gate starts out as a jerk but grows as the game goes on, Max remains immature throughout. At points he practically blackmails certain characters, as well as regularly stalking them and accosting their relatives to get what he wants. While it could’ve been presented as his clear love for his long-lost penpal, he comes across as a mean-spirited jerk. Thankfully, the game’s supporting cast come across much better and are a quirky group of characters that elevate the game beyond Max’s annoyances.

In addition, I found the game’s endings particularly weak, which is a massive shame as I felt the journey getting there was extremely memorable. There are five endings in total which generally follow the same series of events but then splinter off in extremely different tangents – Despite this, the structure of gather including a particularly bonkers Corpse evidence -> question suspect kept me hooked and the interrogations remained Party-esque ending involving a curse. In particularly thrilling (in part thanks to the order to make these wildly different amazing soundtrack) throughout the game, endings work, a fairly broad set of events meaning I stayed engaged until I reached had to take place and it feels like not the conclusion. enough thought was put into making everything make sense – one ending ties Where the game is let down is in the up all of the loose ends a lot better than writing, in more ways that one. The others and feels like the ‘true’ ending, classmates who you are hunting down – while others ignore many important story described in Aya’s letters by broad threads before concluding. nicknames relating to character traits – are often rapidly identified in the story yet the In terms of visual presentation, Root game attempts to mask their changes in Letter is a seriously impressive title, obvious ways. For example, when the packed full of gorgeously drawn character game introduces the character of ‘Fatty’ portraits and beautiful vistas. The game is

VERDICT In the end, Root Letter isn't quite the complete package, let down by some issues with storytelling and character development. In spite of this, it's an enjoyable journey with some gorgeous presentation and something I'd easily recommend for fans of visual novels.

@PSVitaMag

set in Matsue, a picturesque area of rural Japan that sets a relaxed, laid-back tone for the game – I found the setting was one of my favourite things about the title and it made me yearn to explore the rolling hills and secluded castles of the country on my own. It also provides the perfect setting for the mystery to take place – there’s a real sense of this being a smalltown community that would hide a secret from the world. Characters are equally vivid, brought to life by Mino Taro’s unique style. There’s a innocence to his portrayal of the main characters that’s particularly enhanced during the cutscenes at the end of an interrogation, showing them changing from the initial blank portraits in Max’s mind; to the teenagers they were when they knew Aya before maturing into the adults they are today. It’s a shame that character portraits don’t animate at all, but in general visuals are top-notch and the direction throughout is just superb. There’s a romantic element to unraveling a decades-old mystery that’s brought out by the setting and character art, but is most prevalent in the beautiful soundtrack. While a couple of tracks were a little overused for my liking, the OST is just full of fitting pieces – peaceful at times; tense at others, but always incredible to listen to. Overall, Root Letter is a solid game with some issues that stop it from reaching greatness, but in spite of any criticisms I may have about the game, it’s still something that I really enjoyed playing and would easily recommend to fans of the genre or even just someone looking to break into the genre with an intriguing, beautiful adventure.

4 Vitamag

15


Written by crispyn64

@crispyn64 crispyn64

5 6 26 PSTV 161 MB Publisher

cowcatgames.com @DemetriosCowcat

Developer

cowcatgames.com @DemetriosCowcat

Released

NA: November 15th EU: November 15th

16

Vitamag

Old school adventure games generally require three things: Pointing, clicking, and occasionally thinking outside of the box. Now, if those three things alone are enough to satisfy you, then look no further because Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure should be right up your alley. However, if you’re someone who yearns for a little more than just the basic necessities of an adventure game, some aspects of Demetrios might feel a tad underwhelming. Starting with the gameplay, Demetrios takes the very simple approach of having the player point and click their way through every increasing unbelievable obstacle thrown at them. Every area is set in frames with plenty of objects to interact with, clicking on things to hear what the protagonist Bjorn Thonen has to say about them. There’s tools to grab, paintings to gawk at, food to eat off the ground, and so much more. In terms of dialogue related to the observation of items, Demetrios is no slouch in quantity. In the game there are also some dialogue options during key moments in the story, but nothing that causes branching paths. There is one plot line, and all your screw ups only result in death or jail, leaving you to return to the most recent autosave to try again. There’s usually some sort of unique joke card for each time you meet your untimely demise, so at least you have that to look forward to.

As for minigames, there are quite a few of them in Demetrios. From casual fishing to graveyard pinball, there’s plenty to play, some of it is optional to the main plot and some is required for the main story. Every game is pretty adequately designed, but they’re also pretty barebones, and really only worth a cheeky minute of your time before getting back to the main objective at hand. Onto the only thing that’s somewhat novel about this game: Demetrios has a very nice hint system. Within each area of the game there are three cookies hidden within the frame. You can eat cookies for hints when you’re stumped and can’t figure out what to do next. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out and stockpile them for later. On the Vita however (I can’t speak for other systems), finding these cookies is especially hard considering the size of the screen and the low resolution of cookies. It basically just comes down to hunting for tiny brown smudges in every room. The performance of the game was fairly smooth overall, but I did experience a few bugs in my playthrough. There were times where the display locked and I was completely incapable of doing anything other than close the game and reopen. While these moments were infrequent, they happened enough times for me to warrant mentioning it. Unfortunately for me, I also stumbled upon a progression halting glitch where the autosave made it impossible to move forward, causing me to rely on my last manual save from over an hour ago. [Note: The developer delayed the game to address progress bugs, so perhaps this will not be something to worry about in the final release] thevitalounge.net


Moving on to characters, I must say that I found every person in this story to be quite annoying and unlikeable. Now, it seems like the game purposefully does this for the sake of comedy, but that doesn’t remedy the problem of not being invested enough in Bjorn Thonen and friends to warrant playing through for 7+ hours. The game is about learning to deal with different types of obnoxious jerks. Whether it’s sweaty, insufferable police officers or the worst child imaginable, pleasing these people to get what you want requires a lot of busy work. Bjorn, the main character, is equally as unadmirable as anyone else. He’s sloppy, stupid, immature, and perhaps a wee bit sexist? Yet his stupidity somehow takes him very far, and while his reasoning is often flawed it gets him to where he needs to go. It’s through his eyes that we get to perceive the world, and his spoken observations indicate that he sees the world to be a very crappy place. Everyone, even the people he likes, are irritating and hard to understand. While it’s sometimes funny to hear his thoughts on other people, as well as anything else that

catches his eye, it’s also sometimes just vulgar and uninteresting. Vulgarity has a big role to play in the writing of this game, but for the sake of the prudes there is a handy vulgarity setting when the game first starts. If you’re the type of person that would appreciate good old-fashioned fart jokes, turn that vulgar meter on high! However, if you’re the kind of person whose monocle falls of their face at the mere mention of a bowel movement, low vulgarity is definitely the way to go. I personally played it on the highest setting, but most of the humor was definitely a miss for me.

Demetrios is a decent adventure game. It doesn’t stray very far from the established formula, nor does it accomplish anything complex or inventive in its design. Despite lacking a compelling narrative, Demetrios has solid, old-school adventure gameplay, and if that’s all you want out of it then it’s certain to suffice.

As for the story overall, it was a fairly fun, albeit forgettable ride. Clearly Demetrios: The BIG Cynical Adventure wasn’t aiming for something immensely profound, but in respects to what it was aiming for (comedy) I think it still fell pretty short. Of course, comedy is subjective, and so if lowbrow, gross and situational comedy with bits of satire here and there sound appealing to you, then by all means pick up this game. However,

VERDICT Good old-school adventure gameplay with very little else to be admired in its other aspects. For those who love unabashed, lowbrow humor, Demetrios might be the game for you. But if compelling narratives and likeable characters are more your thing, perhaps you should look somewhere else.

@PSVitaMag

if you prefer something written with wit and characters that you can actually get behind, then perhaps it’s best to look elsewhere.

3 Vitamag

17


Written by Tyler Robertson

1 1 11 PSTV 38.4 MB Publisher

tiredtrope.com @tiredtrope

Developer

tiredtrope.com @tiredtrope

Released

NA: November 22th EU: November 23th

18

Vitamag

Before I made my foray into the video game industry, I was actually a music major in college. Us musicians would take this class called Solfegé, where they would teach us how to hear and reproduce different intervals (the spaces between notes) with our voices, and much, much more. It got really hard at times, but interval recognition is the ear-training groundwork that every musician has to lay.

Knobswitch, the tiny PSN game from Tiredtrope Games is exactly that — interval training, and they really did a good job making a game out of it. With most games, audio isn’t the most important aspect, but for Knobswitch, it was very important that they had a good set of sounds to work with. While the PlayStation Vita’s speakers aren’t that great, using headphones to play Knobswitch allows for the audio to really shine. The notes sound clear but stylized to sound like an 8-bit soundboard, and the correct/ incorrect sounds of the knob are equally satisfying and devastating. While those are really the only sounds in the game, save for the cute little intro riff, it was important that everything sounded good in a game that was all about differentiating sounds. The musician in me thinks that the octave is a bit out of tune, but maybe I’ve been away from a keyboard for too long. Otherwise, the sound design is great, and really gives Knobswitch a lot of character.

The user interface is a clever one, especially when paired with the name. A knob that rotates around using the left stick points to twelve options placed around the knob in a clockwise order. Each option is a type of interval, ranging from a minor second (smallest) to an octave (largest – well, sort of). You can hit the left shoulder button to hear the low note, and the right shoulder button to listen to the high note. You can do this as many times as you want, separately or together, until you make your decision. Start gives you a simple pause menu, and that’s really it. You’ll get a score card at the end of the game that tells you how you did on each level, but that is the entirety of the game. It’s $1.99, so I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s also not a bad thing. The simplicity gives it an intriguing charm that kept me coming back to test my skills. Even the color scheme puts a little grin on my face. It has a pastel look to it, and the unnecessary changing of the knob’s colors each game is just fun. It’s a small detail, but it gives a lot of character to a game that could be totally drab. When it comes to trophies, it’s $1.99-ness is apparent. You get a bronze trophy for finishing each level by getting ten in a row correct and a bronze for getting a right answer without listening to either of the notes. A silver trophy is awarded for having a perfect level, and a gold trophy is obtained by having a perfect game and getting a perfect score of 100,000. While there is no platinum and only one silver and one gold, Knobswitch is a fun game to 100%. The struggle to get that perfect game earns you that gold trophy, and you feel good when you finally get it. thevitalounge.net


It’s also worth noting that this game has a sort of history with Kinda Funny cofounders Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty, who had a running joke on their old podcast (Podcast Beyond,) where Miller made up a name for a game using things he saw around the room (a doorknob, and a light switch). This came after making fun of some of the ridiculous names for games that were coming soon, and Tiredtrope apparently went ahead and made the fabled game a reality.

While it is a tiny game with simple sounds and controls, the untrained ear could have a hard time discerning between pitches, which can be discouraging. Nevertheless, I would still recommend Knobswitch to any Vita owner. It’s cheap, it’s well made, and although you can max out the score, getting there could be a journey for the untrained ear. With its clever name, clever idea, and simple execution, Knobswitch is a nice little game to play when you need a score-chaser.

VERDICT Knobswitch is a tiny little score chaser that is totally worth the two bucks. You'll get your money's worth as long as you stick with it and don't get too frustrated.

@PSVitaMag

3.6 Vitamag

19


Written by Jamie Saul

it isn’t this sequel story that I became a fan of, instead I began to fall in love with the original idea and what happened in the first, original Sword Art Online, not in this new story.

2 6 44 PSTV

For a game that has attached itself to a story with stakes that are literally life or death, Hollow Realization does a tremendously bad job of helping you to care about what’s going on. Not only is the plot slowly fed out drip by drip with huge boring gameplay chunks to fill the gaps but when we do finally get new information relating to the plot the dialogue takes far too long to explain what’s actually happening. Unfortunately skipping through these portions can cause you to miss the odd important breadcrumb of information in a sea of irrelevance.

@TheJamieSaul

2.9 GB Publisher

bandainamcogames.com @BandaiNamcoUS

Developer

bandainamcogames.com @BandaiNamcoUS

Released

NA: November 8th EU: November 8th

20

Vitamag

The title “Sword Art Online” is something you’ve probably heard in passing or maybe seen news stories about on this website at least a handful of times. Even if you’ve never played any of the games before it’s probably not all that surprising that the name sounds familiar to you when you consider that the original Japanese graphic novels have sold over 19 million copies, this speaks volumes to the success of the property that has spawned both a TV show and four video games since its inception in 2009. The whole premise of Sword Art Online is that a group of gamers, playing VR, were trapped in a world where an in-game death meant that they’d die in the real world. Hollow Realization is set four years after these events, as the original cast of characters return to a new VR game, set in the same world as the original, but without the almost inherent threat of death. For new fans of the series, such as myself, the original story is helpfully recapped at the beginning of the game – offering an optional summary complete with some much-needed clarification, or simply a skippable extra for series experts. I think that the biggest compliment I can give Hollow Realization is that it made me a fan of the Sword Art Online series – something I never thought I would be. But

This may sound slightly hypocritical – that when the plot does finally manifest itself I bemoan the fact that they talk so much but this is because what the characters are saying is basically nothing of any relevance at all. It’s something I kept finding myself thinking as I pushed on through the game. In the end, it left me feeling unsatisfied. The long sections of grinding to reach the next area in order to tease out more of the story really wasn’t worth my time – that feeling is something that really didn’t make me want to revisit the game to experience more. Something that I found intensely hard to get to grips with was understanding how everything worked. I have a real problem with games that drop text-screen after text-screen on you from the off, trying to explain everything, or almost everything, that one has to master in order to properly thevitalounge.net


utilize all the tools available. Hollow Realization is supremely guilty of this, and its opening hours made me feel lost and swamped within menus and instructions very quickly. It would have been nice if there had been a more intuitive and less text-heavy tutorial system.

much of my playtime. Because I was largely doing the same thing, fighting the same enemies and completing the same menial tasks, I wasn’t seeing or doing anything new or cool within the environments, everything very much followed the same pattern.

The combat in the game becomes stale very quickly, while at first slashing your weapon feels fun and moreish it very quickly becomes simply a seemingly endless stream of button mashing. That said, the ideas behind it are interesting, and the potential power one can unlock for bigger and better attacks by attempting to master the systems will no doubt pique the interest of some players.

Additionally, some of the larger story quests (called “Events”) give a really poor amount of detail in exactly where you need to go or what you need to do, one example being when you’re told to kill an enemy “West of the mine” – it took me hours of trawling through different areas of the map to find this specific objective, and this ended up leaving me feeling frustrated and bored. This wouldn’t be nearly as bad if, as mentioned before, these map areas were smaller so that objectives were easier to find.

The game world is split into different regions, each separated into a plethora of different areas, usually only offering mild differences from the previous area. I found myself feeling equally as swamped here as I was with the tutorials. The fact that these areas are huge in size is fantastic, and the fact that the Vita handles them with little problem (enemies and objects popping in and out are only minor grievances and don’t really hamper the experience at all) is an added bonus, but they seem only to be large for the sake of it. I found myself really wishing that these areas were smaller, designed to a higher quality and had less empty space. If this were the case, they could easily be more unique and ultimately more memorable. Unfortunately enemy designs also seem to be lacking. Enemies in each area feel very samey and repetitive and so any quests that consist of “Kill 10 Monster Xs” also tend to feel very samey and repetitive. This is another contributor to the lack of satisfaction I felt throughout

Another criticism I have is about the visuals of the story sections of the game. A lot of the story sections in the game show characters talking in front of predrawn backgrounds. These images are absolutely beautiful but unfortunately are used again and again in similar situations – it would’ve been fantastic to see a little more variation in them. The repetitive visuals really didn’t help with, as mentioned previously, the inter-character conversations being quite long and dull. Looking at the same backdrop time after time just adds to the feeling of repetition. Something that I also took issue to with these conversations is what I see as being a sexist portrayal of some of the female characters within the game. Not only are many of them over-sexualised in their clothing and overall appearance (something even called to attention by the game itself) but you constantly find

VERDICT Hollow Realisation is a game that is very much nearly there; if the main storyline had higher stakes, more interesting quests & events and gameplay that didn't get stale after a few hours, it could very easily have been fantastic.

@PSVitaMag

the female characters talking about cooking rather than fighting or other such pursuits. Of course, this is a slippery slope – should a creator stick to their vision or within the boundaries of equality (personally, I believe the latter should always come first)? Make of it what you will, but I certainly found these moments uncomfortable and a little jarring and I think a greater effort could have been made to equalise the entire cast of characters. Ignoring the issue of stereotyped male and female roles I did find the characters incredibly likable – I found myself wanting to play more of the game simply to hear more of their individual stories, which is brilliant, considering that really is most of what you’ll be doing. My only issue here is that there are, perhaps, too many to fully keep up with, and to form a connection to all of them, with some seemingly superfluous.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization can easily be described as a series of almost theres, with the real accomplishment lying in the characters, next to disappointments in the story, quests, environments and looks (although it should be noted the PlayStation 4 version of the game is much prettier than our poor Vita’s). For fans of the Sword Art Online series, I’m sure this mock MMORPG featuring familiar characters in front of a familiar backdrop will be a nice, if under polished, addition to the franchise. As a new player, while this game left me wanting more, the premise intrigues me and certainly makes me want to check out the source material in the hope it will have a few slightly more original ideas that are executed to a higher level.

2.9 Vitamag

21


Written by Reece Heyworth @rheyworth07 CHEAT07

0 5 9 PSTV 273 MB Publisher

10tons.com @10tonsLtd

Developer

10tons.com @10tonsLtd

Released

NA: November 29th EU: November 30th

22

Vitamag

Neon Chrome is the latest kid on the block of roguelikes, the game brings twin stick shooting and endless levels and all in all comes together in a fun little package. The game is set in a dystopian future on a tower filled with millions of people, your job is to stop the evil overseer from taking control of everything. To do so you climb the floors of the tower shooting all those that stand between you and stopping the overseer. Each floor is a level with the goal simply being to reach the elevator at the end, standing in your way are plenty of enemies, locked doors and traps of various killing varieties. Each life you can choose from 3 different characters that have different weapons, abilities and class type. The various permutations can greatly affect how you go through a level, got a hacker? There are plenty more crates you can open for cash, got a shield, you can be more bold in firefights. The game does a good job of giving you a variety of options each play through. The controls are also nice and straightforward, movement and aiming are mapped to the sticks, your ability is mapped to the L button and melee to the square button. The simple controls and core mechanics help keep gameplay fluid, with little to worry about you can focus your efforts more on feeling like a bad-ass.

Each time you die your character is taken back to the hub area where you can purchase upgrades with the gold you’ve found. The upgrades never feel too essential which can be disappointing but on the other hand it means the game never forces certain upgrades upon you. Between each life you can also purchase weapons and abilities for the next character to utilise. Every few levels the game throws a boss level your way, the bosses mix things up with a suite of new attacks from a giant centipede that spawns mines and drones to attack you to a drop ship that can fire a concentrated laser at you. To back up the game play, each of the games levels despite being randomly generated seem well designed enabling the player options in their approach. The game allows you to take things slowly and pick off enemies one by one in a more tactical manner such as shooting them through thin walls without their knowledge or luring a soldier with a riot shield into positions where he can be gunned down from behind. Alternatively, you can run through rooms quickly mowing down enemies and dodging bullets if that’s more your style. The game is excellently designed and is worth looking at for design alone, to further sweeten the deal the game boasts an impressive amount of content, as well as the randomised levels there are secret rooms that’ll challenge your skills as well as new abilities and weapons to find. You’ll need to replay floors several times in order to unlock all the abilities and weapons, whilst optional it does open up more options for you later on in the game. thevitalounge.net


Unfortunately it is not all good news, the game does struggle to perform under more intense levels with lots of enemies, the game drops frames and much of the damage calculations go out the window so perhaps more optimisation for the Vita was needed. As well as the questionable performance on action heavy levels, the controls feel a little loose at times, aiming quickly can sometimes feel tricky and can cause problems switching between targets quickly.

These problems thankfully dont impact on the moment to moment enjoyment of the game and the good far outweighs the bad here. If you’re looking for a new shooter to scratch that action itch then Neon Chrome should definitely be on your radar.

VERDICT Neon chrome is a memorable shooter that provides an enticing array of options to tackle its fun levels. Despite a few technical issues the gameplay shines and is definitely worth a look if you're in the market for a new action game.

@PSVitaMag

3.6 Vitamag

23


Written by Kresnik Ahtreide @Kresnik258

1 4 7 PSTV 53.2 MB Publisher

Smartphone Labs

Developer

Smartphone Labs

Released

NA: December 1st EU: December 2nd

24

Vitamag

“Bullet hell with a twist” would be the easiest way to describe Battalion Commander, an interesting arcade-y game brought to the Vita by SPL Games. While it’s a fun distraction for an afternoon, there’s not really enough meat here to make it a worthwhile recommendation. You’re given nothing in the way of story or introduction upon booting up the game – just dropped into a series of menus. All navigation around these is done by touch and it’s fairly easy to get to grips with this, although there’s a distinct lack of tutorials to get you started. After a bit of fiddling with options, you’re lead straight into the bulk of the gameplay by entering the campaign. What you’ll discover is that the game is a vertically-scrolling shooter, much like any classic SHMUP, where you control an army commander as he ascends a field fighting off enemies. The gimmick here is that he can command a battalion – you’ll come across cages during a mission which if broken will free an allied soldier, who can follow you around and provide additional fire. Through repeated play you can build up a team of 10+ allies to flank you, all with varying abilities (flamethrowers; grenades; rocket launchers), giving you a veritable army to play around with. And repeated play is very much the expectation here – it’s unlikely you’ll complete much of the game on your first try, but practice means you’ll keep getting

better and slowly start progressing further. Adding to this is a progression system – downed enemies drop stars which give you experience – you can gain more by completing specific challenges (i.e. killing x number of enemies), and this experience will rank you up as a commander allowing you to buy upgrades using the coins you’ll have collected from the battlefield. While a nice system, it rapidly becomes frustrating as you can only ever have 3 challenges on the go at one time, which are replaced once completed. This means the game often asks you to do things you’ll have already done a dozen times prior, so it comes across as an artificial way to bolster the title’s length. Still, the upgrade system does provide some nice bonuses such as new classes to recruit; new weapons and power ups such as air support, all of which aid you in battle. Core gameplay consists of moving your commander left, right, up and down to fire at the various buildings and enemies that appear at the top of the screen, while occasionally pressing the power up button. Sadly interaction with the game is little more than this. Your character and squad fire automatically; you can’t organize the layout of your team or do anything other than move and activate powerups. It’s quite an addictive setup to begin with but never progresses any further by giving you more to think about or do. Enemies do get progressively more challenging as you make your way across the map but after a point the variety stops and you’re simply handed more constant streams of the exact same foes, which becomes tedious. thevitalounge.net


It would help if the game had more content to offer, but it doesn’t. The campaign requires you to make it 1500m through a snowy environment then fight the boss at the end, which (when beaten) unlocks ‘endless’ mode… which means running the same environment for as long as you can without a boss at the end.

in that all characters are drawn in a very cartoon-y style; there’s an abundance of stars and coins everywhere etc. It’s all very generic there’s no real flair or style to any of it, which detracts from the experience somewhat.

It doesn’t help, either, that there’s a massive lack of environments on show here – there’s Presentation-wise, everything is military- only one snowy zone in the campaign that’s themed, in fitting with the title. In general repeated in endless mode and that’s all. It really feels like only playing the first chapter there’s nothing wrong here – although there’s a mobile-esque feel to everything in a title, only to be told there’s no more.

VERDICT Despite being a brief, fun distraction, Battalion Commander is ultimately an uninspired game lacking enough content to make it a worthwhile recommendation.

@PSVitaMag

Music plays a part in this, with the same tune repeated over and over during the campaign – new songs only being revealed after you unlock ‘endless’ mode which thankfully gives some much needed respite. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time with Battalion Commander, as there were moments I got caught up in trying to achieve a new high score or trying out the next upgrade. But the experience was uninspired and brief and despite the low price point, left me expecting a whole lot more.

2.5 Vitamag

25


Written by Jamie Saul

@TheJamieSaul

1 4 7 PSTV 87.7 MB Publisher

Smartphone Labs

Developer

Smartphone Labs

Released

NA: December 1st EU: December 2nd

26

Vitamag

Tower defence games are a genre that has fascinated me for a long, long time. I don’t get what makes them fun, yet history has proven, time after time, that their addictive power brings me back to them again and again. And the Keeper Of Four Elements is no different. It’s addictive, fun, and offers a diverse range of level designs that mix up each stage to the extent that I wanted and was happy to come back again and again. And I don’t think the fact that things feel different can be understated: it would be so easy to simply rinse and repeat, having the same pattern or formula to expand the number of possible levels, but that hasn’t happened here, and the game is arguably better for it. While that certainly isn’t a problem the game suffers from, I think the challenge presented by some of the different stages is. Think back to the days of the Atari 2600 and even early Nintendo titles, when games were hard so they could be long. They weren’t hard for the sake of it, but merely to extend the overall play time and, presumably, for developers to satisfy their bosses that they’d made an actual game worth paying for, not something 15 minutes long; this is exactly Four Elements’ problem.

To be clear, it isn’t the challenge I have a problem with – I actually found it refreshing to have a properly challenging tower defence game, where I actually had to think over strategy and what I was doing from one moment to the next. For me, the problem lies in the fact that there simply aren’t that many stages – something I noticed when first looking at the map – and that they don’t get repetitive. Often, tower defence titles do feel repetitive if there are a larger number of stages, because similar mechanics are reused. Here the problem is the opposite: there aren’t a large number of levels, so they don’t feel repetitive, but, to increase the overall play time, they have been made harder than is probably necessary. However, my main problem with the game is the fact it doesn’t run well on the Vita at all. My game crashed twice, for reasons I couldn’t work out at either point. Additionally, at certain moments when lots of enemies appeared on screen I experienced a huge amount of lag. Not only was it incredibly frustrating, but it became impossible to build more towers or activate traps at these crucial moments, when one activation could spell success or failure. Equally, it doesn’t seem to have been optimised for the Vita in a more traditional sense. Everything – as far as I can tell (the game does a tremendously bad job at telling you how to play) – is based purely on touch, with the face buttons and triggers being superfluous and essentially useless. In principle, I have no problem with this – if that’s the way that makes most sense, that’s the way I’m happy to play it. Rather, to me, it seems as though this was done thevitalounge.net


out of either laziness or not properly understanding the Vita as a platform, and that it’s different from a PC web-browser game and should thus be designed differently from one. In fact, having briefly looked at the original web version, I can see very little difference in the outward facing portion of the game – of course, I’m sure the backend of things had to be changed to a much greater extent. Speaking of which, I don’t understand why, if you simply wanted the tower

defence experience, you’d play the game on Vita and pay for it, when it’s free on the internet. Of course, there’s something to be said for having this kind of game on the go, but I don’t think it’s good enough, or has enough to set it apart from the competition, to warrant the (albeit small) price tag. Despite it’s fun, colourful visuals and entertaining blend of level designs, The Keeper Of Four Elements struggles to not simply fall into the trap of being another

VERDICT While perhaps not technically impressive, The Keeper Of Four Elements is a game that does a great job of being fun, even if, perhaps, it does little to set it apart from the rest of the tower defence crowd.

@PSVitaMag

generic entry in a genre plagued with clones of the same game again and again. That’s not to say it isn’t fun – it really is – or that its easy, medium and hard difficulties drew me back again and again, but if you’re looking for something that spices up tower defence, look elsewhere. If, however, you want something fun, easy to dip in and out of, and that feels very much like comfort food, Four Elements should be a perfect fit. Equally, if you’re a newcomer to the genre, it’s a great place to get started.

2.8 Vitamag

27


Written by Jenny Jones

@Kitty_has_Klaws Deathskitten

9 5 3 PSTV 1.9 GB Publisher

square-enix.com @SquareEnix

Developer

square-enix.com @SquareEnix

Released

NA: December 3rd EU: December 4th

28

Vitamag

Following on from the success of Hitman Go, Square Enix Montreal has now brought everyone’s favourite tomb raider to the PS Vita in the form of a turn-based puzzle game. Lara Croft Go was originally released for mobile devices and you can definitely tell, I honestly don’t mean that as a bad thing though, more as a compliment in that the game is great in short bursts with loads of fun small levels that play really well on the PS Vita.

Lara Croft Go strips down everything to get to the very essence of the Tomb Raider series; exploring ancient tombs and finding treasure. There’s no dialogue in the game, no detailed storyline or internal musings from Lara. Instead it’s all about trying to find treasure and ancient relics. The gameplay is wonderfully simple and easy to get to grips with. Levels consist of pathways of nodes that are connected to each other. Lara can step from node to node along these lines by using either the left analogue stick or by swiping the front touch screen in the direction that you want to move. After you make a move enemies and obstacles will also take a turn to move. You’re aim is to get to the end of the level, avoiding tricky obstacles and enemies like snakes and giant spiders. The game eases you in gently and introduces new types of obstacles and enemies gradually. The game never really

explicitly tells you how to defeat an enemy or avoid certain types of obstacles but it doesn’t take much experimenting to learn the patterns of movement needed to overcome things. The difficulty does increase but I never had moments where I felt completely stuck, I will admit that there were some levels that took me a bit of time to figure out though. This just added a nice feeling of satisfaction and smugness when I did manage to finally figure it out. If you do get completely stuck you can switch on the tips in the menu which will show you exactly how to complete the level you’re on. There are not a particularly vast number of different types of enemies and obstacles and they range from the aforementioned snakes and spiders to things like saw blades and boulders. Although the number of obstacles is not very varied I think that the designs of the levels do a good enough job of being diverse enough that you don’t feel like the game is repetitive. You’ll have to constantly think of new and different ways to use obstacles and enemies against each other to your advantage. Although the game doesn’t have a detailed storyline the levels do follow on from each other. Lara starts off in a jungle and climbs down into a fissure which leads into a series of caverns with an ancient structure within. You’ll need to complete the many levels to find the treasure hidden deep within and then have to escape before the caverns collapse. I quite enjoyed that the levels were linked in this way, it makes you feel like you’re on an adventure without Lara needing to utter a single word. In the menu each set of levels are held within a notepad and there are five of them to thevitalounge.net


work through. You’ll need to complete the proceeding levels before moving on to the next notepad and you have to complete the levels in the order given to you. This means that if you are stuck on a level you can’t skip it and come back to it later. There are also a couple of additional notepads with their own individual sets of levels that you can attempt at any time. “The Cave of Fire” and “The Mirror of Spirits” have with their own unique environments and these start off a lot trickier then the other notepads so although you can access them at any point it’s probably better to save them until after you’ve finished all the other notepads. Although the game has a lot of levels they’re all fairly short so the game isn’t massively long. If you’re good at these types of puzzles you could probably complete all levels within a day, if some of the levels take you a bit of time to figure out and you decide not to use any tips or look up the solutions online then it will obviously take you a bit longer to complete.

There is a little bit of replayability but not as much as there was in Hitman Go. Levels in Hitman Go had various challenges such as completing a level within a set number of moves and killing all enemies whereas for some reason Lara Croft Go doesn’t have any of those kinds of challenges. What it does have are a number of hidden vases in some of the levels, touching the vase on the touchscreen will open them and uncover either a gem or a relic fragment. Finding all of the relic fragments and gems will unlock various new outfits. Some of these vases can be really tricky to find, so much so that it almost feels like a chore rather than a fun activity. One irritating game design is that you can’t see how many vases are still left in a level without exiting out of the level and checking it out from the level select which brings me on to my biggest gripe with the game, the slow loading. Loading between levels takes forever and even just restarting after dying takes an age. It really breaks your concentration and pulls you out of the adventure.

VERDICT Lara Croft Go is a gorgeous cel-shaded puzzle game featuring everyone's favourite Tomb Raider. Although the game is fairly short it is entertaining and worth trying even if you've never played a Tomb Raider game before. I am really looking forward to seeing what the franchise does next.

@PSVitaMag

Visually Lara Croft Go is stunning and in quite a different style to Hitman Go. In Hitman Go levels were presented as elegant looking board games with Agent 47 and other people presented as board game pieces. Lara Croft Go has moved in a different direction and instead has a much more fluid look and feel too it. Lara moves athletically and gracefully around the level which is presented in a geometric celshaded style, it’s a striking style, one that works really well. The music also works really well, the relaxing ambient sounds compliment the game without drawing too much attention to itself. Overall I enjoyed my time with Lara Croft Go, it’s a gorgeous and fun little puzzle game with a fairly easy platinum trophy. If you’re a veteran of puzzle games you probably won’t find the levels particularly tough, especially in the beginning, but the levels are beautifully designed and there is a bit of a challenge to be had in the last two sets of notepads. Long load times aside the game is a really great Tomb Raider adventure which is easy to recommend to everyone.

3.8 Vitamag

29


2016 was blessed with GOTY - DARKEST DUNGEON lots of gems for our PS Your PSVita Vita. One of them and @yourPSVita our personal favorite is Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios. It is such a brutally realistic dungeon crawler RPG ONE TO WATCH! that can make you Everybody wants to have another Persona spend hundreds of hours in its mystical on their PS Vita. In 2017 there could be but well written story a possible spiritual successor with its and setting. With a own personal vibe. Caligula promises kind of Dark Souls an interesting story by Tadashi Satomi, social links and relationships to over 500 attitude this game has a complex game NPCs and of course lots of RPG gameplay. design but yet let you decide who you Atlus will publish this game in spring next want to be or not be. Darkest Dungeon is year - you better be prepared for it! simply a must have on the PS Vita.

MyPSVITA

@MyPSVITApl

ONE TO WATCH! Well, one could say that I’m being bias by choosing Regalia. OK, it’s partially true, I’ll admit that, after all Pixelated Milk is Polish studio. But! This game is the first and only project I decided to back on Kickstarter. The most important reason behind it is that I really believed in it and wanted to help to bring it to PSV. I like Japanese tactic RPG (although I’m not great at them) and Regalia seems to offer that experience. Besides story looks interesting, art is great, music sound nice and creators are listening to feedback from interested gamers. I really hope that Pixelated Milk will fulfil my high expectations set for Regalia!

BlueMaxima

@BlueMaxima

There are plenty of games I played this year that would be well deserving of a GOTY nomination, but one caught me so thoroughly by surprise and has maintained such a dominant spot in my 'play this when I'm bored' library so well that I can't help but give it to Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball. Arcade styled, easy to learn gameplay with deep, ability driven player management, tons of different modes from Festival's great pick-upand-play for 20 minutes endurance test to managing the big team up the Japanese pennant or managing my own single player in the big league, I'm always 30

Vitamag

GOTY - ODDWORLD: ABE’S ODDYSEE – NEW ‘N’ TASTY Oddworld Inhabitants decided to bring their classic for both old and new gamers and it was great decision. For me, for example, because I remembered version from PSOne, but never played it myself, only watched how my uncle does it. I liked how it looked but then I was young and the game felt too hard! Now, being older and more experienced, I could enjoy its full blast (sometimes literally!). Of course I beat it on hard difficulty, which

in first version was the only option. But not only dying after first hit or bite makes this game a challenge. Finding all Mudokons, solving puzzles and testing your own agility are very important factors, too. New’n’Tasty definitely is one of the best games on Vita not only in 2016 but in general. Kudos for Oddworld Inhabitants for keeping their promise to deliver this gem to PSV!

engaged in building my own players, even with the language barrier. A cute but serious chibi style presentation and a well rounded package of features from online play to making your own victory song just makes me come back again and again, hopefully I'll truly be able to get the Baystars in first place on the pennant.

answer for digital download though Salt and Sanctuary on the go will make it so much easier to digest. That, and Shakedown Hawaii - the concept of Retro City Rampage bought to an era I actually kinda remember will be great. And of course, Windjammers. Who doesn't love Windjammers?

I gotta say I'm hoping that XSEED bring over Ys 8 because I really enjoyed what I played of the Japanese version; I would love to actually understand what's going on with that. That, and 13 Sentinels - Vanillaware with mechs? Yes please! I'll go with the easy

GOTY - JIKKYOU POWERFUL PRO BASEBALL

thevitalounge.net


Every Vita owner has had a moment playing a game from a different platform and than thinking to themselves "This game would fit perfectly on Vita!" or this game would benefit completely from the Vita features" Demetrios - The BIG Cynical Adventure fits perfectly in those categories. Originally released on PC, where most point and click adventures games are played, Demetrios had a fresh take on the genre. On Vita, it feels like the genre has been revived with a whole new way to play. Demetrios uses the Vita touchscreen in ways that don't feel forced or unnecessary. Clues and items are less easy to miss and it allows you to scan the area in ways you just wouldn't have if you were simply using a mouse, or even mini games that would leave your hand sore after many attempts. And with it being on a handheld, you can now pick up and play

All things PSVITA Jakie Henry @JH_BOOS

at anytime, thinking of all the areas and clues you might have missed. Not only did COWCAT manage to find a refreshing way to play point and click games but also managed to do what even big budget games fail to do on Vita, Saving. If more developers took care of saving the way COWCAT did there be less frustration over a dying battery or forgetting to quit a game without saving. Demetrios - The BIG Cynical Adventure also open doors for new ways to play for future potential point and click adventure games on Vita, As in using the touchpad to scan the area, gyroscope to look around in a 360 perceptive or pull an uncharted golden abyss and use the camera to decrypt secret messages. Demetrios - a The BIG Cynical Adventure proves that some games are really, "Best on Vita".

ONE TO WATCH!

GOTY - DEMETRIOS

Hi Guys, GadgetGirlKylie here!

the PS Vita with only a few minor issues and Graphically it looks great. The story Today I'm going to reveal my Game Of is charming (no spoilers here) and the The Year for the PS Vita of 2016. I really combat system is really fun, the ability wanted it to be Sword Art Online: Hollow to speed up battle is also a great bonus. Realization but I can not recommend that You can capture a variety of monsters game in it's current condition. Hopefully it that all have their own skills trees, on gets patched soon! which you can learn new abilities and gain stat bonuses. You can even transform So I had to think pretty hard about what your monsters when they reach the level game is next, and I have chosen World Of requirements and unlock the option Final Fantasy. The game performs well on on the tree to get larger stronger ones. You have to think carefully about your GOTY - WORLD OF stacks strengths and FINAL FANTASY weakness and also what size monster work with which form of Lann and Reynn. It's not a difficult game, but it very pleasant to play and I highly recommend it because it should supply hours of fun and also cuteness! @PSVitaMag

The game I'm most excited for next year, Rogue Raiders, it's the Western Phantasy star online 2 we've been waiting for. The Vita community is hugely supporting it and finally we see a developer who isn't afraid to take a risk with the Vita!

Gadget Girl Kylie

youtube.com/GadgetGirlKylie

@Gadgetgirlkylie

If you are looking for a Monster Catching game for the PS Vita with a great story, look no further! Now moving on to my most anticipated PS Vita game releasing in 2017! It has to be Danganronpa 3, i've missed that crazy Monokuma Bear! Danganronpa is what has gotten me into liking more visual novel type games, but what I love about the Danganronpa series is the characters and humour. I've intentionally tried to avoid as much as possible with this game because I want to experience it for myself. But i've loved all of the Danganronpa games to date, so i'm looking forward to more murder and class trials in 2017! Vitamag

31


DIRECTORY A RECAP OF THE BEST GAMES THIS YEAR

STEINS;GATE 0

5

ZERO TIME DILEMMA

5 1210 1.5 GB

DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS

4.8

7 10 2 269 MB

SEVERED

4.5

32

Vitamag

4 1216 987 MB

STEAMWORLD HEIST

4.8

2 1326 142 MB

CRYPT OF THE NECRODANCER

6 12 6 225 MB

DIGIMON STORY: CYBER SLEUTH

4.5

4.9

1 7 48 1.5 GB

4.5

7 5 16 1.0 GB

ODDWORLD: NEW 'N' TASTY

4.5

5 9 22 1.2 GB

AXIOM VERGE

4.8

8 0 21 372 MB

RISK OF RAIN

4.6

0 6 9 81 MB

VOLUME

4.5

8 6 10 904 MB

DOWNWELL

4.5

7 10 5 41.1 MB thevitalounge.net


148 x 210mm

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REVIE REVIE Tales of Hearts R. When REVIEmade meREbuy VIEW a Vita was The game that WED WED WED ED! ! ! ! I saw it at the store I could not believe my eyes. I came back home with a brand new Vita, Tales of Hearts R and Muramasa Rebirth. Those are my 2 favorite games in the system. Since then I have been buying almost every game in the system.

Liam Allen-Miller

MuggleMind

REVIE isn't related to My PSN WED ! Harry Potter, honest. It was the name of my first D&D character way back in 1976. I'd meant to use "muddledmind", but wrote it wrong (I was only 11, so that's my excuse). Vitawise, I play mine every day, usually travelling to and from work.

REVIE WED !

REVIE WED !

Curtis

Thulsa

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@2BFLiam SuperBestFriendsPlay.com Thanks for your generous support and belief!

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PS Vita Club

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Thanks for your generous support and belief!

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Vitamag #21