Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Night Vita-Thon II: Dead and Loving It

The Vita is doomed! DOOOOOMED!

But it's still fun. Here's a few games I've played on the system lately.


Shiny on the surface but retro at its core, Pix the Cat is a smart reinvention of the classic maze game. It seems simple at first, with your wide-mouthed feline scooping up duck eggs, but the eggs quickly crack open, leaving you with a trail of hatchlings. You'll quickly be trapped by your brood if you don't drop the ducklings in nests scattered throughout each level. Just when you think you've got the hang of it, skulls, mines, and serpentine passages arrive to further complicate matters. If the action gets too intense, you can switch to a puzzle mode where fast reflexes take a backseat to careful planning. Between the fluorescent graphics and a wealth of features, Pix the Cat will make fans of Pac-Man Championship Edition and its sequel very happy... although they won't be as thrilled with its obscenely long load times. A-


Most Wanted is a shotgun marriage of the white-knuckle action of Burnout and the more realistic racing of the Need for Speed series. It's a forced pairing which will leave fans of both series satisfied, yet somewhat underwhelmed. The customization that was at the heart of later Need for Speed games has been kept to a minimum, while the crashes of Burnout aren't as frequent or exciting. The gameplay most closely resembles Burnout Paradise with its dozens of events scattered across a vast playfield, but it's a dingy rust belt town without the appeal of Paradise City. Having said all that, there's fun to be had in Most Wanted if you're willing to look for it. Races (although often too long) are still packed with excitement, and you can launch your car off ramps and into billboards, just as you could in Burnout Paradise. Chases by an ever-growing swarm of cops are the secret ingredient that makes Most Wanted more than just the diluted offspring of two of gaming's biggest racing franchises. B-


This one gave me warm, fuzzy memories of Phantom Dust, an obscure action game on the classic Xbox that was equal parts Power Stone and Magic the Gathering. In both games, you charge into battle with a handful of pre-chosen abilities, ranging from weapons to shields to healing items. However, Soul Sacrifice Delta lets you keep all of these powers at your fingertips, rather than having to frequently run back to home base for a recharge. It's also got a more entertaining storyline, courtesy of a living book which instructs you how to bring down the demon sorcerer Magusaur... when it's not subjecting you to withering insults. With its nightmarish setting and the option to slaughter defeated enemies to strengthen your magic, Soul Sacrifice Delta isn't one of the more optimistic games in the Vita library, but it's undoubtedly one of the best. A-


Whoever said "looks aren't everything" clearly wasn't on the Netherrealm staff when they were making Injustice. This fighting game starring the heroes and villains of DC Comics is the definition of style over substance, with fighters being punched through buildings, fed to sharks, and charging after each other in clashes worthy of an episode of Challenge of the Superfriends. In fact, the designers packed so many awesome sights and sounds into Injustice that they barely had any room for gameplay! Like other iffy fighters, it limits itself to three mostly random attack buttons, with a fourth button reserved for character-specific abilities. It makes memorizing each character's special moves tougher than necessary... not that you'll want to stick around to learn them after you've seen every super move and level transition. C


There's an unwritten rule in fighting games that there has to be an oddball to round out the cast of generic karate experts, lightning-fast ladies, and brawny wrestlers. For Street Fighter, that was stretchy-limbed yoga master Dhalsim, and for Virtua Fighter, it was the perpetually drunk Shun Di. BlazBlue rewrites that rule by making all of its fighters the weird one. The closest BlazBlue has to an ordinary character is the vaguely Ryu-esque swordsman Ragna the Bloodedge; the rest of the cast includes a frantic cat girl, a child puppeteer, a creepy amorphous shadow, and a scarlet-clad martial artist armed with a pole and massive breasts. BlazBlue's bag of mixed nuts are brought to life by Arc System Works' crisp artwork and some surprisingly deep back stories, but the peculiar fighting styles and life bars that take an eternity to drain might make BlazBlue a hard sell for players who already own the faster, more intense Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter X Tekken. C+


  1. Oh, man, that screenshot of the latest BlazBlue title makes me wish I still had an interest in fight games :| Other than that, I love your bitchy review of Injustice and your far more positive one of Pix the Cat. SSD sounds interesting, too, but I doubt I'd buy it...

    1. Thanks! You know, I came into Injustice with high hopes after playing the Mortal Kombat remake, but it's 80% window dressing and 20% gameplay, which just isn't a good ratio. You get bored with it pretty quickly after you've seen all its razzle-dazzle.

      Soul Sacrifice might not be your cup of tea, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's depressing as all get out, but past the dreary setting it is a very fun and diverse action game.