Last September, Sam reviewed Oceanhorn on the Xbox One, offering an insight as to how the game that began life as a mobile app had fared in transitioning to a home console. With the release of the PS Vita port earlier this month, FDG Entertainment’s colourful action-adventure title returns to its handheld roots - but does it still hold up?
The pairing feels like the lesser-realised equivalent, the intimate experience a perfect fit for such a personal peripheral. The ability to pick up and play anytime, anywhere, delving into these worlds at your convenience, is why the Vita and Oceanhorn’s bite-sized design complement each other so well.
The game’s beautifully rendered on the Vita, making notable improvements over its mobile counterpart, which had previously suffered from muddy textures and poor frame rate as a result of restrictive mobile hardware. A crisper presentation and richer colour palette make it more visually seductive, while a smooth frame rate sees to it that the love-in is never interrupted.
Naturally, the Vita’s twin joysticks give players more responsive control than a mobile touchscreen ever could, but, while this is a godsend when it comes to manoeuvring (provided you aren’t clipping through corners after taking them too quickly), it doesn’t make much difference when button-bashing your way through combat. That said, some tougher enemies will need to be parried in order for you to stand much of a chance, which adds finesse to those occasional encounters.
While Oceanhorn is packed with playfulness, my enthusiasm gradually began to fade over its course thanks largely to the tentative narrative and general simplicity of its world. More confidence and interactivity would really have enriched the adventure, imbuing it with some more personality of its own.
Regardless, the PS Vita feels like a natural home for Oceanhorn, due to its convenient portability and superior control over the similarly accommodating mobile version. Minor criticisms aside, Oceanhorn and the Vita share a complementary chemistry that fondly reminded me of playing Zelda on the Nintendo DS, which is, by all counts, a very good thing.
If you’re interested in trying Oceanhorn on the PS Vita, make sure to check back next week, as we’ll be giving away three EU region download keys.
It’s quickie time, chums! The latest subject of video game lust is none other than The Silver Case, a PS4 remaster of Grasshopper Manufacture’s first game, which originally released for the PS1 way back in 1999. How does it fair in these modern times? Trousers down and let's find out.
So not much has changed then? Any cause for concern?
Honestly, anyone who picks up The Silver Case will probably be well aware of what’s in store for them; only someone who doesn’t have the good taste to read up on something before they buy it (and that isn't you, clearly) might leave disappointed. With that said, The Silver Case is very zeitgeist indeed, which will put some off - especially modern gamers with no interest in visiting the past.
Does it come recommended despite that?
Anyone with a love of visual novels and/or point-and-click adventures should definitely give The Silver Case a whirl, as there’s plenty to enjoy in the setting, story and all-round quirkiness. Everyone else, however, should approach with some caution; this game is as niche as they come, and although that in itself can often seem appealing, we recommend watching a let’s play (at least check out the brief trailer above, lazy) or waiting for a price drop before you part ways with your coins.
The Silver Case is available now on PS4 & PC.
Join us in taking Good Catch Games’ stealth-focused multiplayer beat ‘em up, Black & White Bushido, into the shadows for a covert quickie.
Sounds good, but are there any lingering concerns?
Our concern really lies in the game’s lasting appeal. You’ll definitely have a blast if you have a bunch of friends over, but when they leave - and you’re left all alone - the game just doesn’t hold up to the same standard. Beating the largely dim witted AI gets dull rather quickly, and although the online components do a decent job of upholding the values of local multiplayer, it really does suffer from the lack of in-the-room gloating and goading.
With that in mind, does it come recommended?
B&WB is built for Friday nights with a bunch of chums, pizza and fizzy drinks aplenty - if this sounds like you and your friends, then we can recommend it. For the soloist, however, we’d struggle to endorse it - the AI doesn’t inspire, and the online multiplayer just doesn’t carry the same joy as its local counterpart, which is a shame, but not entirely unexpected.
Black & White Bushido is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam.
We sat down with Norwegian indie developer Rain Games to discuss their latest action-adventure game, World to the West, the work of Jules Verne, taking risks and Pokémon Blue - enjoy!
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
We were inspired by a lot of different things while developing World to the West. The Zelda series is a pretty big influence, particularly A Link to the Past for the Super NES. We also took some cues from Secret of Mana, which was also originally released for the Super NES, and has recently re-released for mobile devices. Since we set the game in the same universe as Teslagrad we naturally also took a lot of inspiration from the world building we did for that game. There are also a couple of characters from Teslagrad that make their way over into World to the West. We’ve also liberally taken inspiration from real history. We looked at the Aztec and Inca religions and the colonisation of America, as well as some of the more insane British explorers. The works of Jules Verne and William Golding also played a role in our writing process, which I’m sure you can spot if you play the game. Indiana Jones also played a part in inspiring Teri, one of the four playable characters.
Can you tell us about your team at Rain Games?
We started Rain Games in the Norwegian city of Bergen back in 2010, a couple of years after the Norwegian government announced it would start handing out grants for video game development. The first year we had a budget of roughly 3,000 pounds and an office without heat, which I’m sure you can imagine is rather unpleasant during the Norwegian winter, where temperatures often drop below freezing. Our first game was Teslagrad, a 2D puzzle-platformer originally released on Steam in 2013 before making its way to PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One, Wii U and the PlayStation Vita. Our team came from all kinds of different places, like TV, theatre, physics and IT as well as straight out of university, which meant we had to break a lot of new ground.
How difficult is it for indie developers in the current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit?
Being an indie developer certainly isn’t easy. The most difficult thing is probably to get funding, find a publisher, that sort of thing. Once the game is finished, we definitely have a market willing to buy. You can absolutely take risks, and are probably more rewarded for it. If you take no risks, and don’t invent anything new, nobody will be interested, and you’re competing with a huge amount of games, both old and new, in your genre. If you take a risk, and invent something new, people have a reason to look into your game, and if you can surround that with a solid framework of tried and tested mechanics you can absolutely make a good game.
"You can absolutely take risks, and are probably more rewarded for it. If you take no risks, and don’t invent anything new, nobody will be interested..."
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
If you want to work in the video games industry you need to have passion and drive. You have got to be prepared to work harder than everyone else, and for less pay. If you’re serious about that, learn a skill that is relevant for making video games, but also in other professions. Whether that is writing, programming, design, animation, accounting, management or something else, learn it, get good at it, and focus your skillset towards digital media.
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
We think of VR as a new form of media, and we’re under the impression that it still has lots of room to grow. That said, no new media has managed to completely supplant old media yet, so we don’t expect VR to make any other parts of the industry obsolete any time soon, even if it might eat some market share. What we think would be really interesting is if VR managed to evolve into AR. If you could free VR from the blinding effect of the headset and take it further away from your home we think you could make a lot of interesting things.
"If you want to work in the video games industry you need to have passion and drive. You have got to be prepared to work harder than everyone else, and for less pay..."
What does the future hold for World to the West and Rain Games?
We are currently laying the foundations for our next game, which we will start work on as soon as World to the West releases, and we have a small team working on a VR game in the same universe that I can’t talk a lot about. In the long term, we’ve seen that we spend roughly three years on a title, a development cycle we’re pretty happy with. However, three years between each game is a long time, so we want to expand to the point where we can have three different teams working on separate titles in our universe, so you might eventually see us release a game every year. While not sequels to each other, they would have character overlap and a constantly progressing story. We’re thinking along the lines of what Sir Terry Pratchett did in his Discworld series.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
For me, World of Warcraft, Dragon Age: Origins and Pokémon Blue probably had the biggest and most distinct effects on my life. Pokémon was my introduction to video games, and I spent countless hours in it growing up, collecting, breeding, beating and growing. World of Warcraft gave me a place to be myself in my teenage years, a chance to interact with different people from all over the world and a sense of mastery. Dragon Age reminded me how amazing RPG settings can be, and rekindled my love for exploring new creative universes after I’d spent probably seven years just playing WoW and RTS games.
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
I would probably take the PS3. It was the console I had when I was a teenager, and I really enjoy a lot of it’s library. With MotorStorm, The Last of Us, all the current Dragon Age titles, the BioShock series, the first three Mass Effect titles, Dishonored, Demon’s Souls, Infamous and so on I should be able to amuse myself for a good long while.
Thanks to Vincent, Thomas & Mariela at Rain Games for talking to us. World To The West is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC - check out our review here.
Join us in taking Black Forest Games’ latest effort, Rogue Stormers, into a dirty disco toilet cubicle for a quick one.
Any lingering concerns?
As we mentioned earlier, the game can be quite tough, which will inevitably lead some to grow frustrated. Others might be put off by the blend of platforming, shooting and RPGin’ if they aren’t a particular fan of any one of those elements.
With that in mind, does it come recommended?
Recommended with a heartily emboldened R; we’ll be blasting those air balloon buggers for many more hours yet, likely in local multiplayer, which has proven to be particularly popular in our Hertfordshire based office (read: Rob’s house). Rogue Stormers is great fun for a quick blast, a marathon session, with local chums, on your own, or online.
If it sounds like your bag, you can pick Rogue Stormers up for £15.99 (£19.99 with Giana Sisters bundled in on Xbox One), which is a price point undoubtedly worth its salt when considering the longevity on offer.