Contrast is a puzzle platformer with the central mechanic of shifting between dimensions in order to get from point A to plot-advancing point B. While containing intriguing concepts, Contrast seldom really clicks. Set on a culturally French turn-of-the-twentieth-century flying rock, Contrast follows the story of a struggling family. The soft visuals of an elegant town, along with the saucy smooth music, create a beautiful atmosphere for events to unfold in.
In some ways, it’s really a shame that the puzzling and platforming were added in. You play as a sidekick to the daughter, which presented a problem as you aren’t given any reason to like her— she only gets whinier as the story progresses, and steals the credit for most of your work.
Your unique power is the ability to enter the shadow dimension, which equates to 2D platforming. There are very few enemies, strictly speaking, so most of the game involves solving puzzles in order to proceed, then watching a cutscene, then doing another puzzle, and so on.
The mechanic of moving light sources in order to create different shadow platforms on the walls can be genuinely interesting. At one point, I navigated over the shadow of a man beating another man while a third man watched in order to reach a remote collectible. Trouble only comes when the gimmick wears off and you’re stuck carrying the shadows of boxes around, occasionally taking a step wrong and having to redo the whole thing.
By themselves, the story of Contrast is intriguing and the gameplay is mildly enjoyable. When put they’re put together, however, you begin to wonder why you should be interested in the cutscenes at all, and the puzzles begin to look like token attempts to extend a story that could be told in approximately twenty minutes.
Contrast has a beautiful world and elegant ideas for steampunk platforming, but you can get roughly the same experience by watching ‘Hugo’ while playing Super Mario.
When I first booted up Arkham Origins Blackgate on PS Vita, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it wasn’t going to have the grand scale and quality of the console based Arkham series, but I figured it would have foundations in these games. I did find this to be the case and was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the game was, but also felt it to be a watered down version of the Arkham universe. I did enjoy it overall, but there were a few issues that I felt tarnished the experience. Despite these problems there’s still a lot to like about Batman’s first venture into handheld gaming.
Set three months after the events of the console based Arkham Origins, the game tells the story of a takeover at Blackgate prison with three main villains involved: Black Mask, Penguin and The Joker. Naturally the only person who can save the day is Batman and what results is a decent enough story mode. Many of the console series features are present and transfer well to handheld, such as detective mode, environmental analysis and a selection of gadgets including explosive gel and the line launcher.
There are also a number of collectables for the perfectionists and trophy hunters, such as armour upgrades and components for new Batsuits, which I found to add an extra level of challenge and fun to the game. The cut-scenes are also depicted with comic-style art, which the fanboy in me absolutely loved and the actual game environment, despite being 2.5D, is quite pretty for a handheld game despite being a bit bland, but it’s a Batman game, set in a prison, during a storm, at night. What did you expect?
There’s quite a lot to like about this game then. But some of the features I’ve come to love about the series don’t quite make the jump to handheld so well. The predator sequences are short, few and far between and often boring due to the lack of gadgets available. There’s also only one difficulty level, meaning the combat feels underwhelming and far too easy with enemies going down in just a few hits. I’ve come to expect better from the series if I’m honest.
Overall though this makes a nice addition to the PS Vita library and while it might not stack up great against the console based Arkham games, it’s still definitely worth a look in for Batman fans who want more from the universe.
I haven’t played the original 1997 Shadow Warrior, and without any rose-tinted glasses, I was slightly hesitant to approach the remake. What I found is a solid game that doesn’t bother with taking itself seriously. While I cannot say if it’s faithful to the original, I can say that Shadow Warrior is a fun, if unsophisticated, ride.
You play as Lo Wang, a comic-book collector who also happens to be a master of combat. Inevitably, the katana comes out and most of East Asia is either lit on fire or covered in blood, which sets the visual atmosphere nicely. As for the main plot— does killing endless hordes of demons while searching for a magic weapon in a vague effort to bring down the antagonist sound familiar? Little jokes along the way, however, keep you entertained by the story, if not engaged.
Combat is fast-paced and satisfying— you are equipped with a katana and some ranged weapons, spun around a few times, then pointed in the general direction of some monsters. With no block option and swarms of melee enemies, it’s easy to slip into simple button-mashing, but there are more than enough unlockable combo moves to keep things interesting.
It’s a good thing the combat is solid, because it feels like all the levels have been artificially stretched in order to include more fights, like butter scraped over too much bread. After blowing up three barrels of nuclear waste, a ‘Titsubishi’, and a cart of fireworks with a single pistol bullet, I have to suspend disbelief for a bit when I am told I can’t open a door without finding three special statues guarded by groups of demons with nothing better to do. Then three more.
If Shadow Warrior was a meal, it would be a thick slice of hack ‘n slash combat marinated in Kung Fu clichés with a garnish of beautiful visuals. It may not wow the player with new mechanics or an engaging storyline all the way through, but you can always count on being able to dismember anything that moves.
The title tells it all— Mount and Blade revolves around horseback combat. A sandbox game in its purist form, ‘Horse and Sword’ has no overarching plot save acquiring successively greater steeds and weapons. And conquering the world. If you want. In Mount and Blade’s low fantasy world, five fictional-but-surprisingly-similar-to-real-world kingdoms wage almost constant war against each other. Most of the game takes place on the graphically less-than-pleasing world map and through menu screens, only going into first-person and a three-dimensional world during combat or in cities.
When push comes to shove, travelling through the bland green landscapes of Mount and Blade is approximately as interesting as sitting in an empty warehouse listening to recordings of galloping horses. You play as an adventurer newly emerged from a selection of backstories, ready to see the world as you gather an army of NPCs to your banner.
Many paths are open to the enterprising player, though interesting game mechanics run out pretty quickly unless you become a mercenary, knight, or any other professional that brings home the bacon by killing people while on horseback. An interesting moral choice is presented in that the easiest way by far to earn money (and thus better stallions and sabers) is to tax, loot, and burn villages of innocent peasants. You aren’t overtly penalized for your actions, but I still felt guilty after plundering a hamlet and selling the hot goods right back to my victims.
Combat is where Mount and Blade really shines: the simple system of blocking, then striking seems fairly basic, but the addition of mounted combat and battles involving scores of NPCs makes every fight more intense and fast-paced. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of clobbering a hapless crossbowman as you charge by on a theoretically crippled horse.
Overall, for those not bogged down by avalanches of menu and inventory screens, Mount and Blade can be a world of epic medieval adventure. It can be your go-to sandbox when GTA is feeling too modern. If nothing else, it’s pretty fun to hit people with blades while you’re on a mount.
The Last Door is a pixel-art point ‘n’ click horror/thriller that deserves your attention! Part of a Kickstarter project pioneered by The Game Kitchen you play as Jeremiah DeVitt, who has received a mysterious invitation from an old friend that leads him into a disturbing world across various chapters. After finishing the most recent chapter I can only implore you to just throw your money at The Game Kitchen so future chapters can become a reality!
The graphics themselves are beautifully simplistic with some set pieces being particularly good thanks to the use of light and shadows and terrifying people with rabbit heads. I’m not sure why they have rabbit heads but boy are they ever terrifying! The fantastic orchestral score comprised of eerie violins and the sounds of crows certainly makes entering every room a foreboding experience.
And the thing that I enjoyed the most was that there is a genuine air of menace about your surroundings making it actually scary, something contemporary games with the label of ‘horror’ tend to struggle with these days. This is exaggerated even before you start play by a message encouraging you to wear headphones and probably turn the lights off whilst you’re at it.
The gameplay mechanics are standard point ‘n’ click and the puzzles are good without leaving you feeling over frustrated or like the answer has been spoon fed to you and although quite repetitive, the game’s stronger elements keep interest in playing intact. Also one of the nice touches to The Last Door is the various descriptions of the items you find along the way. Since it’s a Kickstarter game if you donate a certain amount of money you are given the opportunity to contribute to the game via an explanation of a picture or the smell of an old well.
The Last Door is definitely one to watch out for as more installments are released. It is an enjoyable title all around that has certainly left me something to look forward to and the first free game I have ever gone out of my way to contribute funds towards!