This Month on Playstation Plus – January 2017

Into the New Year we go with another batch of PS Plus offerings. First up, it’s the return of an old favourite.

Day of the Tentacle (PS4)

Well this is a turn up for the books.

Co-created by Tim Schafer, a designer on Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and a multitude of other influential titles, Day of the Tentacle was originally released in 1993. A sequel to Maniac Mansion, it was a point and click game in the well established style of its’ Lucas Arts forebears. In 2016 it received a glossy remaster for the PS4, which you are now the proud owner of as part of your PS+ subscription.

All very well and good but this resonates a little deeper with me. Whenever I get round to compiling my list of all time great games, Monkey Island will be somewhere very close to the top. I have loved a good point and click game down the years from Curse of Enchantia to Fate of Simon the Sorcerer to Beneath a Steel Sky.

With this in mind I eagerly picked up a double pack on PC many years ago containing both Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max Hit the Road. But, guess what? I never played it. I mean literally, never. Not even once. And yet here we are, some 20 years later with the chance to finally experience it on my new fangled, super powered console.

The question remains then, what have I been missing all these years? The plot is gloriously ludicrous, some nonsense about a gunged up tentacle that goes nuts and wants to take over the world. Gameplay is split between three central characters with time travel having a major part to play in proceedings.

To be honest I find the idea of a point and click game on a console a little weird. Mouse movement is mapped to the analogue sticks whilst commands are spread across the various buttons but it didn’t quite feel natural to me. Brilliantly you can switch between the remastered version and the original, which comes complete with the old-school SCUMM interface and which for old timers like me is a very welcoming sight indeed.

The fifteen or so minutes I have allowed myself to play under the terms of this feature are nowhere near enough to get under the skin of a game like this. That said, it didn’t grab me instantly, the wife watching on mentioning in passing that it didn’t look like much fun to play.

I very much intend to come back to it and expect to find a challenging, fun puzzler. But to be honest I’ll probably stick with the PC version, crummy graphics and all.

 

This War of Mine: The Little Ones (PS4)

Ten minutes in to this and I haven’t the slightest idea what it is.

Set in a city ravaged by war, you take control of a group of survivors, looking to eke out a meagre existence. Action is viewed side on with your controllable character able to move freely around the environment, collecting stuff, opening doors and digging through piles of rubble.

The game operates on a day / night cycle, your days spent at home, your nights spent out on the streets looking for gear. And that’s about as far as I got.

Perhaps there’s some wonderfully arty game under the surface here but I was thoroughly bored. The game offers little in the way of on-screen instructions and so I never had a clue what I was supposed to be doing. Worse still, I had little interest in finding out, the mechanics I encountered both dull and repetitive, much like the dingy visuals.

I think I’m coming to accept that I’m a pretty unsophisticated gamer. The more obtuse Indie experiences like this just leave me cold.

The Swindle (PS4)

Phew, rough start. Let’s hope things pick up with our next title.

A cross buy title for PS4 or PS Vita, this is a cracking little 2D action puzzler. The set up is a unique one; you play the part of a master criminal but in 100 days, the boys in blue are going to launch some sort of super dooper crime stopping device, bringing an end to your criminal career. You therefore have to steal it but in order to do so, you have to build up your skills.

Starting out in the slums, your crime spree is fairly low level but keep stealing and the stockpile of cash allows you to unlock different areas.

I didn’t get to see too much of it in this brief play through but it is good fun. As with This War of Mine, action is viewed side on but this has a much cartoonier feel. The Victorian London setting is captured well but not at the expense of creating a fun atmosphere.

Even in the handful of levels I played through I began to develop an understanding of the nuance of the gameplay. I started by blundering into the first door I found, whacking a security guard over head, setting off the alarm, collecting some loose cash and getting arrested. On my next go, I learned to creep up behind the guards, avoiding their visible line of sight, sneaking through the level before, er, being spotted and getting busted again. Still I was learning and the next time I passed up the front door, instead sneaking over the roof and round to the back, pilfering my way through the house and back to my escape root with a healthy 87% loot retrieved.

Control is simple but hints at an underlying depth. Your thief can jump, climb, sneak, hack and no doubt lots more besides. Early level guards are a fairly easy bunch but the introduction of laser sighted coppers when you trip the alarm hints at further challenges to come.

This is one game I don’t mind stealing my time. Expect a full review at a later date.

Titan Souls (PS4)

We end the month with another PS Vita cross play title. An altogether different beast, this one riffs on the 16-bit likes of Zelda, Secret of Mana or Alundra with a top down, forced perspective and minimalist graphical style.

Gameplay is limited but in a deliberate, thoughtful way. Your character can perform three moves; roll, sprint and fire a single arrow. Yep, that’s it. Once an arrow is fired it must be recalled before you can use it again, this isn’t a button spam fest.

The game world you are dropped into is completely barren. The challenge comes in the form of a set of rooms, each containing a boss character to be overcome. In my short time with it I encountered a bulging sack of goo that would squish me, splitting into smaller bubbles every time I shot it; a rolling square boulder that fired a deadly beam of light; and a deadly block of something or other that bashed me into oblivion over and over.

I made absolutely no progress on any of the boss fights having been summarily dismissed at every attempt. For all that, I could appreciate what was going on. These are challenges to overcome and I suspect once done will be tremendously satisfying.

I’m not sure it’s something I would come back to particularly but, despite making virtually no progress whatsoever, I have a grudging appreciation of what the game is trying to achieve.

Also Available

PS3 owners can also grab road battler Blazerush whilst PS Vita owners can enjoy puzzler Azkend 2.

Still To Come

Next time we banish those winter blues with a proper, full on, Triple A sequel to sink our teeth into.

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