Having taken the plunge and upgraded to PS4 earlier this year, I am slowly getting familiar with the various benefits available via Sony’s premium online service, Playstation Plus.
In addition to providing online gaming capability, PS+ provides subscribers with a monthly glut of free games. Content is variable, from indie titles to AAA experiences and the games cover the range of recent hardware with offerings available on PS3, PS Vita and PS4.
Starting this month, I will take a look at the games on offer to see if they are worth the hard drive space for subscribers, or tempting enough for non-subscribers to take an interest.
But true to form, as VG Almanac’s resident retro gamer, it seems only fitting to step back in time and revisit some of what has come before. So let’s start with my first month of subscription goodies as we work our way up to the latest November releases.
First up is indie title Tricky Towers from WeirdBeard Games. As the name suggests this is a puzzle game that sees various shaped blocks dropping from the sky, which you have to arrange just so to meet specific objectives.
Yes, the eagle eyed among you will have spotted that this is indeed a wizard-themed variant on everyone’s Gameboy-in-the-toilet favourite Tetris. But there are enough differences to make this a worthwhile endeavour.
Whilst the core concept is the same, Tricky Towers is more physics based. Unlike in Tetris where the blocks would fall into a big digital bucket, here you start with a precarious ledge, meaning that right from the off you have to think about where to place each piece to ensure it doesn’t fall off the side or nudge another piece out of place.
There are a variety of game modes to keep things interesting, with further levels unlockable at an escalated level of difficulty. Levels include a race to the top, challenges to stack all blocks without exceeding a set target and an endless trial to see how many blocks you can stack before you run out of lives, Things are complicated by random, dirty great masonary pieces falling in place of the usual blocks, fog obscuring your view and all sorts of other wizardy tricks.
Away from the single player there is a multiplayer option too. Battle your buddies in local co-op or go online, each game type pepped up with the introduction of light and dark magic to make things more complicated for your opponents.
To be honest I was never a great fan of Tetris, nor puzzle games in general, and so whilst this holds limited long term appeal to me, it is good fun in short bursts. The variation of game types, unlockables and online component add some longevity too.
Next up we head for the stars as we blast off into Rebel Galaxy, courtesy of Double Damage Games. In this Western inspired space adventure, you grab your battered ship, a handful of credits and rock up at the nearest space station to see what adventures await.
Continuing a theme, we are once again in well trodden territory here, this time revisiting that old Amiga classic Elite. Although I never played it, I spent significant time with the sequel, Frontier, on my trusty CD32 and there are clear echoes of that landmark title here.
Taking place in a randomly generated universe, gameplay involves picking up missions at various space docks and either advancing the story of hunting down your last aunt (no, really) or just cruising the space highways looking for trouble. Various inhabitants populate these hives of scum and villainy, a voice cast bringing the aliens to life. Whilst docked you can also trade in various commodities, upgrade and repair your ship or hire mecenaries to assist in your endeavours.
It turns out that space is a dangerous place though and so as well as navigating asteroid fields and space debris, you also have to watch out for space pirates and bounties. Stumble across their ilk and it’s time for battle, played out naval style as your guns line up broadside to pot-shot at each other.
Graphically this is superb, everything having a nice, grubby lo-fi look to it. Character models are varied whilst explosions have a satisfying thump about them. Sound is terrific too, the voice cast complimented by a country rock soundtrack that plays its part in helping to evoke that Western vibe.
The game itself didn’t grab me in the way that Frontier did all those years ago. The tone is very different, this feels like a jolly sort of inconsequential jaunt versus Frontier’s more serious, considered approach. As a result I struggled to really get into it, although that perhaps reflects my personal preference towards narrative driven, finite gaming experiences. For those happy with a more free form, open ended type of adventure, there is plenty to like here.
Last and certainly not least is Ultratron from Puppygames. This is a proper old school, arcade style, twin stick shooter that gives you some cool visuals, an awesome soundtrack, a bunch of weapons and a lot of stuff to shoot the crap out of. I loved it, and you can read my full review here.
Sadly I didn’t realise at the time that I could also download games for my PS3 as part of the PS+ subscription and so missed out on action-adventure sequel Yakuza 5 and rhythm games Retro/Grade and Patapon 3.
Next time we take a look at September’s offerings, which brings a fantasy RPG, an indie standout and the return of a gaming icon.