Mediatonic, makers of the very cool Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, have a new PSP Minis title coming out on October 12th. Who's That Flying?! purportedly combines a side-scrolling shooter with a tower defense ga...
Sep 20 //
Conrad Zimmerman Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess (PSP Minis/Xbox Live Indie Games [reviewed])Developer: MediatonicPublisher: MediatonicReleased: April 22, 2010 (PSP) / August 25, 2010 (XBLIG)MSRP: $4.99/240 MS Points
In each of six stages, The Duke threatens a different monster who -- clearly responsible for the kidnapping of a certain princess -- tries to escape The Duke's mighty wrath by flying upwards. Controlling The Duke, you give chase to the monsters in a vertical-platforming race jumping from platform to platform and must strike the monster three times before they reach the top of the stage where you cannot reach them.
Sounds easy enough and, frankly, it is. The challenge in Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess comes not from merely defeating monsters but in looking good doing it. The Duke has a few stylish moves in his repertoire and performs deft leaps, flips and other animations as he moves. He can jump and perform a second jump in mid-air. This double-jump also serves as his attack. He may also cling to and jump off of a wall as a temporary stepping stone should he need a second pair of jumps to reach a distant platform. And, finally, he may jump down through a platform he is standing on.
Every time The Duke lands on a platform, a combo counter increases. If he steps on a platform he has already been to, the counter resets. The higher your combo, the more points you will earn when you hit the monster. The combo count also determines which of three attacks The Duke uses to ultimately conquer his quarry. Finally, increasing the combo also increases the speed at which The Duke moves and, thus, puts the pressure on the player to be ever more accurate.
The Story mode is a delightful, though predictable, romp. The Duke is a comically arrogant figure who persists in being funny even when you already know what the joke is going to be. The combination of happy and creepy in the art design goes a long way towards supporting the joke, as it becomes obvious quickly that all of the monsters are scared utterly sh*tless by the clueless Duke, and their helplessness is reflected cheerfully in their appearance.
Beyond the Story is a Score Attack mode with an additional 18 levels, three for each of the stages in the main game.
It is possible to achieve a perfect run -- hitting every platform in a single combo before defeating the monster -- on all of the game's 24 levels. For the perfectionist, this combination of simple gameplay and insidious level design is like crack cocaine. Because The Duke's attack is a commonly used move, easier levels become more challenging as you attempt to perfect them, since you must pace yourself to ensure that the monster will not be killed prematurely but will be hit at least twice before delivering the coup de grace at the peak of the level.
You can use either the left analog stick or the directional-pad to control The Duke. On the Xbox 360 controller, the clear choice -- as should be expected -- is the analog stick. It performs its task admirably and never did I find that it wasn't up to the task from an accuracy standpoint. The directional-pad still works, though I have had occasional difficulty in dropping down from a platform using it and, on the whole, it just doesn't feel as responsive.
If you enjoy a good platform game with a considerable but worthy challenge and a lot of charm, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess will certainly deliver that for you. It is addictive, occasionally frustrating and constantly fun. Your money would be wisely invested in this one.
Score: 9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
It's an incredibly simple game with a timeless story. Deep within his haunted castle, The Duke awakes to discover that his princess is nowhere to be found. Clearly, she has been kidnapped by a monster and it's up to the dashi...
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Mar 02 //
Age of Zombies (PSP) Developer: HalfbrickPublisher: HalfbrickReleased: February 25, 2010MSRP: $4.99
Age of Zombies is an undead-slaughtering romp through time as protagonist Barry Steakfries undoes the history-altering work of Professor Brain. Traveling to prehistoric times, thirties Chicago, ancient Egypt, medieval Japan and the future, Barry will take down zombies with all manner of weaponry, earning points for combo kills and taking on a number of bosses, all the while making silly one-liners.
It's very hard to screw up a top-down shooter, so it's safe to say that Age of Zombies is pretty damn playable. The aim of the game is to score points by using unique weapons and hitting as many targets as possible before the ammo runs out. Barry earns no points for using his standard gun, so the player is encouraged to run around the map, grabbing SMGs, flamethrowers, shotguns, miniguns and explosives.
It can be immensely satisfying mowing down over 100 zombies with a minigun, and the chaining system keeps things involved and makes the player think about herding zombies into a nice fat crowds, perfect for racking up easy kills. It just feels good to get a huge pile of zombies following you and then tossing in a grenade. The weapons are varied and all of them are rather useful, and it soon becomes easy to work out how to get the maximum potential from each firearm.
Not that the game itself likes to keep things too simple. Age of Zombies, like all good top-down shooters, has plenty of challenge to it. Not only are there always more than enough zombies chasing Barry around, each time period has its own unique undead warriors, such as ninja zombies with throwing stars or zombie mobsters with guns. Some of the bosses, like the Ramen Samurai, can also be rather tricky too.
Unlike in other shooters, Barry won't die after being hit once. Borrowing a page from the FPS handbook, Age of Zombies dispenses with one-hit kills and health meters in favor of recharging HP. If Barry gets hit enough times, the screen starts to go slightly red, and players need to avoid damage until it recovers.
If you think that will make things easy, think again. It doesn't matter how much health you have when the zombies close in, and that is perhaps Age of Zombies' biggest flaw. It is very easy to get painted into a corner, with zombies coming in from all angles at all times. Getting hemmed in against a wall, or crossing a bridge only to be surrounded on both sides, is a bit too common, and there are many times when you simply know you can't fight your way out of a situation and have to sacrifice a life.
That frustration aside, Age of Zombies is a great little addition to the PSP Minis channel, and well worth a download. It looks pretty good, with simple cartoon visuals and over-the-top gore, and the game is also pretty funny, albeit in a rather cheesy way. Each time period also has its own announcer who shouts out the weapon names as you collect them. This is worth noting because the Japanese level sounds everso racist.
Your enjoyment of Age of Zombies will most likely be determined by your tolerance for top-down zombie shooter games, of which there are a lot. If you've still got room in your belly for another zombie shooter, then this is most definitely for you. It's simple, it's fun and it's very silly. Those sick to death of the undead might want to give it a miss.
Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
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