There’s been a surprising amount of good stuff coming out of the minis platform on the PlayStation store recently. We’ve had Revoltin’ Youth, the brilliant puzzle platformer, which I may write a full feature on in the future, Horror point and click sequel Hysteria Project 2, and the jewel in the crown, the works of Grip Games. Grip have been really knocking it out of the park in terms of good quality minis with plenty of longevity, so much so that they have fast become one of my favourite developers, purely on the merit of the three games I am about to review. So here goes.
The Impossible Game:
The Impossible Game:
I will start with the game that I feel least prepared to review. As the title suggests, The Impossible Game is a rather challenging experience, so much so that I have not yet completed even the first level. Don’t get me wrong though, I still feel that I know enough about the game to write this – I got a good feel for the game after failing the opening stage over 150 times. The basic concept (and it is very basic) is that you control a square who must avoid deadly triangles by pressing X to jump over them. And that is that. X is the only button you need in the entire game, as your character(?) moves forward automatically. So why is it so hard? Many of the platforms are squares the same size as you, requiring inch-perfect platforming, and often you will not even see a platform until it is too late because of the speed at which you are moving. Even the best gamer in the world could not complete a level first time, as it is essentially built around memorising and a large element of trial and error. The game also insists on constantly reminding you of how shit you are by displaying how many failed attempts you have had at the top of the screen in huge letters.
The soundtrack also plays a key role in creating a compelling experience, as the synth-driven music builds in intensity and volume as the difficulty ramps up. It is so brilliant that you will find yourself replaying and replaying a level just to get to that really good bit in the song you got to last time. I don’t think that I would have played the game nearly as long as I did if the soundtrack was generic and dull. Basically, the music simply adds to the already compelling gameplay to create a compulsive, yet teeth-grindingly difficult overall experience. It’s frustrating, but if you didn’t want a challenge then why would you buy The Impossible Game?
A solid platformer that provides exactly the challenge you expect from it. Brilliantly designed, but hard to recommend over similarly priced minis on the market that offer far more variety.
One Epic Game:
One Epic Game is a difficult one to review, as it is essentially a series of challenges which involve pressing two buttons to jump and shoot. This is not a slight on the game’s quality, far from it, it’s just that One Epic Game is such an intuitive and simple game to grasp that it is difficult to explain the appeal to someone who hasn’t played it. You play heroic archetype Alpha Dog, a masked space marine who must complete such challenges as ‘Survive 1000 metres with only one life’, or ‘jump-kill 20 enemies’. Alpha Dog is constantly running to the right of the screen, and the player is tasked simply with timing jumps and gunshots to complete the challenge in question. He has a pistol by default, but can pick up machineguns, shotguns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, laser guns and the BFG, a rare gun that instantly kills every enemy on screen in one shot. Occasionally you can pick up jetpacks too, which are controlled simply by holding the jump button to control thrust. These challenges take place across five stages, Zombie Outbreak, Nuclear Wasteland, World War II, Alien Invasion and Fantasy Kingdom, and this variety, in weapon types, levels, enemies and challenges set it apart from other minis on the market. For the most part, minis don’t tend to change much from beginning to end, which can result in them becoming tedious over the long haul, but One Epic Game keeps things fresh. One minute you could be trying to avoid killing zombies for a Pacifist challenge, and the next you could be on a jetpack in a fantasy kingdom shotgunning a dragon in the face to try and earn 50,000 points. Beautiful.
There is a story mode in One Epic Game, but that is not the reason you should buy it. The story is supposed to be some sort of parody of videogames in general, revelling in their tropes and clichés, but for me falls a bit flat. It is essentially a few challenges from the challenge mode strung together with ropey jokes in dialogue sections between Alpha Dog and the cloaky, would-be world conqueror villain. I don’t know if I was missing something, but the game seemed good enough without dialogue which effectively boiled down to ‘LOL GAMES!!’ interrupting the action. I would have preferred it if Grip had left the Story Mode out altogether, and simply made more challenges, as that mode is the heart of the game in my opinion. I am by no means down on this game though. I think the gameplay is brilliant, it has probably the best longevity of any mini I have played, rivalled only by MiniSquadron (foreshadowing!). I loved the in-game achievement system and I would say it is hands down the best looking mini. The backgrounds look incredibly vivid, especially on the sharp little screen of the PSP Go, and have an almost 3-D level of depth, despite all the action taking place on a 2-D plane.
So, does it live up to its title? I would say yes. So snap it up, because epic games with a £2.49 price tag are few and far between.
Despite a fairly weak Story Mode, the challenges and the core gameplay are so satisfying that it is an absolute must-buy. Free-Run mode alone could keep you entertained for months with its score-attack goodness.
Imagine being a lone fighter pilot, with no backup anywhere in sight. Imagine being stuck out in the open, having to endure and overcome 12 waves of incoming enemies, who are all intent on killing you with bullets and rockets. But imagine it all cute and cartoony. That’s MiniSquadron.
You control your tiny plane around the cramped arena (the screen does not scroll, and so the edge of the screen is the edge of the arena) attempting to overcome these waves, which tend to be mixed up in terms of enemy types, frequency and amount. Some waves aren’t even enemies, and allow you a brief reprieve by tasking you with cruelly gunning down harmless waves of birds for easy points. Animal cruelty aside, the game is incredibly charming, with the brightly-coloured cartoony planes performing loop-the-loops and other aerial acrobatics on incredibly nice looking backgrounds. Grip do good backgrounds, apparently.
Like Grip’s other works, MiniSquadron has plenty of longevity for a mini, especially one that cost £1.74. There are eight levels to complete, both in Classic and Survival modes, and 56 planes to unlock. These planes appear to be unlocked by completing hidden objectives within the game, for example defeating a wave in a fast time, or without taking damage or losing a life. I do not know this for certain though, as the game does not tell you why you have unlocked them, or how to unlock them, which I love. All you can do is play the game as well as you can, and hope to unlock some planes. The sheer variety of planes is another facet to the game’s lifespan, not only the quest to unlock them all, but the way in which they all have different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses which effectively offer myriad options for different types of players. There are some small, deft ones which can turn and move really fast, but have fairly weak machineguns and can’t take many hits, whereas there are some huge tank-like behemoths which move and turn massively sluggishly, but can soak up gunfire and are equipped with damage-dealing homing missiles. And of course, there are those happy mediums as well, those that are slap-bang in the middle and those that are leaning slightly more one way than the other. Basically, you can choose your plane based on how you want to play the game, creating a sense of individuality and identity akin to a fighting game – different characters play differently, and different people have different favourites.
So, a nailed-on 9 or 10 then? Well, in theory, yes, but there has been one major factor that has been massively affecting my enjoyment of it - serious freezing issues. The problem usually occurs at the end of a level, which is the most frustrating thing ever. Particularly when it declares ‘YOU HAVE UNLOCKED 4 NEW PLANES!’, and then freezes on that screen, forcing you to quit the game and lose those planes forever. Ouch. Basically that has happened to me far too many times for it not the factor into my scoring of the game.
Still a massive recommendation for a brilliant, fun, cheap mini, but the freezing issues massively take the sheen off it. It is worth pointing out that the problems have supposedly been fixed, and so I have re-downloaded the game twice, but am still encountering problems both on my PSPGo and my PS3. Bafflingly, other people say that a re-download completely fixed everything and all is hunky-dory, so who knows? I say you should take a risk and still buy it. After all, it is cheap, and it is fantastic. And if it freezes, power through it like a real man.