Deer God, The (PSVita) Review

Developer: Crescent Moon Games/Blowfish Studios | Publisher: Level 77 || Overall: 4.0

Gods come in all shapes and sizes. Humanity’s search for a higher power has led them through several representations of godly beings. Whether some be literal god beasts that are as fearsome as they are mighty, or a more humanized expression that wields similar power in the same feet, hands and body that we are familiar with, our search for the answers that the universe fails to provide us have come to the conclusion that some higher power exists somewhere and in some place. With this in mind I present to you Zoamelgustar. He is the Monster Lord of some unspecified dark dimension and some unspecified domain that only ask for zealous devotion and the occasional live sacrifice from his followers. In exchange, he offers you his divine protection from errant demon lords. Act now and he’ll even throw in a spiffy looking talisman!~

Most people wouldn’t waste a whole paragraph to set up a reference to some 20+ year old anime. I am not most people.

Karma comes around full circle in The Deer God. With nature as your enemy and with all the powers of a magical deer at your disposal, publisher Level 77 and developer Crescent Moon Games is set to bring the unlikely tale of a hunter turned deer from the PC to your PlayStation Vita. With a haunting backdrop and a procedurally generated level design, does this platformer have what it takes to survive in the harsh wilderness of the PS Vita’s dying market?

No… No, it does not.

Sorry to disperse all the mystery so early, but to be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy my time with The Deer God. While the game seems to be a tribute to nature, the Kickstarter inspired by childhood memories of playing in the woods, it works better as tribute to those memories than a video game. The Deer God is marred by a series of unfortunate gameplay elements and some glitches that make the game frustrating to play. It’s a shame that such earnest inspiration can be brought down by poor gameplay decisions and bad programming.

While enchanting at first, the procedurally generated levels quickly lose their charm once the patterns become noticeable. It is only a matter of time before scaling the same cliff, jumping over the same pitfalls and encountering the same landmarks becomes as monotonous as my use of the word “same” in this sentence. This sense of monotony is only further instilled by the predictable patterns of the artificial intelligence. Each enemy is programmed with a strict set of patterns. While they are sometimes fun to exploit, having forced a few to jump to their own deaths, they quickly become another part of the repetitious nature of the overall game, and sometimes even ruin the game’s climactic moments. By chance, I managed to trap a boss underneath a tree branch because their AI wasn’t programmed to handle it.

Among animals like cougars, foxes and bears, other common wildlife like ghosts, zombies and witches attempt to stop you.

Unfortunately, the main quest line doesn’t do much to help offset the gameplay. While the story sets you off on a grand adventure to redeem yourself and reclaim your human body, the actual steps to doing so are pretty bland. Featuring a series of fetch quest, simple puzzles and even simpler bosses, it’s a saving grace that most of them can be done quickly; the few that take longer to complete are more of an annoyance because they require you to find a specific place among a repeating set of level designs. It’s hardly fun to run through the same environments looking for a particular spot you may have missed.

Furthermore, a few other design choices proved more of a detriment to the gameplay than a benefit. While the foreground and background designs helped make the world pop on your screen, several times the foreground would obstruct an important item, conceal a ledge or hide a dangerous enemy. I lost count of how many times I failed to find an item because it was behind a bush, and found even more frustration when a jump was made all the more difficult because the ledge was hidden behind a tree or an enemy jumped out of seemingly nowhere.

Now imagine if that ledge also had a tree in front of it…

Even without considering the design choices, the game itself has its fair share of glitches. Among graphical bugs like the highly-apparent screen tearing and the occasional stutter, there were also moments that I would die in a pit only to spawn over it again to immediately succumb to the same fate. There were also moments when my character would inexplicably be teleported to a different spot on the screen without the use of the accompanying power. Though, chief among all of these offenders was a bug where food would be invisible in certain environments, which is an important resource to gather.

Part platformer and part survival game, The Deer God has a food meter that must be constantly refilled. If ignored for too long, it begins to slowly drain away at the player’s health until the sweet embrace of death forces the player to restart their life as a fawn. The problem here is that such an essential item is sometimes invisible on some terrain. Mainly in the desert and forest designs, I would find long stretches of land without any food. Death became a common occurrence only to later accidentally press down on the control pad and eat seemingly nothing on the screen. Trial and error later, I found out that the food was there but it was far beyond the capabilities of what my naked eye could perceive. While not exactly game breaking, it was hardly fun to constantly press down in the hopes of finding some invisible pixels.

Oddly enough, caves were just teeming with food.

Among the things that The Deer God does well, the graphics do stand out. Beautiful pixelation brings the characters and environments to life, and the inclusion of various visual elements like good lighting, various weather effects, background and foreground environments give the graphics more presence than is thought possible on the Vita’s small screen. The soundtrack is also a pleasant experience. It is filled with hauntingly beautiful sound effects that wouldn’t be out of place in any forest. Though despite these achievements, they do little to detract from the rest of the game’s monotonous and glitched-filled experience.

No snide or sarcastic remarks here. This game does great things with its pixels.

The Deer God is hard to recommend. If beautiful graphics and a well-done soundtrack are enough to distract you from monotonous gameplay, the game might be worth a look. Though, if you are looking for something with more substance, chances are The Deer God will disappoint. It’s unfortunate that bad gameplay decisions and glitches never allowed this clumsy fawn to mature into a majestic stag.

When making up for past misdeeds as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

 

PSA: Zero Time Dilemma is Out Today!

Zero Time Dilemma Title Pic

Hey everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood Squackle writer here to mention that Zero Time Dilemma is out today for the 3DS and the Vita! For those in the know, I’m sure you have been eagerly awaiting the exciting conclusion of the series, and for the uninitiated, a primer is incoming.

Zero Time Dilemma is the third adventure game in the Zero Escape series. Starting with Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (mo’ problems), and succeeded by Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, the titles take place in a world of pseudoscience where several people are forced into demented escape the room games involving supernatural powers. One part character drama, another part science fiction tale and two parts Saw (the movie); the Zero Escape games centers on themes of trust, betrayal and the limits of the human conscience when put under severe duress. That’s not taken lightly either, you often have to make terrible decisions that cause the deaths of several people to get the full story and this newest entry in the franchise seems to continue this trend with a blood-soaked vengeance.

maxresdefaultFun for a whole dysfunctional family!~

Taking place in the near future, Zero Time Dilemma is set in a secret compound in the Nevada desert. The nine main characters of our story are originally sent there to simulate a manned-mission to Mars, but things go awry once they find out that the whole compound is booby trapped. Even worse, a mysterious figure known as Zero appears and announces the start of the dangerous Decision game. Claiming that the survival of our nine main characters, himself, and the several billion people on Earth hangs in the balance, he forces them through a game where the only way to escape is by gathering six passwords to open a door. The catch is that the only way to gather the passwords is for six of them to die; each password equaling one death. Pretty hardcore, right? I didn’t even mention the part where each participant wears a bracelet that carries a mind-altering toxin that causes them to forget what happened in the previous 90 minutes or that it’s conveniently set to inject them every 90 minutes. Beyond that, there is also an insane cult with a disease that threatens to kills billions. Though, don’t expect the twist and turns to simply stop there. This series has a tendency to lift the rug right out from under the player.

For fear of spoiling anything for those interested, I’ll stop here. Just know that there are three games in the series and each one is well worth your time. So whether you begin here, start at the beginning or jump in somewhere in the middle, you are bound to have a good time with the enthralling narrative these three games have spun. Overall though, I’m sure I’m not the only one happy about getting a conclusion to this wonderful series of games.

When not participating in deadly escape the room games as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness, and Bananas (PSVita) Review

Developer/Publisher: Disco Pixel || Overall: 6.0

When Dave first contacted me to play a rhythm-based game featuring orangutans searching for their stolen stash of bananas, I was more than excited to brush off my old Jungle Beat Drums to play Donkey Konga 3: The Search for More Hard-to-Find Wii U Accessories. I was prepared to camp out for the official attachment that would end up being scalped left and right, due to limited supply from Nintendo, all to play a game that some have been waiting nine years to play. Then Dave told me that the game was actually called Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas, that it was on the PlayStation Vita, and it had nothing to do with the loveable banana eating kidnapper …

Happy DongSad Dong

My before and after pictures, respectively.

Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is an iOS port, featuring some extra content, of a rhythm-based action game that challenges you with reclaiming the stolen bananas of the Mofungo tribe from an aggressively red-colored rival tribe. The game uses a four-beat rhythm to have you perform tasks from moving, to attacking, and to ultimately defeating the rival tribe and reclaiming your tribe’s bananas. Overall, playing to the rhythm will ultimately decide whether your teams of simply-drawn monkeys succeeds or if the opposing team of simply-drawn monkeys does so instead.

Graphically, Jungle Rumbles isn’t really much to look at in action. While the attempt to give the game a particular style is there, it falls flat before achieving any notable flare. What’s left is a rather simple art style that tries it’s best to be simple and cute, but does not possess the small intricacies to achieve that goal. Don’t get me wrong, the game is nice enough to look at, but it appears rather stiff and lifeless when in action. The monkeys seem to perform the same repetitive actions ad nauseam for whatever four-beat command you manage to perform to the point of monotony. It’s a shame too, with a few more variations and perhaps a creative idle animation the art could have been much more pleasant to look at.

Red Light
Like in any good game of Red Light, Green Light, it only
screws up while in motion

The music in Jungle Rumble is serviceable, which would be alright if it weren’t for the fact that music is sorta the most important part of rhythm games. While games like Lumines are remembered for their sweet techno beat, games like Dance Dance Revolution have catchy J-Pop, and even Donkey Konga tickles at the nostalgia bones by playing through classic Nintendo beats, Jungle Rumble seems content with providing a four-beat-rhythm that simply repeats infinitely and calls it music. To add (or subtract), the rhythm itself hardly changes between levels to any noticeable degree. On a better note, the meeps of the monkeys, the sound of a coconut hitting its mark and other sound effects add charm where the art and music does not.

Gameplay-wise, Jungle Rumble has the honor of using the Vita’s least used gameplay set-ups, which involves turning the Vita vertical, to good effect. While this set-up took a bit to get used too, I found it particularly useful in the game’s many scrolling levels to have the screen longer as opposed to wider. The game itself is controlled completely with touchscreen commands and its manipulations through the game’s four-beat rhythm. For example, to move from tree to tree requires the simple alteration between your starting tree and the tree you wish to move to. To throw a coconut requires you touch yourself three times (hehe) and the enemy once. Moving two spaces is much like moving one but requires an added touch on the third beat and a final touch to the far tree you wish to land on. Unfortunately, this is about as complicated as the game gets and I found myself expecting more when there was nothing left. Furthermore, the fact that each maneuver requires you to adhere to the previously mentioned 4 beat rhythm made me constantly get further out of tempo as I had to wait for the rhythm to repeat itself before starting another command. This was only further hindered by the fact that someone thought it would be a good idea for the game’s visual helper, colored circles and a tiny ball that bounced to the levels beat, to disappear after a few successful repetitions, making it the harder to get back into rhythm as I waited for it to reappear. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with that for long.

Fear
If playing games in new and interesting ways scares you, then
stare at the face of FEAR!!!

Jungle Rumble, while simple, is also very short; the five dollar prince tag will get you about two hours of gameplay. The content consists of three worlds filled with various stages that are easy to complete. While the game’s grading mechanic of a bronze, silver, and gold medal offer some replay value, overall it doesn’t add much more time to the already short game. Though, if two-hours-plus of content justifies five dollars is up to you.

OneThird
You’re looking at about 1/3rd of the game
right here.

Overall, Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas feels like a game that had a lot of good ideas that never truly came to fruition. The game never really seems to hit its stride, whether it is the art style that only looks charming when still, the rather forgettable “music,” the sometimes frustrating 4-beat commands or just the game’s short length. While not a horrible game, it perhaps could prove useful as a way to break into rhythm games for the uninitiated.  Personally, however, Jungle Rumble: Freedom, Happiness and Bananas is not something I would look forward to.

Barrel of Meh
More like a Barrel of “Meh..” for me.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.