Games. You love them, but there are just so many out there. A veritable plague of games. While we strive to fully review as many titles as we can here at TSA, there are always more than we can cope with. Rather than letting these lesser-known games get lost to the aether, I’ve opened the doors to my clinic to quickly engage with some of these – sometimes for an hour, sometimes for longer if they hold my attention – and offer up brief summaries. While my name is on the door, I am ably assisted here by Nurse Miguel.
So let’s start with a game that, if we’re judging purely by the cover, would seem to be dead on arrival. Is there still a pulse within?
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (Steam)
It can sometimes be hard to keep track of the Corpse Party series. Book of Shadows on Steam is an enhanced port of the 2013 PSP horror game of the same name. If you haven’t played the original Corpse Party, Book of Shadows will be hard to dive into. It’s an anthology of stories that serve as either ‘what if?’ scenarios from the first game, sequels to the events of that game, or prequel stories taking place before that game entirely.
This Steam port takes the already solid PSP version of the game and tightens it up even further, converting all the art to full HD and even adding full mouse and keyboard support for a nice, adventure game style control experience.
The core game remains unchanged, and is still an ambitious – if sometimes frustrating and clichéd – Japanese horror game adventure. The puzzles and ending requirements are sometimes obtuse, but they pave the way for some genuinely interesting story beats and character moments. If you’ve planned to play Book of Shadows or wanted to re-experience it, this Steam release is the best way to do it.
Fast Striker (PS4)
Fast Striker oozes that old-school arcade charm, and it isn’t unintentional. German dev team NG:DEV.TEAM made the game for the Sega Dreamcast back in….uh, 2010. Now, they’ve brought the latest version to PS4 and Vita with a suite of modes and graphical options.
If you’re a fan of relentless, high-intensity shmups then Fast Striker is right up your alley. The 6 stages and variety of huge bosses will make your eyes twitch and your palms sweat, and the pumping, addictive music that plays during the whole affair is icing on the cake.
If the difficulty turns you off, or you want even more of a challenge, there are 4 different game modes that mix up enemy patterns, scoring systems, and your amount of lives to make the game enjoyable for shoot-em-up newbies and veterans alike.
While the game is fun and fast, the visuals lack enough variety to make things like enemies and obstacles easily register to your eyes. A lot of things on the screen are rendered in the same brown or dark blue sprites, which can lead to some confusion during the more hectic parts of the game.
Fast Striker is a treat for fans of classic bullet hell action, and the variety of game modes adds a nice touch of replayability. It’s just a shame that the same-y visuals detract from an otherwise stellar experience.
Super Hyperactive Ninja (Switch)
The premise of Super Hyperactive Ninja is charming in a cheesy 90s cartoon kind of way. You play as a ninja from a Japanese village that was home to the Ultimate Coffee, and it’s up to you to get it back from the villain who stole it.
Going on this adventure involves speeding through dozens of 2D platformer levels that will test your twitch-reactions as much as games like Super Meat Boy or Celeste. Room for error is small, and your windows for proper execution are even smaller.
Unfortunately, no matter how skilled you are, the clunky controls and systems will keep you from ever really getting into the swing of things. You can only jump off walls and kill enemies by entering Hyperactive Mode, but this mode has a weirdly long start-up and also removes your ability to stop moving or control the direction you move in. With enemies killing you if they turn to face you, this leads to a lot of frustrating moments where Hyperactive Mode ends up being more of a liability than a liberation.
The presentation of the game is at least a little more successful, with everything being rendered in a simple and cute paper-cutout style. Chunky, old-school chiptune music also accompanies every menu and mission. The style is superb, but unfortunately, the game that it’s been given to just isn’t very satisfying to play.
Air Missions: Hind and Heavy Fire: Red Shadow (PS4)
Well, these two ‘games’ can be taken together as examples of the very worst kind of militaristic tubthumping crap that gets shovelled out. The dodginess of their political stance is nothing, however, compared to how terribly they play. It is no hyperbole to state that these are two of the worst games I have played in years, and given their high prices this is simply inexcusable.
At first glance Air Missions: Hind looks like it’ll fill that Desert Strike shaped hole in gaming’s landscape but is so basic and woolly to control that it quickly becomes a chore. The whole game looks and feels like a low budget PC game from a decade ago. The missions are dull, the presentation is awful, and the ‘fictional’ conflicts so clearly based on real ones that they feel tawdry and exploitative. The only care that seems to have been taken is on the modelling of various armaments to equip on your chopper. Avoid.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow (PS4)
Amazingly Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is equally as bad a game as Air Missions: Hind. You know the static turret gun sections that were particularly popular in FPS titles a few years ago. Well, HF:RS is that stretched out to a full game – if 4 differently skinned environments played out over both day and night can be considered a full game.
Admittedly, this is a PSVR title as well, and my playthrough was in normal TV mode but there is none of the immersion and innovation that VR can produce to be found here. There is an element of fun to be had from the mindless shooting but we’re talking a mobile game for a couple of pounds level.
My Memory of Us (PS4)
Rounding off this instalment of Dr Steve’s Game Clinic, we have a real winner though. In many ways, My Memory of Us is the perfect poster title for this feature. A low profile cartoony puzzle platformer based on the atrocities of WWII is not necessarily an easy sell. In presentation and subject matter, what we have is like a combination of Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts and The Diary of Anne Frank. Amazingly for such an indie title, the voiceover is provided by Patrick Stewart who brings a welcome air of gravitas to the whole affair.
Played out through the imaginative filter of a robot invasion of Poland, the idea of a child’s perspective on the horrors of Nazi occupation is a powerful one. You play as a small boy who has the ability to sneak and a girl who can run. When they hold hands, the leading character’s skill applies to both. This simple mechanic, combined with some innovative level design, makes for a charming experience. Aside from a couple of frustrating stealth sections (I universally suck at stealth in games), the level of challenge suits the narrative feel with no real roadblocks and a genuine sense of progression.
All in all, My Memory of Us is a fantastic indie title that tackles truly traumatic historical content in a considered and effective way. Be prepared to cry as the story develops though.
So, that’s it for the first clinic. A real mixed bag of cases, from the terminally crap to the sublime. I’d advise against trying out the two military stinkers, but would happily offer up a prescription for My Memory of Us. See you next time for another caseload of games awaiting diagnosis.