Monday, February 5, 2018

Project Xenon Valkyrie+ (PS4)

Diabolical Mind and COWCAT Games take a tried and true indie platforming formula, jazz it up with impressive pixel art, and seal the deal with challenging gameplay that isn't off putting, but actually fun. The game comes complete with a light sprinkle of established lore about evil from the dark side of the moon encroaching on a civilization's turf with the intention of destroying all that is good. Past the hieroglyphics inspired telling of the world's looming disaster you are plunged beyond the animated display that is the story's prologue into a hub world with a crashed ship housing three could be heroes and heroines as well as a portal leading deeper into the alien world, and a shop of godlike gear to help you slay the evil that awaits you further into the game. There are no tutorials given beyond the set plot, and only through clicking the button prompts in front of NPC characters and items are you able to figure out a little more about the world, objectives, and features that will aid you as you go along from portal to portal facing a host of various alien creatures in a variety of different stages. Thankfully nothing in the game is overly complicated, and if you've ever played a game like Mega Man or any other Metroidvania you will be able to pick up on things rather easily.

When the game officially starts you will choose from one of three available characters, each with their own melee weapon, gun, bomb/grenade, and signature ability. The characters which are a pink haired girl named Renna,  a white haired girl named Eloen, and a fish-like individual name Nue include their own unique base stats which can be upgraded along the way using talent points which are in turn earned through experience points that come about through the killing of enemy creatures. Accessing their assortment of weapons is simple with "SQUARE" being melee, "TRIANGLE" being the gun, and "L1" being the grenade. R1 acts as a special character specific ability. The melee weapons for each character are infinite in use leaving only the gun, and grenades to be limited by stock availability. Aside from leveling up your character's base stats via talent points (TP) you'll also find you can refill health or restock ammunition. The choices therein play a huge role in that your fight through each multi-staged world is one that will require the proper decisions lest you die a perma-death, and have to start over. Dying is easy in this game as character health is limited, and even slightly touching a hazard or enemy will deplete your health bar fast. The only saving grace for those looking to fully complete the game is the fact that after a complete boss fight you will gain access to a teleport that will allow access to that point of progression should you die.

From the hub world, your base of operations, you have a select set of options to choose from. You can re-enter your downed ship to change characters, and even enter into the gameplay portion of the game via a teleporter outside the ship. Also included to the far left of the hub area screen is a shop for those god tier weapons I mentioned earlier which will come in handy later in the game at the cost of a special in-game currency. When your character is selected, and their loadout fixed you can travel via the teleporter at the center of the hub by pressing "UP" on the Dpad in front of it. This will take you into an initial 2D platforming area that is sectioned off by teleporters that are hidden away for discovery.

Between the starting point, and the next teleporter in line you will encounter different types of enemies that can be killed using your assortment of weapons. As you can kill them so too can the enemies and environmental hazards kill you. Your character is governed by an HP (health) meter that once depleted in full will give you a "Game Over' screen, and send you sailing back to the world hub area empty handed supposing you die. Along with the enemy, and environmental threats come bits and baubles that you can collect to increase your chances of making it to the end. Some enemies hold keys, and when these larger aliens are dispatched you can collect them to unlock loot boxes which will offer you the chance at better gear. Other items that can be found in breakable crates and barrels can be collected to refill HP, restock ammo, and amass the in-game currency that you'll use at the following couple of waypoints that act as a shop and a talent point upgrade station. It is at the waypoints where you'll spend collected currency to buy item such as shields, potions, and ammunition for prolonged survival. At these midway points you'll also be able to apply earned TP for stat, health, and ammo upgrades. NPCs will also ask you for monetary assistance from time to time which you can agree to or decline. There may or may not be a point to the NPCs requests, but I'll leave that for you to find out.

At about 3 or 4 teleports deep you'll encounter a boss that you must defeat in order to progress, and unlock the stage's teleport portal for re-entry should you die further on in your playthrough. These bosses come in various shapes and sizes, and require both strategy as well as the proper usage of your weapons/items. Most boss battles utilize the environments as a means to get around or away from their projectiles and attacks. Learning their attack patterns is half the battle.

About the Presentation ...

Going from the PS Vita to the PS4 "Project Xenon Valkyrie+" made a nice transition. Though the original screen setting is that of a letterbox widescreen format you can adjust it to fit fullscreen on a widescreen HDTV if you like. Also added in the "OPTIONS" menu are a handful of settings including scanline filters, CRT filters, and an interpolation filter for added visual variety. The filters aren't necessary for enjoyment, but they do make for cool visual effects. The base graphics which are pixel in nature seem to be more along the lines of a 32bit era game, and are layered in such a way as to allow background elements to move separately from foreground elements. The character design, and stage designs are artistically distinguishable, and look quite impressive. The added soundtrack which seems to be a more modern take on oldschool chiptunes and orchestral music is quite complimentary, and enjoyable to listen to. The nod to Mega Man with the applied death sound pays homage to one of gaming's greatest genres, the Metroidvania.

The Verdict ...

Despite the challenge, and the fact that a death will send you back to the start this game is enjoyable. It's pleasant to look at, to listen to, and to play. It has smooth responsive controls, and a simple setup that allows for challenging experiences in a randomized fashion. One detail I didn't mention earlier is the fact this game's stages are randomized with each playthrough making the traversing of the hazard inclusive levels as challenging as it was the first time you attempted a playthrough, and different at the same time. It's an experience that rewards the right choices in the way of character upgrades, and character handling. Making it to the end will be no easy task, but supposing you can do a full playthrough nonstop it will be a feat worth sharing on outlets like Youtube or via stream on Twitch. I personally think the game's port to the PS4 is a properly polished one, and one that is worth your money. It gets the Inferno's seal of approval!

No comments:

Post a Comment

A wise man leaves wise words in his wake, but a foolish man leaves foolish words. Please be wise with what you say in the comments below, and bless this blog with comments worth keeping. If you should choose the foolish path though know that it will only serve to let the world know how foolish you really are.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.