Earlier this year, two indie titles made it to the Playstation Vita that escaped are gaze at first – Drowning and Planet RIX-13. Both were ported to the Vita by Sometimes You, previously responsible for a series of Vita ports that include Save the Ninja Clan, It’s Spring Again, Alteric and Spiral Splatter. How did these two new releases turn out?
Drowning is something I certainly wasn’t expecting on the Vita. It’s essentially a walking simulator, fully realized in 3D. There are tons of them on Steam, and most of them have visually rich environments for you to walk through as the story unfolds with a minimal amount of traditional gameplay elements.
On the Vita, you can’t realize visuals like the ones in (for example) Dear Esther or Gone Home, so the choice Drowning’s designers made to go with a low poly style of visuals is what makes the conversion to the Vita possible. There are small sections where the frame rate stutters a little, but for an indie title this is an impressive 3D production.
Thematically, Drowning deals with depression at the heart of its story. As you walk through the game’s environments and lines of text gradually appear along your path, things (including the visuals) slowly get darker as time goes by. The story deals with a young protagonist who deals with depression over a number of years and you see the downward spiral evolve as you move forward through the narrative. Although you’re somewhat free to move around (which in some cases gets you to hidden objects that award you a trophy), Drowning is mostly a linear title with few branches in the story.
In fact, I’d say that about three quarters of the story is going to be the same in a possible replay of the game – with any impactful choices reserved for the home stretch. Since progress is slow until that point (even though you can push ‘x’ for a slightly faster walking speed and the game is only about an hour long), going through the story again isn’t that enticing a thought – especially considering the subject matter.
Still, as a walking simulator on the Vita with a serious undertone, Drowning is an interesting concept from both a technical and conceptual perspective. “Something different” for the Vita, which is an achievement so late in the handheld’s lifecycle. As with all of the Vita titles from Sometimes You, a budget price point helps as well.
Just like Drowning, Planet RIX-13 is a relatively short title – though it takes a different approach. A simple 2D adventure that is somewhat inspired by the 16 bit home computer era, it’s a sci-fi tale that sees you crash landing on a remote planet hoping to find your way home.
With about an hour of gameplay time, Planet RIX-13 is certainly not a long tale, and for the most part it’s fairly straightforward. You only have two locations to explore at first, but you quickly find locations for additional scenes to visit. You’ll run into a broken computer screen or a 3D printer that doesn’t have enough power, and not long after you’re exploring a power planet and finding a 3D schematic to print a new monitor.
Most of the tasks in the game are self-explanatory in that sense, though there are also a couple of puzzles where you need to piece together parts of a solution by combining the clues that you find. Areas that you can’t access (because of a toxic environment) open up when you find the right filters/masks, and thus the story slowly progresses. You find out there’s more at work here than your desire to leave the planet, and near the end you have choices to make in that regard as well.
Planet RIX-13 certainly doesn’t rise to the heights of Vita re-releases of classics like Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle or Grim Fandango, but it’s nice to have another retro adventure title to play. The experience is over a little too soon and the narrative isn’t exactly deep either, but it’s a nice short diversion at a moment where you thought adventure games were a thing of the past on the Vita.