Indie roundup: Ninja Legends, Cube Raiders & YesterMorrow

Of course you’ve got a new Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty and Watch Dogs all coming out – and that’s not even mentioning the new consoles. Let’s take a moment, however, to check out what the indie scene is giving us during this period. Today we check out Ninja Legends for PSVR as well as the PS4 versions of Cube Raiders and YesterMorrow.

Ninja Legends, now on PSVR

Ninja Legends, from Coinflip Studios and Perp Games, isn’t a brand new game since it came out for other VR platforms about a year ago. It was only very recently released for PlayStation VR though, which gave us our first taste of the game.

Although there’s something of a story in Ninja Legends, one that revolves around ancient scrolls and the mystique that surrounds ninjas in general, the emphasis is firmly on the gameplay. This is an arena-based where, partly due to the nature of PSVR, you’re mostly stationary with enemies coming at you from all angles.

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It’s surprising that we haven’t gotten more “ninja” games in VR yet, because the combination of VR and motion controls certainly is well suited for it. On PSVR, the closest equivalent is probably Fruit Ninja, which of course approaches slashing your katanas about in a very different way. Ninja Legends feels more like a wave-based shooter, with enemies coming at you from all sides over the course of 18 levels of gameplay.

Because enemies are quite fast and agile, you’ll be turning and slashing in all directions frantically, which makes the game fun but also gives you the sense that this is an experience that probably worked best on its native platform of the Quest due to its wireless nature. Having said that, we didn’t experience any tracking issues and if you have a setup with a bit of leeway for the cable you’ll have a comfortable experience with PSVR as well.

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Over the course of the game you’ll unlock new weapons and abilities, but part of the challenge is always to choreograph your approach through a level. You can block incoming attacks but also deflect projectiles in addition to your ability to attack, and what to do when is key in overcoming what is often more an entire group of ninjas that attacks you at once. This formula doesn’t change much over the course of the game and it’s something best enjoyed in short bursts, but at the same time it’s also intuitive and easy to pick up for newcomers – which is a plus.

Visually, Ninja Legends is clearly a title that had its origins on a platform like the Quest, not excelling in terms of detail even though a resolution boost was applies with the PSVR conversion. If you never had a chance to play the Quest version, this is a solid second chance – and even though it’s a fairly generic game at this point of the VR lifecycle, it’s solid fun.

Cube Raiders

Developed by Void Games and published by Jandusoft, Cube Raiders is a logic-based puzzle game that’s out now for PCs and consoles. We tested it on the PS4 and as fans of puzzle games, came away having had a good time with it.

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Although the game has protagonists in the shape of Rose and Kirk, a Tomb Raider-inspired set of backdrops and a narrative, it’s the puzzle gameplay that’s front and center in Cube Raiders. In its single player mode, it’s a fairly generic take on the block pushing genre, albeit with a twist. You’re sliding around dice instead of plain blocks, and instead of just pushing blocks you also have the option to get on top of them and turn them by walking/tumbling across the level with them. Both options count as a single move, and the objective is to align dice correctly within a predefined number of moves.

Fans of logic-based puzzle games like Sokoban or Cuboid will certainly enjoy Cube Raiders as well, even though its 100 or so puzzles will ultimately feel a tad generic to them. From that perspective, it’s nice that the game also includes an endless mode and a dual mode in which you play competitively with others, but the best part of the game for me was the ability to play cooperative multiplayer levels together with a friend.

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In multiplayer, you’ll be able to help each other out and solve puzzles together, which is great when you’re of an equal skill level but also a lot of fun when you’re teaching someone the ropes – or learning them yourself. It’s where Cube Raiders manages to stand out from the crowd a little bit, because even though its core concept is tried and true there are few games that successfully apply that to a multiplayer mode – well done, Void.

YesterMorrow

Developed by Bitmap Galaxy and published by Blowfish Studios, YesterMorrow is out now for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. We took a look at this brand new a retro-flavored action platformer on a PlayStation 4 Pro.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly when you look at the name, YesterMorrow is all about time travel in its gameplay mechanics. Time portals let you travel back into the past in order to overcome challenges and foes in the present, and although that’s going to sound like something out of a puzzle platformer it’s safe to say that this game is actually more of a linear platform adventure instead. While the time manipulation mechanic opens up ample possibilities for the gameplay, it feels a little underutilized because of a lack of challenge in the puzzle sense.

The narrative that fuels this time travel mechanic revolves around Yui, whose father is a timekeeper. Demons invade, her father vanishes, and after more of her family members disappear she sets out to put an end to the demon plague. Unfortunately the actual narrative that is used for the delivery of the story feels like it only ever touches the surface, with one dimensional characters and a shallow main plot. That’s not an issue, but you need engaging gameplay to overcome something like that, and YesterMorrow is a tad too linear and easy to provide that. Seasoned players will likely only run into a bit of trouble during boss fights, so perhaps this is a game better geared towards a younger audience.

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What doesn’t help, however, are slightly unresponsive controls and gameplay that isn’t always fluid despite this seemingly not being a super demanding game visually. Luckily, both of those are things that could (and should) be patched in a post-release update. If they do, then YesterMorrow will turn into an entertaining though overly generic little platformer with a high level plot that’s very interesting but ultimately feels like it leaves too much unrealized potential on the table.

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