We’re certainly seeing a lot of ports come our way this year, which we fully encourage as it brings games to new audiences and sometimes reintroduces games that weren’t even available for purchase anymore. Today we’re looking at four brand new ports that might be different in genre but have one thing in common – we weren’t expecting them!
Having originally launched back in 2018 on PC with subsequent versions for the Switch and even iOS in later years, we certainly weren’t banking on a PlayStation version of Incredible Mandy in 2021. PM studios just launched the game on PS4 with full PS5 compatibility though, bringing its touching tale to the next gen of consoles.
Incredible Mandy isn’t a superhero-like take on action games, but rather a puzzle platformer with a gentle pace and some light traversal bits. Through the narrative campaign, you’ll uncover the story of a brother and sister who – after an accident – are trying to recover the memories that Mandy has lost. Her brother lost his hand, but in their dreams he can now summon a light sword that helps him overcome the obstacles they bump into.
A tutorial explains the core mechanics, the most interesting and unique of which are the aforementioned swords. They represent energy, with which you can toggle switches, create pathways and fight bosses. The puzzle gameplay isn’t particularly challenging most of the time, so this is a suitable game for those looking for a more casual experience within the genre. Boss fights, which occur at the end of each level, also tend to be quite manageable – evade their attacks and strike when they expose their weak point. It’s a tad generic, but for a game that’s been on mobile this is hardly a surprise.
What was surprising, however, is that Incredible Mandy’s audiovisual style holds up very well on the PS4/PS5. With an understated aesthetic and low poly graphics, the art style feels timeless, and the soundtrack matches the mostly gentle pacing of the game. It might be generic, but with a four to five hour runtime Incredible Mandy is a nice diversion with a lovely sibling story at the heart of it.
When it comes to unexpected ports, Forever Entertainment is leading the charge this week, and Violett is up first. A traditional point and click game, it was first launched on PCs way back in 2013, just a few weeks after the PS4 launched. It was ultimately ported to the Switch in 2017, but we had to wait another four years for the PS4 port – we’re eagerly anticipating the Xbox 360 launch in 2025 😉
Violett stars a young girl who moves to a slightly creepy new home with her parents, who aren’t getting along too well. Hiding away in the house, she stumbles upon a magical object that transports her to another world, where an Alice in Wonderland type of tale unfolds. Visually, this is certainly an enchanting and engaging game to look at, with crazy and unusual designs around every corner.
The strongest aspects of the storytelling are definitely visual in nature, as Violett feels a tad underdeveloped in terms of the narrative – which isn’t backed by voiceover work either. That’s a shame because there’s little that ties everything together beyond the unique aesthetic, which will certainly appeal to you if you enjoyed games like Silence with its blend of 2D backdrops and 3D character models.
In terms of gameplay, Violett is a typical point and click adventure game, clearly showing its PC origins. Puzzles are often inventory-based, which requires you to find the right object to use in the right spot, though there are also other puzzle types including logic and maze puzzles. Although often fun by themselves, many of the puzzles don’t tie into the narrative, which is where Violett falls a bit short of the classics in the genre. That’s also true for the gameplay design, which requires quite a bit of walking back and forth and could have been more streamlined – something the developer DID implement in individual scenes, where you can pick things up without having to walk over to them.
If you’re looking for a great classical point and click adventure on the PS4 I’d recommend checking out the remasters of Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle first. Silence is also a solid option, and because the options aren’t plentiful you might want to check out Violett after that as well.
Quantum Replica is another 2018 title that we were surprised to see make the leap to consoles. It was launched to a mixed reception on PC, but PQube decided to release is for all current consoles now and the end result was a pleasant surprise.
Combining stealth action and a neon-drenched cyberpunk setting, the setup for Quantum Replica reminded us a bit of the somewhat recent Disjunction. The story here is fairly simple and filled with genre tropes, as you take control of a man who’s lost his memory against a backdrop of an oppressive corporation known at the Syndicate. Every Cyberpunk tale needs an evil corporation, we suppose. Anyway, our protagonist, Alpha, is quickly recruited into a resistance movement, and from there an objective-based campaign unfolds – though with mostly one dimensional characters.
Alpha is no warrior, so you’ll rely on stealth most of the time – and you have the abilities and weapons to help you with this. Dashing from hiding place to hiding place is something you’ll frequently do, and there’s a bullet time ability – and of course there’s a cooldown period to make sure you don’t abuse these abilities. Armed combat is also possible, but ammo is limited so you’re better off only using this for emergencies – like situations where you’re spotted and the alarm goes off. Quantum Replica uses the familiar cone of sight mechanics, but in a clever use of the setting it applies it to the flashlights that your foes are using to help pierce the nightly settings that help all that neon to come out.
During the 8 hour campaign, you’ll also run into the occasional boss fight, which are mostly well designed and require you to make good use of your abilities and the cover you can find in the environment. Speaking of which, the cyberpunk setting in Quantum Replica looks good because on top of mostly dark corridors and locations there’s a wide range of neon lights, lighting effects, smoke and pyrotechnics to enjoy. And of course there’s a synthwave soundtrack to back it all up.
Sparkle 2 EVO
Definitely the most surprising title of the lot this week was Sparkle 2 EVO, which came out waaaay back in 2011 – that’s PlayStation 3 territory! Also surprising is that the game has little to do with the orb shooter games that came out under the Sparkle name, which were quite popular in the mobile/casual genre for a while.
Instead, the EVO part of the title points at the evolutionary chain that you’re looking to conquer, as you start off with a tiny organism that gradually grows into a larger being in an underwater world. Nutrients can get gained from the environment, but you can also attack other organisms for resources – which also changes you evolutionary course towards being more carnivorous. If you want to keep track of your changes, you can always check the current makeup of your DNA to help you plot your evolutionary journey.
Differently colored orbs also help determine your path in life, and there’s even the occasional boss fight, but ultimately Sparkle 2 EVO feels like an example of experimental gameplay design with a novel concept and little in the way of more traditional mechanics to flesh out the experience. The levels themselves look interesting and the underwater creatures almost otherworldly, so if you’re intrigued by a ”creatures from the deep” kind of evolutionary experience, then this is worth a look. If you’re looking for a more traditional experience, this won’t deliver it.