We occasionally look at some of the smaller releases that pop up on our radar, and today we’re highlighting Vesper, Within the Blade, Gaps by POWGI and Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire.
Vesper has launched on PC
Deck13’s Vesper, which was developed by Cordens Interactive, has launched on Steam. The PC version is currently the only confirmed version of the game, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for console port as well.
The reason? Vesper is a modern take on the classic atmospheric platformers from about 20 en 25 years ago, evoking memories of the early Oddworld games as well as titles like Flashback, Heart of Darkness and Another World. Emphasizing stealth and puzzle mechanics, you play as an android called Seven on a remote and alien planet filled with danger.
When you find a drive gun, you can use it for stealth and puzzle purposes much more so than combat, as you absorb energy and thus light from certain locations and grant yourself a chance to hide. You can also reimplement that energy to manipulate the environment elsewhere, or use it to enact mind control on your enemies – Abe-style.
If you enjoyed recent titles like Out of Line and Oddworld: SoulStorm, then Vesper will likely strike a chord with you as well. We can’t wait for a console version so we can dive back in, but until then PC owners have a nice ‘exclusive’ on their hands.
Within the Blade review (PS4 / PS5)
Within the Blade, which is also known as Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru, originally launched on PCs back in 2019. It was recently ported to consoles by the porting maestros at Ratalaika games though, after originally being developed by Ametist Studio.
Best described as a classic 2D arcade platformer with stealth and ninja elements (and a sprinkling of RPG), Within the Blade casts you as a ninja who can hide in the shadows from his enemies and strike with an ever-growing arsenal of weapons. You’ll unlock these by killing enemies, collecting items and completing levels, giving you plenty of chances to progress and develop your character with an RPG-like weapons roster that you help craft.
You’re part of the Black Lotus clan, in a time where Japan has been plunged into civil war by a rival clan and its leader Mamoru, a warlord who has unleashed an ancient evil upon the land. Gathering nine other bosses around him, you now have to face a full dozen of bad guys and their followers in order to liberate Japan.
With gameplay that resembles classic arcade game like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and modern takes like Shovel Knight, Within the Blade gives us a ninja experience we now mostly see in 3D titles (like the recent Ninja Gaiden collection). Stealth is important, but if you have to resort to combat then that’s well implemented as well, with enemies dodging and blocking your attacks. It’s clearly a well-polished game that’s evolved from its Early Access roots from a few years ago, and it’s nice to see it on consoles now.
Gaps by POWGI review (PS4 / PS5)
Lightwood Games has been surprising us with their creative takes on puzzles and word games for years now, and their POWGI series stands out as a favorite among them. Gaps by POWGI is now out for Xbox One, the Switch and the PlayStation 4 and 5 – with both last and next gen versions included with every purchase for the latter platform.
The concept for Gaps is deceptively simple, as you’re presented with a list of five-letter words where there’s only one letter missing in each of them. Easy enough, right? The catch is that, one you’ve completed all the words, the letters you used should also spell out a mystery word, and that’s where the challenge comes in.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll get it right away (the early levels work well for that), but you’ll quickly find out that most words have different letters you can use to successfully complete them – thus potentially messing with your final word. In some cases it’s easy to spot where you went wrong, but when you end up with complete gibberish it gets to be a real puzzle to figure out which letters belong and which ones don’t.
Although some words can be a bit obscure (the obvious solution isn’t always the right one), this is a fun and accessible new word puzzler from Lightwood. You also get treated to fun little puns and jokes whenever you complete a challenge, which always ties into the hidden word you found and which we consider to be an enduring highlight to the POWGI series. If you’ve played any of them before you know what to expect visually as well, with a clean and simple interface to let the wordplay shine.
Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire review (PS4 / PS5)
Not too long, we reviewed Pretty Girls Klondike Solitaire, and from the makers of that game (Zoo Corporation) we’re now getting a console port of Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire. Published by Eastasiasoft, we tested the PlayStation versions of the game, which like Klondike Solitaire is based on an anime IP.
The IP in question is the “Rick G Earth” mobile game, which frankly we’d never heard of, and the Bishoujo girls that star in it have now made their way to this take on solitaire, which has you removing matching Mahjong titles from the board in a familiar fashion – though the ‘battle’ element means you’re pressed for time.
Ten different anime girls are featured, and while you can unlock different costumes as you keep playing there’s no nudity here. But where Klondike Solitaire had voiced characters, the ones in Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire remain silent, which is a shame in an already fairly standard representation of battle mahjong. Costumes unlock often though, with a new one every 3 rounds, so at least there’s plenty of content on that front.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, the game suffers from the occasional round with a pattern that clearly can’t be beaten when you can tell early on that you’ll be left with a pair that’s stacked on top of one another, which is always a shame but also all too common within the genre. If you enjoy Mahjong and wanted it on your PS4/PS5 though, then this fits the bill.