July 2021 Vita reviews – part 1

As part of our farewell to the Vita, we’re highlighting a few of the last titles that were released for the system. Today we look at three of them, with Battle Rockets (2.0), Ultra Mission and Killer Dolls United.

Battle Rockets 2.0

Battle Rockets from Gumbo Machine technically wasn’t released in 2021, as the first version of the game came out last year. Version 2.0 was released just a few months ago though, and thus it’s still one of the last ten or so games for the Vita on the PlayStation Store. It’s also a Vita exclusive and has the rare and standout feature of local multiplayer – on a single Vita!

A mix between shooter and battler, Battle Rockets is essentially a collection of mini games/challenges you can play against the CPU in single player mode or against a friend. In the latter scenario, you each hold one side of the Vita, with a thumbstick and four buttons acting like your inputs. Sure, it’s a little cramped, but your four buttons all just represent different firing modes so it’s quite doable.

battle rockets

Eight different challenges are included with the single player mode, mostly based around dodging incoming fire while taking down your foe while also meeting very specific conditions – for instance making sure both players have their health bar go down all the way to 50 for a close call that nets you a trophy in the process.

In multiplayer, you can pick between three modes, from a standard deathmatch-type battle so a one shot kill mode over five rounds and a round where you divide your attention between shooting and picking up coins (which also drop when you hit your opponent). Battle Rockets looks a bit like a mobile title and its gameplay won’t rock your world, but it’s very cheap and definitely a rare curiosity on the Vita that’s worth it for the novelty of supporting local multiplayer on a single handheld.

Ultra Mission

The second Gumbo Machine title to be released for the Vita in 2021 was Ultra Mission, and this one came right down to the wire – releasing on the last day the store updated with new Vita games. It’s an arcade-inspired shooter that looks and feels like a twin stick shooter from the 1980s, with single screens maze-like levels where you shoot and/or avoid enemies to get to the exit.

ultra mission

Oddly enough, the control scheme for Ultra Mission isn’t set up for twin stick controls and instead maps your shots to two buttons – one to actually shoot and another to stand in place and change your aim, forcing you to hold one button down while aiming and then shooting with the other. It’s not the most comfortable control method for a game of this time, and during our playtest we mostly just used the included ‘shoot in the direction you’re moving’ mechanic – standing still makes you shoot towards the right.

There’s a ‘narrative’ that places you in 2081 inside “Otto labs”, but other than a vague futuristic setup that explains why you’re shooting robots there’s absolutely nothing in terms of narrative development here – this one’s all about arcade-like gameplay. You have the choice to try and take down the enemies in each level, or you can evade some or all of them and make your way towards the exit. Hurry though, because after a short while a floating bag (?) of sorts will come and chase you, and it will explode with bullets when you fire on it.

ultra mission2

Ultra Mission is a very simple game, but at its price point it’s a fun diversion, especially if you like that classic arcade look and feel. At launch the game features four trophies that won’t pop though, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for Sony making an exception and letting the developer upload a patch to fix them.

Update: this trophy glitch was fixed on July 27th, 2021!

Killer Dolls United

Killer Dolls United is quite possibly the first videogame we’ve ever checked out that was developed in El Salvador, and it took until the very last batch of Vita games for that to happen. It’s unlikely to go down in history as one of the system’s all time greats, but the accolade that it was part of the very last handful of Vita games will certainly be enough to draw people in.

A high concept production, Killer Dolls United feels a bit like a homebrew production or early tech demo that needs to be fleshed out more, but luckily it has a cheap price tag to match. It’s a bit of a testament to how firm a deadline was imposed upon Vita developers by Sony, as the game feels like it was a bit rushed in order to get it out the door in time.

killer dolls

The game is an arena-based hack and slash game where you control one of the “killer dolls”, ladies who look like vampire/elf hybrids and have been fairly well realized in 3D and can be viewed in a gallery as well. Once in the arena, however, your enemies are all monochromatic monsters/aliens who attack you in waves with very limited movesets. Your own moveset isn’t particularly impressive either, but at least you have a super move you can periodically unleash.

While there’s certainly potential for a bit of mindless arena battling, the gameplay here is relatively sluggish, and the occasional stuttering doesn’t help. You can collect coins to help unlock even more characters as well, but unless you’re a completionist or want all of the associated trophies, this isn’t a game that will thrill you for very long.

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