July 2021 Vita reviews – Part 2

During this week full of Vita coverage, we’re checking out three more titles that came out just last week. Impressions on Russian Subway Dogs, Witchcrafty and Mind Maze can be found below!

Russian Subway Dogs

Now here’s a game that, for a long time, appeared to have vanished. Russian Subway Dogs was announced for the Vita way back in 2017 and then things got quiet, but a last minute sprint to the finish line by developer Spooky Squid ensured that Vita players got their hands on the game after all. That’s great news, because this one’s a contender as one of the best indie games to grace the Vita in recent years.

Based around dogs who live in Moscow’s subway system (how’s that for an original premise?), Russian Subway Dogs has you collecting food and avoiding hazard to stay alive. It’s a simple but addictive concept, especially when you try to get as high a score as possible or go for the bonus objectives that each level has.

Gameplay involves grabbing food that humans take into the subway, and you can get them to drop whatever they are carrying by scaring them with your barks as well. You’re not the only one out for a nice meal though, so you’ll have to contend with competition from other dogs who will try to eat your food and act differently depending on their particular breed.

russian subway dogs2

Besides food, you’ll also see vodka bottles – which are explosive! They will damage you if you get too near, but when they explode near food it means you get a nice cooked meal as well. Although the core gameplay is simple, there are plenty of mechanics to keep you coming back and push your score up. Completing missions also unlocks additional characters, some of which are (timed) exclusives to the Vita version, and bonus objectives also invite you go back and replay previous levels.

There’s no real story, but there’s plenty of character and humor in the setting how it’s portrayed visually, through music and through little jokes and puns. As with nearly every 2D action game on the Vita in the past three years the game features pixel graphics, but the characters are all well realized and none of them appear generic – both in-game and in their portraits.

Russian Subway Dogs may look like a platformer in screenshots, but it’s actually much more like an arcade-like title with solid mechanics that keep drawing you in for more. Even when you’ve tackled the campaign and the optional objectives, you can still come back for the game’s endless mode. A lovely debut and swansong for Spooky Squid on the Vita.

Witchcrafty

Witchcrafty was ported to the Vita by Sometimes You, but was developed by PigeonDev, which has a strong presence in the Vita indie scene already with games like Awesome Pea, Bucket Knight and Dungeons & Bombs.

witchcrafty2

This new metroidvania-style platformer is coming to the Vita first and will see a release on other platforms later, but there’s a shadow side to that timed exclusivity as well – we’ll talk about that in a minute. This is a really fun game though, and possibly PigeonDev’s best one so far. Playing a cute little witch, you set out to discover and fix what’s wrong with your magical world. Plants are suddenly attacking you, and the colorful world appears just a little bit darker these days.

Between your ability to jump dash, attack and perform magic, this is fully featured platformer – and magic’s not just restricted to some kind of nondescript magic attack either. You can use fire, lightning and ice to channel the elements, and even use a melee attack if the situation calls for it. You can upgrade and unlock your abilities as well, which opens up new avenues of discovery – for instance when you freeze water to create a surface you can walk on.

Witchcrafty looks wonderful, and controls well – it’s potentially one of the best Vita games in recent years, but unfortunately it was also pushed out the door a little too early. Obviously this has something to do with the firm deadline for Vita submissions, but it’s still a shame. Objects go missing or become unusable when you lose a life, and this even includes platforms that can no longer be jumped on. A hard restart (where you exit the game and restart it) fixes this, but it’s clear that certain elements of the game are broken at launch.

witchcrafty

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the chance of a patch for this one, as it’s a great little indie game full of charm and fun gameplay. It’s still playable and we really enjoyed it, but expect a few bumps in the road.

Mind Maze

Originally developed by Satur for PCs, Mind Maze was ported to the Vita by Sometimes You and is a fairly straightforward representation of the game of Dots and Boxes.

Those not familiar with that name might still recognize the core gameplay concept, which revolves around a grid where you take turns building walls (drawing a single line). Draw enough lines to complete a box/cell with four sides, and that box/cell is yours and you get to keep going with your turn. Sounds familiar?

mind maze

Mind Maze operates in the very same way, and now you can play it on the Vita. It features a nice clear aesthetic, so if you enjoy logic games then it’s a fine way to kill some time and play a few rounds. If you’re a more seasoned player then you’ll notice that the AI opponents become a tad predictable after a while though, so that might hurt the game’s lasting appeal. There’s a trophy list that will take you a decent amount of time though, so this could be one of those games where you keep coming back to it for short gameplay bursts. If you enjoy the original game, you’ll have fun with this one as well.

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