We’re looking at three very recent releases today, as we check out Sublime’s charming Button City, the incredibly fun Skydrift Infinity from HandyGames and the PSVR release of Synth Riders.
Button City review (PS5)
Button City, from developer Subliminal, is out now for PC, Switch and next gen consoles, and it’s a game that just oozes charm right from the start. Unfolding through colorful dioramas, it follows protagonist Fennel the Fox in a world full of low poly animals. The cute visuals are accompanied by an endearing story in which Fennel makes new friends – himself being new to the town you’re in.
The audiovisual style and the characters that inhabit Button City are definite highlights of the experience. You’ll traverse places like your home, a park and a local arcade, which is sort of a hub that lets you interact with people as well as play some of the games that can be found there. Most aren’t too exciting in their own right as formulaic takes on familiar genres (such as a rhythm game and a racing game), but that also makes sure the emphasis stays on the game’s story and character development.
Having more intricate arcade games, even though they’re also a big part of the narrative, would have probably detracted from the story. It unfolds at a relaxed pace, and its tale of friendship is timeless, even though it used the classic videogame arcade setting as a central place where these friendships are formed.
What’s also good to point out is that Button City is one of those rare narrative-driven adventure games that’s also suitable for younger players. From the visuals to the thematic angle of friendship, it’s a tale that is suitable for all ages. The game doesn’t run for more than three to four hours so it’s definitely on the short side, but any longer and it would have probably overstayed its welcome. As it is, it’s a lovely short story that fuels into arcade nostalgia for older players while appealing to younger ones with its narrative and lovely visuals and characters.
Skydrift Infinity review (PS4)
Aerial racers certainly aren’t new, but the good ones are a rare breed. One of the earliest we remember is Slipstream 5000, which was a very early example of what gaming could bring to the then-new Windows 95 platform. In more recent years, we tried out a VR take on the genre as well – but it was severely lacking in the sense of speed it gave us, reminding us that it’s a genre that’s hard to get right.
One of the games that did was Skydrift on the PS3 and Xbox 360, a digital-only title that came out about ten years ago. It was developed by Digital Reality, and they’re the team that’s behind Skydrift Infinity, which is being published by HandyGames on PCs and all major consoles (with next gen compatibility for PlayStation and Xbox). We’ve been having a blast with it on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
As an aerial racer with arcade-like gameplay, the controls are rather unique as you have to account for altitude as well as direction. Your thumbsticks are your friends here, with basic controls mapped to the left one while the right thumbstick can be used for extra tight steering when needed – especially useful when trying to squeeze through a narrow gap and avoid crashing into the scenery.
In addition to the straight up racing that the basic controls provide (triggers letting you speed up and slow down), you also have access to weapons and boosts with the face buttons – bringing kart racer elements into the mix. Speed Races disable these and they’re a good way to get comfortable with the controls, and Skydrift Infinity takes a bit of getting used to because it’s different from road or water-based arcade racers.
There’s a wonderful amount of diversity in the game’s various modes though, which range from regular races all the way to last man standing-type events – with a campaign that does a good job of mixing it all up into an entertaining mashup. Add a good selection of planes and levels and the ability to unlock more content, and you’ve got excellent value for money in a game that’s being released as a very budget-friendly price point.
It’s great to see a niche classic like this resurface, and thanks to compatibility across generations we’re hoping this one won’t fade away into obscurity like the original Skydrift either. This one’s fun to play solo, but also includes the option to play with others – a local split screen mode is available for some fun couch multiplayer action.
Synth Riders has arrived on PSVR
It’s been a VR favorite of ours for years, but Synth Riders was only available on PC-based headsets and the Quest until now. With the PSVR release, it’s now able to reach a far larger audience – and they’re getting all the content and feature additions that have been released over the past three years as well, so it’s a great time to jump aboard.
Part of the popular music-based subgenre of VR games, Synth Riders is less about percussion (read: Beat Saber) and more about the flow of music. You still have to hit notes at the right moment, but you’re also holding and following them along rails as they come towards you and pass you – something that works great with any kind of string and synth-based track.
Because of this, the music selection in Synth Riders is a bit different from other games in the genre, with more emphasis on synthwave and electro swing, just to name a few examples. We still think that classic trance would be a great mix for it as well, so we’ll just keep waiting for that to arrive. We’re definitely not ruling it out though, because Synth Riders has been consistently setting new tracks. All of the free tracks (55 of them!) are included in the base release, and you can buy add-on tracks from the likes of Muse and The Offspring as well – or just grab all of them in a “complete edition”. The recent “experiences” – tracks that feature a much richer audiovisual presentation – are also present on PSVR, though they’re only part of the paid tracks (or the complete edition).
What’s nice about the PSVR version is that everything translates well to the platform. The Move controls, being the motion controlling wands that they are, work very well for this type of gameplay, where you’re stationary and the music comes towards you. The game also visually translates well, as it’s not the most demanding of titles, especially in the “non-experience” songs. You’ll definitely want to dip into the experience portion though – it’s audiovisually reminiscent to an early great of the PSVR era: Rez Infinite.