This past week gave us more interesting ports of games that previously launched on other system. Our headliner this time is Team17’s Crown Trick, but we’re also looking at ports for Q-YO Blaster, KURSK and Ravva and the Cyclops Curse.
Crown Trick review (PS4)
Crown Trick by NEXT Studios and Team17 came out for PCs and the Switch last year, but Xbox One and PlayStation owners had to wait a bit longer for this roguelike adventure game. And looks can be deceiving, because behind the facade of a cute hero character lies a serious challenge.
Our hero is called Elle, who gets transported to a mysterious realm and partners up with a crown (of all things) soon after. After a brief tutorial, which is also your introduction to the narrative, you two are on your way – which is also the moment where the story starts to take a back seat, with a lot of lore tucked away in optional texts you can read at your own leisure.
Crown Trick features unique combat mechanics, especially when it comes to movement – something that makes the game feel very different from games it – at first glance – seems to resemble. It combines dungeon crawling with a time mechanic not unlike that in Superhot, where the labyrinth around you only comes alive when you move. This forces you to carefully plan your next move – which can be a slow process at first but becomes a rhythm you ease into over time.
Additional weapons and magical abilities also help you in combat, which can turn fights into puzzles of sorts as well. Sometimes you’ll be able to teleport yourself, which in turn helps with the timing of your attack as the enemy briefly drops their defenses. With a massive amount of loot to pick up, there’s a lot of diversity to how combat plays out. There’s definitely a learning curve because of it as well, but what good roguelike doesn’t have one? Over time, you’ll progress further and further when you respawn, and randomized dungeons and weapons keep things fresh every time you play.
What also helps in how entertaining Crown Trick feels is the delightful visual flair that it is delivered with. Where dungeon crawlers are often dark affairs, Crown Trick features bright and colorful characters that are a joy to watch and really come alive in the gorgeous cinematics that were made for the game. We may have had to wait a long time for it, but Crown Trick is another wonderful addition to Team17’s indie library.
Q-YO Blaster review (PS4)
For some reason, classic arcade shoot ’em ups never get old, and Q-YO blaster’s developers at Team Robot Black Hat must agree. Echoing games like Cotton and Parodius, this one is a colorful pixel art shooter that launched back in 2018 on PCs and then on the Switch a year later. It’s finally getting a PS4 and Xbox One release thanks to Forever Entertainment now, making it available on all current platforms.
Q-YO Blaster offers a wide range of characters and styles to play as, and all of them are a tad bizarre – visually, at least. Through your choices you can emphasize things like damage and speed to suit your playstyle. When you factor in that you can also select your special attack, there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to how you want to play.
Further variety comes from the game’s controls, which let you hold down the fire button to fire, or tap or press them for different firing modes. Fill up your power bar, and you can fire that special you picked earlier – or keep filling it up more for a chance at an extra life. There are tons of nice ideas here, in what is otherwise a fairly formulaic shooter with its eight levels and boss fights.
This is budget title, and despite the wealth of ways to play it could have used a bit more polish in certain areas. The visuals are of the retro pixel art variety, but could have used more frames of animation – especially when you consider that the game is going for a classic animated short kind of look. The gameplay also lacks the carefully crafted level designs and balancing of shooters by Cave or Irem, but for an indie title it packs plenty of fun into a little package. Colorful visuals and wacky characters, combined with entertaining shooting mechanics, make this a more than solid choice for fans of the arcade shooter.
KURSK review (PS4)
Jujubee’s KURSK landed on Steam a few years ago, and it’s a game we never expected to make its way to consoles. Not only do we rarely see this type of ‘documentary’-type of games on consoles, the release was also not that well received at the time. Fascinated with the real-life events that it’s based on, we still wanted to try it and see for ourselves, so we played it on a PlayStation 4 Pro now that it’s been released for PlayStation and Xbox One.
Kursk certainly makes a strong first impression, as it throws you right into the middle of things when you’re aboard the famous submarine and an explosion rocks you. Soon afterwards, you get transported back in time, where we’re first introduced to our protagonist – an American spy who is about to infiltrate the Kursk. This is taking some liberties with the real world accounts of what happened, but we’ll go with it for narrative reasons.
Everything in these sequences, from the moment you’re in your hotel room to your trip to the harbor and your first moments aboard the Kursk, is wonderfully immersive. The environments look great, the actors all speak Russian, and a real curiosity about the possible directions that the narrative might take comes over you.
The biggest problem, however, is that the game never really capitalized on this. The sub looks great, but it’s still an enclosed space and you’ll have seen all of it after the first half hour or so. And while the real sub had over 100 people on it during its last voyage, there are far fewer in the game. Perhaps this would have affected the flow of the game, or its performance, but with a real life story like this I wanted to have some sense that I was there the moment it happened – even though there’s a fictional story about a spy involved.
The story campaign itself is about five hours long and mostly linear in nature, and the spy element never really comes into play. You never have to be stealthy about what you’re doing, and you don’t find out much about the nature of your mission or the sensitive materials you find as part of it. When you consider how well the intro sequences draw you in, it’s a shame that the story doesn’t do the same once you board the sub for your mission and get involved in a series of fetch quests that feels oddly disconnected from the actual events that will drive most people towards the game in the first place.
Ravva and the Cyclops Curse review (PS4)
Originally released at the start of 2019, Eastasiasoft has brought Ravva and the Cyclops Curse to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. Developed by Galope, this one’s no longer a Steam exclusive.
Ravva and the Cyclops Curse sports a retro visual style that was inspired by 8-bit platformers, but looks more like an early game from the 16-bit home computing days due to a few visual details that feel a little beyond what the NES could do. Nevertheless, from its in-game visuals to the artwork and the cutscenes, this is definitely a retro title.
In the game, you’re Ravva, a young apprentice who goes up against the Cyclops Lord after he curses your mother. To help you, you have four spirits with unique abilities that you’ll switch between during the game. One can freeze enemies, one can break certain tiles, another can help you uncover secrets and the last one adds a fire mode to your arsenal. Switching in the middle of the action can be frantic, but the game’s levels are generally well designed and give you time to do this without ever making the mechanic feel too telegraphed either.
It’s a good little game, but it’s also not one of the longest. I was having a lot of fun with it when I suddenly hit the end of the game after less than two hours of play. Luckily, there’s a budget price attached to the game as well, and you get a generous trophy list too. For a short retro platforming adventure, this will do nicely thanks to its diverse mechanics and nicely balanced level layouts.