We look at three recent ports that entertained us this past week, as we dive into UnMetal, Chernobylite and Crisis Wing.
UnMetal review (PS4)
Developed by UnEpic developer Fran Téllez de Meneses, UnMetal was – at least for a while – one of the most niche games out there. Not necessarily because of the nature of the game, but because it was released for the PlayStation Vita in the later days of that handheld’s lifespan. While that’s not a major issue by itself, it was also a physical only release, so not a lot of gamers will have had this one in their library prior to the recent console and PC ports from Versus Evil. We’re glad that it’s here though, because this is a solid (pun intended) take on a familiar franchise well worth playing.
UnMetal takes the classic MSX-era Metal Gear games with their stealth gameplay and puts a humorous spin on it while staying true to the core mechanics. Your protagonist isn’t Solid Snake though, it’s Jesse Fox, and Jesse is a commando who has a tough time remembering what happened when he escaped capture from a military facility as missions play out as flashbacks he has during his debrief.
It’s pretty clear that stealth was a crucial part of it all, but between the funny banter between NPC characters and Jesse’s own imagination and fuzzy memory, there are plenty of moments that will bring a smile to your face. There are some “was it this? or that?” choices to be made as well, and as a result you might run into a band of vikings in the game, or see a herd of sheep that probably wasn’t really there but certainly exists in Jesse’s mind.
But while all that represents a big tonal shift from the Metal Gear games, the heart of the gameplay will remain familiar. Enemies and cameras need to be avoided, gadgets can be used to avoid dangers or open up new passageways, setting off the alarm stacks the odds (overwhelmingly so) against you. The game also adds modern touches like the ability to hide bodies to keep them from arousing suspicious in other guards – something so crucial in Hitman games that makes perfect sense here as well.
Story progression (the campaign is over 10 hours long) also comes with stats progression where you level up your abilities or gain new ones – my favorite of which was the automatically regenerating health that allowed me to quickly strike and then go back to the shadows to recover without the need to constantly look for health kits. Over the course of the story you’ll also see plenty of diverse locations, all of which offer different ways to (not) engage enemies and a few boss fights.
While the Metal Gear Solid franchise has grown out of control with the Kojima-Konami split, UnMetal returns to the roots of the series for a hilarious and fun take on the formula. If you’re fond of the source material, this one indie game you won’t want to miss out on.
Chernobylite review (PS4)
We first saw and went hands on with Chernobylite over two years ago, after which it went into Early Access on Steam. It emerges from there earlier this year, and now it’s available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well. Our first impression two years ago was that the game was extremely ambitious in how many mechanics it was trying to blend together, but it also created a tense and atmosphere-rich environment that was well suited to its narrative blend of horror and science fiction.
In Chernobylite, you play as Igor Khymynuk, who worked at the famous nuclear plant prior to the disaster that struck 30 years ago. Your fiancée Tatyana went missing around that same, but now that you’ve mysteriously received a photograph of her you return to the site of the accident looking for her – at least for some answers as to what happened to her.
The titular chernobylite is a mineral that was formed as a result of the nuclear disaster, and can be used to power portals that let you travel in between time/dimensions. This allows you to change the course of history by (not) triggering certain events, which narratively speaking is fascinating as it allows for replayability even though not all choices are equally impactful.
Leveling up Igor’s abilities is handled very organically by learning skills from the people you meet, which is far more immersive than just upgrading gear or exchanging credits for stat boosts while also making interpersonal relationships feel weightful. The same goes for the environment, as the development team actually went to Chernobyl to help recreate everything in vivid and accurate detail.
As you’d expect, people and resources aren’t plentiful here, and that adds to a strong sense of atmosphere. The resources you find are partly used to build out your base and craft stuff, though this was an aspect I wish had just been organically built into the narrative without the need for crafting mechanics – lugging an unrealistic amount of resources around with me felt unnatural and immersion-breaking, while the overly simplified mechanics won’t please fans of crafting either.
As long as Chernobylite works as a narrative-driven mystery, it’s great. There’s an option to play with Russian voiceovers, and although it’s not the default choice I’d recommend playing this way because it adds more of that immersion that is so well presented in the game’s visuals. The console version does run into a few visual and performance glitches though – which we’re assuming is related to the recent small delay for the ports. Things are okay at launch, but more work is needed to iron out a few more bugs.
So while the base building and crafting elements felt like they detracted from the audiovisual and narrative storytelling, I enjoyed Chernobylite quite a lot. As a story-driven horror/mystery, this is something you’ll want to check out if you – like many – have an interest in the real life history of the place.
Crisis Wing review (PS4)
These days, it’s hard to discuss new console ports without getting around to one that was made possible by Eastasiasoft. Crisis Wing launched on Steam through its developer Pieslice Productions just over a year ago, but this vertically scrolling arcade shooter has now landed on all major console platforms as well.
If you’re familiar with arcade shooters like Giga Wing, Gun Bird or Raiden, you have a pretty decent idea of what to expect from Crisis Wing. With seven stages, 1995-era pixel graphics and boss fights, this is a game that was developed with a lot of love for the arcade originals in mind – though it’s happy to imitate rather than innovate in its delivery.
With your standard and special fire modes, you take down waves of enemy fighters while swerving around their projectiles, the only twist being that you can swap between secondary weapons depending on when you pick them up. They’ll alternate colors to indicate what you’ll get when you fly into them, which is something that’s also going to be familiar to fans, as it’s often been used in (mostly horizontally scrolling) shooters.
Most of the gameplay in Crisis Wing’s main campaign/arcade mode is fairly generic, but done well. The big draw for me in the arcade mode was that it can be tackled together with another player as well, which is always fun. Look beyond the arcade mode, and you’ll see that the developer also kept the home crowd in mind during development, thanks to the inclusion of boss rush and time attack modes – though the lack of leaderboards is an oversight. This is a competent take on a classic genre though, and one we had a lot of fun with while it lasted. It’s not a genre-defining masterpiece, but it’s solid and definitely won’t break the bank either.