Port roundup: Art of Rally, KeyWe, Puzzle Bobble 3D, Lord of the Click 2 & Catty & Batty: The Spirit Guide

We always enjoy checking out games that are being rereleased on new platforms, so let’s highlight a few of them right now – here are Art of Rally, KeyWe, Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey, Lord of the Click 2 and Catty & Batty: The Spirit Guide.

Art Of Rally review (PS4)

Rally racing games have been very popular since the days of the Colin McRae games, and in recent years alone we’ve had a number of different ones come out. From the annual WRC games to Dirt Rally and from Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO to V-Rally 4, it’s certainly a prolific subgenre of racing. They tend to all look somewhat similar though, often differing mostly in how realistic or arcade-like the racing model is. Enter Art of Rally by Funselektor Labs, which thanks to its overhead perspective looks very unique and was well received when it launched on PC last year. It was ported over to consoles earlier this year, but PlayStation owners had to wait until now to get their hands on the game.

Unlike the aforementioned games, Art of Rally doesn’t feature any official licenses, so if you’re a huge fan of a certain event, car model or driver, you won’t find them here. Instead, the game has been inspired by what the developers call the golden age of rally racing, taking you through time by participating in events from the late ’60s all the way to the ’90s – which matching cars for each era.

art of rally2

This is most clear in the game’s main career mode, where you play through abbreviated versions of these seasons by competing in a handful of stages before moving on. Doing well lets you unlock additional cars too, but without any kind of licensing the appeal isn’t always there. What is appealing, however, is the game’s visual style. There’s a minimalist approach the menus, and it carries over into the game itself as well. The tracks have been beautifully designed, and the camera angles shows it off very well – in addition to letting you see tricky turns ahead of time.

But while Art of Rally looks a lot like your typical top-down arcade racer – the kind that was popular twenty to thirty years ago – it plays much more like a rally game than you’d expect. Car handling is important, and different surfaces make a big difference. It’s nowhere near as realistic as Dirt Rally or WRC, but it gets the general feel right.

Other modes are what you’d expect to see in a game like this, with time attack, custom rally events and a leaderboard-based online mode, but the free roam mode deserves a mention. Here, as you’d expect, you get to freely explore a large area, and collecting letters (RALLY) gets you access to the next area. There are other collectibles too, so these are a lovely way to unwind. And while for years we’ve had debates about which rally racing game is the best, Art of Rally is one that can peacefully co-exist with all of the others.

KeyWe review (PS4)

Some games just get by based on how cute they look, generating interest based on a trailer while no one really knows what the game(play) is actually like. KeyWe is one of those, but we’ve had to wait a while for the PlayStation port to arrive to we could find out more. Developed by Stonewheat & Sons, it’s now arrived thanks to publisher Sold Out.

keywe2

When playing a game like KeyWe, words like endearing, charming, joyful and adorable keep coming to mind. It may be a puzzle platformer, but very few games in the genre bring an audiovisual narrative to life like this one. Playing as kiwi duo Jeff and Debra, you’re in charge of small old school postal office – one where you type stuff up on a typewriter, send out telegrams and manually assemble messages. And, as you can imagine, this looks a little different when a little bird is doing it.

Gameplay in KeyWe isn’t necessarily challenging in the cranial sense, but it does require you to stay on task and cooperate well. This is a negative for puzzle enthusiasts, but does make this a game that’s accessible for nearly anyone looking for a fun game to play together, including younger ones playing with their parents. The gameplay is a little like the chaotic nature of Overcooked in a way, but with more emphasis on audiovisual storytelling and less of a need to keep ten balls in the air at once.

keywe

Thematically, KeyWe bases its scenarios around seasons and events, which makes for some heartwarming scenes based around holidays like Halloween and Christmas – which are both celebrated at the post office with a little help from some other adorable animals. It’s not a particularly long adventure, but it’s one that we played with a smile on our faces the entire time. And while it’s available to play in single player, we definitely recommend going for a cooperative play session here.

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey review (PSVR)

This title probably looks extremely familiar, because we reviewed Puzzle Bobble VR: Vacation Odyssey not too long ago when it launched for the Oculus Quest. It’s out for PlayStation VR as well now, bringing it to a wider audience in more ways than one.

Content-wise, the game features the same lengthy campaign that we played through in the Oculus version. In a lengthy sitting this can get repetitive, but the cheerful music and colorful graphics make this a game that’s easy to jump into, and it looks better than it did before when running from a PlayStation 4 Pro (and there’s a PS5 version coming as well). The move controllers do a solid job of aiming your bubble gun and firing them into each of the 100 puzzles, though it’s a shame your bubble gun can’t be controlled with the Aim controller on PSVR. Still, it’s a solid port of the former Quest exclusive and fans of the franchise who are on Sony’s headset should definitely take note.

puzzle bobble vr2

The biggest change, however, comes from somewhere else. As the title suggests, Vacation Odyssey is no longer a VR exclusive title – bringing Bub and Bob’s latest caper to flat screen users as well. And while you’d perhaps expect this to be a first person experience, it changes things up by offering a fixed camera perspective where you see Bub and Bob and fire away at the colored bubble formations in a way that’s much more reminiscent to the old Puzzle Bobble games.

In a way, this makes it feel like an entirely new game if you’ve previously played it in VR, and you have the ability to switch between the two modes (2D and VR) at any given time – though the most cumbersome part about that is of course switching between hardware as you grab or put away your headset and controllers. If you enjoy the Puzzle Bobble franchise, then you’ll want to try out this latest take – even if it doesn’t innovate much beyond the VR support.

Lord of the Click 2 comes to consoles

The latest console conversion by ChiliDog Interactive is Lord of the Click 2, which as the title suggests builds on the popular clicker genre – where we recently saw the release of Cookie Clicker on Steam. This one has a fantasy setting where you’re a king protecting your lands against a variety of monsters.

lords of the click

Gameplay is, as you’d expect, simple in nature. You collect resources by building a mine, after which you fortify your base, hire a variety of troops, and send them into battle with the monsters that approach. Being a fantasy game there’s also a role for mana and spellcasting, but while that sounds like a setup for an engaging Real Time Strategy/RPG game this is still a title with strong roots in the mobile genre, with simple yet addictive mechanics.

Our biggest issue was with the game’s interface, which definitely works best on a touch screen interface or with a mouse – something that’s probably true for most games in the genre. We played it on a PS4, but – if possible – grab this on the Switch for some touch screen action. Or should it be Lord of the Tap in that case?

Catty & Batty: The Spirit Guide review (PS4/PS5)

Developed by Philipp Lehner and ported over to consoles by Sometimes You, Catty & Batty: The Spirit Guide is a 2D puzzle game that was inspired by classics like Lemmings and features hand drawn graphics and animations. It can be played solo or in co-op mode with another player – the latter of course being the more unique of the two.

The game features a subtle narrative, but as you’d expect from a puzzle game it’s mostly sandwiched in between levels and the main focus is on the gameplay. This revolves around protagonists Catty and Batty building paths to help guide spirits home – not too unlike how you’d build a path to the exit in the Lemmings games.

catty

What stands out immediately is the lovely art style, which looks like a black and white pencil drawing in the game’s default display mode. You can switch this to a number of different color schemes that even include a gameboy-inspired green, but we were happy with the default. Combined with a charming narrative and lovely music, this one gets high marks for being creative in the audiovisual sense.

Gameplay-wise you shouldn’t expect more than about two hours worth of content as you progress through 30 levels, but there’s a nice learning curve during that time in which new mechanics are gradually introduced. You’ll need both characters to complete most levels, but you can switch between Catty and Batty when playing solo. With a lot of unique gameplay mechanics (many of which make use of the character-specific abilities of your cat and bat), this is a nice little budget puzzler that we’re glad made the jump to consoles.

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