Another roundup of recently released ports – this time for four games that made the leap from PCs to consoles just in time for the holidays. The excellent Flynn: Son of Crimson is up first, followed by ports of Venus: Improbable Dream, Encodya and Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family.
Flynn: Son of Crimson review (PS4)
It hasn’t been that long since Humble Games started publishing games as well as selling them, and they’ve shown that they have a good eye for quality. Flynn: Son of Crimson, which was developed by Studio Thunderhorse, is no exception – it was met with critical and player acclaim on its PC launch and has now been brought over to consoles, letting us playtest it on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
The game is a retro-inspired 2D action platformer where you assume the role of Flynn, who lives on the island of Rosantica when it’s attacked by “the Scourge” – an evil that brings monsters to the once peaceful place. Rosantica is rendered through gorgeous pixel style graphics, with diverse backdrops and characters that are both very detailed and well animated. Everything’s backed up by a lovely soundtrack as well, so this definitely isn’t one of those quick and dirty retro platformers with assets you’ve seen a million times already, but one that was lovingly crafted from scratch.
Gameplay consists of the usual running and jumping with both melee and ranged options for attacking – which can happen the old-fashioned way or through magic spells. Some of your confrontations are framed as puzzles as well, which are nice breaks from the action platforming. They’re well designed, and along with hidden collectibles and secret paths there’s always something to keep you engaged.
Protagonist Flynn handles well through responsive and easy to understand controls that let you swap attacks in the heat of battle if you need to while offering a wide range of traversal options. You can swim, push obstacles, climb and even ride a mount. Your range of moves gradually expands as you unlock new stuff at a merchant’s place in exchange for coins you’ve collected – something you can also use on upgrades.
Flynn: Son of Crimson is an expertly crafted action platformer that’s a joy to play all the way through. The biggest downside here is that it eventually ends, and it does so a little too soon – we had barely broken the four hour mark when the credits rolled for us. Don’t let that stop you though – this is one you’ll want to play if you’re into the genre.
Venus: Improbable Dream (PS4)
Venus: Improbable Dream is the next console port by Eastasiasoft that reaches us after an initial PC release on Steam. It’s a visual novel in the classical sense, and we mean that in more ways than one.
The story of Venus: Improbable Dream revolves around two teenagers with insecurities that hold them back from functioning properly in social settings. One has been blind since birth, the other has a distinct growth on his face that he’s extremely self-conscious about them. Through a shared interest in music, they end up meeting, talking about their fears and growing in their level of confidence – finding ways to engage with others who are learning to play music rather than shying away from them.
It’s a touching and heartfelt story, but also one that’s delivered in the very traditional sense of visual novels that offer near zero interactivity and heavily emphasize the story. Over a lengthy 7 to 8 hour story, there were only a handful of moments where we were given a choice – and they weren’t impactful ones either. There are different endings (four in total), but you can immediately spot how to get to them and there isn’t a lot of replay value in playing this one multiple times.
It is a well told story though, and those who enjoy trophies can skip the dialogue and get an easy one here as well. But for those who are able to enjoy a visual novel that’s low on interactivity, this one is nicely done – with an especially nice highlight being the soundtrack, as Venus includes a range of classical music to accompany the story – both a nice narrative fit and a joy to listen to.
Chaosmonger’s Encodya, which is being published by Assemble, launched on PC at the start of this year and is making its way over to consoles just in time for the holiday season. It’s a beautiful classic point and click adventure with a cyberpunk aesthetic, so if enjoyed games like Silence in the earlier days of the PS4 then this will be right up your alley.
Looking at how well the game translated to consoles, you immediately notice how well the art style pops on a big screen television, thanks to its lush colors, gorgeously lit locations and Ghibli-style visuals. The gameplay might not be as polished as in other adventure games – as we pointed out in our original review – but the audiovisual delivery makes up for a lot and works well on the bigger screen.
The control scheme is better at home on PCs though, as Encodya still feels like a game that was designed with mouse controls in mind. Hardly an issue because of the slower-paced nature of games like this, but having more direct control would have been an improvement, and we’ve seen this implemented in other adventure games on consoles as well. Still, if you didn’t get to visit Neo-Berlin with Tina and her robot buddy SAM-53 before, then the console port is a solid alternative. We experienced slight performance issues on a base PS4, but everything was smooth when played on a PS5.
Whiskey Mafia – Leo’s Family (PS4)
We covered the PS4 port of Whiskey Mafia – Frank’s Story not too long ago, but that game was actually preceded by another game in the Whiskey Mafia franchise that never made it to consoles. Publisher ChiliDog Interactive is now rectifying that with the release of Whiskey Mafia – Leo’s Family, which is out now for all major consoles.
Thematically, this release is quite similar to Frank’s Story, with a tale that is set in 1920s New York and a guy who’s looking to make an honest living but quickly gets sucked into a life of crime. The game also features the same pixel art style we saw before, but you can tell it’s a less expansive and immersive experience in the way the narrative plays out. The story Leo’s Family is more on rails than the follow-up we played earlier, so if you’re looking for interactivity then that’s something to keep into account. If you enjoy the art style and storytelling, however, then you’ll want to pick this up at its budget price point.