Port roundup: Gear.club Unlimited 2, Serious Sam 4 & Puzzling Places

Three titles that we’ve reviewed in the past have recently resurfaced on other consoles. Here’s another look at Gear.club Unlimited 2, Serious Sam 4 and Puzzling Places.

Gear.club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition (PS5)

When we reviewed Gear.club Unlimited 2 for the Nintendo Switch, we couldn’t help thinking that the Switch was perhaps a little underpowered for a racing game of this type, so we were excited to see that a version for more powerful consoles was in the works as well. Dubbed the Ultimate Edition, we took it for a test drive on a PlayStation 5.

Gear.club Unlimited 2 was developed by Eden Games, which in the past was responsible for Test Drive Unlimited – a blue print for many of today’s most successful racing gaming, including the much-lauded Forza Horizon 5. In a year without a Need for Speed title and with Forza being an Xbox/PC-exclusive, that made us eagerly await this new version of Gear.club Unlimited 2 for PlayStation.

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Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really stretch its legs with the horsepower that’s available to it here, and still hasn’t shaken its mobile roots in a few ways either. We noticed this on the Switch, but felt it was a lot more justified there on account of the it being a less powerful system that wouldn’t be able to deliver Need for Speed/Forza-like experiences. Here, a floaty driving model that doesn’t feel responsive enough in corners and results in over the top drifting doesn’t feel like Ridge Racer – it feels like a mobile take on the arcade racing genre.

The career mode is excellent though, and offers a wealth of content – the version released for next gen consoles is the Ultimate Edition which includes all of the post-launch content as well, but the career was already lengthy to begin with. There’s a story mode that’s a bit reminiscent of the Fast & Furious movies with its talk of “family”, but when you consider there are over 200 events to compete in, you’re not going to run out of content any time soon.

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The track layouts and backdrops haven’t been noticeably upgraded from the Switch version though, so over the course of those 200 events you’ll see a lot of the same generic scenery pop up as you work your way through the story and gain access to shinier and faster cars. The game evokes memories of older racing games with its generic locations, which are a reminder that Gear.club Unlimited 2 is a smaller production. This also shows in the technical area, with a frame rate that isn’t always steady (though not to the point where it’s an issue) and a general lack of visual polish that keeps it from looking quite at home on a console like the PS5.

Gear.club Unlimited does support a 4-player split screen option though, which is great for local multiplayer and something that “bigger” racing titles don’t often offer unless you stick to the kart racing genre. As long as you’re not hoping for the next Forza beater and enjoy no-frills local multiplayer racing, you’ll have some fun with this one despite its shortcomings.

Serious Sam 4 (PS5)

We reviewed Serious Sam 4 in the summer of last year, and it took until now for it to come to next gen consoles – making us eager to see if and how the game had evolved in the 15 months since its original release. That version felt like fun, but lacked any kind of real (or should we say serious) step forward for the formula and franchise.

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Serious Sam 4 on PlayStation 5 gives players the choice between a quality mode and a performance mode – though ironically the performance mode struggles in the very area it was designed for. Frame rates tend to drop whenever a lot of enemies start swarming you and bullets and rockets start flying, and while in many games that would be a bit of a special boss fight moment, it’s par for the course in a Serious Sam game.

For a game that doesn’t look particularly “next gen”, that subpar performance is disappointing, especially having recently played games like Vanguard and Battlefield on the same system – games that look a lot better while delivering more stable frame rates as well. Perhaps a game like DOOM Eternal would be a better comparison for Serious Sam 4 in terms of game pace and frenetic gameplay, but even though it’s an older title it wouldn’t do Sam any favors.

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So while the game disappoints as a PlayStation 5 experience, the gameplay and level designs are still extremely fun. The frame rate issues don’t ruin the experience either – they’re just noticeable and feel out of place on a powerful console. Because you have the alternative of the Serious Sam Collection that came out on PS4 and features more content as well as a local co-op function, Serious Sam 4 is a bit of a tough recommendation unless you’ve already blazed through said collection and need a fresh helping of Sam Stone.

Puzzling Places (PSVR)

Things are moving quickly for Puzzling Places, from developer Realities.io. What started out on the SideQuest platform that is mainly used by enthusiasts got promoted to the mainstream Oculus store just a few months ago, and the game is available for PlayStation VR as well.

We discussed Puzzling Places when we checked out the Quest version, and mechanically this is exactly the same game on PlayStation. Since the bulk of controls are based around grabbing and organizing 3D puzzle pieces, it also translates quite well to the PlayStation Move controllers – the only major gameplay difference coming from the fact that PlayStation VR is a tethered experience, which makes it harder to walk around your 3D creations. It’s a tad less immersive as a standing experience, but just as fun when playing seated.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly as it’s not the most demanding VR title out there, the game performs well on PlayStation VR, and what we thought was a nice touch is that the PSVR version also includes an additional set of puzzles that was part of a post-release DLC pack on the Quest. Dubbed the Mars Desert Research Station pack, it features a set of four puzzles that’s especially interesting for sci-fi and spacefaring fans – letting you explore a space station concept on Mars.

What was already one of 2021’s most accessible VR titles just got even more accessible thanks to its PSVR launch, which we recommend checking out if you’re looking for a VR experience that everyone in the family can partake in.

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