While multi-platform releases are the norm these days, we also see plenty of games getting ported over to other platforms months or even years after their initial release. We’re checking our four recent ports today, as we take a look at Mushroom Wars 2, Vagante, Cake Invaders and Trigger Witch.
Mushroom Wars 2
We still fondly remember the original Mushroom Wars, which we played a ton on the PlayStation 3 back in the day. Its sequel’s been available on Steam since 2017, but it was only recently released on consoles by Zillion Whales – time to get reacquainted.
Loosely based on classic RTS games, Mushroom Wars 2 is a rather streamlined approach to the genre with easy to grasp mechanics and relatively short levels – a perfect fit for consoles, we think, and we wonder why it didn’t make the jump sooner. With simplified mechanics and ditto controls, this is the kind of real time strategy that works great with a gamepad, and is accessible enough to have newcomers join in for multiplayer as well.
Just in case you’re not familiar with the franchise, Mushroom Wars doesn’t feature rival factions striving for dominion on earth or in space, but has mushroom men of different colors doing battle with one another. This isn’t Command & Conquer or Dawn of War, but a game that brings strategy to a much more casual crowd. Your main goal is to capture bases on each game map, and you do this by sending over troops. Bases that are yours also generate these troops, though you can also choose to convert them to towers (giving them defensive properties against incoming troops) or workshops – which makes your troops stronger in battle.
As long as you understand the basics, you can play Mushroom Wars 2, though heroes add another layer of strategical depth that gives you more options. Each hero unit has four special powers, which are charged through troop morale, which you gain by successfully capturing a base. It’s a system that ultimately serves one purpose very well – to encourage players to capture bases as quickly as possible.
The campaign in Mushroom Wars 2 has over 100 levels to complete and even has a storyline woven into it, though you probably won’t be surprised to learn that a lot of levels start to feel overly familiar after a while. The troop count might be different, but with relatively small maps and not a big role for scenery elements these levels quickly blend into one another after a while. If you like narrative-driven RTS campaigns that’s a bit of a negative, but the short gameplay loop does work great for multiplayer sessions – which are supported in both local and online forms here.
Mushroom Wars 2 reminds us a bit of the Bitmap Brothers classic Z with its base rush mechanics, though with colorful modern visuals and couch multiplayer-friendly mechanics. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait as long for a possible sequel.
Nuke Nine’s Vagante is another console release that first saw the light of day on Steam, where it came out almost four years ago! And although “roguelike” is the flavor of the day these days Vagante must have felt like a breath of fresh air back when it first launched. But despite its pixel art visuals – another staple of the indie scene – and Spelunky-like influences, we still had a blast playing the game due to the RPG elements it brings with it.
Those influences can easily be seen in the game’s action platformer mechanics, which see you trying to avoid falling rocks and other traps while bringing collectibles along to help you stay healthy. Vagante doesn’t have much to offer in terms of a story, but does feature RPG-like classes to choose from, all of which can be leveled up and can use different kinds of magic and weapons.
There is another mechanic that ties into these weapons and the artifacts you find – scrolls. To fully identify the stats and (de)buffs that an item has, you’ll need a scroll of identification. If one of the debuffs is tied to a curse, you’ll need yet another scroll to cleanse it. Because what you find in terms of loot isn’t predefined, there’s a wealth of different options when it comes to character development in Vagante, and although we spent the bulk of our time playing offline you can even trade stuff with others for an even more diverse experience.
As a roguelike, Vagante is nicely balanced in the sense that bosses feel overwhelmingly strong when you first encounter them, but with the right character build and loadout you’ll eventually feel like you have a good chance against them. Its fantasy themes and class-based gameplay elements give the game a Dungeons & Dragons-type of vibe, which somehow fits well with the Spelunky-like exploration and is brought to life with dark pixel art style graphics. Another good example of a game we enjoyed but probably wouldn’t have noticed were it not for this brand new port.
With a name like Cake Invaders, you already know that developer Zoo Corporation is going for something rather silly with their latest arcade-inspired title, which is being published by Eastasiasoft. It was released on PC last summer, and is now making its way to console platforms. We tested it out on a PlayStation 4.
Gameplay-wise, Cake Invaders resembles the arcade classic Missile Command, with a hint of Space Invaders. We wish we could have been there for the concept-shaping meetings though, as the game casts you as a group of people trying to defend earth from invading aliens while standing atop of layered German cakes. Get hit, and a layer disappears – until you run out of layers and lose the game. There are plenty of silly videogame concepts out there, but maybe this one takes the cake. Sorry, we couldn’t resist.
An interesting mechanic is that there are actually five cakes to defend, but you start off alone and additional ‘cake defenders’ can be earned by playing. They’ll all focus their fire on a single point though – one that you control with a cursor, which eventually results in trajectories crossing each other and thus being able to control a pretty good part of the screen. You’ll pick up other power-ups as well, so before you know it you’ll have a really powerful team trying to defend your precious cakes.
The attackers gradually become more numerous though, and will attack in waves – each one more difficult than the last one, and even with all the firepower you’ve amassed you’ll eventually lose. This is where you’ll find out where you rank on the global online leaderboards though, so there’s always an incentive to go back and try again – unless you’re playing the game for the very reasonable trophy list that’s been included, of course.
Cake Invaders is a very basic arcade-inspired game that’s fun to play in short bursts, but is ultimately limited in its lasting appeal. Its silly premise makes it one of those games that’s fun to show others though, so we’ll keep this one installed for a bit.
Some of you will probably think that we covered Trigger Witch before. You’d be right, as we reviewed the game when it came out on the PlayStation 4 last year. Publisher Eastasiasoft has now released a brand new PlayStation 5 version of the game, and although a lot of PS5 versions of smaller games feel like carbon copies of their PS4 cousins, Trigger Witch is worth a second look because it supports some of the unique features that Sony’s next gen console has to offer.
On the surface, Trigger Witch is the same twin stick shooter we played on the PS4 back in the summer, but when running on a PlayStation 5 we can now enjoy DualSense support, which works really well for this little indie action game. The adaptive triggers provide feedback whenever you’re firing away, which you of course do a lot of in a game like this. On top of that, the new version also supports visuals at a refresh rate of 120 frames per second on supported displays, which makes everything buttery smooth and makes Trigger Witch a rare and unexpected showcase for that mode on next gen. Unfortunately it doesn’t come as a free upgrade for owners of the PS4 version, but if you hadn’t bought Trigger Witch yet then you should opt for the PS5 version if you have the system for it – it’s a definite upgrade.