Port roundup: Road 96, Ayo the Clown, Roguebook & Pretty Girls Rivers

With Road 96, Ayo the Clown, Roguebook and Pretty Girls Rivers we are (re)visiting four titles that were previously released on different systems but are reaching out to new audiences with brand new ports – here’s a closer look.

Road 96 review (PS5)

When Road 96 released last year, we thought it was one of the most original and worthwhile new approaches in videogames that year. We originally reviewed the PC version, but the game can now be bought for PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well.

What makes Road 96 so unique is its approach to storytelling, taking an “escape from an oppressive government” scenario and applying it to a road trip setting with youngsters as our main protagonists. The setting isn’t what sets it apart though – it’s the fact that this is an adventure that unfolds with rogue-lite mechanics. You might not make it in your playthrough, and you’ll start the next one with a different character. The story gradually unfolds over the course of your various road trips, and sometimes they’ll intersect, like when there’s mention of characters that were part of an earlier playthrough.

road 96a

It’s a mechanic that’s so fascinating that it pretty much carries the game, and it makes it easy to forgive the game when not all the writing is as polished or consistent as you’d like. What helps is that the indie-like visual style and soundtrack are excellent, and that your choices are impactful in directing the story – even the stories you haven’t been a part of yet.

Since Road 96 first appeared on the Switch, it’s no surprise that it performs well on a PlayStation 5. It’s a shame that the user interface wasn’t streamlined for console use though, as it feels like it was carried over from a PC-centric original where a mouse cursor gets used to select dialogue choices. Minor issues though, and adventure gaming fans on PlayStation and Xbox shouldn’t think twice about trying out one of the most original games in the genre.

Ayo the Clown review (PS4)

Developer Cloud M1 originally launched Ayo the Clown on Steam, but thanks to Eastasiasoft it’s now available on pretty much every console platform out there. It looks like a fairly generic “cute platformer” at first, but its gameplay is surprisingly well polished, making this a rare kid-friendly take on the genre on PlayStation and Xbox platforms.

ayo

Our protagonist is the titular Ayo, who works in a circus and sets out to rescue his beloved dog. This won’t factor much into the gameplay itself, but the game has some nice animated cutscenes that even feature voice acting to flesh out the presentation a bit more. In-game, the action is colorful and cute, with some detailed visuals and character models that go well beyond the usual “retro” style that so many 2D indie platformers sport these days.

In a way, Ayo the Clown reminded us of Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, an indie game for the Switch that clearly takes it inspiration from high profile family-friendly platformers that came before it. In that case, it was Donkey Kong Country – here it feels like an indie take on Yoshi’s most recent adventure, though with slightly more floaty controls. You can pick up collectibles, spend in-game credits in town, and interact with a small cast of colorful NPCs.

ayo2

You’ll also find plenty of fun creative touches, both visually and in terms of gameplay – though some jumps feel like they’d be too tricky for the younger audience this seems to be aimed at. Our advice would be to play this together with the kids, helping out in the trickier situations that are challenging even to more experienced players. There’s some solid platforming fun to be had here, and considering its budget price point it’s an easy recommendation if you’re looking for a fun new title to play.

Roguebook review (Switch)

We did a full review on Roguebook not too long ago when it hit consoles, and we really enjoyed its blend of deckbuilding and roguelike gameplay. It’s also a game that flows very nicely and it is well suited towards shorter gameplay sessions, so when it launched on the Switch we were eager to see how the experience would translate to a portable version.

In terms of content, gameplay and visuals, it’s a lovely transition, but we did the bulk of our testing with the Switch in handheld mode and the game’s performance definitely takes a hit this way – especially when compared to the PlayStation 5 version we played earlier. The animations are gorgeous, but the Switch has some trouble keeping up with them – resulting in the occasional stutter or temporary freeze.

roguebook

That’s something that we hope will improve with post-launch patches, but the other thing we noticed is more of a hardware limitation that’s unlikely to be remedied. Heading into a battle, you’ll notice long load times that weren’t there on the “bigger” console version – a wait period that can last up to 15 or even 20 seconds. While that’s certainly not game-breaking, it’s a rough transition if you started playing Roguebook on another platform before picking up the Switch version.

Having said that, the game is still terrific, and if you don’t have access to a different system than the Switch version is still a solid way to play it – just not the best way to do so.

Pretty Girls Rivers review (PS4)

Being released for consoles by Eastasiasoft, Pretty Girls Rivers is the latest game in a series that inserts anime-style girls into otherwise fairly standard gameplay formulas. The addition of the girls is pure fan service that doesn’t do much for us, but the core gameplay is often quite solid, such as in the recent Breakout/Arkanoid-like Pretty Girls Breakers. So what’s Pretty Girls Rivers about?

The title didn’t mean much to us, but Rivers is a variation on the well-known game of Mahjong, which many of you will have no doubt played or at least seen at some point. As with ‘regular’ Mahjong (there are many different types), the goal is to eliminate tiles from a board by removing two identical ones during each turn – and you’re only successful when you clear the board.

pretty girls rivers

While the most common Mahjong games have a board with tiles stacked upon one another, gradually revealing the tiles that are underneath and giving you new option, there’s a different mechanic at the heart of Rivers. In terms of thinking and plotting ahead it’s easier, but it’s also smart and fun – especially if you’ve never played before. To remove tiles, you have to be able to connect the two with a line that includes two turns/bends or less – it’s not enough to find two matching pieces that are ‘free to move’, as in other games.

It’s easy to learn, and you’ll find that the time limit is often your biggest adversary, as removing two tiles almost always opens up a new pathway that lets you remove additional tiles – it’s extremely hard to actually run out of moves here. That makes this more of a casual puzzler, and it’s one where one to two hours of casual puzzle solving also happens to get you another platinum trophy for the collection.

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