We regularly check out games that pop up on our radar because they’re getting ported to new systems, and today these are They Always Run, Dog’s Donuts and Behind Closed Doors – A Developer’s Tale.
They Always Run review (PS4)
When Alawar Premium’s They Always Run came out last year, we were sad that it wasn’t coming to consoles. The gameplay and style reminded us of classics like Flashback, with gorgeous 2D action platforming set in a sci-fi universe. Thanks to PID Games, that’s now been rectified, with versions for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s also coming as a physical release by way of Red Art Games later this year, so there’s even more to look forward to. We didn’t feel like waiting though, so we tried out the game on a PS4.
The narrative premise for They Always Run feels like a cross between Flashback and Star Wars to us, in which you play as Aiden, a three-armed bounty hunter who goes on a quest for revenge by working his way through high profile targets after those dear to him get killed. As you progress and upgrade (through the bounties you receive), you’ll gradually uncover a plot full of corruption and conspiracies that stretches far beyond the scope of your personal quest, taking you to corners of the galaxy you didn’t think you were ever going to visit in search for answers and revenge.
And yes, three arms. Aiden’s additional arm isn’t just a visual gimmick, it’s an integral part of the gameplay experience as well. Very early on, it lets you disarm (pun intended) enemies with shields, and through upgrades you’ll unlock more and more uses for your extra appendage. This adds a metroidvania-like element to the game as well, as functions like a grappling hook help you get to places that were previously out of reach – which also allowing you to pull enemies towards you in combat, Scorpion-style. The latter isn’t just brutal though, it’s also very helpful in breaking up a group of enemies by dragging one of them out and taking him on first.
But while the gameplay is more than solid and offers up a decent length adventure that clocks in at seven to eight hours, it’s the art style that really stands out. Cinematic 2D platformers are a bit of a rare thing these days, but They Always Run features graphic novel-like sci-fi backdrops and diverse and well-animated characters that bring the world to life. It’s a shame that it has to rely on on-screen text to deliver some of its story, but we’re hoping it does well so we can see a bigger budget follow-up that adds even more atmosphere than this already has. For fans of the genre, this is a must-play.
Dog’s Donuts review (PS4)
Developer Robotizar Games originally released Dog’s Donuts on Steam last years, but thanks to QUBute Interactive you can now also play it on the Switch, Xbox and PC. With 40 levels and full trophy list to unlock, this is a physics-based puzzler that’ll certainly find its audience thanks to a budget-friendly price point.
Dog’s Donuts might look like a typical retro platformers in screenshots, but the gameplay here is much more like classic games such as The Incredible Machine and (a bit more recent) Crazy Machines. In those games you usually had to guide a ball towards a target by placing level elements in the right spot in order to make a “machine” do the job for you, but here it’s all about getting a donut into a puppy’s mouth.
The gameplay in Dog’s Donuts will be instantly familiar to players who played the aforementioned games, even though some new tools are available to players – like a shovel that can be used to carve out paths in sands. What’ll also be familiar is that completing levels can be quite fiddly – in many cases where you have the right idea you’ll end up moving an element ever so slightly to the left or right, only to see yourself fail again with the next obstacle that the ball is supposed to hit.
It comes with the territory though, and completing a level is always a fun sight, especially for some of the more ingenious levels that are part of this game. And while the frustration that comes with the genre isn’t for everyone, both dedicated fans and people using a walkthrough for an easy trophy will have fun with this one.
Behind Closed Doors – A Developer’s Tale review (PS4)
The “meta” concept seems to be popular these days, but Behind Closed Doors – A Developer’s Tale is an example of a game where it actually makes sense to use the word. It was originally developed for PC by Polygonal Wolf, and has now been ported to consoles by Sometimes You. We tried out the PlayStation 4 version.
When you start playing Behind Closed Doors, it resembles the retro/pixel art style of graphic adventures that have become very popular on Steam – developers like Wadjet Eye Games with their Blackwell series come to mind. Here, you play as Ethan, whose daytime job is to program video games while he spends time with his pregnant wife at home when not at the office. It seems like a perfectly fine though very routine-driven life, but a weird twist suddenly seems him sucked into a world of different video game styles that he now has to get through in order to get back to his family.
It’s a fun premise to think about, though not entirely original – it took us back to the early/mid-1980s when Time Bandit was released by Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear. That game saw the protagonist journey through levels that were inspired by the likes of Pac-Man and Centipede, and Behind Closed Doors follows a similar pattern of echoing other games and genres across a relatively short journey (you’ll wrap this one up in less than two hours).
As is often the game with genre mashups (and minigame collections), the individual components that make up the whole are generally not as good as the games they were inspired by – from 2D platforming to top-down shooting. You’ll have seen these done better, so in that sense it’s good that the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. The controls are often a bit too floaty for their own good, though that is offset by a relative lack of difficulty. It’s also rather linear, so you’re not likely to head back for a second playthrough. It’s being released at a budget price point though, and the appeal of the story premise is hard to deny. A nice little diversion for an evening of retro gaming, but not more than that.