We’re certainly no stranger to games getting ported over to new system and we love when classics get new audiences, but in recent weeks we’ve seen a specific sub-trend: bundled games being re-released for new platforms. Here are looks at three of them: Steve Jackson’s Sorcery, the Shadowrun Trilogy and the Him & Her Collection.
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery review (PS4)
If you go back to the PC-based videogames of forty years ago, graphics were nearly non-existent and companies like Infocom were responsible for classics like Zork, which were entirely text-based. The writing is what took care of transporting you to another dimension, which was the norm for narrative-driven games until developers like Magnetic Scrolls started adding stills of the in-game locations to their games.
All of that predates the Lucasarts games that many adventure gamers grew up with, and something else that predates those are the choose your own adventure books of the 1980s, of which Steve Jackson’s work on the Sorcery series was a prime example of that time. With its fantasy setting it’s become a beloved classic, and a few years ago it was turned into a videogame format for PCs and mobile devices. Now, it’s been ported to consoles as well, bringing a rare text-based adventure to videogame systems that aren’t known for it.
Because it was originally released on mobile, I expected Steve Jackson’s Sorcery to be a short and not particularly deep experience, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This new release bundles all four Sorcery chapters/parts together, and although the entire thing is completely text and choice-driven it feels like there are a lot of mechanics at work here. A choice you make early on might not have an effect on your adventure until much later, and combat can be tackled in several ways or even avoided completely. And none of these choices are about direct control over the protagonist, but rather over the choices he makes.
This’ll take some getting used to for some players, but the writing is excellent and goes a long way into drawing you in. And if you’re worried about having to read too much – it’s always to the point, and never drags like some visuals novels tend to do. This more succinct style also helps the player to engage with their imagination – a standard ingredient of games in the era described above. But while the game is text-driven, even to the point of reducing combat and magic to simple but impactful choices, developer Inkle has also added a unique storybook-like visual style to bring the story to life – a style that resembles classic book drawings thanks to the frequent and effective use of black and white.
If you enjoy narrative-driven games and would like to be swept away by something very different that harkens back to another era of (digital and non-digital) gaming, then Steve Jackson’s Sorcery is an easy recommendation. You can even rewind and go down different story branches if you don’t feel like starting over, so there’s replay value here as well.
Shadowrun Trilogy review (PS4)
The second bundle we’re looking at also has roots outside of videogaming, as Shadowrun started out as a tabletop RPG back in 1989. And while we associate the corresponding videogames (that are bundled here) with PC gaming, the series started out on consoles, with adaptations for the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive.
Included here are Shadowrun Returns (2013), the Director’s Cut of Shadowrun: Dragonfall (2014) and the Extended Edition of Shadowrun: Hong Kong (2015). And while these games can be played without any tabletop experience, they do utilize a lot of the lore that was created for it – with a blend of cyberpunk and fantasy permeating all three titles. These are story-based titles with a good amount of reading rather than a multitude of gameplay layers, employing an easy to follow story and mission structure.
While playing through all three games will take a long time indeed (we’re 40 hours in and not even done), it makes a lot of sense for them to be bundled together. Shadowrun Returns is a solid opening act that introduces you to the game’s universe, and the other two just build and expand on that in nuanced ways. If the first game grabs you, you’ll probably be hooked for the entire journey, even if these lengthy tales can feel like they drag on at times, mostly because the gameplay is largely consistent across the trilogy.
You’re not just clicking your way through a narrative though – all three games feature turn-based combat that’s not too unlike classic isometric XCOM, for several reasons. Shadowrun lacks some of the more intricate gameplay mechanics that other turn-based strategy titles have, and it also doesn’t look and feel as flashy as some of the recent XCOM titles. And yet, for some reason, scrolling around the map or battlefield can be a bit jerky. Other than that, it’s a streamlined experience, and it has all the basic elements of using cover and battlefield tactics, as well as party management and a skill tree you can use to upgrade your skills.
Most of these elements aren’t as fleshed out as the narrative- and character-centric parts of Shadowrun though, and the extensive character creation phase at the start of the game is a good throwback to the game’s tabletop RPG origins. The more ‘gamey’ elements can also be quite challenging, but there’s an easy mode to help with that if you run into trouble. And despite maybe feeling a tad dated compared to genre leaders in the RPG and turn-based combat sphere, this is a worthwhile package that offers tons of value for money for those who don’t have access to these games on a PC already.
Him & Her Collection review (PS4)
As with the Shadowrun bundle, the Him & Her Collection is another trilogy of games that were previously released as standalone titles. The total package is still a low budget release though, so you’re getting a decent amount of puzzle platforming action from publisher QUByte if you grab this release.
All three Him & Her games, which are presented as chapters in this collection, revolve around similar physics-based gameplay, where the goal in each level is always the same – reunite ‘him’ and ‘her’, two cute cartoon-like characters who’d love to be together despite a collection of spikes, gaps, switching and obstacles standing in their way. You’ll switch between the two depending on the level you’re in, which results in minor gameplay changes as well – on account character-specific abilities.
The core mechanic is almost always the same though – the ability to turn the entire world and shift some of the elements within it. You do this by simply walking off a ledge, only to find the world flipping with you now walking on what was the wall underneath you. We would’ve preferred these switches to not be instant 90 degree flips but smooth turns, but the idea is the same – just a tad less soothing than the cute visuals otherwise suggest.
Having previously played indie gem In Between and other gravity-manipulating puzzlers, we instantly enjoy the Him & Her collection’s core gameplay, which the game gradually builds on. Despite the minimalist visuals, you’ll even come across a few hidden secrets here, and the game offers a decent amount of challenge and content for those looking for a new platinum trophy as well. It’s certainly a simple and almost mobile-like puzzler, but the Him & Her Collection’s bundled nature makes for great value for money if you enjoy puzzle games.