Before the weekend, we’re diving into the indie scene once again with a look at four recent releases. Here are Rayland, Long Live The Queen, Avenging Spirit and Puzzletronics: Digital Infinite.
Rayland review (PS4)
Eastasiasoft’s latest console port, which was originally developed and released on PC by Kaoka Games, is a pure puzzler called Rayland. We played the PlayStation 4 version, but the game is out on all major consoles right now.
In terms of both the gameplay and futuristic/minimalist visuals, Rayland reminds us of Laser Chess, which is a very cool retro game from the 1980s that we’ve seen pop up in various forms over the year, including board game adaptations and the more decent video game Deflection. The core mechanic is your ability to direct beams of light from a point of origin to the end point by placing mirrors in order to change their direction, which really sums of what you’re doing in the game’s puzzles.
The initial puzzles are extremely easy and merely act as tutorials, even though they all rely on the same mechanics and don’t introduce anything new. Later on, you’ll have to work with multiple beams as well as beams that cross one another, but puzzle game veterans won’t find anything too challenging here and even relative novices will nab a new platinum trophy before too long. There’s a nice zen-like quality to the music though, and with the clean visuals you’ll have fun getting through this one – just don’t expect too much of a challenge and don’t be surprised if grabbing the trophies takes you less than an hour to do.
Long Live The Queen review (PS4)
A while ago, Ratalaika announced they were going to specialize more in visual novels, and Long Live the Queen is a good example of that ambition. It looks like a regular visual novel at first, but gives the player a lot more room to influence the story than just tapping x at regular intervals. We tested the PlayStation version of the game.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a royal family kind of theme to this one, where you will focus on a princess called Elodie, whose mother recently passed away and who is now being groomed towards her future role as queen. In a fantasy kingdom like hers, this is no easy task either, as there’s always something dramatic going on. But unlike most visual novels, Long Live The Queen doesn’t spoon feed you these events – you can influence what happens and how Elodie reacts to it by more than conversational choices.
The reason for this is that the game continuously lets you play through cycles that are only a day long. At the start, you pick a lesson to learn (part of the grooming process), and how effective that lesson will be depends on your mood – a leftover effect from the day before. After your two daily lessons, you have to perform “princess duties” in the afternoon, which can include trivial duties but also some hard decisions in a court of law. How you act here depends on the lessons you’ve taken, so it’s interesting to see these effects in action while also getting the sense that there’s some replay value here.
Each day wraps up with an evening activity of your choosing, which in turns affects your mood – and then the cycle starts over. The overall story is told throughout these cycles, but the core narrative and writing aren’t the highlights here – the daily tasks hurt the game’s pacing, so if you prefer your visual novels to be ‘on rails’ then this isn’t for you, as it never feels like a grand tale with too many things that can make the game prematurely end. As a visual novel with “princess sim/management” aspects, however, it’s an interesting and fun experience.
Avenging Spirit review (PS4)
It’s interesting to see Ratalaika branching out towards older titles in recent months – from older home computer releases to arcade games. Avenging Spirit, originally a Jaleco title, is an example of the latter, and is available now for all major consoles. We tested the PlayStation 4 version.
As an arcade title by design, Avenging Spirit is on the shorter side. With just six levels to complete, you’ll probably see all that the game has to offer in less than an hour or so, but at least there’s a nice hook to the gameplay that makes it stand out from other side-scrolling action games of the same generation: the ability to take over the bodies of your enemies.
As a spectral entity, you can possess them and treat their bodies as your own, but once you take too much damage you’ll have to leave their bodies behind and become vulnerable again – though you can always jump into a new body if given the chance. Another novelty is that this is an arcade game that actually has multiple endings for you to uncover – which one you get depends on you finding three hidden keys, offering a bit of replay value unless you already grabbed them on your first playthrough.
We were recently spoiled with a ton of classic Capcom arcade games that were re-released, but if you’re hungering for more arcade games then this is a nice little niche example. It doesn’t have the same amount of polish that we saw in Capcom’s collection a few weeks ago, but it’s a budget release and it’s nice to see Ratalaika venturing into arcade territory.
Puzzletronics: Digital Infinite review (PS4)
In terms of aesthetics, QUByte’s recent port of Puzzletronics: Digital Infinite to consoles is somewhat reminiscent of Rayland, which we checked out above. Isometric viewpoint, clean visuals, and a relatively minimalist approach to puzzle games backed up by a soothing music soundtrack.
This one has over 130 levels to play through though, and doesn’t revolve around bouncing light around. There’s a similarity in terms of building a path from a start point to the finish though, because Instead of light you’re building simple logic circuits – taking me back to my high school days where I’d have to make similar drawings. Puzzletronics has a bit more meat on its bones too, but its 100+ levels shouldn’t take you more than two to three hours as the early ones aren’t very complicated at all.
Building solutions is usually just a matter of swapping out pieces as though they’re part of a jigsaw puzzle made up out of square pieces, and when early puzzles only have two to five pieces that you can move around you understand that this isn’t the most challenging title out there. It’s a nice zen-like experience though, despite the fact that it feels like it would work better as a mobile title. At its budget price point, it won’t hurt the bank, and it’s another easy platinum.