Port roundup: Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy, Geometric Feel the Beats, Rule No. 1 & Hatup

With Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy, Geometric Feel the Beats, Rule No. 1 and Hatup, we’re reviewing console ports of four games that previously came out on Steam for PCs – how do they fare on PlayStation?

Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy review (PS4)

Developer Curious Fate’s turn-based tactical RPG Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy was released on Steam back in September, and publisher Akupara Games has now launched the console ports – which we checked out on a PlayStation 4 Pro.

Where Absolute Tactics manages to instantly impress is through its audiovisual presentation. The gorgeous and colorful artwork and character designs really pop off the screen, and if you enjoy anime fantasy this is one of the most visually appealing tactical RPGs you can find out there. Some lovely visual effects and a well-made soundtrack complement the style well, and its sense of style is one of the most striking aspects of the game.

The core of the game – its tactics-based JRPG gameplay, also fared pretty well, with nicely streamlined mechanics that make this a good fit for consoles even though it originally launched on PCs. Seasoned fans of the genre will recognize familiar elements like the ability to equip a variety of skills, selecting two from a range that’s available to you. These generate options in combat, where you generally devise tactics that attack enemies who are vulnerable to your melee attacks while trying to prevent getting seriously hurt on a counter-attack by using the appropriate skills.

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Terrain and positioning also matter, and with a party of about six heroes per battle there’s a nice range of tactical depth to explore. The lush visuals can hamper the flow because animations play out and can hurt the pace of a battle, but in general we had a good time with the tactical gameplay in Absolute Tactics. The game also offers highlights in this area with a few larger-scale confrontations in which you join forces with other friendlies on the battlefield, which is a nice creative touch on a familiar formula.

Where Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy falls a bit short is in the writing – which is a big one when you consider that this is a story-driven game with a runtime of about 16 to 18 hours. While it’s a solid enough fantasy story in terms of general narrative events, it’s the style with which it’s being delivered that feels out of sync with both the gameplay style and the polished visuals. Maybe this is a matter of personal opinion, but a lot of narrative was written like a cheesy teen drama, and it’s a tone of voice that’s hard to digest when you’re at home within the tactics RPG genre and want to focus on gameplay and a decent story to back it up. If you’re able to look past this you’ll probably fare well though, because the audiovisual presentation and gameplay are both worth checking out.

Geometric Feel the Beats review (PS4)

When QUByte announced they were bringing YAW Studios’ Geometric Feel the Beats to consoles, the included screenshots (and title) made us think of Geometry Wars. We haven’t had a new entry in the excellent series in a while, so we were looking forward to seeing if this one could scratch that itch for us. Unfortunately, this isn’t Geometry Wars 4, and the closest resemblance comes from the visual style that the game uses.

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Geometric Feel the Beats the same kind of neon-infused visuals and geometric shapes that Geometry Wars was known for (and which have recently been used in Atari’s recharged series of games), but the gameplay is different from other (twin-stick) shooters. You’re stuck to the sides of the screen and able to switch between them here, firing inward at geometric shapes. You can also change the color of your ship to score points for hitting shapes of the corresponding color, which is pretty much the essence of the gameplay here.

If things get too frantic on screen you can always just blast away shapes of all colors as well, though you will get points deducted for doing that as well. To complete a level, you need to shoot the required number of shapes in the right color to progress – which can mean having to wait a while for the right shape/color combo to show up, making too much of the gameplay feel futile in comparison. Luckily the visual style and the electronic music are both nice, but the repetitive gameplay couldn’t keep us from longing for a game like Geometry Wars 3 instead.

Rule No. 1 review (PS4)

An arena-based wave shooter that first premiered on Steam, Rule No. 1 is now available on consoles through Eastasiasoft. After developer Walk Without Rhythm Games received a positive reception on Steam, we couldn’t wait to try it out on a PlayStation 4 Pro.

At first sight, it’s easy to disregard Rule No. 1 as an overly generic and throwaway shooter. But as the developers say themselves, it was designed to be more of a ‘waiting-for-download’ game than the next DOOM wannabe. As such, it’s hard to judge a game like this based on a play session that was a few hours long, as the game was never intended to be played that way – though we can see where they’re coming from and aiming for.

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Looking beyond its simple visuals (and the randomly chosen “mature” theme with foul language and a ‘sexy’ lady), Rule No. 1 is an arcade-like first person shooter with five different gameplay modes. The Competitive and Arcade modes are somewhat alike in that they offer a fairly standard shooting experience, though Arcade has a bigger range of weapons and is less focused on score-chasing than Competitive mode is. Other modes are more experimental in nature, with one that only features a single enemy type (coming at you in growing numbers), one that lets you wield an overpowered weapon and even one that, bizarrely, lets you shoot some hoops.

Rule No. 1 won’t leave a lasting impression with its gameplay, but does deliver on what it promises – something to quickly dive into when you wait for a 10 or 20 minute download to finish. While doing so, you’ll also naturally unlock all of the game’s trophies (as long as you switch between modes), which (considering the cheap asking price) is another plus, especially when you consider it’s a cross-buy title between PS4 and PS5.

Hatup review (PS4)

Another console release from Eastasiasoft that first appeared on PC, Hatup was developed by Naoka Studio and provides a fairly generic but entertaining puzzle platforming experience. We checked out the PlayStation 4 version of the game, in which you complete thirty levels by grabbing keys and using your “hat” mechanic – a way to alter the level layout by wearing a magical fez.

Visually, Hatup looks like a million other retro platformers – the Awesome Pea games came to mind but if you enjoy the genre you can probably think of a dozen others as well. Most level layouts are only a single screen in size, but later ones have interconnected rooms to form larger levels – though without scrolling they’ll still look like the single room levels you started out with.

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Gameplay-wise, Hatup’s standout mechanic is the ability to make elements in each level appear and vanish with the help of your hat. Of course this isn’t an entirely new mechanic because switching in real time between versions/dimensions is something we’ve seen before, but it’s still fun to play around with and implemented well here in the game’s level designs. Thirty levels is on the short side though, as most of the puzzles are relatively straightforward in terms of figuring out what the next step is.

With floaty controls the platforming isn’t as fun as it is in the aforementioned Awesome Pea either, but Hatup does provide about an hour of fun when playing (and will also happily reward you with trophies). It’s a shame that the console version is more expensive than the Steam one though, as Hatup is one of those games that you buy cheap for about an hour of solid but unremarkable fun.

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