At the end of the year, we’re catching up on a few ports that may have slipped through the cracks for you. Here’s a closer look at console versions of Bot Gaiden, Box Align, Raptor Boyfriend – A High School Romance, The Bounty Huntress and Until The Last Plane.
Bot Gaiden review (PS4)
What do get when you cross (classic 8-bit) Ninja Gaiden with Mega Man? Something like Bot Gaiden, which was released first on PC by developer SwordSwipe Studios and has now been ported over to consoles thanks to Eastasiasoft.
Genre mashups are always interesting, so we were curious to see how this one would turn out. Especially in terms of gameplay, as it’s got a fairly nonsensical plot about golden skulls that were stolen by a bad guy and two ninja robots called Robyu and Bytron who have to retrieve them. Fairly forgettable stuff, but it sort of explains why we’re seeing robo-ninjas.
What’s more striking are the game’s colorful and cartoon-like visuals, which strike a balance between classic retro 8-bit games and modern titles like Cuphead. It’s also remarkably fast and challenging – tapping into the difficult nature of some of the games that inspired it. Quick reflexes are required as you jump and defeat/avoid the enemies who are out to get you – which is something that (temporary) power-ups can help you with.
And while you could theoretically take your time and avoid risks, there’s an interesting dynamic that works against that – each level’s boss is trying to use the power of the golden skulls against you, so if you want to catch him before he does so you’ll want to get to the boss fight before he managed to charge the skull. It’s a very interesting risk/reward mechanic, tempting you to make mistakes in an already challenging enough title. Levels feel well designed with all of these mechanics in mind though, so if you’re looking for something challenging (with surprisingly easy trophies) then Bot Gaiden is a solid choice.
Box Align review (PS4)
Certainly not the most imaginative title out there, Box Align is all about…. aligning boxes. This minimalist puzzler from Kasulo Game Studio was recently ported over to consoles by QUByte, giving us a chance to try out the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
When you look up Box Align, you’ll notice that its developers have added “Relax, have a cup of coffee and enjoy eliminating all the boxes” as a key description. And while there’s a zen-like quality to the aesthetics and core concept, we think that’s also a bit misleading, as the difficulty seriously ramps up after about two dozen puzzles (out of a hundred in total). This is a game for puzzle enthusiasts, not casual puzzle gamers.
The concept’s simple though – match three boxes of the same type to make them disappear from the level, and clear the boxes to win. Easier said than done though, especially when special boxes come into play – boxes that can’t be moved, will explode and take out other boxes (that you needed) or boxes that will only vanish if you time your moves correctly. If you enjoy more abstract puzzle games this’ll all sound familiar to you, and thanks to some nicely polished visuals it’s attractive to look at despite its minimalist approach. One for those who enjoy a good brain-scratcher.
Raptor Boyfriend – A High School Romance review (PS4)
Developer Rocket Adrift’s oddly titled Raptor Boyfriend – A High School Romance launched last year on Steam, and a console version has now launched as well. Eastasiasoft’s publishing it, and we tested the PlayStation 4 version.
As you’d expect from a title like “A High School Romance”, this is a visual novel – but that “Raptor Boyfriend” part of the title puts an interesting spin on things. That’s right, this is a game about dating a dinosaur, where protagonist Stella has just moved to a city in which supernatural beings live alongside humans – and these happen to include Robert the Raptor, who’s one of your romantic interests.
To be fair, it’s not just about dinosaurs as you can also choose to date a sasquatch, but the concept remains intriguing nonetheless. Set in a fictional town where people worry about real-life problems (like highways that’ll connect to your town, making it less remote in the process), it’s surprisingly relatable stuff despite its outlandish premise, with interesting characters and an engaging storyline. Gameplay’s rather minimal as this is a visual novel, but if you enjoy the genre and have an affinity for high school romance-type narratives, this is one of the more original takes on that.
The Bounty Huntress review (PS4)
There’s certainly no shortage of Metroidvania games out there, and Ratalaika’s just added another one to console storefronts with a port of The Bounty Huntress by IC Games, which launched for PCs about a year ago.
This one’s fairly by the book, as you play as Rhea the bounty hunter who heads into…. a castle. It’s been overrun with monsters, you’ll run into bosses, take up a few side quests and slowly progress as you unlock new weapons and abilities. It’s familiar stuff, but made (and sold) on a budget.
Inspirations will have included games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but that’d be an unfair comparison. Despite the nice pixel graphics, The Bounty Huntress doesn’t feature the same kind of polish and is rather rough around the edges. If you’re looking for a budget take on the genre this will be okay, but you’ll find it rather forgettable.
Until The Last Plane review (PS4)
Another Eastasiasoft release, proving that the publisher’s had a busy year in 2022. Until The Last Plane was originally released on PC almost two years ago by developer CarloC and we went on with the PS4 version.
As first glance, Until The Last Plane looks a bit like the classic Capcom arcade shooters in the 194x franchise, but the game actually has a different focus – managing a World War II military airfield. But although you’ll be recruiting pilots and conducting repairs, it’s a game that’s very light on the “sim”” side of things as well. There are even a few arcade-like minigames here, which let you enter dogfights and bombing runs.
From the presentation to the actual gameplay, Until The Last Plane feels like a bit of a lightweight game, something that would have been better fit for mobile platforms perhaps. With underwhelming minigames (which too feel like mobile games) and DOS-era graphics, the best part about the game could very well be the fact that it has a couple of easily obtainable trophies.