By reviewing Chasing Static, NeverAwake, Wings of Bluestar and Burrow of the Fallen Bear, we’re checking out four console releases of games that were previously released for PCs.
Chasing Static review (PS4)
When we first saw Chasing Static, we didn’t have it pegged as a Ratalaika release at all. It’s a retro kind of psychological horror title with low poly visuals that was first developed for PCs by Headware games, and after its 2021 release it’s now available on consoles as well – we checked out the PlayStation version.
Compared to other games in the genre, Chasing Static is fairly short (clocking in at about three hours), but it does a great job at delivering a tense atmosphere during its runtime, filling the player with dread rather than constantly confronting them with combat. Instead, expect to hunt for items, figure out puzzles and explore a limited number of locations in order to figure out what’s happening. In that sense, it evokes memories of the mid-1990s – that period between games like Alone in the Dark and the rise of the Resident Evil franchise.
In the story, protagonist Chris is traveling back to his home in northern Wales after saying goodbye to his father, but gets lost at a roadside diner – which then spirals into a dark tale that has multiple endings to uncover. One of the core gameplay mechanics in Chasing Static is a “Frequency Displacement device”, which lets you access echoes of people who were previously in the location you’re exploring – these moments act a bit like cutscenes and move the story forward.
As with most retro horror titles, objects that you can pick up and use play a large role in how you progress, and Chasing Static is retro to a fault in not automating this for you – you’ll have to figure out what can be used where all by yourself. And when you’re not using the aforementioned device to find echoes, you’ll use it to see more in the dark thanks to its UV light function. It all adds to the atmosphere, which along with a well-written story makes this game a successful indie take on the horror genre – and a rare one that doesn’t rely on weapons, combat or ammo management. Replay value feels limited despite having multiple endings, but we had a good time on our initial playthrough.
NeverAwake review (PS5)
NeverAwake was released for PCs back in September but was recently updated to also run on Steam Deck, getting console ports for PlayStation and Switch in the process. Developed by Neotro Inc. and published by Phoenixx Inc., it’s one of the most striking arcade-like shooters we’ve played in a while.
The premise of NeverAwake revolves around a girl who’s in a coma and has to confront her real-life fears while in there. As a young girl, these include the usual things like school, dogs and trips to the hospital, but she also has some personal demons in the shape of things like vegetables. It makes for an interesting setup, and an even more interesting audiovisual style. With gorgeously drawn and animated 2D visuals and a main character that is being rendered in 3D, it’s a unique mix that successfully brings this dream/nightmare-like world to life – a world that is spread across different environments and dozens of stages.
The gameplay is a mixture of traditional side-scrolling shoot ’em up action and twin stick mechanics, with a super weapon and a dash option adding some variety to your basic loadout. The ability to unlock additional weapons and (temporary) upgrades also mixes up the action, and NeverAwake even features a host of unlockables for completionists.
NeverAwake has its shortcoming though, but they feel relatively minor in comparison to its wonderful visuals and fun gameplay. Some of the level layouts feel needlessly convoluted for what is essentially an arcade-inspired title, and this might result in minor frustration as you backtrack or retry those levels. That’s mostly nitpicking though, as this is an easy recommendation for shoot ’em up fans.
Wings of Bluestar review (PS4)
Another new release in the shoot ’em up genre is Wings of Bluestar, which EastAsiaSoft is bringing to consoles after developer Shinu Real Arts first released it for PCs back in 2020. Compared to NeverAwake, this one’s a far more traditional take on the genre, taking inspiration from the sci-fi themed classics like Gradius that came before it.
With two pilot/ship combos to choose from to allow for different loadouts, you battle through eight stages in a fairly familiar template if you’ve ever played a similar shooter before. There’s an interesting system of power ups and weapons at work here though, where pickups come in three varieties: ammo boosts, shield upgrades and add-ons that add modules/drones to your ship. The latter are especially fun, as they add twin-stick mechanics to the otherwise generic shooting action.
If you want more than the standard arcade experience, you can select story mode, which adds short visual novel-esque cutscenes to the game – we recommend playing it this way prior to doing the arcade mode. That is, we recommend doing so when the technical issues we faced here as fixed. On a PS5, we had a few freezes and a few other oddities that never popped up in arcade mode, so how this slipped through QA we don’t know.
Look past the issues and there’s a decent enough arcade shooter here, though it’s very generic with its visuals and likely won’t leave a lasting impression on you. If you like the genre enough then this’ll provide an evening of retro fun at a budget price point though, but keep an eye on those patch notes.
Burrow of the Fallen Bear: a Gay Furry Visual Novel review (PS4)
This one intrigued us as it’s probably the most niche game we’ve ever reviewed. Visual novels are a pretty niche kind of genre to begin with, and with that genre there’s a specific group of games that focuses on the gay lifestyle. Burrow of the Fallen Bear takes that one step further, focusing specifically on the bear/furry subsculture. A niche, within a niche, within a niche, if you will.
We’ll start off by saying that this EastAsiaSoft release isn’t for everyone, and not just because it’s rated M for Mature. It’s also one of the publisher’s more expensive visual novels, and of course its subject matter might be harder to relate to for anyone not familiar with it. It’s wrapped in a medieval fantasy environment though, so ‘realism’ isn’t too big of an issue visually. The main lead’s a feline-like character called Krile who heads off to the Burrow of the Fallen Bear, a dungeon that inspires would-be adventurers. On your quest, you’re quickly joined by several other animal-inspired characters – all modeled on familiar fantasy/RPG tropes. Ulfric’s part wolf, part mercenary, while Boris is a huge bear who also works as a medic/doctor.
It’s an interesting enough premise, but Burrow of the Fallen Bear falls into the trap of being too overtly sexual in its content. That might be labeled under ‘fan service’ for some, but as we were merely curious about the niche nature of the game it felt uncomfortable to see characters resort to sex for almost no reason at all, whenever the opportunity arises – and even when it seemingly doesn’t arise and no excuse seems to be needed. This one’s for a super specific audience, and chances are that you’re not part of it.