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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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GameSetExclusive Impressions: Platypus, Luxor For PSP

December 6, 2006 2:02 AM |

- Well, since I've been badgering them for retail copies, looks like I'll be one of the first people online to talk about MumboJumbo's first two PSP titles, 2D claymation side-scrolling shooter (!) Platypus and ball-matching 2D puzzler Luxor, both of which just debuted for Sony's handheld at a $30 price point.

MumboJumbo is best known nowadays for its PC casual games such as the aforementioned Luxor, of course, so this is an interesting experiment for them - I think we have a Gamasutra interview coming up in which they talk about it a little. Unfortunately, given the rapid saturation of the PSP market, I'm not sure they will see that much traction from these games, but since their costs are low, hopefully they'll keep making interesting indie titles for the PlayStation Portable - because both of these games are worth checking out for their own reasons.

Firstly, let's talk about Platypus - which started as a PC indie downloadable game, and has made a pretty decent, extended translation to the PSP. I can find a press release for the game's debut, but there aren't any PSP-specific screenshots online that I can see. In any case, the game looks basically like the PC version, which is to say, featuring lots of cute claymation sprites, great background parallax, some slightly plain special effects, and six long worlds with fair and playable shooter gameplay.

[ADDENDUM: Mike Arkin pops up in the comments to mention: "I run the MumboJumbo LA studio (formerly Zono) that developed both of these games. That said, I just wanted to clarify that Platypus wasn't converted by Idigicon, but in fact was converted to the PSP by MumboJumbo." I originally had it as iDigicon (the controversial rights-owners, since their logo is on the game and the box), so this is now fixed!]

Overall, it definitely feels a little barebones, but oddly, what I like about it is that it feels tuned for Western audiences - it's not excessively hardcore, it's easy to play through gradually, and it has intelligent and easy to grab powerups. It's that rarest of things, an accessible PSP shooter - and with the hardcore starved for new shmups and us half-assed shooter players looking for something pleasant, it's definitely an entertaining diversion. But, as I said - a bit barebones. It does have a Survival Mode, though!

One piece of _extreme_ oddness, though - the game's soundtrack is provided by C64Audio.com, and includes remixes of C64 tracks like Wizball, Parallax, Comic Bakery, and Sanxion from Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, and others. I'm sure Hubbard and Galway gave their permission, but how about the makers of the original games? Do they even need to? Heck, Comic Bakery was a Konami arcade machine first. I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble, here, but the concept of a new game having a soundtrack made up of remixes of old, completely unrelated games by diffferent companies is... a bit boggling?

[ADDENDUM: There's a thread on the IndieGamer forums from the original Platypus creator, Anthony Flack, where it's revealed that he seems to have signed away the rights to the original game for a pittance, which is unfortunate - there was also some claims that he wasn't credited, but a commenter mentions that his name is cited in the manual, if not the game. The same IndieGamer thread also has impressions from original creator Flack on the conversion, which are pretty interesting.]

- As for Luxor: The Wrath Of Set, MumboJumbo's flagship casual game has made a magnificent conversion to the PSP, with the new SKU developed by the company itself. In fact, it's such an apposite adaptation that it's probably one of my top 5 PSP games to date, and it has me wishing that more of the best casual game firms could do console versions of their top games (something that's coming soon, I guess, with Diner Dash making an appearance in 2007!)

Sure, Luxor is descended from Zuma, which is descended from PuzzLoop (shoot the balls to match them up and make them disappear!) But interestingly, the second two of these use rotating controls, which I personally find pretty fiddly with D-pad or PSP analog-style controls. So it turns out that Luxor's incremental innovation, which is to put your ball shooter on a horizontal axis, much like a Break-out/Arkanoid pad, is very easy to use with the PSP's handheld controls.

Quite apart from that, the presentation - music, artwork, level stylings - are all excellent, and there are multiple difficulty levels alongside both 'Endless' and 'Story'-style modes - not quite the large amount of modes available in something like Lumines II, but plenty enough to keep you engaged for a good while.

So, all in all, it feels like a good start for MumboJumbo on PSP. I'd really love to see them stretch onto DS with some of these titles, too - although Mitchell has already done PuzzLoop on DS as Magnetica, so some of those bases are covered in terms of the broad genre. In the mean time, I'm left wondering whether being 'different' on PSP is actually a good thing - are more PSP users going to be PS2-style consumers who want sports games and movie licenses, leaving these puzzle and niche shooter titles entirely out in the cold? Time (and units shipped) will tell.

GSW Impressions: Every Extend Extra, Lumines II For PSP

November 22, 2006 4:10 PM |

The threatened GameSetWatch game impressions mini-feature has returned, and this time, we're sizing up the other two Q Entertainment games released this holiday season, after checking out Gunpey for the PSP and DS last time round. This iteration, our steely, synaestastic (not a word!) gaze falls upon Every Extend Extra and Lumines II for the PSP, both published by Buena Vista in the States as part of a multi-title deal with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's company.

Every Extend Extra (PSP)

Every Extend Extra is my kind of game, just like Jeff Minter is my kind of indie developer and Mutant Storm Reloaded is my favorite XBLA game of all time. Hopefully, that's a good frame of reference for you - if you're a fan of psychedelic, abstract shooters that verge on the frenetic, then the game, which is based on Omega's free-to-download PC dojin title, is probably your cup of tea.

Of course, EEE isn't quite a shooter - it's more of a 'detonator', in that the gameplay revolves around exploding your ship in the correct place to set off chain reactions among the objects drifting around on screen. (Omega's original site calls it: 'Suicidal explodion' game with new feelings. Blow up self to involve enemies!') It's a smart, original idea, and once your eyes decipher exactly what's going on in any given level, it plays out intuitively and very enjoyably.

Why is it fun? Well, the game feels so natural, and then there's the fact that the gameplay revolves around maximizing your score by keeping the countdown as high as possible while still blowing up things (you can also pick up add-ons which usher enemies onscreen faster, making your potential chain reactions even more vicious), before a diverse, generally good-looking boss fight kicks in.

Mind you, a couple of EEE caveats - I had terrible trouble beating the first boss when starting out, because the game requires you to hit him at the end of a 12-hit reaction, all the while dodging some pretty intense cover fire that he's laying down. And there are a number of effects onscreen which you don't get killed by, like the first boss' floodlights, but can confuse your synapses. Plus, you can lose either by running out of time on the boss or running out of ships through bad flying, even though you blow up your ships regularly and they regenerate - which takes a while to get your head round.

So - I guess what I'm saying is that Every Extend Extra is a little bit complicated, and there's a lot to take in. But when you've worked everything out and 'get it', and you can breeze past the first boss, there's a number of fun modes to play through, a branching level path to encourage replay, and a whole lot of depth to the gameplay. It's not for everyone, but if you tend toward Tempest or the hardcore shooter, you owe it to yourself to check this out - I'd put it in my Top 5 PSP games released thus far. [PS - why wasn't Omega credited for 'original game design' in the credits, Q Entertainment guys? Or did I miss his credit?]

Lumines II (PSP)

I'm presuming that most/all of you have played Q's signature puzzle game in one form or another - whether it be the original PSP version, the actually rather good, if horribly mismarketed Xbox 360 SKU, or in any number of PC clones. [It's definitely one of the more cunning puzzle games of the last 10 years, in my book.]

Well, Lumines II for the PSP is the original Lumines, with plenty of extra modes and levels, and some Western pop stars wandering into the mix alongside Mizuguchi's normal motley collection of Japanese techno chancers. And... that's basically that. The gameplay is still stellar (minus some overactive backgrounds interfering with your puzzling from time to time, and brief pauses between skins). And really, you can probably gauge how much you will appreciate Gwen Stefani and the Black-Eyed Peas (and, OK, Beck and The Chemical Brothers) rubbing up on your puzzle action.

Personally, my dear, I don't give a damn - and you will probably work out if you loved the original enough to buy essentially the same game with some new levels and music. Oh, and there's a Sequencer Mode, much like in Gunpey DS, which gives you the ability to program 8 bars of music from scratch, including drums, synths, and so on. It's an entertaining diversion, but I think I mildly prefer Gunpey DS' version, which has a little less complexity in places, but backing tracks with chords in them to spice things up and that alluring touchscreen to mess with.

For me, then, Lumines II is a worthwhile purchase, especially if you don't have the original on the PSP and you're looking for some longlasting puzzle action. But Every Extend Extra is the game that cultish types who hang around on GameSetWatch will still be raving about in 5 years time, and for that alone, you should probably look it out to work out what the heck they're going on about.

GSW Impressions: Gunpey For PSP, DS

November 16, 2006 8:30 PM |

So, we're starting up a new occasional feature on GSW - we will, every now and again, be presenting our impressions of voguish new video games - in this case, Q Entertainment and Namco Bandai's Gunpey both for the PSP and for the DS.

Why would we ever add our cacophonous voices to the multitude of game reviews already out there? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we're not really reviewing, so much as just saying what we think of games that interest us and which may not be top of everyone's reviewing heap (which is why you'll see all four Q Entertainment titles released this month be discussed in due course!) And secondly - we're going to skip the whole 'marks out of 10' thing, and just say stuff. Like this.

Introduction

So, Gunpey. Firstly, and I think most people have spotted this by now, but Gunpey is named after Game Boy inventor Gunpei Yokoi, since his firm both developed the game and hardware for Bandai's Wonderswan handheld after his tragic death in 1997. These new versions of the abstract puzzle game are made by Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment, since they have a close relationship with Bandai.

Trusted Q producer Reo Yonaga helmed the titles, and Mizuguchi himself explained the reasoning behind doing the game in a recent Gamasutra interview: "Gunpey is a really primitive, nice game. It’s not gorgeous, in terms of visual and sound, but Gunpey has a really good principle. It’s like the bone of a human body. A very strong bone. And we had the idea that if we remade Gunpey with good music and visual effects, it would be pretty fun. So we asked Bandai – ok, let’s remake Gunpey with new graphics."

Gunpey For PSP

Well, since it's developed by the folks who brought us Lumines, as you'd expect, Gunpey for PSP feels a lot like that title, except retrofitted to receive that mellifluous line-based Gunpey gameplay. So, we get smooth Japanese techno as the aural background, plenty of abstract eagles flying around and odd vector-ish shapes, well-designed menus, and a plain stylish experience.

However, in some ways, the game feels like a slightly straitjacketed version of Lumines, because of the simplistic controls (you're arranging lines horizontally across the playfield, but you can only swap single blocks vertically). I ended up liking this in an odd fashion, because the game starts building up a sort of mindlessly compulsive Bejeweled vibe. But in the end, since you're always flapping to stop the puzzle pieces reach the top of the screen, and have to keep rearranging multiple times to slide blocks back down, there's just a bit too much busy work in here. (This is mainly fixed by the control scheme on the DS, which we'll get to presently.)

If you add that to the fact that the amount of modes in the game isn't that better than the (somewhat lacking) original Lumines, bar some minor innovations like the 10x10 playfield, well... I love the audiovisuals, but it doesn't _quite_ work for me. I don't go as far as the lovely Ed Lewis at IGN, who eruditely claims: "The gameplay is so slow and boring and who cares about seeing a crapping dog?" But Gunpey for PSP just ends up as mildly diversionary, sadly.

Gunpey For DS

However, Gunpey for DS, which goes for a completely different 'space Western' cartoony visual style, makes use of the DS touch screen in pretty helpful ways (looks like this uses elements from the Meteos game engine, just as Gunpey for PSP uses Lumines' codebase). This means a lot of the line-switching scrabble you end up doing one by one on the PSP can be accomplished with a simple stylus sweep on the DS - very good!

In addition, there's a Story Mode for Gunpey DS which helps too, since you get to square up against opponents who you can use special attacks on (or vice versa!) if you get rid of enough blocks at once. Twin the intuitive gameplay with the charming (almost Capcom late CPS-2 quality!) artwork, plus extra modes including Double Screen (similar to the 10x10 for the PSP) and you have a winner here. Even if one of the characters _is_ called 'Nick The Hacker from Haxxor'.

But it's the bonus 'Sound Box' mode, which we actually previously referenced on GSW in its Japanese 'Pico Pico Machine' incarnation - click to there if you want to see a video of it in action - which is the most awesome, giving you a programmable music synthesizer as an add-on to the game. Now sure, it's a _bit_ limited in some annoying ways (it just needed more save slots and the ability to make your custom sounds into backing tracks to make it infinitely more expansive). But it's a complete blast to mess around with using the touchscreen, and you can genuinely program your own melodies/rhythms and switch between them in real-time.

And if you add that to the intuitive and fun gameplay of Gunpey DS, then this is absolutely the SKU to pick, as long as you don't get turned off by the cute-ass cartoon visuals. In fact, I'd ever go so far to say that I've enjoyed it more than Meteos - which is a fiendishly clever puzzler, but doesn't seem to have much natural 'flow' for me. Your mileage may vary, mind you.

[On this note, James Mielke's review of the two games at 1UP has many more pertinent details, for those interested in more info - and his own blog page even points out a Gunpey DS 'Sound Box' & Kaoss Pad video that some hardcore Japanese fan has recorded, showing you really can make 'proper' music with it.]

Gra-Gra Grand Theft Auuuto

November 1, 2006 11:55 PM |

- MTV News' brand new website redesign is, in a word, obnoxious, but that doesn't stop us linking to Stephen Totilo when he's interviewing freakin' Phil Collins about video games - specifically his cameo in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. Awesome.

Specifically, Collins' "...taste in games tends toward more gentle fare. "I'm really soft-core," he said, rattling off kid-friendly PlayStation staples "Crash Bandicoot" and "Spyro the Dragon" as favorites. He indulged mostly in the '90s: "It was like, 9 or 10 in the morning till 6 or 7 o'clock at night. Constant playing until I got everything. I was obsessed."" Note to self: Collins is hardcore.

As for his appearance in the game (WARNING: VAGUE SPOILERS!): "Collins holds a concert in the faux-Miami Vice City and drums through his famous song "In the Air Tonight." Assassins lurk. And Vic Vance has to save the day." Then you have to rescue his wigmaker from being headhunted by Elton John, we heard.

Pom Pom's Bliss Island Looking Blissful On PSP

October 27, 2006 7:01 PM |

tjtj.jpg Sometimes I remember to go and look at video on the web by wandering across to Eurogamer.tv, which has a fairly agreeable, easy to use video system (albeit with ads in front of the videos, heh), and so I spotted some nice footage of Bliss Island for the PSP, a casual mini-game fest published by Codemasters.

Most interesting for geeks such as me is the fact that it's created by Pom Pom, the same folks who made Mutant Storm Reloaded, my favorite XBLA game to date, and are currently working on Mutant Storm Empire for X360 (YouTube video link looks yummy!)

Anyhow, here's the original press release for the PC downloadable version of Bliss Island - which is available for free download, albeit in limited trial version form, at places like AOL Games. Sure, it's not as hardcore as Mutant Storm, but it's still a neat indie-casual melange, and should be fun on PSP.

GameSetCompetition: Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins PSP Winners!

October 17, 2006 9:08 PM |

ghostngob.jpg You may remember last week's GSW competition to win Capcom's somewhat controversial PSP title Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins, a title that I'm still excited to play (when I have a chance!), despite some radically opposing reviews.

Well, Jeremy 'Toastyfrog' Parish gets two thumbs up from us for actually entering the competition, after his 1UP.com review of the game (also for other Ziff outlets) made people actually RIOT ON THE STREETS. His reason for needing a copy of the game?
"Please let me win! I need something I can set fire to." No luck, Parish, the random finger of winningness hasn't picked you, so there will be no UMD bonfire today.

But these lucky fellows did indeed win the game, and have to promise not to burn it: James Dernak (also known as Dernak The Destroyer Of Worlds), Matt Harper (who has a really silly email address), and Chris Lops (does he walk Lops-sided?)

Incidentally, here's the Q and A for the terminally non-geeky:

Q: "What slightly insane, pig and pink hair-inclusive PlayStation platform game series did Tokuro Fujiwara mastermind after leaving Capcom and before returning to captain the latest Ghosts 'N Goblins title?"
A: Tomba (or Tombi in Europe, thanks pedants!)

GameSetCompetition: Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins!

October 10, 2006 3:10 AM |

ghostngob.jpg Well, thanks to regular GameSetWatch buddies Capcom (other companies - give stuff away with us too!), it's time for another exciting GameSetCompetition - better late than never!. This time it's involving PSP ulti-cult (!) craziness Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins, a title that's seen some intriguingly contrasting reviews of late, hah.

In any case, the official website has plenty more info, as does the Wikipedia page, which notes: "Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins is the first game in the series to employ 3D graphics, while maintaining much of the 2D gameplay mechanics of the earlier games. It also marks the return of the series' project head, Tokuro Fujiwara. The game still follows the classic scenario of a heroic knight battling with demons, but includes a large amount of changes."

Anyhow, we have 3 copies of the game to give away, rawk. Here's the question:

"What slightly insane, pig and pink hair-inclusive PlayStation platform game series did Tokuro Fujiwara mastermind after leaving Capcom and before returning to captain the latest Ghosts 'N Goblins title?"

Please send your answers to editors@gamesetwatch.com any time before Monday, October 16th at 12 noon PST. There will be three winners randomly picked from the correct answers, the judges' decision is final, and that's that. Have fun!

Visiting Day Gets PSP Homebrew Outing

October 5, 2006 4:39 PM |

visiting_day.jpgWe’ve talked about Mike Bithell’s PSP homebrew title Visiting Day before on GSW - simonc enthusiastically called it a “seriously fun super-simple indie title” and noted that “we'd love to see a 50-mini-game version sold commercially”. For those who came in late, though, it’s a great mini-game collection with some very awesome art that is not only freeware, but can be tried out on Bithell’s website in a Flash version too.

Well, the very, very good news is that the game is out of beta stage, finished and up on the site all ready for you to download to “memory card for those moments at the bus stop”, as Bithell says.

Even better is his acknowledgement of our previous comments. “I would absolutely love to make the large scale version that GameSetWatch called for. I have many ideas...” he says. Anyone interested in helping him fulfil this dream should visit his site and get in touch with him pronto!

[edited by alistairw]

Mizuguchi Makes Us See Heavenly Stars

September 12, 2006 10:22 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/heavenly.jpg Being a bit of a synaesthesia fan, I couldn't be happier with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's output of late, what with music modes in Gunpey and the upcoming Lumines Live and Lumines II - well, now GameVideos.com has posted the 'Heavenly Star' music video from Lumines II for PSP, and it's uber-gorgeous.

I note that a recent 1UP preview explains: "One special song and video that Q producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and the development team collaborated on is a track called "Heavenly Star." This will be a difficult skin for many people to complete, simply because the song is so insanely catchy (it sounds like a mix between Daft Punk and something off the Xanadu soundtrack) and because the video, which heartwarmingly portrays the singer as an alien from space looking for love on the planet Earth (and by "alien," we mean a beautiful young woman), is so alluring."

It continues: "The video for "Heavenly Star" was designed by renowned Japanese visual team Glamoove and was, according to Mizuguchi, inspired by the classic video "Take On Me" by the Norwegian pop group a-ha. You'll have to see "Heavenly Star" to appreciate it, but it's simply stunning." More 'Take On Me' J-Pop video pastiches, plz!

Of course, there's lots more Mielke-tastic Lumines soundtrack fanboy love over at 1UP, if you want more gushing but well-written context. [UPDATE: Ah, I see Mielke has made a lengthy blog post about the video, also identifying the song as composed by Genki Rockets.]

It's Visiting Day - On PSP!

August 28, 2006 4:24 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/visiit.jpg Over at Gnome's Lair, the aforementioned Gnome has an excellent post about Mike Bithell's freeware PSP/PC title Visiting Day, which is a seriously fun super-simple indie title.

He explains: "Visiting Day, Mike Bithell's soon to be released freeware PSP game (already mentioned here), has moved to BETA stage. And a publicly playable BETA it is. Weird thing though... it's a PSP game currently playable on the PC (& Mac). Still, it will definitely give you a good idea of what to expect: a refreshingly simple, innovative, beautiful and intuitive game."

Trying it out briefly, it's a series of mini-games, of which the first is a little like a Wario Ware mini-game meets the EyeToy mini-game where you have to keep the soccer ball aloft, with super-fast Shen Mue-style button pressing mixed in, and has an endearingly cute art style, too. Then there's another one with tentacles and shooting, and another with tentacles and running and someone called Simon (yay!), so.. seriously, this is a v.neat indie title, we'd love to see a 50-mini-game version sold commercially on PSP.