Review for PS Plus’ August Offerings

This month of August, another awesome lineup for PS Plus Free games are currently available from August 4th to September 7th, starting off with:

1.) Tricky Towers (PS4)1.jpg

Starting off with Tricky Towers, a physics-based tower-builder in which up to four players can compete both offline and online. In essence, Tricky Towers is essentially multiplayer Tetris, except the blocks are affected by physics, and therefore your tower can collapse, leading to some particularly tense situations in multiplayer. There’s also a bit of spell-casting thrown in to keep things interesting: light spells are focused on strengthening your own tower – such as petrifying one of the bricks in it in order to keep it rock solid – while dark spells are used to throw a spanner in the works of your opponents, like changing one of their bricks into a random object or enlarging their next piece so that it’s harder to place.

These special abilities help make Tricky Towers a fun multiplayer game – there’s the decision of whether to help yourself or hinder your opponent, as well as the fact that you’ll have to focus extra-hard on placing your blocks since they’re affected by physics and forces. It’s a game that’s very easy to pick up and play, and although it doesn’t have much replay value and does get a little stale over time, it does make for a good party game every now and again.

There are three modes in multiplayer: Race, in which the winner is the player who builds the highest tower in the allotted time; Survival, where you lose a life every time one of your blocks falls; Puzzle, in which you’re given a set number of blocks, and must build a tower that doesn’t go over a certain height. Survival is the flagship mode of the multiplayer, one that’s both slow and tactical, yet has pockets of bedlam whenever players cast their spells. One more mode wouldn’t have gone amiss, as the trio do eventually get stale after repeated bursts of playing.

Tricky Towers is a good romp when playing local multiplayer with friends – the floppy physics add tension and the spells make the gameplay interesting and dynamic, a must play especially for those dedicated puzzle fans that I know who will truly enjoy and get tons of fun out of it.

2.) Gone Home: Console Edition (PS4)2

You can count the number of great video game love stories on one hand and personally saying one of them is Gone Home! the 2013 indie hit from The Fullbright Company, may just be the best yet, though. This exploratory adventure is devastatingly real, which makes its expertly executed payoff so brilliantly bittersweet. Homecomings don’t get much better than this.

The title’s taken an eternity to come to the PlayStation 4, of course, so if you’ve already seen the two hour story through, then you’ll know what we’re referring to. If you haven’t, then we’ll remain as vague as possible, because this really is an experience that’s best enjoyed fresh. You’ve made it this far, after all.

For those of you clamouring for a little more information, however, the foray follows the story of Katie Greenbriar, a twenty-something woman who’s just returned home after a year away in Europe. During her time out of the country, the Greenbriars have moved house, and the game deals with the very personal stories that unfurl as she becomes acquainted with her family’s new quarters.

Sam, Katie’s younger sister, carries the main plot thread through journal entries, but there’s much more for you to uncover simply by observing the objects strewn around the unkempt house: marriage difficulties, loneliness, and a lack of self-belief. The game’s true brilliance, though, is pulling all of these threads together in a believable manner; the Greenbriars feel like people that you may have met.

And the game design actually plays a part in that, guiding you around the Victorian-esque house without ever really telling you where to go. Clever gating means that the story keeps you guessing from start-to-finish, even though you can technically skip everything if you know where to look. True, there’s little in the way of interactivity, but the title still leverages the medium to its strengths.

No more is this true than the way in which it subverts your expectations. The opening moments – which are defined by dark corridors and creaky floorboards – wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror game, but as you cautiously flip light switches and gradually unfold the fiction, the title leads you to different assumptions. The plot’s practically watertight – it never tricks you once.

Thoughtful, clever, and articulately composed, Gone Home is the sweet sort of story that games typically tend to shun. Katie’s homecoming is emotionally charged, expertly plotted, and impressively authentic. And while it may not quench the thirst of those anxious for action, it tells a tale that practically everyone will be able to identify with – as long as you give it the chance and I do mean give it a chance as this game is one of the best games out there.

3.) Ultratron (PS4/PS3/PSVita)3.jpg

Another twin stick shooter hits the PlayStation free games month! This time it’s Puppygames’ Robotron-inspired retro shoot ’em up, Ultratron, which has been ported to PlayStation by Carbon and published by the nice chaps at Curve.

You control the one remaining humanoid battle droid and your mission is to avenge the human race who have all been slaughtered off-screen. There are 40+ levels with a boss fight every ten levels, plus a varied supply of enemies to slaughter and in a extremely retro move, fruit to pick up for bonus points.

You play in one single, unchanging area on screen. It’s basically a box, and enemies appear from the sides and corners and head towards your droid, firing weapons and homing missiles. Destroying your foes drops cash and to fight back you can power up your droid with all sorts of extras including smart bombs and up to three AI droids (or pets, as they are called in game) that fire rockets, lasers and bombs. Spiderdroids occasionally zoom across the screen and by destroying them release a power up which you cannot purchase, such as bouncing bullets, three way fire and more.

As with most games it is a lot more fun when playing local co-op and long with the multiplayer option, the console version also includes touch pad support, plus some fun lighting effects with the PS4 lightbar. It’s a cross buy title so you get PS4, PS3 and the PS Vita versions all in one pack.

Ultratron is a simple game in which you move around a single screen and shoot bad guys. That said, it does that single screen shooting very well. I would have liked some variation in the level design, and the graphics can get rather muddled at some points, but overall it’s a polished little package. The local co-op is great for when you want a quick game to play with friends – younger players will love it – and the Vita version will be excellent for killing ten minutes on a bus journey.

4.) Nobunuga’s Ambition: Souzou (PSVita)4
Generally speaking, this is probably one of the better strategy games in this sort of time period you could get. There are a few flaws, and it’s certainly far from perfect, but even that helps to make the game endearing, and it’s just deep enough that it doesn’t get too dull too quickly. There’s a pretty much limitless amount of replayability, and there’s always something happening within the game, which helps to tide you over while you wait for the next major objective.

In terms of features, the game offers standard empire management fare, with the object being to build up up your starting provinces and conquer the bulk of 16th century Japan. The beauty comes in the well crafted interaction between different components: provinces generate money, supplies and troops, each must be developed using characters and labor points, labor points grow with population, population grows organically and by conquest and can be sped up with improvements (built by characters), characters also lead and influence armies and carry out covert operations, and so on. The game does a nice job of presenting interesting choices based on limited resources.

I haven’t played it long enough, but I suspect it’s main drawback is that there isn’t a huge difference in playstyle between different games and starting clans, which will again saying, limit replayability. This is offset by the quest system, which offers historical targets and quests for your clan. you can ignore them but they give nice bonuses and add a story feel to your campaign. The game honestly speaking is not that great but not that bad, I hope they get an update for this soon!

5.) Patapon 3 (PSPVita)5

Oh-Em-Gee, Patapon 3! It’s one of my personal favorites during my highschool days. Patapon 3 is a structurally game that is loved so much by fans of the drum-beating franchise that most people will immediately feel comfortable with. You play as an army of bongo wielding eye-balls, using the power of rhythm to control what is ostensibly an RPG. Drumming to the tune of PATA-PATA-PATA-PON, your monocular army will march through the game’s vivid worlds, out in search of loot and fisticuffs. It may be a sequel, but Patapon 3 still feels like a breath of fresh air three entries in. In an industry consumed with shooting people in the face, banging out rhythms feels like a welcome change. Even if your thumps of PON-PON-PATA-PON command your army of grayscale beings to throw spears in into the faces of unsuspecting critters.

Hitting rhythms in time becomes pretty important as you progress through the game’s more challenging stages, largely because your team’s moves become enhanced by the “Fever” snake. This snake improves your performance in combat, prompting additional attacks from your “Hero” Patapon, and heightened reactions from your team. Combat becomes a case of looking for tell-tale signs in your opponents, while maintaining the rhythm of your squad. You always need to be one step ahead, because it takes at least four beats for you to complete an action. While the game is designed with this in mind, it can be a challenge at first, and you’ll often find yourself retreating or defending a bar of music too late. The game’s insistence on repetition means you’ll learn the ropes before the game gets too challenging.

It doesn’t stop with character management either. There are layers and layers of inventory management, resources management and upgrades. Indeed, you’ll spend equal amounts of time playing Patapon, managing stuff and wondering how you manage stuff. The additional layers of detail are not entirely unwelcome, but it feels like the game could do a better job streamlining options and communicating with you. And of course, the more time you spend managing your Patapon, the less time you spend actually hitting drums. Which is essentially what you want to be doing.

The game’s pretty tough too. If you advance too quickly through the main campaign missions, you’ll find your Patapon below the recommended level cap. Thankfully each stage has multiple permutations allowing you to farm resources and earn precious experience points that will allow you to upgrade your level. If you’re not a fan of “grinding”, Patapon 3 may not necessarily be the game for you. But replaying levels doesn’t necessarily feel like a negative here, as the worlds are always colourful and the gameplay rarely tires. What’s more, there’s nearly always the incentive of new loot to keep you pounding on the drums and replaying levels.

That’s where the online co-op really comes into its own. If you don’t feel like you can cut it alone (and don’t want to grind), you can employ the help of three online heroes to help thump your way to glory. It ends up making the game easier because each squad member is in control of their own “Hero” Patapon. These Patapons have additional super-charged moves compared to the other members of your party in single-player, so you can imagine the damage that you inflict with four similarly powered beings is significantly higher.

The more you play Patapon 3, the more you begin to realise just how much content’s been crammed into it. The game’s excessive detail can complicate the experience, but Patapon’s primary mechanic is nearly always the perfect antidote to its frustrations. With flashes of metal, tribal and pop, Patapon provides the kind of sensory experience that’s not always attributed to portable games. Sometimes it falls short of its ambition, but make no mistake — Patapon 3 is a wonderful game assuming you can get beyond its complex nature. The addition of online multiplayer alone should make the game a wildly appealing package for fans of the series.

6. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PS3)6.jpg

I remember playing the first game which was Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and how I love this series. The Forgotten Sands looks great, with detailed environments and well considered level design. Now going back with the Prince, the Prince can be further enhanced by elemental powers of Fire, Ice, Wind, and Earth as this unlocks up more combat options and unique platforming design.

Once you get used to Prince Of Persia’s combat mechanics, it starts to open up and the game revolves around the ability to charge sword attacks by holding the Square button and chaining. Despite the combat improving over time with the help of unlocking of new abilities.

The Prince is also able to face more foes than ever, bigger and badder. For a game that’s more than 5 years old, The Forgotten Sands is very impressive and extrodinary well not to mention that it is worth a look if you have not experienced a Prince of Persia game in the modern year.

Another batch of free games for PSN Plus players with Tricky Towers, Gone Home and Patapon 3 as the standout. Who knows what’s coming next! We Know PlayStation is the best Console out there so let’s chill, relax and play on Playstation!

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