Tagged: PSVita

Done Playing: Open Me! (Vita)

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The concept of Augmented Reality games always grabs me but seeing sharp 3D visuals overlaid on grainy, laggy camera feeds usually proves too jarring to be fun. Open Me! has had to fight those expectations as well as coming out of the PlayStation C.A.M.P. program whose past efforts disappointed me. Knowing this going in I tried to ease that expectant sting by grabbing the game on sale and promising to play just a little bit at a time. It worked, and I’ve come out the other side wishing there were more boxes to open and more people who gave this game a chance.

AR comes with a lot of caveats before you even get to the game itself. The Vita’s camera just isn’t that good and you have to search for your own personal space for it to work well. Having played through it I picture the ideal location as a bright, empty art gallery with the AR card attached to a black, waist-high pedestal. My best bet was our chest-high kitchen counter under a heavy fluorescent light. The brightness kept the lag at bay but the glare on the glazed surface frequently made the Vita lose track of the card. The kitchen also made it hard to get all the way around the boxes and there were plenty of times I was leaning over the sink or past the drying rack to find a crucial, hidden clue.

But again, Open Me’s charms won out. Presented with only a screen or two of explanation you’re flung at 51 puzzle cubes and expected to figure them out on your own. A sense of exploration and experimentation will do you well here as you poke and swipe while skittering around; one hand holding the Vita, the other scratching your head. Here’s a hot tip from me: sometimes you just need to move on. By figuring out other boxes — some are tricky while others require more logical thinking — you will come to discover things that will help you progress. The Vita, it turns out, can track way more than just two fingers.

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It’s one of those games where you don’t want to say too much because the fun is in discovering the solution, but I’ll go ahead and spoil a few of my favorites. The Super Stealth Box is covered in spikes that are tough to discern from the one random button as the whole thing is Predator-style transparent. I ended up moving a pair of cards that were sitting on the counter in and out of view, looking at the distortion until I spotted the smooth, curved button. The Surveillance Box is equipped with a motion tracking camera that won’t let you sneak behind it to pull the shiny handle. I tried to figure it out for ten minutes when, in frustration, I smashed my fat thumb over the stupid camera and… oh come on, I can’t believe that was the solution! Late in the game there’s a fantastically complex washing machine that needs three cycles run just to find the owner’s manual.

Opening a few boxes each day and taking a break when I got to the really fiendish ones, I’d say I had a few weeks of fun with Open Me!. There are multiplayer boxes to open and a system to design and send puzzles to friends but both require knowing someone (in real life) who owns a Vita and the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get to try out either mode. You can get a feel for the game in the free version and buy individual packs for $0.99 but if you’ve read this far and are still intrigued you should buy the Full Game. It’s not as mysterious and chic as The Room but Open Me! has just as many ah-ha moments of rewarding discovery. It’s got that quirky design sensibility you only get from the Japanese on top of the (tolerably janky) novelty of using your AR cards again.

One more parting shot

One more parting shot

Of 2013: The PlayStation Plus Recap List

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I enjoyed more of the “free” games from PlayStation Plus in 2012 but I still think the annual membership is worth it. After nearly two years I have dozens of games to play on both PlayStation 3 and Vita and some of them I’d never have touched if it weren’t for the Instant Game Collection offered by Plus.

On top of the games below I took advantage of some Plus-subsidized sales to pick up Sound Shapes, NiGHTS, The Unfinished Swan, Guacamelee and Spelunky at a discount. I also realized the perfect way to re-up every year is by asking for a 12-month subscription card for your birthday; then those “free” games really are free! Here’s all the games I managed to download and play in 2013 (with 2013 releases in bold):

  • Foosball 2012
  • Closure
  • Chronovolt
  • Joe Danger 2: The Movie
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Malicious
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Knytt Underground
  • The Pinball Arcade
  • Star Wars Pinball
  • Dokuro
  • Disgaea® 3: Absence of Detention
  • Tekken 6
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Mega Man 9 & 10
  • NBA Jam: On Fire Edition
  • Ibb & Obb
  • Hotline Miami
  • Galaga Legions DX
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Urban Trial Freestyle

With similar games and discounts promised for PlayStation 4 and continued support for PlayStation 3 and Vita the value of PlayStation Plus is hard to beat. Oh, and you’ll need it anyways to play PS4 games online so go ahead and grab those 12-month cards now before the price inevitably goes up in 2014!

F2P Crazy Market has the next best boss ever

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I’ve been playing Crazy Market on the Vita recently because it’s the latest free-to-play offering and it has some good hooks. The Game Atelier has somehow found an aspect of mundane, everyday life that hasn’t been gamified yet: the checkout lane.

Specifically, we’re talking about the grocery store conveyor belt where items speed across the screen and have to be grabbed, scanned and put back on the belt before falling off. It gets maddeningly hectic when they start layering on mechanics like having to punch in UPC codes when an item doesn’t scan.

Naturally, things get bizarre when the store periodically catches on fire or you realize you’re scanning someone’s baby before handing them back to their terrified mother. And what game would be complete without an engrish-spouting boss? I keep playing just to see what he’s gonna say next!

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Waking up with Wake-up Club

I am the king of waking up! At least, that’s how I’ve felt a few times after “playing” Wake-up Club for the Vita. The app/game/thing is basically a cellphone alarm clock complete with an array of utterly unlikable jingles that tries to make waking up a social event. I’m surprised no one has done this before but I’m not surprised that this inaugural attempt isn’t the easiest to use.

It sounds great on paper. Set an alarm (with an appreciable array of options for repeat, ring sound, etc.) and Wake-up Club groups you with other real people waking up at the same time. Smack your user icon as quickly as possible once the alarm goes off and then tap others’ icons to pester them with encouraging quips. If you all wake up within five minutes you win. Trophies and stats track fastest times, number of consecutive “wins”, and number of other players encountered and encouraged.

In practice though, the Vita’s quirky firmware makes Wake-up Club cumbersome to use. For starters, Wake-up Club has to be running and it has to be the “active” app when you hit the Power button. Falling asleep in the middle of a game won’t cut it, you have to make a conscious effort to join this club. Then when the alarm goes off you have to tap past a screen asking if you want to launch Wake-up Club before you can continue. The app will sometimes lose its internet connection too and instead of waking up with real people it’ll be a generic ‘Tom’, ‘Mark’, or ‘Barry’. Also out of its control is the always-blinking PS button which I killed with a Light Dims sticker and the questionable battery life of the Vita.

It’s probably not by design but all those issues make Wake-up Club the most effective alarm I’ve ever used. I’m asleep one minute and the next a screen flashes bright, assaults me with its smarmy, new age chime and throws multiple steps at me to shut it up. Halfway through the process I remember that it’s a game and I rush to “win” and start bugging everyone else to get up. It’s like being thrown into a logic puzzle first thing in the morning and I have come to enjoy the manic hilarity of it all.

I expect a much more elegant and engaging offering on iOS or Android any time now. Something that ties into Twitter or Facebook so you can wake up with your favorite aunt or friend sounds pretty awesome. But for free it’s hard to hate the cheeky little innovation of Wake-up Club and it’s good to see clever new things coming from a gaming handheld for a change.

Wonderful wishes from Treasures of Montezuma

What have I played the most on the Vita? Without a doubt it’s Treasures of Montezuma Blitz. Even if it doesn’t take the cake for total hours played it’s the one game I’ve come back to nearly every single day. Nearly, because I’ve seen this wonderfully engrish-y screen a few times since I started playing in October and it warms my heart whenever it pops up.

So rarely does a game hope that I’m doing ok, like it may actually worry about me if I were to stop playing. Mario never asked if I was alright. Sonic? Pffft, he’s too busy to even think about me. But Monetezuma’s there for me and I’ll be there for it… at least until I get all those trophies. I’m getting so close!