When I visited Playism Games’ booth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Their games are somewhat eclectic, but they tend to be interesting nonetheless. Especially considering how haphazard and disorganized their set-up was last year, I was somewhat curious to see what had changed this year. Everything worked out better, and I managed to get some time in with all of the games I was scheduled for. I got to try three of their games at PAX West this year: La-Mulana 2, 1bitHeart, and Break Arts II.
My first demo was La-Mulana 2. I never did get to play the original La-Mulana, but I am somewhat familiar with it. It was originally released for PC in Japan in 2005, and was remade for WiiWare and Steam in 2012. It’s a grueling Metroidvania, following archaeology professor Lameza Kosugi as he explores the ancient ruins of La-Mulana. The sequel stars his daughter Lumisa Kosugi, exploring the ruins of Eg-Lana. Visually the games are very similar, and the sequel is meant to be stand-alone, not requiring players to have played the original to appreciate.
The game is indeed incredibly difficult, and I was unable to finish the demo because of it. However, the difficulty never feels unfair, once you get a feel for the game’s physics and rules. Each attempt teaches you a bit more about the area’s layout and enemies, and makes it just a bit easier to get around. In my several attempts, I could feel myself improving each time, but it would definitely have taken quite a while longer before I’d be able to actually finish the demo. Control is tight and fluent, and the level design is intricate and rewards exploration.
The second game I played was 1bitHeart, developed by Miwashiba, the same team behind LiEat and Alicemare. It follows a young shut-in boy named Nanashi, as he goes around town talking to people, making friends, and trying to solve a mystery that has set in on his home. the game is divided into the Detective Part, where you explore town, talk to people and learn more about the world around you, and the Conversation Part, where you present topics and questions encountered during the Detective Part to advance through the mystery or just deal with simple chat.
Conversations are presented similarly to cases in the Ace Attorney series, forcing the player to recognize when it’s appropriate to bring up certain topics or questions, and when it’s better not to say anything at all. Choosing the right option will advance the conversation, while choosing the incorrect option will reduce Nanashi’s HP. The characters and art style are charming, and the world is interesting enough to have me wanting to know more about the mystery. The game is out now, having released on August 28 on Steam. I’d recommend it based on the demo I played, but there should be a full review of it coming out at some point in the near future.
My third and final demo with Playism was Break Arts II, developed by MercuryStudio. It was originally released on smartphones, with the new version coming to Steam with new features. It’s a racing game where players control fully customizable mecha at high speeds. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try out the customization system due to time constraints, but I did get some shots at the time trials. Players can boost forward and horizontally, as well as attacking enemy racers. Apparently there are other abilities to be found by using different parts in customization, but as I said I didn’t have the chance to experiment with that system.
The boosting from side to side somewhat reminds me of the strafing mechanic in Redout, which is one of my favourite games in the futuristic racing genre. It adds extra depth to the steering, giving players an extra tool for taking corners while staying on the track without needing to slow down. It’s a bit simpler than in Redout – with that game’s system making things much more complex – by making the boost a short, powerful burst rather than simply moving from side to side. I quite like this system; it keeps the game feeling fresh while retaining relative simplicity, and makes it feel more like you’re piloting a mech rather than any other futuristic racing machine. The visuals are also incredible, with a clean, shiny science fiction look.
Some interesting picks from Playism this year. Each one is intriguing in its own way, and I look forward to trying their full versions in the future.