The PlayStation 4 Offerings: Making Great Strides
Every month, PlayStation Plus subscribers can download six select games for free through the service as part of what Sony calls its "Instant Game Collection." Almost all gaming websites report on the free games given monthly through PS+ - that’s good; the more people that know what’s headed their way, the better. We do, too, but with a twist.
I keep an ever-changing spreadsheet of the games currently offered through this service, and The Offerings is where I post my findings. This feature explores the games currently available and gives you an at-a-glance look at three things: The average rating of each game (via Metacritic), average time to complete each game (via HowLongToBeat's combined average times), and a breakdown of available Trophies by type (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum). This gives you quick access to see if a game is well-received, if the title is bite-sized or meaty enough to sink one's teeth into, and an idea of what Trophy gains are available (if that's your thing).
That's what you'll find in The Offerings that hits the first week of every month. For each week that follows, I share my thoughts on two of the games offered by platform: PlayStation 3, Vita, and PlayStation 4. This week, being the last one of the month, is all about the PS4.
I've wanted to play Strider ever since it came out, but I just never got around to doing so. Since I reworked the format of The Offerings in a way that forces me to play all the games that hit the service, it pleases me greatly that I was finally "forced" to "have to" play it. So far, the only thing that disappoints me about the game is that I waited this long to play it at all.
I think the Short Pause review hits on all the same points I'd make about the game: It's a challenging, fast-paced, side-scrolling action game; it's old school by design, and the story lacks depth; the environments are sterile, if a bit repetitive. But with all that in mind, and despite having to use the analog stick to control Strider, the game's fun as hell.
Strider has a Metroidvania-like vibe, as certain areas of the map will only open up once you unlock specific skills and abilities. This usually happens when you beat a boss, and that's usually tied to a Trophy, so my Pavlovian response is to want to play more of the game. Double Helix has done good by me with that; I like when I get a Trophy for doing what I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm having fun doing it.
If you've listened to almost any of our Short Pause Podcasts, you'll know that Ben is huge Strider fan and has almost obtained the Platinum Trophy (one more to go!). Knowing that, I asked if he'd like to share some tips or tricks with us. This is what he had to say:
Greetings fellow readers of the PlayStation Offerings! When I found out Eric was talking Strider this week, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut! I've learned a few things in my quest to obtain Strider's coveted Platinum Trophy. In an effort to not hijack The Offerings and turn it into "Strider Talk with Ben," I'll run down the Cliff's Notes version of the tips and tricks manual:
- In order to reach maximum height, you will first need to have obtained the catapult ability, after which your Strider will be able to catapult, double jump, and then catapult again (the double jump gives the catapult enough time to recharge) to reach seemingly unreachable places.
- In the spirit of exploration and out of reach places, the ice plasma type for your Cypher blade can be used to freeze the helicopter enemies, allowing you to use them as platforms to get to areas of the map you normally wouldn't be able to reach.
- Option-C (the eagle one) is your friend. Your superpowered best friend. Especially during boss battles...
- If you're having trouble with Grandmaster Meio, remember your Kunai.
- Obtain as many of the upgrades as you can, especially the health related ones. The Magnetic Catapult ability (obtained later in the game) is a huge help with its stun capability, especially in Meio's Tower. Make sure to track down this enhancement.
- "Meet Cypher's Edge" - A Trophy tip (I learned on playstationtrophies.org)! If you're having trouble securing this Trophy naturally over the course of play (Max out the hit meter 25 times), there's an easy way to earn this in Meio's Tower. On either side of the main room in the Tower, there is a series of platforms that lead up to an activation switch that needs to be triggered in order to move on to the next stage of the Tower. After clearing the enemies on the bottom level, you will notice a bridge-type of platform that houses three Elite Guards. Hang from the bottom of the platform and just keep spamming your magnetic blade plasma type. The magnetic projectiles do not kill the Elite Guard enemies, but each hit contributes energy to your hit meter. Your hit meter will quickly fill up, allowing you to easily max it out however many more times you need to get the Trophy. Just make sure not to attack the guards once you max out the meter! At least until the Trophy pops!
Thanks, Ben! I'm not at Meio's Tower yet, but I'll definitely be using your tip for an easy Trophy get.
If you're a PS+ subscriber, you have until the PlayStation Store updates this Tuesday, August 5, to download Strider for free. If you haven't already, make sure that you do - the game is great!
If you've listened to Podcast #4, you'll know that, while TowerFall shines brightest when played with others, I'd only been able to enjoy it by myself. This changed Wednesday night when I was able to play multiplayer - mostly cooperatively - with my good friend, Jesse. But more on this in a minute.
TowerFall Ascension looks, plays, and sounds like a game time had all but forgotten about. The game would feel right at home on a SEGA Genesis or Super Nintendo, what with its d-pad and three-button get-up - move, jump, shoot, and dodge. Played on a single screen, up to four Archers can battle it out for...well, for glory, I guess. Doesn't much matter, really. It's like Bomberman in that way; you can play the game forever because it's unpredictable fun.
Single-player offers you Quest and Trials modes. Quest mode is playable with another Archer if you'd like, and this is the bulk of what Jesse and I played. You fight off waves of enemies as you go from level to increasingly-more-difficult level, and through various environments on a map.
Due to the increasing difficulty, I found this mode becoming almost too difficult to go through by myself, but still a riot. Adding a friend to the mix kicked up the fun that much more, but be warned: Friendly fire is in play, so always watch where you're going and shooting. When the action became too frantic, I would often focus on one side of the screen and announce when I had a tougher enemy in my sights or nearly downed, just so he would know if I was shooting near him so he could avoid my arrows.
In Trials mode, your goal is to shoot a number of scarecrow-like targets on a screen in the shortest amount of time you can. I didn't find this particularly interesting and, despite having a Trophy attached to going through the stages within a certain time limit, I don't think I'll be going for it any time soon.
While Jesse and I played a ton of Quest mode, we still dabbled with Versus. Three styles of play make up Versus mode: Last Man Standing (the match is over when there's only one player left, continuing until an Archer reaches a certain number of wins); Headhunters (played until an Archer reaches a certain number of kills); and Team Deathmatch (require 3 - 4 players, is presumably as it sounds). There are various things you can set before jumping into a match, like the setting of the level, whether or not you start off with special arrows, and if enemies will spawn while playing. This was great fun as well, but would've greatly benefitted from having another two players joining us.
I understand the rise of local multiplayer, but a game like TowerFall Ascension would be incredible online. I doubt it's in the pipes at all, but I would be so happy if a patch made online multiplayer possible.
Of the six games offered in July, I reckon the batch of PlayStation 4 titles are my favorite. Strider is terrific fun, and TowerFall Ascension is addictive - even in single-player! I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed Dead Space 3 and how little I cared for Muramasa Rebirth. Vessel is everything I hoped it would be, if not a bit long in the tooth. The outlier is Doki-Doki Universe, which I guess I can respect for doing its own thing, but - golly! - what a weird little nut.
Having given all the games a spin, here are some odds-and-ends about each:
- Ben almost has the Strider Platinum Trophy - a Trophy that only 0.9% of the PS4 gamers who've played Strider have. In fact...
- The "Meet Cypher's Edge" Trophy Ben gave a Trophy tip for is a Bronze that only 4.5% of Stridests (I made that up) have unlocked, so let's see that number go up thanks to his tip (via playstationtrophies.org!).
- I received the Trophy in Doki-Doki Universe for blowing kisses to 20 different characters, but something you wouldn't know otherwise is that I blew kisses to all the characters with whom I've interacted (told you I would!).
- For as many people that may have played Dead Space 3, I'm part of a mere 14.3% of gamers who decided to to shoot the deer head trophy off the wall in one of the levels (there's a Bronze for it).
- TowerFall Ascension and Vessel both have some difficult and rare Trophies. In both titles, I have only been able to obtain the ones it seems most players have. As a "for instance," I doubt I'll be able to play 20,000 Versus games in TowerFall (just a Bronze?!).