Following on from last month’s mini-review of what’s on offer to PlayStation Plus subscribers, I am back, albeit a little later than I hoped with a look at the free PlayStation 4 games for May.
There is a whopping FIVE games available for free this month on PS4, including several much hyped indie games from the past few years such as The Unfinished Swan and Hohokum. I’ve spent the last two weeks giving each game a go to have a look what’s on offer, and, more importantly, if it’s any good or not.
(I will point out now, before continuing, that whilst Ether One is one of the bigger titles on offer, I simply did not feel qualified to comment on it without putting a lot more time into playing it given the nature of the game)
The Unfinished Swan:
I was quick to jump into The Unfinished Swan, after lustfully eyeing up the game for a long time since its original release on PlayStation 3 in 2012. The Giant Sparrow developed game was later released in 2014 for the PlayStation 4 and Vita. Thankfully, my decision to hold off purchasing it in case it joined the PS Plus roster paid off.
Blurring the line between adventure and puzzle game, The Unfinished Swan sees the player control a boy named Monroe. Monroe is chasing after a swan, which has escaped from a (you guessed it – unfinished) painting by his late mother. The chase leads you into a stunning unfinished kingdom and through a number of highly stylised and varied areas, each of which brings with it its own set of puzzles and unique twists on gameplay.
Starting in an area of entirely white space, the player must fire blots of black paint around him to uncover the surrounding environment. This theme is then built on throughout to allow the player to effectively create and modify the world around them as Monroe uncovers more of the backstory about the kingdom he traverses.
This original and innovative gameplay had me captivated within seconds, and within a few sessions I’d finished the game. Whilst short, it’s beautifully crafted, sweet and smile inducing. Throw in the great music and visuals and it’s an instant top 5 indie game for me. Be sure not to miss The Unfinished Swan this month.
Honeyslug’s Hohokum also hit the PlayStation 4 last year, and once again, I waited patiently in the hopes it would be given to me for free. Once again, my decision to be awfully cheap was worth it.
Hohokum can only really be described as a piece of art. There is no traditional linear aim and no introduction or explanation of what’s actually going on. It exists entirely as an abstract exploration piece, and as such, it left me confused but also intrigued from the get go.
You begin as a strange sperm-like serpent creature (which I’ve since learned is called the Long Mover), gliding through an empty expanse of circular boundaries and objects. In an effort to keep this spoiler free, I’ll just say that you are eventually thrown into a parallel set of cute, colourful and bizarre worlds, each almost entirely different from the last. The essential “goal” is to discover all the “friends” that the game has to offer, but in all honesty, the real fun is just in travelling round and experiencing everything on offer, from free-floating Ferris wheels to giant elephant-like modes of transport.
The longevity of the game is dependent on how much the different areas captivate you, but even if you only experience Hohokum for a brief spell, it’s a quirky and dazzling experience that’s definitely worth sticking with.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition:
Those familiar with the name Guacamelee! from its original 2013 release on PlayStation 3 and Vita will no doubt figure out that this is simply a souped-up version for PlayStation 4 including extra content. If you’re not familiar with this game at all, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is a fun little platformer from Canadian developers DrinkBox Studios.
Players take control of dreamy protagonist Juan, who must save the beautiful daughter of “El Presidente”. In doing so, you must explore a 2D world populated with annoying skeleton henchmen and standard platformer obstacles.
As you progress through the game, you learn a number of new combat techniques and level up Juan in various ways, all of which contribute to the increasingly varied and difficult enemies and areas.
I usually grow tired of these sorts of games quite quickly, as you move from one room to the next, killing waves of enemies before being allowed to progress. Guacamelee!, however, does a fairly good job of avoiding this tedium through its increasingly tough and diverse opponents. The environment and its various NPCs are great and the thematic music is enjoyable. Overall, if you’re a fan of 2D platformers then this is for you, if not then I would still recommend giving it a go
Race The Sun:
Last and by all means least for me is Race The Sun, an endless runner in the form of a racer, set in an environment populated by geometric shapes that serve as obstacles to your progress. The game was originally developed by Flippfly for PC and Mac, making its way to the PlayStation Network last year. The aim of the game is to stay alive as long as possible, something which any players of endless runners such as Temple Run will be very familiar with.
Halting you from achieving this are the aforementioned obstacles that are spread across the sparse world, as well as laser beams and other such unwanted things, which will instantly destroy you upon impact. Staying in the sunlight will keep you at a decent pace, whilst travelling into the shadows will cause your speed to drop. Along the way, you can increase progress dramatically via various power-ups as you reach new “levels”.
There isn’t much to say about Race The Sun overall. My restrained view is that it’s very much a case of “If you like endless runners, you’ll like it”. I don’t like endless runners all that much, and I hated it.
The minimalist setting bored me, and the less than predictable speed at which your ship responds to movements made it annoying to get the hang of avoiding objects. Given that any impact will end your game and return you to the beginning, this became irritating very quickly, and the levels in which you progress appear to be the same on each return to the start, removing the usual variety of procedurally-generated runners.
I’d like to say I can see how one might enjoy this game, but frankly, I’d struggle to say that. Given its largely positive feedback from elsewhere, though, I imagine this one is purely down to personal issues with the genre.
Also available this month is: Ether One (PS4) & Murasaki Baby (PS Vita).