Deadshirt is Playing brings you a look at the best, newest, and strangest of what the wide world of video games has to offer. What are our staff and contributors playing this month, you ask?
Julian is a Crystal Gem…
Steven Universe: Attack the Light
I’m not usually one to kick out money for mobile games (I’m way too concerned about my phone’s battery life for me to play them enough), but when I heard there was a game based on Steven Universe, a TV show that I really enjoy, I gladly shelled out the $2.99. The concept of Steven Universe already lends itself well to video games; Steven, this dumpy ten-year-old who is part human and part member of a super-powered race of aliens made out of gems, has to defend Earth with three other gem warriors, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, while still trying to maintain a normal human life. The story in Attack The Light was written by series creator Rebecca Sugar, and ends up playing out like an episode of the show. The main plot involves an army of light monsters that Steven accidentally releases from an ancient gem weapon prism. Steven and the Gems have to go around and collect the five pieces of light and put them back into the prism.
Attack The Light is a pretty standard RPG; there are five worlds to play through, each broken up into about ten levels. You move through the world collecting items and gaining experience from fighting. The combat is turn based—the Gems, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl—do all the fighting, while Steven plays a support role, providing items, casting shields, or playing a song on his ukulele to boost the team’s stats. Fighting moves cost star points, and each turn you get five star points to use; there are items that give you more star points or allow a free attack, as about half the fighting moves cost more than five points. All of the attacks are different, and the game has creative ways of making them work.
The initially available attacks are standard—tap on the thing you want to hit and the Gem will hit it, and a well timed tap will cause a second hit. Once you level the Gems up and unlock more and more moves, their mechanics get more interesting. For instance, Amethyst has a move where you have to rapidly tap the screen to fill up a bar while she does essentially a Sonic spin dash; if the bar is filled, the hit has a chance to knock the target out of the battle regardless of its remaining health. Garnet has a move where two crosshairs sweep around near the enemy and, once you tap to stop them, Garnet launches her gauntlets to those positions creating two explosions. There are a number of other abilities that are activated in different and creative ways.
On the defensive side, the mechanics are very simple: tapping the screen when the star flashes during an enemy attack causes the character to block, which significantly reduces damage. It’s a little tough to get used to because each type of enemy has their own rhythm. Players find badges throughout the game that increase stats or have other battle effects when equipped on a Gem. Harmony is health, and when a Gem loses all her harmony, she retreats back into her gem, much like in the show. There are several items and a badge that can bring back Gems, but if they aren’t used, fallen Gems get revived at the end of battle, with very low health.
This is ultimately a game for fans of Steven Universe, so there are tons of references and other elements done in the spirit of the show for fans to love. Some locations from the show appear in the game, things like the cheeseburger backpack where Steven keeps all his items, or an item called Together Breakfast that heals the whole team, and a badge based on Lion are just a few examples of the game referencing the source material. Aside from direct references, the show’s tone also translates well here. Similar to how the show will indirectly allude to certain things in pop culture, the game references other games: for instance, Amethyst will say “Bowacunga,” her misunderstood version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ war cry “Cowabunga,” or the Crystal Gems’ levels all start at 9001, a reference to the Dragon Ball Z “over 9000” meme. Even the ending of the story has the feel of an episode where you end up actually feeling sorry for the “enemies” because everything isn’t as it seems. If you’re a fan of Steven Universe and have $3 to spare, I highly recommend checking out Attack The Light.
Matt is at the Dish and the Sacks are Drunk…
MLB 15: The Show
Sony Santa Monica
For the better part of a decade, MLB: The Show has been the only game in town that matters. When 2K Sports signed a deal that granted them exclusive use of the MLBPA license (allowing them to use players’ names and numbers), Sony found a loophole. What started as essentially a grasp at a cornered market has become the game that I bought a PS4 to play. In the last decade, there is absolutely no question that I’ve put more hours into the Show franchise than any other, and it’s probably by an entire digit.
The mode that brought me back year after year was Road to the Show. It’s The Show’s version of a career mode, where you create a character from scratch and work your way up from the single-A Dunedin all the way to the Toronto Blue Jays through a combination of in-game performance and completion of practice sessions designed to teach you the finer points of playing your position.
This year, the career mode is incredible, due to some changes under the hood that are really great. The game now has a dynamic difficulty system, so if you have 30 homers and are hitting a gentleman’s .650 after 27 games, the difficulty gets bumped up. This ensures the game remains challenging without ever being back-breaking, which is great for anyone who has ever found themselves having no fun on Hard, but everything being too easy on Normal.
There’s a lot to be impressed with in MLB 15: The Show; however, its most impressive feature is that it made me do something I swore I would never do again after Nuketown… I played a video game online. I know, I know, I promised you and all my loved ones that I wouldn’t, but Diamond Dynasty in The Show makes it a really solid experience.
Diamond Dynasty works like this: every time you start the game, you are given a stamp and a card. These cards can be players, stadiums, or boosts to be used in other modes. From these cards you field your best possible team and take them to the diamond against other players who have created their teams. It’s an incredibly fun way to play, and since the cards people have are all based on RNG, most of the teams wind up being fairly even. You earn new cards based on winning games, and their quality is based on the difficulty of the game.
Oh, yeah, and there’s no voice chat, so even if you know the other person is raging and calling you every name in the book while beaning your players, you can’t hear it.
Jake is Having A Damn Meltdown On The Beach…
Super Mario Sunshine
Now let me clarify here: Super Mario Sunshine is jam as hell, and one of the best 3D platformers ever made. However it is also infuriating. At the point I’m at in this game, I can only sit down with it for very brief periods before I risk an aneurysm. It’s hard by design in the way a good game should be, constantly challenging and interesting, and very viscerally rewarding to conquer. I am going to finish it, but not without a lot of screaming along the way.
Difficulty aside, I do love this game. The basic premise is that Mario and company are taking a vacation on the sun-kissed sands of Isle Delfino, a place populated by friendly, heavyset people called Plantas, and small, friendly people called Nokis. Everyone is friendly! Except for one guy. Mario is immediately accused of dumping a bunch of toxic sludge all over the island, framed by a strange figure by the name of Shadow Mario. The courts set him up with a backpack water pump called the FLUDD and send him out to clean up the mess.
Aside from the new water pump mechanics (which are a blast), the game feels and plays very much like Super Mario 64, which is generally a good thing. The controls are tight and responsive, and the game in general just feels great. It’s not as good as, say, any of the Sonic games, but for a man trying to be a God, it does just fine.
The tropical vibe was a great design choice. The vibrant colors and catchy music make those late night hours in my sweaty trash-strewn room feel like a hazy vacation in a sun-drenched paradise, and just looking at the game often does wonders for my sour disposition. It’s a little vacation on a disc!
If for some reason you don’t own this game, I highly recommend tracking down a copy and giving it a spin. It’s kinda hella expensive like most Nintendo games, but it’s absolutely worth having in your arsenal, and every bit as good as the Mario platformers that preceded and succeeded it.
Kyle is a Nitro Burning Soccer Car…
Every year has its sleeper hits, games that seemingly appear out of nowhere and take the community by storm. This year, I can’t think of any game that exemplifies this more than Rocket League, a silly game about cars playing soccer. In fact, if you’re even slightly into video games and follow other people that are on Twitter, I’m going to wager a guess that you’ve definitely at least heard of this game once or twice.
Rocket League is based around a pretty simple concept—pushing a ball into a goal—yet there’s a lot of depth to it, like any sport (soccer in this case), and it’s incredibly fun, to boot. The follow-up to Psyonix’s awesomely named Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Rocket League is a very similar game, but for the remainder of July, it is free on PS Plus. I’m betting that this was definitely a factor in its success, as I’m regularly seeing well over 100,000+ players online at any one time.
As you play online matches you’ll also unlock new cars, paint jobs, boost trails, and even hats! Car hats. However, I think the most notable thing you’ll gain through online play is the ability to bust out all sorts of increasingly crazy aerial moves as you learn how to better handle your car. Plus, you’ll quickly see how your matches evolve from a game of PeeWee soccer with everyone running at the ball at once to World Cup quality action as you work with your teammates to outmaneuver the other team.
If you like lighthearted competitive games, or just want something fun to play with your friends, even in short bursts, definitely check out Rocket League, especially if you have an active PS Plus subscription!
That’s Deadshirt Is Playing for this month! We’ll be back with another installment the last Thursday of August.