Wednesday, April 30, 2014

REVIEW - Dead Nation.

Dead Nation is a twin-stick zombie shooter with some serious pedigree.  Developed by Housemarque, the arcade shooter-centric studio behind PlayStation standard Super Stardust HD and recent PS4 launch standout Resogun.

Dead Nation launched on PS3 in 2010, back before Velocity Ultra reminded me I could love a top-down shooter.  I tried it, spent an hour or two with it, and left it alone.

On March 4th, 2014, Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition launched on PlayStation 4.  I tried it, spent an hour with it, and left it alone.

On April 15th, 2014, it landed on Vita.

Now we're talkin'.


I'm not sure why it works for me so much better on the Vita's little OLED screen than on my big plasma, but after a half-day of having it on the handheld, I'd far outpaced my progress in the console versions - and my experience with Resogun seemed to inform an additional layer of comfort with the game's nuances.

Like any Housemarque title, it is entirely a score affair.  The longer  you can go without dying, the higher your multiplier will climb - it stays with you across levels as you move from city streets to a park to a train yard to rooftops, building ever-higher until you give too little respect to a Cutter-type zombie and end up on your back - the shambling dead descending on your corpse to feed as the screen fades to black.

It conveniently drops you at the last checkpoint to continue, but that part in me that clawed madly after ever-higher scores in Resogun feels the sting of that dropped multiplier.


An eccentric blend of the studio's wheelhouse swarm-obliterating shooting and the gamer's familiarity with the zombie genre, Dead Nation is unique among Housemarque's offering in that is possesses a "shoot" button - R1 - while in Super Stardust HD and Resogun, shooting is simply accomplished by pushing the analog stick in one direction or another.  This has the consequence of providing any tap-to-shoot weapon - the rifle, the shotgun - with a bit of "kick" as your aiming laser hops a bit with the movement of your hand until you become more intimate with the game.

It makes things feel a bit more nervous, a bit more desperate, and drives the player to keep cool as they line up an all-important charged shot on a distant enemy before drawing the horde beyond.


As a marriage of the twin-stick and horror genres, it works beautifully, thanks to some simple and effective choices.  Most of the environments are oppressively dark, lit only by a shoulder-mounted flashlight that swings around in concert with the right stick.  You'll swoop the light (and your laser sight) up to greet a pack of shamblers ahead, and anything outside of that cone of light is effectively hidden in the not-quite-pitch black of the night.  You can kinda' see stuff in the shadows - perhaps note movement - but only when you force your attention away from the action in the light.

You're calmly jamming the trigger, takin' em down with measured accuracy and things are going just fine but oh my God something's moving like three feet from you run!

They sneak up from all angles.  Sometimes just a lone straggler, but sometimes you'll sweep your flashlight around to reveal a dozen of the things, and your whole game plan for the current area smashes out the window as you try to figure out the best position to put yourself in, backpedalling frantically for space and - oop - finding your escape rout momentarily blocked by a light standard you couldn't see in the dark.


There's depth here that belies its campy style and setting, and makes it feel distinctly Housemarque.  You run faster when you're not shooting, for example - an important thing to note. The zombies shamble right up until you put a single round into them.  Then, the zed you've shot will break from the pack into a raging dash, making it a significant threat, which asks but doesn't demand that you take one down completely before moving on to the next.

All intact cars will have something good in their trunks - money, score multipliers, et cetera - but some cars have alarms you can activate by putting a few bullets into them.  The zombies will become attracted to the noise, swarming the car and beating on it until it explodes, taking them all down - an effective tactic, which denies you whatever goodies were inside.

You may be able to get to the trunk and open it before the nearby zeds notice you and then try to set off its alarm... but that's a risky maneuver.


Flares - though short-lived - work just as well at attracting the hordes, and can be used to gather up a group for any number of possible strategies.  Shoot a car to near-destruction, then flare it for a makeshift alarm.  Toss a flare and follow it up with a grenade, or - if you're feeling saucy - a rocket.

Beneath the health bar you'll notice in these screenshots is a gray one - it's your energy meter, stamina, whathaveyou - but it would perhaps be more accurate to describe it as your boost gauge.  By tapping X, your hero will perform a short sprinting rush of about fifteen meters - it's the dodge button, the block button, the escape button that will send you barreling through even the densest zombie hordes, and makes your briefly invincible to boot.

If a mighty Jumper is about to slam into the ground on top of you, a perfectly-timed rush will save your life.  When a bombier is about to explode next to you, when a screamer calls in a swarm, a rush will see you out of harm's way - but it takes a good five seconds for your stamina to recharge, leaving you entirely vulnerable if you've just dashed your way in to a bunch of zombies, and each swing of their bony hands as they swarm you knocks huge chunks off your multiplier.  Perhaps the shotgun would help you cut your way out..?


It's a seriously successful marriage of the horror game to a top-down shooter, with mechanics that both grant it the satisfying depth and degree of mastery of a great shooter and compliment and inform the horror aesthetic Dead Nation pursues.  It's wonderful.

There's co-op, there's a DLC horde mode if you need it, but I loved the campaign - tooling through a nice variety of environments, strategically picking what weapons are ideal for my expanded arsenal and upgrading them, searching for hidden chests that contain cool new armor pieces... and mowin' down zombies.

And I don't care what anyone says, zombies are still cool.  We will never reach zombie saturation, because the zombie satisfies something primal within us, and within its curated, supple venue for nervously stalking ruined streets and mowing through swarms of the undead, so does Dead Nation.

Personal note.


I have been sitting on the Dead Nation review for like three days, waiting for news to not happen, saving it so I have something to post - but nooo Sony just has to keep announcing shit left and right and there's all kinds of stuff to cover so whatever, man.

Whatever.  Starlight Inception's pretty sucky, by the way.  Don't buy it.  It sucks too much.

By the way, would you like some trailers?  'Cause we got 'em!

Woo new Hellraid trailer! Woo!

It's not coming to last-gen consoles any more!  Woo!  PS4, One and PC!

Wooo!



Better framerate!  Woo!

Coming in 2015!  Better than never!

Endless over at All Games Beta was kind enough to set up a download of the direct-feed trailer, if you prefer it unmolested by YouTube's compression (thank you, Endless).

Hellraid, you surely recall, is one of Techland's two upcoming new games - and Techland, you surely recall, gifted us with the sublime first-person melee combat of Dead Island.  So... yeah.  Day one.

Child of Light launch trailer.



So pretty...

Sony announced an obscene number of indies today.

Thirteen indies were announced as coming to the PS4 today - and luckily, two of the coolest-looking ones are also coming to Vita.  Rejoice in the independents!

So... how to do this?  Should every indie get a post?  Y'know what?  No.

I choose you, Indie Megapost.  Each link below will take you to the game's PS Blog post for additional details.

The two most exciting ones are, for me, definitely Drifter...



Coming to PS4 and Vita, it's an open-universe procedurally-generated space sim!  Here's its blurb:
"Drifter is an open-world sandbox space trading game with a procedurally-generated galaxy 100,000 light years across made up of tens of thousands of star systems to explore and features an original soundtrack by composer Danny Baranowsky and now it is coming to PS4 and PS Vita! (http://celsiusgs.com/drifter/) Take on the role of a spaceship captain attempting to eke out a living among the stars by trading goods between star systems, hunting pirates for bounties, mining asteroids for valuable ore, or even becoming a pirate yourself. The choice is yours!"
Fuck.  Yes.  Is it just me or does it kinda' look like space exists on a strictly 2D plane, a'la the last (really good) Ratchet & Clank game?  Still - I'm in!

Second on the hot-shit-list is Axiom Verge, a 16-bit Metroidvania that's all kinds of weird:



It... really wears the Metroid thing on its sleeve, but still!  Great music!

Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition is coming to PS4, and this is probably the best trailer you'll see today:



Also, its soundtrack is frickin' amazing. I'm really glad it's coming to PS4, since I only have so many HDMI inputs in my TV, and my 360 isn't getting one of them.  Maybe I'll finally play it!

Source, coming to PS4, is another Metroidvania, but it's... pretty sexy lookin'.


Spelunky is Spelunky, and that's also coming to PS4.

Chasm is a procedurally-generated action-RPG platformer, coming to PS4 - nice 16/32-bit style on this one.



Jamestown Plus is a bullet hell shooter that looks pretty cool, and it's coming to PS4.



Starwhal: Just the Tip is a game about fencing space uni-whales.



Nidhogg, the 2D very-retro multiplayer fencing indie which you likely heard about earlier this year is...

...can you guess..?  Can you guess what platform Nidhogg's coming to?  I'll give you a hint.

PS4.



Apotheon is a 2D action-brawler that literally looks like the side of a Grecian urn started animating itself and the little dudes started killing each other.   Awesome.



Ironclad Tactics, a card-based strategy game set during the American civil war (?) is coming to PS4.   Meh.

Escape Goat 2, a 2D Goat-centric puzzle-platformer, is coming to PS4.



Finally, Chariot, a cute-looking 2D co-op puzzle platformer, is coming to... well, you get it.


You and your co-op parter have to move a chariot possessed with the greedy soul of a dead king through a labyrinth.

And that's thirteen.

Man, it seems like every week Sony's throwing more and more indies at us.  Not that I'm complaining - I'm just wondering why Microsoft's been so quiet, lately.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The first H1Z1 footage.



So far, none o' this is blowin' my skirt up, gentlemen.  Is a torch like, the only melee weapon in the game?

Where's the crowbar?  Where's a baseball bat or sledgehammer?  Where is the - dare I say - katana?

SOE, you shoulda' poached some of the crew from Techland.

The Chainsaw Incident Kickstarter trailer.

Hoping to come to PS4 and Vita!



But I can't... actually find the Kickstarter page for it... oh well.  I'm sure it'll work out.

Wolfenstein: The New Order - Stealth vs. Mayhem gameplay.

Now this looks like something I'll enjoy.  Fingers crossed it doesn't suck!



Drops May 20th - and speaking of trailers, it's totally trailer day.

Daylight's out.

Here, have a launch trailer.



It's only twelve bucks...  but I'm quite pleased with Child of Light, so far, so I'll leave Daylight in the maybe-one-day backlog.

Driveclub's coming on October 7th, 2014.

Says this trailer,



and this post over at the PlayStation blog, which notes Driveclub's new director is the guy who made... Motorstorm RC...  Which I guess is supposed to be a good thing?

Either way, I'm not sure about this whole thing.  Driveclub dropping in the fall on PS4?

Fool me once, shame on you...

Monday, April 28, 2014

I am

Seven minutes with Destiny.



A ton of preview articles went up today from media who were lucky enough to go hands-on with Bungie's latest, so check out your favorite gaming site (that isn't this one) for the 411 - and while you're there, check out their Child of Light review - that embargo lifted today, too.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Madness of Chance.

Y'know what's comin' out on May 6th?


Borderlands 2 on Vita.  It'll be worth keeping an eye on reviews, I reckon.  I do enjoy big triple-A fare on my Vita, but I certainly wasn't the biggest fan of Borderlands 2.

More importantly, however, the PCH-2003 drops on May 6th - that's product code for the new, slim, lighter, longer-battery-life Vita, which replaces the original Vita's ultrasexy OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen with your standard high-resolution LED (like the one on your iPhone or iPad).

Its cheaper components will allow Sony to be more competitive with its price, but I found myself suffering flashbacks to the days when all PS3s were backwards-compatible, and Sony slowly phased that out over a year or two.

The original PS3s, you'll recall, had the PS2's "emotion engine" chipset built right in.  It was more expensive to produce, but allowed gamers to continue playing their beloved PS2 library as the PS3 library grew to robust.  As it did, Sony dropped the additional chips to (1) save on the cost of the units and (2) encourage gamers to buy more PS3 games instead of old PS2 games - and I wanted a backwards-compatible PS3 for my PS2 library (the thing essentially acts as a memory card with unlimited space) - but by the time I began looking for one, they were an endangered species.

And here's the thing... I love my Vita.  You know this.  The Vita, and its games, are


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so,


so sexy.

And a big part of that is the sexy OLED screen.  It's... lush, is what it is.  It's luxurious.  It's part of what makes the Vita, in its present form, more of a luxury item than perhaps any other game platform out there.  It's a big part of what makes Vanillaware games, Drinkbox games and Guerilla games so unbelievably good-looking on the thing, and having tasted such sublime visual pleasures, I'm not sure I can bring myself to ever go back again.

I hate the idea of having to.

Yesterday, on the forum I frequent, some folks were chatting about the cheapest way to currently secure a Vita, and they were immediately directed to the upcoming Borderlands 2 bundle.  It brought to mind my fear of playing some of my more beloved properties on a less-than-ideal screen, and I mentioned I'd promised myself that I would buy a backup OLED Vita before the new LED slims took over.  A fellow forumer noted that they thought they'd heard Sony say the new Slim wasn't meant to push the old OLEDs from the market, to which I could only reply,
"If they did, I never heard it - and if I had, I wouldn't've believed it. Trying to find a BC PS3 in... I wanna' say '07 was a pain in the ass."
So, last night, I went down to my local Best Buy and tried to buy an original OLED Vita now, before the new slims became available.  But here's the thing - the OLEDs are gone, man.

They're gone.

I checked Best Buy, Future Shop, Superstore, Wal-Mart, EB Games.  I called around.  I searched online.  Nobody carries the Vitas.  They still have Vita sections, but they either sold out long ago and haven't had their stock of the platforms replaced by Sony or - in the case of Best Buy and Future Shop - I was told the Sony reps actually called the stores and told them to send the OLEDs back to Sony.

They actually took them off the shelves without selling them.  I've no clue why, but... I began to get a bit panicky.  I continued my search online - Amazon's got 'em for $250 - a far cry above the $200 they've been selling for lately, so I kept looking, and finally found one listed to an EB games 100 miles outside of my city.

Kayla and I were on our way there (today was a shopping day - I also got new earbuds and a new spring jacket, and we lined up a new bed I suspect we'll buy) when I got the bright idea of calling a local independent store that's been quite good to me in the past.

PnP Games still had an original, sealed, WiFi OLED Vita - two hundred bucks.

And now I was at the crossroads.  Am I seriously going to be a guy with two Vitas?  How fucking bourgeois is that?

Well, as it happens, it's just bourgeois enough.


Princess Kenny will go on my desk at work.  I pulled the new Vita out of its packing long enough to apply a screen protector and test the screen, and it immediately went back in its box, which is now entombed in my games safe.  I shan't touch it again, until my current Vita (knock on wood) gives up the ghost - which, I hope, is never.

But, should that day ever come (knock on wood), I won't have to settle for a downgraded LED screen.

There are no pills for this.

Ben Harper - When It's Good.

I love the Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite album, so I decided to dig in to Ben Harper (who provides the vocals), and it turns out Ben Harper is... not an artist who lets himself get pigeonholed into a single genre.  His stuff runs a real gamut, most of which is not quite my groove - but, going back through his older stuff, I found this one song that - when it started - all I could think was ohhh that is sweeet... 



Now, I reckon, I should look in to this Charlie Musselwhite character...

Starbomb - It's dangerous to go alone (and Harry Partridge).

Take this.

I was actually looking for the latest Harry Partridge thing, and Starbomb's It's Dangerous To Go Alone proved far more awesome than Partridge's latest.



Just lovely.

Which isn't to say Partridge's ode to The Elder Scrolls Online isn't worth watching - it is:



...it's just not as delightful as his Skyrim work:

Kick Time Events.

-double xp-

In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, there's an option to turn quicktime events on and off.  I turned 'em off, and I suggest you (and every developer, moving forward) do as well.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

REVIEW - Octodad : Dadliest Catch.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch started as a joke, and is now one of the more feel-good Indie developer stories from the launch of the PS4.

Once upon a time, a group of eighteen students at DePaul University in Chicago made Octodad - a game about an octopus in the guise of a man, with a loving human wife, daughter and son, flailing about comically as he tries to complete mundane domestic tasks without the benefit of bones or a traditional control scheme.

They released it for free, it got some good press, and eight of those students went on to form a studio called Young Horses.  Young Horses took what they'd started with Octodad and began massaging it into a more consumer-friendly offering, catching the eye of Sony in the process, who approached them and asked them to put Dadliest Catch - which Young Horses now considered a sequel to Octodad - on the PS4.   They thought that Sony was joking, so Sony put them on the mainstage at their big E3 2013 PS4-reveal press conference to prove their commitment.

E3 2013

Dadliest Catch launched on PCs in January to mixed-but-positive reviews.  A much broader and more ambitious game than the original, I heard some of the mechanics and gauntlets towards the end of the game were just no fun, but that Young Horses had smoothed things out for the PS4 release.

I'll be honest, I didn't have high hopes for Octodad.  I watched gameplay, marked it as "certainly different," but didn't really believe Shu Yoshida when he would gush about how great it is.  It seemed like something different for difference's sake, and the glut of indies on Sony's consoles can become tiring, but man... Octodad really works. Whatever problems the PC release suffered seem to have been alleviated or removed or designed around, 'cause Octodad: Dadliest Catch is just a really good time with a controller in your hand.

It feels like a summer's day.


Its asking price of $15 may seem a bit steep for something as, dare I say, gimmicky as this, but it's not its single, wholly original idea that makes the game so successful.  It's goofy fun.  It's got funny writing and fine voice work. It's cheerful and bright and very sweet.

The game begins with a brief tutorial of the titular secret octopus's controls on the day of his wedding to the beautiful Scarlet, at the notably tentacle-friendly Church of Cthulhu.


Holding down the left trigger causes him to raise his left leg high into the air, and while it's up there you can swing the analog stick around to move it.  Releasing L2 drops the leg, and the suckers on his appendage will adhere well to whatever it drops on.  Holding down R2, similarly, raises his right leg to be flailed about until you get it where you want it - release to drop.

You've just taken two steps.  There's nothing else like it, and despite its profound weirdness, it becomes second nature after not-too-long.  Soon you're crossing great distances at speed with huge, looping strides of your stretchy limbs and long presses of the triggers, or tiptoeing daintily along a treacherous stretch of footing with tiny little taps of the triggers.

When both feet are grounded, you control his right arm with the analog sticks - one raising and lowering it, one moving it back and forth through space - R1 grabs and releases items.

God help me, it works.  It's not easy or intuitive or ever quite comfortable - but being a walking slapstick engine, whacking into this and accidentally wrapping yourself around that - that's the point, isn't it?

Augh!  Banana peel!

As Octodad moves around any environment, there's a suspicion meter on the bottom of the screen that fills in concert to his ridiculous pratfalls when he's in anyone's line of sight.  As he swings his floppy legs forward to walk down the aisle towards his bride-to-be, knocking over beautiful podiums as he goes, the gathered well-wishers' surprise registers in the filling bar.  Fill the bar too far, and it's over - your secret's out!  That sounds like it may prove a frustrating roadblock to your enjoyment, but I think I only filled the bar twice in my entire time with the game.

Instead, the suspicion bar simply serves as a reminder to focus on trying to be the best human you can pretend to be.  And then, when you get to the end of the aisle and carefully... carefully put the ring on Scarlet's hand... it's very sweet.

The option to make Octodad transparent when the game thinks it'll be handy can be toggled on and off.

After that, Octodad settles down to family life.  He stumbles across his kids' toys in the living room with half-closed eyes in the morning, wiggling his limbs to shake coffee into the maker to get a morning buzz going, and pours his daughter a glass of milk.  He speaks in gurgles that they seem to understand, and always does the very best he can for them.

They have no idea how hard it is, to keep the charade going as you - without the necessary bones to make movement on land less of a hassle - finally get your tentacle in place to open the 'fridge for Stacy's milk, but Octodad makes it work, for his family.

He does, after all, have a good thing going.

And then Scarlet explains that, next, she needs you to weed the garden and mow the lawn and cook hamburgers for everyone and it's like you have no idea how hard this is for me!  But then, you do it.  For them - and ultimately, for you too.

You go shopping and get more milk,

"Indie AAA Milk."  I get it. 

you sigh and go along with it when they drag you to your most-hated destination, the aquarium, and continue being a dad for your family.  You play with your son in the kelp exhibit, win like a dozen prizes for Scarlet in the Amazon Arcade and - sweetly, always sweetly - give your daughter the courage to see her way through the scary bioluminescent deep-sea exhibit.

This part is sooo cute.

Octodad is surprisingly easy to recommend.  Its simple formula - you are an octopus, and successfully moving and doing things on land is really hard for an octopus - is entirely successful, and beautifully supported by its wholesome, heartwarming tone.  It permits one to feel the sort of joy at success that video games provided when you were a kid - when you finally drag the mower across that last patch of long grass, when you un-tangle your flailing limbs from four colossal electrical cords, when you slip that ring on Scarlet's finger...

Young Horses have said it was born of a desire to create a truly original game idea, and they entirely succeeded.  Octodad really works, in every way it wants to.

Something so fun, funny, original and earnest doesn't come along often enough.

Nobody suspects a thing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm no video game critic, but I know what I hate.

And I don't hate this.


Starlight Inception is a... grainy experience.  Some of it is weird and stupid.

I can get why someone thought it would be a good idea to let you walk around a few hallways of a ship (very slowly) in first-person perspective.  You walk from the hangar (starting beside a ship that's not the ship you flew on the last mission) to the elevator - when you get to the elevator a menu pops up with all the available floors you can go to.

I decided to check out Engineering - maybe I can talk to some dude who'll upgrade my engines or something?

Nope.  Just about two hundred yards of (slow-to-navigate) hallways, and one dude standing there you can't talk to.  I get why someone thought this was preferable to some nice menus... but it's not.  Menus would have let me get back to the action faster, and it is - by far - the least-fun part of the experience.

So you go to the briefing room (it's always empty when you walk in) and trigger a short, ugly, in-engine cutscene explaining the gist of the next level - only then can you proceed to deck out your ship.

Decking out your ship is cool and fun and awesome.  You spend points earned in missions on more rockets or stealth modules or shield modules.  The game has power you have to manage a'la TIE Fighter - you can reduce your weapon recharge speed in favor of putting you engines up to 200% power to catch up to speedy enemies, or just cover distance faster.

Love that.  Don't love that there's an Energy Module I can buy for my ship that seems to make no discernible difference in how much energy I have to distribute amongst my systems.  I'm not sure what, precisely, it does.

There's also Mission 2.  Mission 2 looks like this:


It's Chicago after a nuclear attack - and, it turns out, the draw distance is due to the amount of polygons the scene is pushing on Vita.

Well, Escape Hatch, if that's how it looks - I'm sorry to suggest - you're pushing too many polygons and need to understand that, as I won't be landing my starfighter on these buildings, I really don't give a shit about how detailed their models are.

Once I got to the end of the 2nd mission, it told me to go home, but gave me no indication as to where I should go.

I'm at the end of the third mission, and it keeps on telling me to "survive the onslaught of enemy fighters" - and I do, as a counter ticks down - only to repeatedly (four times, now) be told I failed the mission.

[update]  It's because even though it gives you no waypoint, it doesn't want you to engage the awesome big enemy battleship in front of you (totally, easily killable) - it wants you to fly straight to your mothership and dock. [/update]

But here's the thing.  And it is a big but.


I don't hate it.  It is scratching my TIE Fighter itch.  It's... amateurish and some of it is just awful, but it offers something no other game does, on Vita (or consoles, come to think of it).

I'll continue giving it a chance.

[update]  Scratch that, I hate it. [/update]

Mad Max - Magnum Opus trailer.



Hmm.  Looks interesting, but it's not exactly blowin' my skirt up.  And why does a game set in post-apocalyptic Australia have West Coast Customs logos all overs its trailer?

That seems kinda' stupid.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another sweet month of PlayStation Plus is May.


On some forums the other day, a fellow remarked that they couldn't bring themselves to subscribe to PlayStation Plus, knowing that all the games they get "free" are, essentially, just rentals as long as you have a Plus subscription.

And yeah, that's totally true.  Once you let your PS+ subscription lapse, you lose access to any game you downloaded free through PS+ (if you then re-subscribe, you regain access to every game you got free through the lifetime of your subscription - and there are tons of great PS+-only sales).

The free games were never my impetus for PS+.  In 2010 and 2012, I suffered two catastrophic PS3 errors that wiped all of my saved games.  The posts were literally titled "oh God no!"  When it last occurred, I lost my saves for... one or two games.

Game like



which, y'know, represents some measure of investment.

I resolved I would never again lose saved progress, but who was I - some crazy person who would manually backup their saved games once a week?  I'm not a maniac.

No, I subscribed to PlayStation Plus, which basically turns your PlayStation Whatever into a digital gaming butler.  When I get home from work, I turn on my PS3 and it says (with a smooth British accent), "welcome home, Sir.  I've taken the liberty of uploading any new saved games to online storage, and downloaded any new patches for the games you own."

And it's like, thank you, Jarvis.

The free games are just a bonus.  A sweet, sweet bonus that has significantly broadened my gaming horizons, as I check out critically-acclaimed titles I never would have, and supplement my gaming library with digital versions of important titles (particularly precious on Vita) - and PS+ in May is, yet again, a sweet month for PlayStation Plus freebies.


Stick it to the Man!, coming to the PS4's Instant Game Collection, is a pleasant old-schooly adventure game with a nicely weird sense of humor.  Taking place in a world of paper cut-outs, one poor schmuck gets bonked on the head with a top-secret thing that grants him the magical power of giant, pink piece of spaghetti coming out of his head - which he can use to mix-and-match the 2D items of his world, and listen in on the thoughts of anyone within spaghetti-reach.  It's very entertaining - but, I'll admit, doesn't have the smoothest design.

In the mean time,


The PS3 gets Puppeteer, that gorgeous-looking and critically-divisive platformer from last Fall.  This is exactly why I love Plus's freebies - a game I've always wanted to try, but not enough to spend money on.

The PS3 also gets PES 2014, which I gather is a sports game of some variety, and - much more importantly,


Skullgirls Encore! Woo!

Skullgirls, you should know, made a lot of waves when it arrived in 2012 - an indie fighter with gorgeous 2D sprites, tournament depth and a lot of originality.  Released by Konami on PSN and XBLA, developer Reverge Labs continued to support the game through updates and decided to do up an Indiegogo campaign to see if they could gather backing to produce DLC characters - they asked for $150K, they got almost a million dollars - and happily forged ahead.

You don't have to know Skullgirls
to know this .gif.
Around this time, Konami started acting like a dick, and the developer broke with them, citing their "unresponsiveness" when it came to getting patches out for the game.  They hooked up with publishers Marvelous AQL and CyberFront, and re-released Skullgirls on PS3 and 360 as Skullgirls Encore.

I've always wanted to try it.  It looks so cute and silly and awesome, but if it's not Virtua Fighter, for some reason, I'm no good at fighting games.  But I want it.

And this month, I shall have it.  I almost wanna' go buy it so this delightful dev gets more money - but if it turns out I love it, I can always toss 'em some bucks via DLC, 'cause that Squiggly looks all kinds of awesome/cute.

Finally,


the Vita gets Limbo (awesome) and Surge Deluxe.  Now... I wouldn't be too hyped about Surge Deluxe if I didn't know who developed it - but I know it was developed by FuturLab.  These guys have a weirdly prescient handle on how, precisely, to make a fun and addictive game and - again - I've always wanted to check it out.

Again, the free games aren't the reason to subscribe to PS+ - they're just one hell of a bonus.

Skullgirls!  Woo!