Hugh Likes Video Games: Foul Play

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Foul Play
Published by Devolver Digital
Developed by Mediatonic
Played on PS Vita


The Skinny: A clever little belt-scrolling brawler disguised as a stage play.

“Foul Play” is an innovative and clever brawler for one or two players that does a lot with limited resources. You play as Baron Dashforth, a British gentleman and daemonologist. But the game doesn’t have you delving tombs and fighting monsters directly. Instead, it is set as a play, with Dashforth recounting his adventures to an audience. This is the key mechanic of the game, as the audience acts as your life bar. If you don’t keep them happy, it’s curtains.
Dashforth, and his 2p sidekick Scrapwick, don’t have life bars at all. Instead, the audience excitement meter hangs at the top of the screen. You keep them interested by racking up combos and executing advanced moves, which are unlocked as ‘acts’ of the play are completed. This leads to a fairly forgiving system. The player doesn’t have to worry about finding food or other power-ups in the environment. If they are flagging, all they need to do is get back in the fight and keep hitting square to build your meter back up.
The combat itself is rather button-mashy and the bosses especially are rather healthy, so it takes a good many wallops with your can to bring them down. But the game’s visual flair carries the day. Sets fly in and out on pulleys, actors’ faces are visible beneath monstrous costumes, and we regularly see extras attempting to stealthily exit after they’ve been ‘defeated,’ not to mention the occasional stage crew taking their break next to the wrong backdrop. It keeps the game light and engaging.
“Foul Play” leans in to Cosmic Horror but tries to keep things lighthearted. I haven’t finished the game, but so far it lampoons but steers clear of most of the unfortunate pitfalls of the genre. I’m looking at you here, Lovecraft. Dashforth present themselves as heroic experts in the dark corners of the world, but there isn’t much lionizing of the British Empire, and we’re constantly reminded that we only have the baron’s word for it.
If you’re looking for an old-school button masher that does something a bit more than ‘punch all the dudes to the right of you until your girlfriend falls out’ “Foul Play” is a good place to start. Also, for the rest of September, Playstation Plus subscribers can download it for PS4 and PS Vita for free. You can’t beat a deal like that.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Type:Rider

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Type:Rider, A Typographic Videogame
Created by: Cosmographik
Played on PS Vita
What if “Limbo” was about fonts? This is the premise of Type:Rider a combination documentary and puzzle-platformer from Cosmographik. Players take control of a humble colon as they roll through levels based on the history of typography, from cave paintings all the way to desktop publishing. The level architecture is made up of huge landscapes of letters.
Type:Rider isn’t particularly challenging, but it is very clever in its design choices. For the most part, your : handles like an implied motorcycle. You can move forward or back, and you can rotate clockwise or counterclockwise using the L and R triggers to navigate terrain. If either of your periods hits certain obstacles, usually shown in red, you die and have to start again, usually close by. For the most part, all of the collectable goodies are easy to spot and collect, although a few require some thought or dexterity, particularly the hidden ampersands. But this is a game that wants you to collect its secrets, and the main game is quite casual.
Each World is devoted to a different style of font, and collecting asterisks scattered throughout the levels unlocks short articles about notable figures or events in the development of print.
There is a “Speedrun” course for each level that is much more challenging once you complete each one for more skilled players. The music in each level is thematic, but the compositions are short and have a droning quality that gets annoying after a while. The only other downside is that the game is very Eurocentric. Outside a few short sections in the “Origins” chapter, the game focuses entirely on Roman characters. I would’ve loved to learn more about typography’s development in other languages.
Type:Rider isn’t a longterm commitment of a game, but it is quite clever and the subject matter is unexpected and interesting. Playstation Plus members can pick up this curiosity for free this month. It is also available on Steam and for mobile devices.

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