Review: Men’s Room Mayhem, PlayStation Vita

Available as from today on the PlayStation Vita, iOS and Android stores is the first game developed by Sawfly Studios, an indie start-up comprising four ex Sony Liverpool senior employees. So, what’re we to expect from the guys that bought as Wipeout?

Probably not this.

Sawfly have joined with Ripstone Games, a publishing powerhouse on the Vita as of late, to release their altogether different title Men’s Room Mayhem. Different is a good thing.

Ripstone’s Men’s Room Mayhem is a game “inspired by men’s room etiquette”. I know, the idea sounds questionable at best, but don’t wash your hands of it just yet.

Men’s Room Mayhem is actually really good fun.

Gameplay is based around the chaotic line-drawing genre, made famous by Firemint’s Flight Control, which saw players guiding planes to their respective runways and became an instant mobile-gaming sensation and best seller upon it’s release in 2009.

In Men’s Room Mayhem, you are tasked with the job of janitor – primarily responsible for guiding males, who may or may not be called John, to the, well, you get the idea.

Using your device’s touchscreen, you must lead numerous characters to their required destination, be that the urinal or the cubical. If you want to keep your job, however, the unwritten rules of the men’s room must be observed.

First and foremost there’s no touching. At any point. Ever. That is to say, unless of course you want to be breaking up a fight and subsequently mopping up a pool of blood.

Aside from letting the waves of potty patrons relieve themselves on the floor, these collisions are the only way you’ll be fired, but then there’s a whole host of secondary etiquette which must also be observed if you want to rack up a high score. Ensuring each John or Thomas doesn’t peek over to a neighboring urinal or directing each little chap to the hand-wash basins after their business will accrue bonus points, all of which are multiplied based on the number of men on screen.

With any title in this genre, the core gameplay doesn’t stray far from these ideas, but as you progress there’s a variety of different locations to unlock and the different bathroom layouts and unique characteristics of their locals keep things feeling lemon-fresh.

Men’s Room Mayhem’s level progression is objective based, although the way these work in real-terms is akin to dropping your pants and then realising there’s no paper – they don’t – you just abandon all plans and start again.

You’ll be presented with specific requirements, such as ensuring 3 people wash their hands during a certain wave of gameplay, but because said objectives don’t update during gameplay you’ll be forced to quit and restart, subsequently breaking your high score, should you wish to attempt a new challenge and progress through the game any quicker than in 10 minute dribbles.

With global and friend based leaderboards, this isn’t how the game was designed to be played, but it certainly makes unlocking objectives and, as a result, rewards or PlayStation trophies faster.

All in all, Men’s Room Mayhem is a mobile title with it’s own distinct style and humour; The game’s clearly not going to be sat on any porcelain pedestals, but it’s a well presented, fairly priced and most importantly fun little game for those moments on the throne.

Ripstone and Sawfly have crafted something which makes loitering in a grotty men’s room far more enjoyable than it should be. I’ll see you in there soon.

Men’s Room Mayhem is available on iOS and Android now for the more than reasonable price of £0.69. [Players on these platforms can enjoy 5 stages and the standard timed game mode, choosing later to upgrade to the “complete” version, which will include a further 2 stages, extra characters and an endless “Blitz” gameplay mode, for a further £0.69]

The PlayStation Vita version includes all extra content at launch, and is £1.99, or £0.99 for PlayStation Plus subscribers.

Review: Men’s Room Mayhem, PlayStation Vita

Review: Jacob Jones And The Bigfoot Mystery Part One, PlayStation Vita

Jacob Jones & The Bigfoot Mystery: A Bump In The Night is the first of a five part episodic puzzle-adventure game from British development studio Lucid Games.

The series, as you would expect, follows our titular character, schoolboy Jacob Jones, as he unearths the mysterious legend of the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot – and all that entails.

We’re first introduced to Jacob as the somewhat socially-awkward youngster arrives alongside the wooded cabins of Eagle Feather Summer Camp – a wonderfully crafted and stylised environment which plays home to a myriad of kooky characters, including, amongst others, an eastern European groundskeeper with plans for his mail-order tiger, and a stonking great Phys Ed teacher with an undeniable superiority complex.

All perfectly normal, and commonplace in a multitude of videogames, I’m sure you’d agree.

Gameplay is a simple affair with movement controlled by a mixture of touchscreen gestures, such as swipes to walk around each scene, or taps to interact with points-of-interest. There’s also tilt controls, which utilise your device’s gyroscope sensors to adjust the player’s viewpoint and reveal previously unseen secrets.

Each chapter of Jacob’s journey has its own interesting narrative and charming characters – all sitting satisfyingly amongst the engaging humour, dry-wit and intrigue of BAFTA nominated writer George Pole’s overarching storyline.

Oh, and, there’s the puzzles.
I jest, of course, for Jacob Jones & The Bigfoot Mystery is a puzzle game at heart – and an excellent one at that – but I feel it’s real importance, and value, lies in the inclusion of said story.
Episode One features both logical and mathematical problems aplenty – a handful over 20 of varying ilks and difficulties in total – which will have you glancing quizzically at everything from a fairly unambiguous spot-the-difference, to the dilemmas involved with serving the perfect pizza for friends, or interpreting the song of a trapped bigfoot; You know, as you do.

Moving through the game, you’ll be presented with these puzzles, which, whilst generally lighthearted in nature seem consistently well-conceived, intuitive, and rarely out-of-place with regards to the wider plot points to which they’re linked.

There’s a challenge to be had if you want to attain a perfect score on each puzzle – and in doing so you’ll often earn a trophy or achievement of some kind – but there’s nothing here which is going to stump a seasoned puzzler.

Newcomers alike need not fret either, as helpful hints for each mini-game are available – at a cost of virtual credits – should you need them, and the camp is literally littered with opportunities to earn these.
An unexpected idea though perhaps, is that for the most part, the puzzles are, at any given time, optional; You’ll have to complete a majority of them at some point, but you won’t be held back with regards to game progression if you pass as certain challenges appear, choosing instead to come back later with a fresh thinking cap on.

This mechanic makes the Jacob Jones series of games great for short pick-up-and-play sessions whereby you’re still able to enjoy a story without being held to ransom and getting increasingly frustrated if a particular puzzle doesn’t work for you right away.

The only caveat to completion of A Bump In The Night was that 18 of the 23 available puzzles had been finished at some point, although when and in which order, is again, entirely up to the player.

A Bump In The Night is a delight to experience; For a game of its genre, and indeed it’s price, the production values are second-to-none.
The standard of sound & character design – sitting atop the vivid landscape which aesthetically wouldn’t be out of place in any well loved children’s tales – coupled with the well-written story and rewarding puzzles made my entire playthrough, whilst over a little too soon at around 2.5 hours, an extremely enjoyable one.

The first instalment of this Bigfoot Mystery has certainly whet my appetite for more of the same, and with many of Camp Eagle Feather’s stones left unturned, I’m hoping part two delivers exactly that when it arrives on the PSN and iTunes in the coming months.

Part one of the Jacob Jones And The Bigfoot Mystery saga, A Bump In The Night, is available right now for the PlayStation Vita (£1.59) and iOS (£1.99), with a possible Android port forthcoming.

If you don’t go and pick it up, I’m sending the big guy round.

Review: Jacob Jones And The Bigfoot Mystery Part One, PlayStation Vita

Sony Waive Previous PSM Publishing Fees

Sony have today announced, via an official blog post that game developers looking to release their titles on the PlayStation Mobile (PSM) platform will no longer have to pay a publishing fee.

Until today, there had been an annual fee of £65 / $99.

So, what does this mean for PlayStation Mobile?

With Sony actively pushing smaller “indie” titles to the forefront of the PlayStation brand at an almost unhealthy rate recently, a lower barrier for entry can only mean more developers getting on board the hype-train; More games. Yay.

I have concerns regarding the quality of said games, and the effect this will have on the platform as a whole though; Nay.

PSM hasn’t had the best of starts, and to say it’s a £65 fee holding back the genuinely great content that consumers want would be complete insanity. Surely a nominal fee such as this is little more than a box to check for anyone with serious interest in putting out what they believe to be a serious, well made, enjoyable title.

It’s not the money.

There’s plenty of hurdles far more challenging to overcome than finding £65 – and by the sounds of things, more to come for developers – In their attempts to bolster PSM’s popularity, and thus, it’s library, I could see Sony doing the small number of current top-flight PSM developers a genuine misfortune.

There’s a few real gems in my PlayStation Certified pocket currently, but they’re hidden in a subset of the Vita store, or the PSM android app, which of course, you can’t find on the regular Play marketplace. That’d be too easy.

As a consumer, you have literally zero chance of you simply stumbling across any PSM game, good or bad – you need to go looking for them, and they’re already too many clicks away, unadvertised, and soon, to exacerbate things further, any games which actually deserve your attention are going to be piled under waves upon waves of “My First Bejeweled” clones and the like.

PlayStation Mobile is a mess. PlayStation Nation? PlayStation Segregation.

PSM needs a complete overhaul; Even if we ignore all the previously much-discussed issues with the platform as a whole – the lack of network support etc. – games should, without question, be integrated into the main store-front, under the new “indie” category if appropriate; At least then people might stumble over them whilst looking for something different.

With a wash of new content undoubtedly on the horizon, an advertising budget for PSM would be great too, but again, what’s to ensure that the good games don’t get lost amongst the slurry of Sony’s desperation?

Somebody ought to remind Sony that for developers to make their investment worthwhile, be that at £65 or £0, their game has to sell – and if it will sell elsewhere, then so be it.

I can’t see this going anywhere positive, any time soon.

Sony Waive Previous PSM Publishing Fees

Special Editions, Special Limitations?

In the world of videogames, special editions and pre-order bonuses are nothing new – and as the day one sales figures for traditional boxed products have started to dwindle in recent years, these incentives have ramped up significantly.

I’m not talking physical collectors sets or fancy boxes and statues here; Nearly every big release nowadays will come with some sort of digital perk for early adopters or those with an extra fiver to throw around.

Fancy a few extra tracks for your racing game? A new rifle or multiplayer map for your FPS of choice? Or even new characters for that Action RPG? They’re all available – but only if you shop in the right place.

You see, a new breed of special edition has popped up – the retail specific edition, with content exclusive to one particular store or chain.

Troubled high-street retailer GAME has been particularly aggressive with this, carrying a perk for every notable AAA title over the last 12 months or so. Of course, it’s not only GAME; Even the supermarket giants of Asda and Sainsbury’s have all offered different packages for your Pound. The majority of these additions are in the form of codes for DLC, which, although clearly complete and ready for download, remains hidden, and is exclusively available to gamers with these unique codes, only available from the ‘right’ retailer.

So, what’re you and I to do if we want to experience this wealth of content, the full game, as it were, from day one?

I find it hard to believe that anyone, in all honestly, can expect the average consumer to be willing, or financially able, to shell out for two, sometimes three physical versions of the game, and therefore, my options appear to be twofold. Do I settle for an indefinite wait – usually for the exclusivity deal to expire, after which the content might appear at a premium price on the XBL/PSN stores – or, more likely, just forget about these parts of the game, and miss them out of my experience altogether?

I won’t pretend to hold any sort of specialist knowledge, but speaking purely from personal experience, I can see how these deals favour the retailer and their relationship with the publisher over the consumer. Even the game’s development team seem to get a raw deal, working tirelessly to create content which a majority of consumers may well never see.

Walking into a shopping centre and picking up a new release is a conflicting, crowded and often confusing marketplace.

Looking forward, I can’t see much changing in the way of the aforementioned, mostly unimportant, DLC codes and the like, yet I question what would happen if the exclusives on offer affected the game at a more grassroots level?

Much discussion has been had in the past about single use “online pass” codes being used to lock out characters and entire chapters of gameplay to those buying pre-owned – but what if buying your pristine, cellophane wrapped, game at launch from Toys R Us rather than Tesco meant the same thing? Would you be happy if your game had, for want of a better phrase, missing content, all based upon your shopping habits? Even as timed exclusives this would surely segregate the player base massively, and in the entertainment industry, shared experience and word-of-mouth marketing are massively important.

In game achievements and trophies could be another victim – perhaps not as important to the core gameplay dynamic, but many gamers, myself included, would argue these to be a vital mark of ‘completion’ for any big budget release.

Unfortunately, with ‘next-gen’ rapidly approaching, and retailers struggling to ensure footfall, I can’t help but feel these exclusivity deals may well become ever more audacious. An interesting, and potentially disconcerting, juxtaposition for the gamer who wants it all.

Character skins are neither here-nor-there, and offering digital content for free as part of a special edition bundle is nothing more than a treat for any particular shop’s loyal customers, however, when the core gameplay is under the knife, there’s a precedent I don’t wish to see followed.

In an industry which is arguably struggling to stay atop the larger profit margins afforded by smaller budget and mobile releases, AAA titles cannot, in my opinion, allow for ‘exclusives’ to create a two-tier system.

Different content in the box is absolutely grand, so long as all the alternatives are still made available – to those who want them – soon after release, if not immediately.

Special Editions, Special Limitations?