Review: Arkedo Series (Sony PlayStation 3)

Arkedo Series
Publisher: Sanuk Games
Developer: Arkedo Studio
Genre: Collection
Release Date: 10/16/2012

The Arkedo Series is a collection of three games previously released on XBLA by the quirky Arkedo Studios. Last year, all three games were released on the European PSN and I reviewed all three of them. There was Jump, Swap, and Pixel. Each of them earned positive reviews. Finally, the games have come to players in the U.S.

Now seeing as I’ve already reviewed these games, this review will be a general review of what you can expect if you purchase the collection. More details can be found in the reviews linked above. If you really just want a bottom line, then I’ll start off by saying that this collection is well worth the price of admission.

Modes

Jump features two modes of play. The first is the basic adventure, where you’re thrown into a gauntlet of levels and must push your way to the end with limited lives and no continues. You can’t quit or save during a session, so it’s all or nothing. After completing adventure, you unlock a challenge mode. This mode contains all of the levels from the adventure, plus one bonus level. The challenge is to not only complete the level, but collect all of the money as well.

Swap features two modes as well. The story mode takes you through five levels of increasing difficulty. It serves mostly as an introduction to the game. Arcade mode is where you’ll ply your trade in one of three different difficulty settings. Your high scores on each difficulty will be posted online so you compare yourself with the best in the world. Also, challenges are unlocked that you can complete in any of the two previous modes.

Pixel is the least featured of the bunch. The story mode is the only mode you’ll get, but at least you can save and quit in this one. It functions like most modern platformers. You can stop after every level and come back when you desire. You have endless lives in this game, so the challenge is in simply making it to the end.

Graphics

All three games feature simple, old school graphics. Jump uses gorgeously colored pixels to create fun looking levels. Swap uses colored bricks and basic effects. Pixel keeps things even more simple with canned animation as well as a limited color pallet.

Despite the old school callbacks, each game looks pretty good thanks to a strong sense of style. Graphics junkies will certainly be unimpressed, but people who are fans of art rather than high polygon counts will get a kick out of the way these games look.

Audio

One thing all three games share is satisfying music. Once again, Jump is the best of the bunch, thanks to a soundtrack that evolves as you get further into the game. The other two games have enjoyable background music that fits nicely, even if it doesn’t rock your socks off.

Old school sound effects permeate the experience as well. They’re simple, a bit tinny, but otherwise perfectly fine. The sound isn’t vital to the playing experience, but it is in keeping with the retro aesthetic.

Gameplay

What each of these games does is provide a classic style with superb controls. Whether we’re talking platforming or match three puzzling, it is done to perfection.

Jump keeps things simple. You use the stick to move and the cross button to jump. The square button can be used to throw knives if you’ve found any. The controls are perfect, and making precise jumps quickly becomes second nature. Level variety ensures that the simple control scheme doesn’t result in stagnant gameplay. Though you’ll always need to gather bombs in order to complete each level, the ways in which you move forward change constantly. You may need to figure out the correct order of switches to hit in order to get bombs in time before they explode. You may simply need to race through an obstacle course as fast as possible, with the bomb being an afterthought that you can’t miss.

Swap is a typical match three game with some twists. Blocks rise from the bottom of the screen, and you have clear these blocks before they reach the top. You use the right stick to move the cursor, and the left stick swaps the highlighted piece with in any adjacent block. The cursor stays with the block you’ve moved, which is fantastic. Matching three or more of the same colored blocks removes them from the field, causing blocks above to tumble down. Combos are easy to pull off, but taking the time to set them up creates a risk/reward scenario. Combos give more points, but you could accidentally put yourself in danger while trying to create them. Special blocks slow down time and destroy huge sections of real estate, treasures score bonus points, and you can speed up the ascent by holding a shoulder button. It’s simple, yet fun.

Pixel is another platformer, though it is more traditional than Jump. You play as a cat that is traveling the world at night. You can run to get better jumping distance, hop on enemies to take them out, climb ladders, and other typical stuff. The cat can build up a combo meter than allows him to use a powerful roar attack, but getting hit drains the meter. Areas of interest can be interacted with. These start a top down maze mini-game, where you need to find a special block. These mini-games often move you forward, or simply refill your life meter. Once again, the controls are sublime, allowing for precise jumps and and skilled play.

When it comes to gameplay, all three games get it right.

Replayability

Each of the three games is pretty short. I played them all a bit before sitting down to write this review, even though I’ve beaten them all before. I was able to beat Jump, conquer most of Pixel, and find half an hour to reintroduce myself to Swap. I looked at the clock after I was done, and barely an hour had passed.

The extra modes that the first two games have help add longevity to the package. Plus, all the games are good enough to replay just for the sake of going through them again. Swap is very good about replay value, as the lure of topping international scores is hard to pass up.

Balance

None of these games are initially easy. Even with perfect controls and simple play styles, death and loss are a common sight. This is because the games take challenge seriously. Skilled play is what wins the day in all three titles. I was only to go through Jump so easily because I had spent a lot of time mastering each level. Even then, I died several times on a couple of tricky levels.

If you’re the kind of player who doesn’t mind losing every once in a while, you’ll find the level of challenge to your liking. Once you get the hang of things, you’ll feel like a real pro.

Originality

Well, these games are all just now seeing release in the States, but they’re all several years old at this point. Nothing has changed. No new modes have been added. They also all use tried and true gameplay styles. They don’t reinvent the wheel. They do, however, execute each style near perfectly.

Addictiveness

Though they may not be long games, the exceptional quality across the board makes them hard to put down. Failing at Jump just makes you want to get better. High scores must toppled. Finding that last little secret is hard to pass up.

With this three-in-one package, it is very easy to jump from one game to the other if one game gets a little long in the tooth. By the time you go back, you’ll be refreshed.

Appeal Factor

Retro gamers are going to find a lot love in each of these three titles. At the price of six bucks, the bundle is a steal. They were even more of a steal when they were released cheaper on XBLA, but that’s the unfortunate truth about games released on PSN.

If you’ve already played the games, there’s no reason to buy them again. There is no new content. This is just a great bundle for new players.

Miscellaneous

Putting the three of these games together was a great idea. I can’t think of too many better deals out there on PSN. Three quality games for six bucks is simply hard to pass up.

What would have made the package irresistible is some sort of new content. A bonus level or even an extra trophy or two would have pushed it over the top. As it is, the bundle is still more than acceptable.

The Scores
Modes: Good
Graphics: Good
Audio: Great
Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Good
Balance: Incredible
Originality: Very Bad
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Enjoyable
Final Score: Good Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
The Arkedo Series collection is a great addition to the PlayStation Network. Finally, U.S. fans will be able to enjoy these simple, yet well executed games. For a mere six bucks you get two great platformers and one great puzzle game. Together, they create a nearly irresistible package sure to appease even the stringiest of players.

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