The Playstation Vita has been an abandoned console since its discontinuance in 2019. But while Sony may have jumped ship, a slow trickle of smaller titles have been attempting CPR to a console on life support. One of the more exciting titles to come out for the last gasp is Scourgebringer: a platformer roguelike with a heavy metal soundtrack and fast paced action. It has a pixel art style similar to Hyper Light Drifter, but does a lot to prove itself as a stand out title, especially on the Vita.
Scourgebringer is a side scrolling platformer at its core. Double jumps, air dashes and wall jumps are all part of your repertoire from the beginning. For combat, you are equipped with a sword for light slashes, a heavy stunning slash, and a pistol for long range shots. When used in combat create a beautiful symphony of quick attacks, dashes, near misses and fantastic kills. This is where the game shines, a perfect combination of controllable chaos set to some intense metal music.
The areas are randomly generated single rooms attached in a grid and varying biomes. Entering a room locks you in, and you are unable to proceed until every enemy is killed. The guitar riffs kick in with the action, similar to Doom (2016), which really amps up the intensity. You explore room by room to find the level’s mid-boss, which unlocks the door to the exit and the final level boss. Throughout your exploration you can find bits of lore, shops, and item upgrades for that run. For beating bosses, you get a currency that will let you buy permanent upgrades in a skill tree upon death. These help vary your play as they give options like bullet deflection or even more HP.
While the rooms are random, there still isn’t much diversity to the biomes as far as platforms go. They still remain in smaller enclosed spaces and the enemies repeat throughout, making it feel like you’ve seen all there is from them relatively early on. The bosses on the other hand, are well animated creatures from another world that are well designed. Their art design fits, and runs the gamut from demonic eye beasts that spew green sludge to mechanized spiders–the unsightly horrors are truly unique.
These bosses are also tough as nails so you’ll need to dodge intense bullet hell sections and memorize attack patterns, which means you’ll be running levels over and over again (it’s a roguelike after all.) This makes the enemy fodder repetition even more glaring. The bosses kept me playing but I dreaded every restart. Roguelike games live and die by the drive to continue and unfortunately Scourgebringer slowed me down there. I rarely felt rewarded by the runs except for grinding currency for more points in the skill tree, and even that felt slow.
We’ve reviewed this game before but what’s it like playing it on the Vita? Well I’m happy to report that it runs GREAT on the Vita. Even in the most chaotic moments, I didn’t experience any slowdown. Gameplay felt snappy and responsive as if it were on a mainline console. The PSN on the Vita has become a bit of a hassle to navigate from on the handheld, but once downloaded it ran like a dream. Another note is that (and I had forgotten this) there is only one set of bumpers (L1 and R1) on the Vita. L2 and R2 are mapped to the back touch panels, which in Scourgebringer’s case, is the shoot button. It took me a long time to remember why I kept accidentally firing my pistol and even after, it would still happen occasionally. Avoiding the back touch did give my hand some discomfort but overall it was an annoyance, not an issue.
If you are like me and panic bought 300 dollars worth of games for the Vita when Sony threatened to close the store, Scourgebringer is a quality addition to both the genre and the already fantastic line up for the decaying console. It suffers from its repetitive nature with little new to see between runs but excels in mechanics and boss encounters. It may not be the last Vita game but really speaks to the great console that once was. Scourgebringer, Tearaway, Gravity Rush, Persona 4 Golden– I’ll keep beating that Vita drum long after it’s gone.
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