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GAME REVIEWS: Tearaway in inventive; NBA Live 14 misses basket

by CHRIS CAMPBELL Scripps Howard News Service on December 08, 2013 1:50 AM

The Vita was released back in 2012, but you get the feeling with “Tearaway” that developers are only now figuring out how to use the portable hardware to create unique games that aren’t always suited for the big TV in our living rooms. Because how many times can you play a game in which you are both the hero and a god at the same time?

Yes, this is made possible by the unique story and mechanics behind “Tearaway.” This new game from the makers of “Little Big Planet” takes better advantage of the device’s rear touchpad and tilt controls than most every other Vita game combined. You choose either a male or female hero (named Iota or Atoi, respectively) and guide him or her toward the final goal, an encounter with the game’s omnipotent presence.

But guess what? You play the game’s god, meaning you experience the game as the hero and the all-powerful presence at the same time. If that throws your brain for a loop, don’t despair; the game does a remarkable job incorporating you (as the god) into the game to create interesting meetups with you (as the hero).

The visual style of the game looks like a Henri Matisse-inspired world of overlapping paper cutouts. These paper shapes form the landscape, the characters, anything and everything you interact with. The amount of fun to be had layering tons of colored paper shapes to create a visual look for your character can go to extreme lengths if you allow it, and you should because few games allow you this kind of leeway.

Then you get to how the Vita is used throughout the game. Use the Vita’s camera and you can project your self-portrait (or any image you choose) into the game at various moments. Use the touchpad and break through the world (it is all made of paper, after all) to help your hero defeat enemies or create escape routes. Strip all of this away, and what you’re really playing is a platforming game. Instead, this inventive gameplay and story allows for discovery from both perspectives: the hero trying to reach the finale and the all-seeing power trying to help him/her during the exploration.

The glaring downside of the game is its length. With a handheld game you want lots of short, playable chapters, but “Tearaway” doesn’t provide nearly enough. For gamers who don’t spend an inordinate amount of time with the customization options for their character, the playing time ratchets down to just a few hours at best.

“Tearaway” ends up as one of the Vita’s best games ever, but the brevity only makes you long for more content and more opportunity to engage in this space. It’s a nice problem to have if you’re a game maker, but it’s utterly frustrating for a player when it’s already a shorter game than normal.

“Tearaway”

Genre: PlayStation Vita

Genre: Driving

Publisher: Sony

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Grade: 3 stars (out of 5 stars)


 

We waited three years for this?

“NBA Live 14” poorly delivers in its game of professional basketball to new gaming consoles. After holding off on releasing a new NBA title since 2010 in anticipation of the new next-gen consoles, I would have never guessed the results would end up so disappointing on so many levels.

The career mode is a farce, thrusting you into the starting lineup (in some cases I was replacing legit stars in the league) and demanding greatness. The AI often refuses to run set plays and defaults to aimless passing until hoisting up a contested shot at the buzzer. The visuals are jaw-dropping in their poor quality. During three games, I played with six different teams. I witnessed fast breaks where the guards and forwards were running in the same gait, as if the developers just took the same character models and made them different sizes to represent random players.

The sloppiness pervades all corners of the game. The ball bounces around the rim like gravity doesn’t exist.

I’ve read reports of some cool integration with real-life NBA games where you can re-create recent performances or highlight moments. Unique as that may sound, I gave up on trying to find enjoyment in “Live 14.” Fans who want to play a superb simulation of pro ball should load up “NBA 2K14” and see what makes a hoops game shine on a console.

“NBA Live 14”

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Genre: Sports

Publisher: EA Sports

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Grade: 1.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

 

 

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or email him at game_on_games@mac.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.

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