Whenever I buy games from the PSN Store there are a lot of factors that help me in my choice of purchase. For AAA titles, quite often they can be games that I’ve been looking forward to for some time or ones that are continuations of long-running series. In other cases, I’ve read existing reviews elsewhere or they are from established developers that I know of so I pretty much know what to expect. When it comes to PlayStation Mobile however, all I generally have to go on is a handful of screenshots and a very brief description.
Now, this is no fault of the developers who are often one-man operations, but some of these can struggle to be deal breakers for their games – even more so with Japanese games that are poorly translated – so the screenshots need to really capture games at their best. And that’s what drew me to Seeker straight away. Looking at the stills on the PSN Store, it looked as if I was in for a treat with a 3D arcade game, set in space with what appeared to be some rather impressive visuals for a PSM game… The fact that the author, Tim Collins, decided to release the game at PlayStation Mobile’s lowest price point of just 40p was an added bonus!
The game itself is quite simple. It takes place in an asteroid field and you have to pilot your ship through it to find and collect a series of glowing green pylons. Each one you collect scores a single point (for some reason, most of Tim Collins’ games have quite low scoring systems in place) and you have to collect pylons and dodge the asteroids for as long as you can as you only have a single life. Crash into any of the asteroids and it’s game over. You can move your ship in the usual up, down, left and right to avoid all of the incoming asteroids while it is continually flying forwards using the left stick, while using the right stick will give you a burst of speed or slow your ship down depending on whether you push up or down.
And that’s it really – there’s not a great deal to the game and herein lies the first problem. For the price you can’t really expect a great deal but with a title that offers such limited gameplay what it does have needs to be delivered well and Seeker fails on almost every level. With no on-screen radar, you are left moving your ship around aimlessly hoping that a pylon will come into view before you can then head towards it hoping to collect it. If you do manage to collect several, there’s no level system in place so there’s no real sense of achievement other than trying to beat your own personal high score. While there are three difficulty settings they don’t add anything fresh to the game other than a barely noticeable change in speed and increase in number of asteroids. On the hard setting, there are more asteroids but this seems to throw up problems for the game’s 3D engine which stutters at times and fails to cope.
Talking of the asteroids… while they look good and are well drawn for the most part, they are also the most frusrating part of the game. There are times visually when they seem to intersect each other and the 3D engine doesn’t seem to allow for any interaction between any of them but my real gripe with them is that they provide no real sense of 3D. While the majority of them move towards you as you would expect when you are flying into an asteroid field, some are moving sideways and in all manner of different directions to each other and even changing direction in mid flight! This makes avoiding many of them more luck than anything else, and more often than not you end up being destroyed by asteroids that have appeared from nowhere just behind your ship.
One key frustration I had with the game was how you actually died. Apart from a rather limp explosion as you collide with any asteroids, the game just resets and puts you straight back to the centre of the asteroid field in a new game. There’s no game over message and no returning to the front screen. You need to be playing a game and enter the Pause Menu and select the Exit option to return to the Main Menu. At the same time, you can also die by probably the most obscure way I have ever seen in a space-based game – literally “running out” of space! Outside of the asteroid field you can see a sun in the distance. If you decide to fly towards this you will see the asteroid field start to thin out and once you reach the edge of the asteroids and fly into the void, rather than being returned to them your ship just explodes even though the sun is still in the distance. Either the asteroid field needed to be significantly larger or simply throw the player back in if they strayed too far but this just seems absurd.
It’s not just the game but it’s let down on the presentation as well. Unlike one of the other more prolific developers on PlayStation Mobile, Thomas Hopper (who handles all of the programming, visual and sound duties on all his games), Tim Collins has had someone else produce the music and sound effects for Seeker. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing in itself but the problem is that the music is a relatively short piece that loops continually throughout (both on the title screens and in-game) and doesn’t fit the style of game at all and soon grates. The only way you can turn this off is through the in-game pause menu so unless you do this you’ll rapidly reach for the volume controls on the Vita. More irritating is that this very same piece of music (and sound effects) are used on every game that Tim has written for PlayStation Mobile so far.
The menus themselves are frustrating to navigate. The front end is sparse and offers nothing other than a Play button to start the game, the option to change your name (for the high score records) the Reset button which just seems to randomise the pre-set highscore table, and the buttons for the three difficulty settings. There’s no Options screen – the only way this can be accessed is from the in-game pause menu and again this is limited. On the option screen you can adjust the controls between the left stick and on-screen, to use normal or inverted “pilot” controls, to turn off the music, or to adjust the screen brightness (although this slider control isn’t actually labelled so you actually have to guess for yourself what it actually does). Also there are no in-game instructions, something that PSM developers should put more thought in to, especially as PlayStation Mobile titles can not take advantage of the PS Vita’s manual functions.
I’ve said repeated on this site that I want to support PlayStation Mobile and all of it’s developers, but I really struggled with Seeker. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to enjoy playing it but found it to be incredibly frustrating, monotonous and certainly one of the worst titles so far for the PSM. I think it was always going to struggle from the start with it’s limited concept, but being poorly executed as well, it was never going to stand a chance.
At A Glance
- Title: Seeker
- Publisher: Tim Collins / Liquid Games
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 6Mb