Ak­iba’s Trip: Un­dead & Un­dressed

EDGE - - CONTENTS - Pub­lisher NIS Amer­ica De­vel­oper Ac­quire For­mat PS3, PS4 (ver­sion tested), Vita Re­lease Out now (PS3, Vita, PS4 in US and JP), Fe­bru­ary 6 (EU)

PS4

Nom­i­nally a satire of otaku cul­ture, Ak­iba’s Trip is more like a cel­e­bra­tion tem­pered by a warn­ing of the dan­gers of im­mers­ing your­self too fully. In the busy Tokyo dis­trict of Ak­i­habara, a few pa­trons have be­come con­sumed by ma­te­ri­al­ism, and th­ese ob­ses­sive shut-ins (clum­sily named Syn­this­ters) prey on the vi­tal­ity of their more so­cia­ble peers. “They steal life en­ergy from peo­ple,” says one character, “ef­fec­tively killing all en­thu­si­asm and zeal.” In light of re­cent on­line ac­tiv­ity, it’s a par­tic­u­larly timely ob­ser­va­tion, such that you could be for­given for break­ing into a wry smile.

It opens with our pro­tag­o­nist hav­ing suc­cumbed to a shady or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ir­re­sistible of­fer on some rare fig­urines, where­upon you’re res­cued and re­cruited by a friendly bunch de­ter­mined to rid Ak­i­habara of th­ese par­a­sitic ir­ri­tants. To de­nude is to de­stroy: de­liver enough dam­age and you can strip away their cloth­ing, caus­ing them to dis­in­te­grate in the sun­light as per vam­piric tra­di­tion. If it sounds sleazy, there’s a laud­able equal­ity in its shows of flesh, and it’s not so much for tit­illa­tive as comedic ef­fect. The rudi­men­tary art style means there isn’t much to see any­way, but there’s no leer­ing nor any puerile snig­ger­ing. Ac­quire dis­plays an un­com­monly ma­ture at­ti­tude to­wards nu­dity.

Equipped with a smart­phone that can ac­cess so­cial net­works, emails and a map from which you can fast­travel, you’ll find your­self dis­tracted reg­u­larly by sharply scripted in­ter­rup­tions. If the game doesn’t cap­ture the hub­bub of its set­ting as well as Yakuza, it’s recog­nis­ably Ak­i­habara – though Su­per Potato, like other stores, is dis­ap­point­ingly a flat back­ground to a list of wares. The dis­trict is split into sev­eral frag­ments, but load­ing tran­si­tions are min­i­mal, and side mis­sions are brief enough that you’ll ac­com­plish much in lit­tle time. Its out­look is gen­er­ally good-na­tured, too, and while di­a­logue op­tions al­low you to play as a sex­ist jerk, most char­ac­ters will think less of you as a re­sult.

It’s a shame, then, that it col­lapses en­tirely when it comes to com­bat. You’re en­cour­aged to dam­age mul­ti­ple items of cloth­ing on en­e­mies’ heads, tor­sos and legs be­fore re­mov­ing them in a se­ries of flour­ishes, yet with no sense of phys­i­cal con­nec­tion, plus the lot­tery that is tar­get­ing in­di­vid­ual en­e­mies and blows in­ex­pli­ca­bly fail­ing to land, fights de­volve into but­ton-mash­ing. At least the laugh­able ease of re­cov­ery com­pen­sates for a cam­era that strug­gles in nar­row streets, though with­out warn­ing you’ll find ap­par­ent on­look­ers div­ing into the fray, lead­ing to brawls that can last up­wards of 20 min­utes. At which point, your mind will wan­der, and you’ll pon­der whether so much ex­posed skin has ever re­sulted in any­thing so thud­dingly dull.

You can ask your part­ner to help out in at­tack­ing an en­emy to weaken their clothes, or to dodge and keep you healed in­stead. In the lat­ter mode, they’ll act as a de­fen­sive bar­rier when you need to straighten your­self out

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