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NYCC 09: Hands-on with Unbound Saga


Let's face the truth: new PSP exclusive games are far and few. We were surprised to hear that Dark Horse Comics was going to announce a brand new game for the PSP at New York Comic Con. Even more surprising is the game's unique distribution model: it is a brand new game that will be available exclusively on the PlayStation Store for PSP.

This brawler is planned to release simultaneously with a brand new satirical comic series. You play as Rick Ajax and Lori Machete, two fighters on a journey to meet "The Maker." Rick Ajax suspects that he's trapped in a comic book, and he's trying to fight his way out. Unfortunately, "The Maker" will make things won't make it easy, drawing in new challenges and enemies in the panels Rick travels across.


The unique premise is presented very well, with solid 3D graphics and interesting comic book flairs. For example, the screen will feature a "page flip" effect when reaching the end of a panel. You will see "The Maker"'s hand appear on the screen, scribbling in new enemies. It's a surreal effect that's very interesting to see. There are also a number of animated comic book sequences that introduce and end each level. These look rather impressive, and do a good job at telling the unique story of the game.

Although the presentation is strong, the gameplay simply doesn't hold up. This brawler is as formulaic as they get. The controls are sluggish and unresponsive. The combat isn't very interesting, with moves as inventive as punching, grabbing and kicking. Lon Machete may be the more interesting of the two characters, due to her ability to use four special abilities. She can heal, create a doppelganger, confuse enemies and do an area bomb attack. These are all accessed quickly with the R button, but cannot be spammed -- players have access to a regenerating power meter (essentially, MP).

There is a decidedly old school feel to the gameplay, but the overly stiff controls make it difficult to truly appreciate the game. There's still a lot of time until the game releases in June, so things may be tweaked by then. As it is now, it's just too difficult to move and fight enemies. It just doesn't feel right.

PSP fans are obviously games-starved, so any support for the platform comes much appreciated. However, we're a little weary of Unbound Saga -- is it weird that we're more interested in its business model than its gameplay? As a PlayStation Network-exclusive, there's good chance that this game will be incredibly affordable. Perhaps, with tweaking and a low price point, we can be a bit more enthusiastic about Unbound Saga.

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