HOARD's in your Pocket, Stealing Princesses
Dragons are cool. It is an unassailable fact of existence. Knowing this, Vancouver-based Big Sandwich Games could have easily phoned in any generic dragon game and hoped for a quick buck. Instead they gave us HOARD, an action arcade-strategy (“stratecade”) game of village burning, gold collecting, and princess ransoming. Ben seemed to dig the Playstation 3 version when he reviewed it last November. I liked it enough to put it on my 2010 Game of the Year list. To say that HOARD on the PS3 was a great game is an understatement. Of course, news of a portable adaptation always brings trepidation; will it run as well as the console version? What features will be added, and what features will be cut? Unfortunately I have to report that one of HOARD’s best elements didn’t survive the transition to the PSP: there is no multiplayer whatsoever in the game’s portable incarnation. However, the game has managed to retain everything else that made the original a stellar game.
If you’ve never experienced HOARD on the console, skip to the next paragraph, because this one is all about comparing the PS3 version to the PSP release. First off, HOARD PSP does not look as crisp and detailed; rightfully so, since the PSP does not have the same processing power. However, HOARD PSP still looks really good. It maintains the same quasi-boardgame aesthetic, and most importantly, it plays just as smoothly. Certain visual elements have been emphasized for greater visibility, like archer arrows (which now sport a flaming trail). Zooming the view out replaces all units with easily-recognizable icons. Finally, the controls have been changed ever so slightly. Obviously the console version’s twin-stick setup isn’t possible on the one-nub PSP, and the developers wisely chose not to replicate a second stick with the face buttons. Instead, the X button triggers the fire breath, which can still be swept around with the analog nub. I really enjoyed this control scheme, enough that I wish it was an option in the PS3 version of HOARD (that way I could play it with my arcade stick)!
If you’re new to HOARD, then this version is still an excellent one to pick up. The game has a really simple premise: control a fire-breathing dragon in a miniature fantasy world, burn down villages, collect gold, and protect your hoard of treasure. However, the game has layers of depth: each map runs like a little ecology of farms, villages, and castles that can be razed to the ground for immediate reward or left to grow for higher gains, and higher risks. Add roaming giants, wizard towers, powerups, and other dragons into the mix, and even the simplest map can get downright hectic. The four available modes each put their own spin on the base mechanics. There is, unfortunately, no way of sharing this experience on the PSP with others, but AI opponents are available. The AI is refreshingly competent, making smart and aggressive moves that I would expect to see from a crafty human opponent. My only complaint is that there is no difficulty slider, allowing less competitive players a better chance to enjoy the game at their skill level. Of course, one can just play on maps with fewer opponents, or try the co-operative mode, where those crafty AI dragons work with the player instead.
The PSP release has the same maps as the PS3 version, duplicated faithfully, but sadly contains no original content. Lacking multiplayer and new maps, this game might have been a hard sell. However, Big Sandwich Games chose the right price point: $10. Had the game been more expensive, I definitely would have expected to see something new. If you’re on the fence, give the demo a try. I, however, would not hesitate to drop $10 for the ability to ransom princesses on my morning commute.
Note: This trailer is for the PS3 & Steam versions of the game
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
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