Dark Horse Comics gave us a first look at its upcoming PSP game, Unbound Saga a sidescrolling beat 'em up developed by Vogster Entertainment. The game takes the tried and true beat 'em gameplay and marries them to a self referential story rooted in comics. We got a look at a work in progress version of the game in the Dark Horse booth and were impressed by the game's Comix Zone flavor.
You'll play as Rick Ajax, a self aware comic character who's resigned himself to a life of dealing with whatever "The Maker" throws at him. Rick's unique outlook on his life gets him branded crazy by those around him which prompts him to set out and confront "The Maker". The trip takes him through Toxopolis, a crime filled run down city that looks like it sounds. Along the way he teams up with Lori Machete, an equally surly lady who's big on kicking and stabbing, that you'll eventually be able to play as well.
The game may sound a little high concept but the bottom line is Unbound Saga is basically the closest we've ever seen to a Comix Zone update. You'll fight your way through levels broken up into comic panel stages. As you clear out enemies you'll advance to the next panel by jumping up or down. The action is complicated by The Maker, whose hand you see popping up onscreen and drawing in new enemies. The combat system lets you mix punches, kicks, throws, and grabs into a painful beat down for your enemies. You'll also be able to pick up a fair amount of the objects in the level and use them to beat your enemies senseless. The beat downs pay off as downed enemies give up health power ups and experience points you can use to upgrade Rick and Lori's special moves. The basic control is pretty solid although not as responsive as we'd like it to be. You can move up, down, left and right in the fighting plane which is useful, but not as fast as we'd like. Moving forward and backward is also a little sluggish, which makes double tapping forward to run a little tricky. Running at enemies is useful since you can lead into flying kicks and punches.
The comic theme is helped along by artwork from comic artist Cliff Richards who supplies the animated cutscene images that set up the story. While the hand drawn art looks sharp in the cutscenes, Vogster is using 3D graphics for the game. Rick and Lori look big on the PSP screen and show a lot of detail. The environments are really detailed as well and have a nice distressed look to them. The enemies have all that detail plus the added flourish of dissolving into a flurry of paper when they're smacked down.
We have to say we liked Unbound Saga quite a bit. The Comix Zone feel definitely won us over. The combat system is a little simplistic but there's a good amount of variety to the combos and how differently Rick and Lori play. There's also a survival mode to add some replayablility to the whole package too. From the look of things so far Unbound Saga should be a welcome addition to the PSP library this year. The game's price is likely to be more welcome as, given that it's going to a PSN only release with no physical disc, Dark Horse should be able to keep the price pretty reasonable.