Patchwork Heroes is a new PlayStation Portable game hitting the PlayStation Network with almost no fanfare. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and Acquire, the game forms part of the Creator Audition Mash-Up Project, which is aimed at finding people in Japan to create innovative games for the PSP and PlayStation 3. Pre-Sony, Patchwork Heroes director Yuki Ikeda worked on special designs and models for amusement parks, as well as live theatres, which was a job that serves as a fitting explanation for this unique spin on the Taito classic Qix.
Director Yuki Ikeda wanted to create an action game around the concept of cutting paper with scissors. The game opens with a man who introduces you to a town under attack, and it is your job to slice and dice airships until they are destroyed. Carrying this heavy burden, we headed for the tutorial to equip ourselves with all the necessary tools of destruction.
The mechanics of Patchwork Heroes are best likened to the art class minigame from Bully: Scholarship Edition, which was also based on the arcade classic Qix. The aim is simple: remove large portions of the attacking airships until they are completely destroyed and no longer a threat to your town. By holding down the circle button and moving from one edge of a ship to another, you can remove segments of an airship to reduce the overall mass to zero percent. Once the onscreen mass indicator reaches zero, the airship explodes and comes crashing down. A simple graphical display of the distance from the town keeps you informed of the airship's progress and allows you to adjust your strategy accordingly.
To temper destruction with strategy, you are also required to free trapped comrades who can be used to plant bombs before parachuting away safely. Enemies come in the form of ladybird-like bugs with various behaviour types; some simply patrol a set path while others will either rush you or activate a self-destruct timer when you enter their vicinity. Sawing enemies off gives you mojo, which grants you a significant boost in cutting speed for a short period of time and also allows you to saw through reinforced parts of the ship. Defence mechanisms, such as rocket launchers and repair machines, are also a constant danger to you. Barrages of missiles test your reflexes by forcing you to dodge incoming attacks and strategically remove pieces to reduce attack pressure. If you come into contact with any of these, one of your three comrades is sacrificed. Then once your comrades are no more, you take the damage directly and die.
Items scattered around the airships modify bomb properties or movement speed. Cunning item placement forces you to venture into dangerous territory to collect an item to maximise overall destruction efficiency. Although it can be tempting to just remove portions of enemy-infested territory and sacrifice items, the various bomb types can pay huge dividends when it comes to dealing with ship-repairing robots or reinforced sections of the airship. The sidewing, which extends the blast horizontally; the extender, which creates a vertical blast; and the fourway, which creates a cross-shaped explosion, significantly reduce the time it to takes to destroy ships and nullify the effects of the pesky damage-fixing robots.
The gameplay in Patchwork Heroes carries the same refreshing simplicity as previous PSP games Echoshift and LocoRoco. Much like these games, Patchwork Heroes features a strikingly unique visual style. The Patchwork aesthetic was, in fact, inspired by the works of Russian filmmaker Yuriy Borisovich Norshteyn and goes a long way in creating a personality. The environments, vehicles, and characters are all made up of fabrics, giving the characters an endearing quality and the environments a lo-fi charm. Patchwork Heroes is available now for the PSP and can be downloaded from the PlayStation Network for £6.29, €7.99, or $9.99.