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ScourgeBringer is kicking my arse. And I am not surprised in the slightest, because it kicked my arse last year, too. In 2020, Flying Oak Games' hyper-fast, reactions-testing roguelite-platformer released for Nintendo Switch, where it comprehensively kicked my arse. It also came out for PC and Xbox, and no doubt kicked countless arses there, too. But this year, ScourgeBringer has made itself worth playing again, by probably being the last-ever new game to release on the PlayStation Vita.
Publishers Dear Villagers have slid this white-knuckle-ride of a relentless kill 'em up onto a digital platform that, until PlayStation's recent walking back on the Vita store's closure, only had 'til the summer to live. The game's director Thomas Altenberger confirmed, on Twitter, that upon its Vita release on April 22, ScourgeBringer would only be available on said handheld (outside of a super-limited physical run) for 128 days.
The Vita's since earned a stay of execution - but with new releases for the platform (number six on our list of the top handheld consoles of all time) having already reached a trickle, who's to say that ScourgeBringer won't end up being the last-ever release on the console's dedicated store. And since you're still here, check out the game's most recent trailer, above.
ScourgeBringer's position as the Vita's last-ever game is something its makers haven't just acknowledged on social media. Download the game to your Vita, and you'll see the game name on the icon but a very different one in your notifications. It's not ScourgeBringer that's been added to your home screen, but "THELASTVITAGAME0". (And no, it wasn't me who failed a stage on Persona 4: Dancing All Night - as if. That was my seven year old, you cheeky so-and-so.)
But should you play ScourgeBringer - the last-release novelty factor, aside? That depends firstly on your propensity for desiring a thorough arse-kicking; and secondly, your affection for the likes of Celeste, Hades, Dead Cells and Super Meat Boy. Because what you've got here is a game that mixes pixel-perfect platform action with the need for incessant aggression and a healthy degree of randomly generated nightmare mazes.
A lot of the combat - sword-swinging, enemy-cracking, projectile-dodging - takes place while airborne, with protagonist Kyhra practically flying around each screen, stringing together blows and dashes to keep her feet off the ground (where there's always a decent risk of health-smacking traps). Breathless is absolutely the right word for any ScourgeBringer run.
The story's all about a malevolent entity wreaking havoc on humanity, and Kyhra representing mankind's last hope. But you really won't have much time to dwell upon why you're carving up all manner of devilish creatures, such is the speed with which ScourgeBringer throws its threats at you. Don't be surprised if you fail to complete the first stage proper for a while - this is that kind of game.
Power-ups and an expandable skill tree make each run that little bit easier - and this gameplay loop will appeal to anyone who was smitten by Hades in 2020 - our own game of the year, no less. Does ScourgeBringer bring anything new to the party, though? Honestly, it's kicked my arse so successfully that I can't say for sure, because I'm not deep enough into it to know what secrets it still hides. That's why there's no score, down there - don't mistake this surface-deep appreciation for a full review.
What I can definitely confirm, though, is that its music does a terrific job of keeping the player motivated. Joonas Turner's soundtrack (on Bandcamp, here) rips and tears like Mick Gordon's DOOM half the time, making pulverising metal out of pixel art, before floating off into the ambient ether for softer cuts that shimmer and sizzle like another world's trying to break into our dimension through a YouTube chill-out mix. Be sure to check that trailer above for an ear-roasting sample of its heavier vibes.
If you're the kind of player who actively enjoys dragging their broken jaw off the floor from right back at the start, each time they fall to an ill-timed dodge or ginormous boss, ScourgeBringer is absolutely going to be your cup of bloody tea, shattered teeth included. It is here to hurt you, and it's going to have a good time doing so, too.
And as for whether or not it's best on Vita? I love PlayStation's outgoing handheld but, no, it's not. The game requires the touchpad on the rear of the console for Kyhra's long-range attack, and to execute her powerful Fury ability; and I simply can't get comfy with my Vita without my fingers naturally resting in those positions. Cue: accidentally letting loose a blast, all the time. However, if you like playing with your digits in a claw shape, or just love the Vita so much you need this final digital release in your life, ScourgeBringer is still a largely excellent game that rewards commitment, so long as you've patience to match.
ScourgeBringer is out now for PlayStation Vita, and also Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. PlayStation Vita code provided by the publisher.
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