REVIEW: Deception IV – Blood Ties (Vita)

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While there are plenty of video games that feature gore and violence, there are not many that are as gleefully dark as the “Deception” series. The basic structure is unchanged from the PlayStation 1 days: you’re an evil magical psycho who peppers medieval rooms with booby traps and lures heroic soldiers to their deaths.

While “Blood Ties” may be the fourth game in the series – actually the fifth, if you include 2005’s brand-name-dodging “Trapt” – there is no connection to anything that has gone before. “Deception” games are content to reboot the story every time since all that happens is you burning it down again.

In “Deception IV,” you take on the role of Laegrinna, daughter of The Devil and partner to three absurdly sexy witches. The quartet is busy preparing the world for Dad’s arrival by collecting the long-missing Holy Verses. These are obtained, of course, by brutally murdering local villagers, warriors and government officials.

Each chapter of the main story involves Laegrinna roaming inside a series of rooms and creating a chess-like combination of defense and offense. By pausing the game, you can place traps that have been pre-selected from your library of awful devices. Then, as the invaders charge into your rooms, you use yourself as bait to lure them into situations where you can spring each trap in turn.

While the setting is grim, the game is not as gory as it may sound. There’s an easy gallows humor to the tone, since the game encourages you to link traps together and bounce soldiers from trap to trap until they succumb. For example, you could use a floor springboard to launch someone into a lawn rake, which, slapstick-style, causes the victim to walk dazedly into the jaws of a furnace. For as gross as it appears in concept, it’s actually considerably less visceral than most modern first-person shooter games.

Unfortunately, even when the game is being ridiculous, the story is always deadly, boringly serious. Non-animated characters shout at each other between missions, but nothing ever impedes Laegrinna’s search for the Holy Verses. Even worse, the game does not allow you to save between waves of any given chapter. If you die, either you immediately replay that wave, or you quit and restart the entire section later. “Deception IV” also suffers from a lousy set of menus that still hold to Japanese RPG design aesthetics that better games have long since abandoned.

Thankfully, there are modes beyond the storyline, where you can trap enemies without enduring the turgid narrative. There are many extra traps to unlock as you play further, but since the environments and enemies are all identical to what you find inside story mode, these options are best left to the super-fans.

Deception IV” is worth a play, because the core dungeon trap mechanic is challenging and fun to plan out. However, the empty story and unfriendly save system will feel like you’re caught in a trap too.

This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. “Deception IV: Blood Ties” is available for the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. Image courtesy Tecmo Koei.

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