Even the daughter of the Devil is being punished.
I have to admit. Japan manages to come up with some whacky game ideas, sometimes so much so that when they make it to American shores, it’s nothing short of a miracle. However, I thankfully am not a Japanophile, born to love everything exported from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Games like Katamari Damacy are absolutely marvelous, but a game like Deception IV: Blood Ties is an unfortuntae gimmick, dressed in sexist Japanese clothing, messily thrown at you ad nauseam. To be clear: It’s like if someone made a game solely focused around that camel Hump Day joke. After the initial chuckle, you want it to end or move on.
This game is about traps. You control Butt Cleavage Tutu, the daughter of the Devil, who’s trying to resurrect her father by collecting Holy Verses that sealed him away in the first place. For whatever reason, very steel-minded folk come knocking your doors down to get at you, and you have to kill them by setting traps and luring them in. You are aided by three witches—Boob Window Toga, Metal Bikini Ginger, and Sheer Teddy Loli—who provide Elaborate, Sadistic, and Humiliating traps to kill your victims.
I confess that when I gazed upon trailers for these shenanigans, I was initially delighted. It’s fair to assume that what I imagined the game to be and what it actually is ended up being vastly separate. It’s not like the old board game, Mouse Trap, where hapless victims stands there while Rube Goldberg devices plot against them. Instead, you act as living bait for your enemies to get them into stepping in just the right place to get the machinations going.
Initially, there’s not much to complain about. Some man or woman chases you only to end up impaled by spikes coming out from a wall, blinded by a giant pumpkin head, or flattened by a boulder rolling down a flight of stairs. Every room has traps of its own that you can incorporate into the pattern, such as a statue with a swinging sword, an organ whose pipes crash to the floor, and a metal furnace in the shape of a bull. Successfully utilizing these elements in combos can not only be invigorating, but nets you bonus points with the witches, which unlocks more traps down the road.
The problem is that once you’ve seen a trap or even a sequence of them, you get it. There is nothing else to get. This is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the game. But ennui quickly stews into rage when the game starts throwing multiple folks at you, who all beeline for you together. Managing one or two additional enemies, while trying to time manual trap activation for another victim, is frustrating. Doing it when each enemy has his or her own resistances, invulnerabilities, and frustrating skills turns Deception IV into a game of constantly running away and hoping you snare somebody somehow.
This wouldn’t be so bad if players were able to save more frequently, but in a game about being related to the Devil, the player is eternally punished here. You can only save after a chapter finishes, each of which entails three waves of five to six enemies, including a boss at the very end. If you’re frustrated with a wave, it’s better to just tough it out until you finish the chapter than lose your progress.
It is in this regard that the game is better suited for playing on the Playstation Vita. At least with the handheld’s standby feature, you can just put the game down when it gets to be too much. Contrary to this, however, is the fact that it features no touchscreen controls. The Vita version just wins by a technicality, a marginal one at that.
This cross-platform play title looks like a PS2 classic or one of the forgivable games from the first year of the PS3’s life cycle. Although animations are fairly well-done, they are nothing to write home about. Cut-scenes, for whatever reason in 2014, aren’t animated at all. They are just face-forward anime drawings who converse with one another. There are no movies or movements to speak of, no effort at all to reward you for bothering.
By the time I reached the end of the story, I was tempted many times to throw the controller or Vita, whichever I was holding, out the window. The infuriating palette-swapped enemies near the end with unnerving speed, impossible homing projectiles, or movement-stopping hammer slams all combined with one another drove me up a wall, sometimes walls with traps. You find yourself begging for a knife or something, anything to directly confront the enemy. Running around in circles hoping to dodge projectiles grew exceedingly tiresome. I can’t believe this game is twelve chapters long.
That said, the main characters in those twelve chapters are often fun and funny. Each enemy you face has a backstory you can view along with his or her statistics. Though I appreciate the work, they are mostly uninteresting. But the bosses and a few of their subordinates are freaky and weird, and I wish they were in a game where you fight them head on instead. They are also all (motherf***ing) sorcerers in one way or another.
Despite their typical Japanese sexist outfits and portrayals, I also appreciated how many women played major antagonists. Of course, this is torture porn, and it was probably an excuse to hear them scream while their armor revealed leotards underneath. Supposing story mode isn’t your thing, there are individual missions, free play, and downloadable user content to attempt. If you really love the main gameplay mechanic, these elements might be more enjoyable. As they get harder, they suffer the same pitfalls, so be warned.
If you’re not a Japanophile, or you’re looking for a game to make you curse the Devil every other minute, Deception IV: Blood Ties is for you. If you’re like me and prefer games that don’t pad their lengths with frustrating mechanics with little narrative reward, you’ll find almost anything else to play.