Review: Deception IV: Blood Ties

Deception4-BloodTies

This is a game about traps. Not detecting them or hopping over them or screaming to the rest of the Rebel Alliance about their existence, it is a game about setting them.  The Deception series dates back to the original PlayStation and it has always had the same basic idea: You play a trap master in a large house or castle that is constantly being invaded by do-gooders looking to kill you. This latest entry is as good a starting point as any for the series that is certainly unique if nothing else.

Players will step into the stilettos of Laegrinna, the daughter of the Devil infused with a piece of his soul. She is accompanied by three demonic servants in the guise of women in various states of colorful undress who seek to guide her to the acquisition of twelve pieces of a seal once used to bar the evil one from the world. The story is told in the guise of portraits of the characters with text scrolling underneath them and some Japanese voice acting. On her mission to get back the pieces of the seal, Laegrinna will sometimes speak to her servants, but will primarily listen to holy warriors call her names before they enter her domain and meet their doom. Some of the characterizations are amusing but if you are illiterate and do not speak Japanese, first of all congratulations on getting your facilitator to read this to you, but secondly know that you will not be missing much by not understanding the story beats. The dialogue is thin justification for why dozens of paladins will dash themselves against your rocks, to no real avail.

Like the other entries in the series, players will not be able to directly attack the enemies. Instead, the game plays out by standing out in the open and having enemies step onto traps that you have placed, hence the name “deception.” When a hero first enters your realm they make a heroic statement and then more or less dive at the fair Laegrinna in a straight line looking to murder her, for justice. Prior to them getting the chance, players will want to enter a trap setting mode with the push of a button to place traps on the grid like map tiles of the environments. Then, returning to reality, they will need to wait for the newly placed devices to set/recharge and then lure an enemy onto the right square and activate the trap. For optimal pain it is necessary to set a series of traps that will chain together in such a way that the hero will reel from one blow to the next. Two traps cannot be placed on the same square but they can effect the same area. For example a bear trap can temporarily immobilize someone as they try to yank their leg out of its jaws, but then a dart from a nearby wall can scream into their neck, further damaging them. It is in this way that foes are dispatched, trapping only. Points for the best combos can be used to eventually purchase more kinds of traps in between stages which lead to more varied combinations of suffering.

At its best, when all of the trap slots are unlocked and Laegrinna happens to be in a room that has a good number of environmental devices, it is possible to set up a series of traps that is both funny and deadly. Lure an unsuspecting, full-of-himself knight onto the right square and he’ll get a giant pumpkin dropped on his head, while he staggers trying to remove the offending rine he can be impaled on spears that jut out of the wall, pushed onto a square where a chandelier will drop on his now clear noggin, thrown across the room as yet another device from the ceiling – a pendulum straight from Eddie Poe’s imagination – plops him onto a springboard that will toss him into a Sicilian bull. Long strings of traps using all three kinds of devices will usually lead to a large amount of damage to, if not the death of, the victim. It can also be the very frustrating to set all of that up, only to miss the first trap and have to dodge attacks which will kill the demonic damsel in two or three hits, scampering about as the traps recharge. Equally annoying is missing one of the steps of the sequence or trying to use a trap that will not work as intended when the enemy falls down instead of standing in an expectant daze like a good fatality. Once the system is understood and you lose any inclination to press an attack button, it can be kind of fun.  The only downside is that there are only so many rooms and eventually you will discover a setup that is good for killing most types of foes and it is less fun to execute that again and again.

To make things less of a chore, some of the enemies require certain kinds of damage before they can be hurt and some will not even just run at you, meaning you have to plan for different kinds of encounters. Also, given the limited number of traps that can be placed, which are in reality mostly just one big sequence out of Mouse Trap if you are doing it right, when there is more than one enemy about it can become necessary to contain some enemies with traps that will do little damage to let the main target be lured into a bigger series of traps. Multiple opponents and Laegrinna’s basic inability to do anything combat-like can make the game very difficult at times.

I played this game on the Vita and it seems like the developers were really trying to prove that this system is essentially a PlayStation 2 in the palm of your hands. There are not many moving parts in the game’s environments and the few that are there are not very detailed. The textures look old and the characters look like they are wearing blank human masks. It is not a nice looking game, even by Vita standards. The real star of the show is the huge range of motions that victims will go through, particularly the humiliation traps. The head tilts and gnarled contortions of pain of the skewered are fine, but I preferred the proud warriors slipping on their butts after tripping over a banana peel. The movements are all canned, but their reactions are as diverse and varied as the traps they step on. I should point out that the game is also available on the PS3 where it does look a little better.

The character design seems to be optimized for maximum jiggalability. The main traptress, as seen on the cover, by default wears a petticoat skirt that only goes below her ass cheeks and a bare back with a strapped top that must be glued to her chest to keep her gals from popping out. Scantily clad women are nothing new in games, but this game makes it seem sort of weird. Any sense of allure or female sexual empowerment is wiped away when she or other undoubtedly chilly ladies are hit with a trap or melee attack that causes them to scream in pain and get knocked forty feet across the map while spinning like a top. After someone sans clothes gets cut with a giant blade with enough force to move through the air and crashes to earth I would expect them to be very hurt, not get back up and be as perky as ever, no wound touching all that bare skin. Equally odd are the heavily armored female soldiers who will boldly walk around the castle in their underwear after the proper traps are applied to make their armor break and fall off. This does serve as a visual reference to let players know these once mighty beings are now exposed and vulnerable to greater damage. It is also weird.  When mixed with the extreme violence and premise the fan service in this game feels sloppy, and not in a good way.

Extra costumes can be unlocked, but rather a lot has to be done to do this. Probably far more than one would be looking to do in order to see a lady with short white hair wear a classic costume from Dead or Alive. After a campaign that does not overstay its welcome most players will probably have gotten all they want in trap action. Truth be told, if they are like me they will likely get everything they want out of Deception IV in a few hours and will have powered through the remaining bulk of the game to get to the end. With the basic setup of the missions — kill or capture these groups of a few enemies or this one foe — it is a game that works very well on a handheld like the Vita where it can be enjoyable for twenty minutes at a stretch. This is the best way to enjoy the game as it will eventually become clear that there are only so many highly effective trap combinations and seeing the same sequences in back to back missions can begin to be a repetitive bummer. The trapping method of combat can be fun in short doses and if you can get past (or enjoy) the otaku-bait then you may have a good time being a trap lord, without even having to be A$AP.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Trap combo gameplay is different from the norm
+ Playing in short bursts can be entertaining

Cons:
– It can be annoying to not be able to hit back
– Very difficult at times

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 and Vita
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Release Date: 3/25/2014
Genre: Action/Strategy
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.