Deception 4 could be an incredibly frustrating game if enemies had the same amount of craftiness as the whisper-thin Laegrinna, but luckily, her opponents aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Braindead enemies could easily be a downside in another genre, but Blood Ties isn't interested in quick action; instead, the emphasis is placed on building elaborate trap systems that work within the restrictions of their respective rooms. And when you're trying to see if you've finally stumbled into something that works, it'sa godsend to have not-so-bright test subjects so willing to walk across the same spot that nearly killed them minutes ago. The challenge--and satisfaction--isn't so much in the act of killing so much as it is the means of killing.
Keeping with the game's trend of encouraging players to experiment, Blood Ties offers a handful of environments, each with their own unique quirks and pre-installed traps. The game starts off in your standard spooky mansion, but Laegrinna and friends soon flee to a factory with a working sawmill and an abandoned amusement park where you can eject unfortunate opponents into the mouth of a giant clown. Unfortunately, towards the end of the game, Deception's desire to consistently present new wrinkles to the formula had me doing what the game initially seemed engineered to discourage--resorting to repetitive tactics in the pursuit of progression.
The game also works against itself when it comes to certain enemies that employ cheap tactics. About halfway through the game, enemies gain a number of offensive options, and while they aren't any smarter, their attacks sometimes stun Laegrinna. This often results in other enemies getting free, often unavoidable attacks on you. And considering Laegrinna can't take more than a few hits before keeling over, and death often means returning to a checkpoint that's 20 minutes in your wake, you'll tend to resort to a more conservative playstyle. In the latter 20 percent of the game, I stuck to some very basic, boring trap setups because the experimenting I did in the past often just resulted in very, very annoying deaths.
It's this reason Deception IV works best in Mission Mode, which offers 100 unique, bite-sized challenges that range from scoring a particular amount in a trap combo to using a predetermined assembly of traps to kill a stationary enemy. While in the main game, an experiment gone wrong can cost you up to half an hour of progress. In Mission Mode, it's much less of a time sink to finally try out everything you've unlocked from the campaign. And because money and experience from Mission Mode carry over into the story, it's always fun to play a handful of challenges after a chapter, if only to collect resources for some of the costlier traps in a much more relaxing atmosphere.
Even if you've never heard of Deception, there's no need to fear the "4" that follows its title; Blood Ties doesn't require any knowledge of the older games, and, if anything, it's the finest take on Tecmo's cult series to date--even if it doesn't quite stick the landing. Deception hasn't yet been able to shake out all of its flaws, but it's still an undeniably addictive experience unlike anything else you'll find on the Vita… or any other platform, for that matter.