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Unbound Saga

PSP owners still waiting out the portable's game drought may want to take a peek at Vogster's promising side-scrolling brawler Unbound Saga. The arcadey beat-'em up not only gives gamers a good reason to blow that thick layer of dust off their PSP's pretty screen, but it also recalls the quarter-munching appeal of Double Dragon. Switching on the fly between two ass-whuppin' protagonists, players are treated to a richly realized 3D comic book-inspired world, crawling with a variety of beasts and baddies just begging to be introduced to your fists.

Bringin' the handheld hurt
The violence-amping action, delivered by brawny Rick Ajax or acrobatic Lori Machete, delivers the sort of satisfying brawling you enjoyed in so many late ‘80s arcade games; Rick performs the expected slower, but power-packed punches and kicks, while Lori's light-on-her-feet style doles less damage but delivers a quicker pay off. Things get more interesting - and bone-breaking - when you bring environmental objects and special moves into battle. Rick might bust up a table and use one of its legs to teach a thug a hard lesson, and Lori can stun multiple goons at once with an effective release of green poison gas. Additionally, attacks can be upgraded, and new moves learned as you stack undesirables like cord wood through the title's ten chapters.

May contain comic (book) mischief
What impressed us more than the fun, but somewhat formulaic fighting, though, was Unbound Saga's engaging take on the genre. The characters are literally trapped within a comic book, fighting from panel to panel. This means kicks to the head might be met with a visual "wham," or more visceral neck-snapping moves may treat the player to a "krak" popping off the screen. The concept is further supported by the persistent presence of "the maker," the artist who seemingly created Rick, frequently drawing obstacles and bad guys right into the action. It's a cool touch that literally shows a pencil-grasping hand sketching enemies into the scene. It also makes for some great "WTF" moments as Rick and Lori can breathlessly clear a room full of enemies, only to have that menacing mitt appear and drop in more trouble.

On its own, the addictive old-school brawling might be enough to engage fans that spent many hours mashing buttons back in the day, but complementing it with the satirical comic book take could also endear Unbound Saga to a wider audience - there's no question the fist-to-face action becomes far more appealing when you factor in all the cool little comic book call-outs. Of course, the fact it offers PSP players a fresh reason to power-up their portable doesn't hurt, either.

Apr 9, 2009