Throughout the week, The Badger Herald will be looking into the digital gaming stores of various consoles, including an overview of their functions, their key features and a selection of exclusive downloadable games to check out on each system (with an exception for games also available on PC). Today, we’re going to look at the PlayStation Network’s online store.

Overview

While not the best online game store around, the PSN Store is competent enough. The system allows the purchase of movies and television shows as well as games. Searching doesn’t use a keyboard, but lets the user choose letter by letter while updating the results live. It’s a bit slow to type everything in, but not at all hindered by the time necessary to load the results, which happens extremely quickly.

But for all three systems in Sony’s portfolio, the store suffers the same problem of discoverability and organization. Unless specifically featured by the store itself, it’s a bit harder to just happen upon an interesting new game. However, if you happen to know what game you’re looking for, searching for it is generally quick and painless.

Key Feature: PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service at $50 a year that allows for quite a few features, including 1 GB of cloud game data storage and discounts on everything in the PSN Store. For PS4 users, it also allows access to online multiplayer games (which is free for PS3 and Vita users). But the single greatest feature of PlayStation Plus is the Instant Game Collection. Every month that you are subscribed to the service, you will be able to download many recent and classic games. It’s a lot like Netflix for Sony consoles.

And unlike its competition on Xbox, Sony also offers a whole bunch of games at once, many of which were only recently released (some, even at launch). If you subscribe to the service today, you can get a whole bunch of great games immediately, like “XCOM: Enemy Unknown,” “Batman: Arkham City,” “Bioshock Infinite,” “Uncharted 3.” You can also get “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” for the PS3, “Gravity Rush” and “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” for the Vita, as well as “Resogun” and “Mercenary Kings” for the PS4. You can even get these games if you don’t own the systems yet, so you don’t lose out on them if they’re no longer available for members by the time you pick up a new system.

15 PSN Games to Check Out:

“Journey” (PS3)

“Journey” was one of the best games released in 2012. In fact, it may be one of the best games released in the past generation. You play a lone figure in the middle of the desert, the only notable landmark being the shining peak of a mountain out in the distance. With nowhere else to go, you head towards the mountain, learning the history of the civilization whose ruins lay scattered around its base. Along the way, you will randomly run into other users, and, with only a simple button tap to allow communication, can decide whether to go it alone or work together. Visually and audibly stunning, with the single greatest innovation in multiplayer gaming in the past decade and a unique experience on every playthrough, “Journey” is a must-have for anyone with a PlayStation 3.

“Flower” (PS3, PS4, PSV)

Made a few years before “Journey,” and from the same creators, “Flower” is a very relaxing game where you play the wind, blowing a lone petal across a field, passing by flowers and plants and gathering more petals until the land is rejuvenated. The game is meant to make the player happy and to remember the simple joy in relaxing out in nature even if you live in the middle of a bustling city (the setting of the game’s start screen). By most accounts, it does its job well– although Conan O’Brien did question whether the creators of the game were high at the time of its creation.

“Rain” (PS3)

“Rain” was one of the more peculiar titles released exclusively for the PS3 last year. In this short adventure game, you play a boy who sees the silhouette of a young girl in the rain and, upon chasing her, become invisible as well. Together, you must explore the world and take shelter underneath objects and within buildings to escape the rain and make yourself invisible to the silhouette monsters that hunt you through the storm.

“The Unfinished Swan” (PS3)

In “The Unfinished Swan,” you play a boy chasing a swan who has escaped from its incomplete painting. The entirety of the game starts out completely white, but the player can throw paint splotches into the world to reveal the buildings, pathways, and puzzles underneath the surface. It’s a very artsy game and very short, but if you’re looking for a genuinely unique experience within a game, “The Unfinished Swan” can fill the part.

“Closure”  (PS3, PC, Mac)

Continuing on the theme of things that only exist when you make them exist is “Closure,” where the only platforms that exist are those that are visible. This interesting mechanic is used in a variety of interesting ways throughout the game, adding a neat and unique twist on the genre.

“Sound Shapes” (PS3, PSV, PS4)

A stylish little side-scrolling platform whose levels act like they are a song in game form. Everything in the game has its own sounds, and those sounds work well with the music. Much of the music in the game was contributed by the likes of Beck, Superbrothers, Deadmau5, Jim Guthrie, I am Robot and Proud, Pyramid Attack and Pixel Jam. Boasting the ability to create your own levels and share them online makes this one of the better games on any of Sony’s systems.

“Tokyo Jungle” (PS3)

Explaining “Tokyo Jungle” would be like explaining…there is no analogy for this. In “Tokyo Jungle,” humanity has disappeared, leaving the city overrun with wildlife. You play as a variety of animals in the game, trying to survive amidst the other animals, gaining a pack, avoiding predators and completing various missions along the way. There are online leaderboards for the straight-up “Survival Mode,” making the survival of the fittest become a real competition. It’s funny, it’s enjoyable, it’s weird, and as Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson said about it, “It’s basically ‘Grand Theft Auto’ with lions.”

“Wipeout HD” (PS3)

A simple racing game, if a racing game with great art direction and anti-gravity crafts that make use of weapons to outrace the competition constitutes simple. It’s like if “Mario Kart” and “F-Zero” had a baby, although “Wipeout” leans more towards the latter game than the first. If you like racing games, check out the fast-paced “Wipeout HD.”

“Fat Princess” (PS3, PSP)

“Fat Princess” is one of a few really weird games listed here. The majority of the game is built for online multiplayer, with the goal being to capture the opposing team’s princess. The problem? Besides attacking the other players, defending teams can feed the princess cake, fattening her up and making it harder and harder to carry her. Moral implications aside, the game boasts multiplayer matches with up to 32 players and a variety of interesting modes, some of which don’t even include the princess.

“Guacamelee” (PS3, PSV, PC, Mac, Linux)

“Guacamelee” is a 2D Metroidvania game with a cartoonish art style and a bunch of Mexican imagery. You play as an agave farmer-turned-luchador on a journey to stop the evil charro skeleton “Carlos Calaca.” The game features some interesting dimension-traversing mechanics like those found in “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” and is chock-full of an array of game references and meme jokes.

“Resogun” (PS4)

This arcade shooter from the makers of the “Super Stardust HD” (also worth looking into on the PS3’s online store) is free with Playstation Plus. Gameplay is easy to pick up: you fly in a space ship around a circular track, saving all humans and destroying all enemies in the way. It’s one of the best games on the PS4 right now, and, considering it’s free if you have PS+, there’s not much reason why you shouldn’t check it out.

“Towerfall Ascension” (PS4, PC)

Every player gets three arrows. If you use them, you lose them or have to pick up more. A hit by an arrow, the foot of another player and environmental hazards are all instakills. Last one standing wins. This addictive multiplayer game draws many comparisons to “Super Smash Bros.” and with good reason. The gameplay is fast and rewarding, and if you happen to own a PS4 and can get a few friends over to play, stop reading and pick it up. Now.

“Octodad: Dadliest Catch” (PS4, PC, Mac, Linux)

If you do not feel weird playing “Octodad,” you are either doing something wrong or are actually an octopus disguised as a father. The latter is the premise to this game, where you must accomplish daily activities like turning off the alarm and eating breakfast in the morning without exposing your secret. Of course this becomes much harder when you have to control each of your tentacles that also happen to stick to everything. It’s quirky, hilarious and well worth a look.

“Daylight” (PS4, PC)

“Daylight” is a horror game where you play as a woman who regains consciousness in an abandoned hospital. Armed with only a cell phone (which acts as a flashlight, compass and map), flares and glow sticks, you must explore the hospital, learn its dark secrets and somehow find a way out. Also, there are ghosts with perma-death. Scary.

“Sportsfriends” (PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux)

Next up on the list is a game that, just this past week, was given a release date of May 6. “Sportsfriends” consists of 4 different local multiplayer games. The first is “Hokra”, which amounts to an old-school top-down air hockey game where you get points by keeping the ball in your goal. The second, “Pole Riders,” mixes polo and pole vaulting, where the ball sits on a rope in the air and each player must vault into the ball in an attempt to knock it into the opponent’s goal. The third game “Bari Bari Ball” draws comparison to “Super Smash Bros.” with the key difference being a ball and a goal. The final game, “Johann Sebastian Joust” forgoes the screen altogether, and turns into a contact sport. Think “Ninja,” but instead of hitting a player’s hand, you’re trying to knock the opponent’s PlayStation Move controller out of time with the music (while trying to stop other players from doing the same thing to you!) If you like beating your friends to their faces, keep an eye out for “Sportsfriends.”

Other games to consider: “Proteus” (PS3, PSV, PC, Mac); “Dead Nation” (PS3, PSV, PS4); “PixelJunk Monsters” (PS3, PSV, PSP, PC, Mac, Linux); “Rochard” (PS3, PC, Mac, Linux, Android); “flOw” (PS3, PSV, PS4, PSP); “Mercenary Kings” (PS4, PC, Mac); “Escape Plan” (PS4, PSV);  “Blacklight Retribution” (PS4, Steam); “Warframe” (PS4, PC); “Dyad” (PS3, PC); “The Swapper” (PS3, PS4, PSV, PC, Mac, Linux).

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