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Dragon Fin Soup review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PS3, PC
Publisher: Grimm Bros
Developer: Grimm Bros
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

Seeing as Dragon Fin Soup is free for PlayStation Plus members this month, I can see the appeal of grabbing it. "It's free!" I can practically hear people saying. "How bad can it be?"

To answer to that rhetorical question: very. So bad, certainly, that it's not worth the precious space it takes up on your memory card, let alone the time it takes you to download. In short, Dragon Fin Soup is a lousy game that manages the impressive feat of not being worth a price tag of zero dollars and zero cents.

What's surprising about this is that the game actually has a few decent ideas that, in better hands, could've been kind of neat. The heroine has a personality, for one thing; rather than being your typical blank slate RPG main character, Dragon Fin Soup stars Red Robin, a foul-mouthed alcoholic. Likewise, the game plays with the trope of every box and breakable object containing treasure, dinging you for property damage every time you smash anything.

Dragon Fin Soup 1

It's important to recognize the "in better hands" aspect, however, because neither of those interesting ideas are implemented particularly well here. Yes, there's an attempt to make Red Robin a more fleshed out character, but that's undercut significantly when you discover just a few minutes into the game, that she's still essentially an amnesiac without a past. Even worse, though, is that property damage idea, which almost instantly shows why no one ever does it: because it's really hard to buy things when your character is thousands of dollars in debt from property damage fines, and the only way to acquire money and goods is through breaking things — which, again, generally costs you more money than you're going to pick up.

There are awful design decisions like that greeting you at every turn. Moving Red Robin around with the D-pad is a massive pain, and it only gets worse when you get sucked into a battle — when, as you'll quickly discover, there's no way of instantly turning to face your attacker, because why would you want to do that? Instead you get to fiddle with unresponsive controls and flail helplessly as enemies pound away at you, and it only ends when your familiars or party members are able to kill the monsters themselves.

At least in those cases, though, you can see your assailants. It's quite possible that Dragon Fin Soup features more hidden enemies who can kill you instantly than every other game I've ever played. Even in the game's earliest levels, it's not uncommon for you to be walking around and exploring the map one moment, and then dead an instant later as you get destroyed by some sandworm hiding under a tree.

Dragon Fin Soup 2

Of course, I don't want to discount the possibility that the enemies were visible on the map, I just couldn't see them because the graphics are so hideously muddy. Whoever decided that the way to convey panic in this game was by making the screen increasingly more difficult to see really should've spent a few more minutes thinking about that — or, at the very least, forced to watch all their favourite entertainment through a muddy red lens, because that's what they do to players here.

Again, you may be tempted to pick Dragon Fin Soup while you can, because the allure of a free game can be mighty hard to resist. In this case, however, you'll quickly discover that the game's price is more a reflection of its actual value than a secret bargain. Avoid it at all costs, even if that cost is zero.

Grade: D