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Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! (PlayStation 4) artwork

Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash! (PlayStation 4) review


"Appropriately Titled"


Creative, colorful, and with a very catchy soundtrack, Space Channel 5 still manages to be a unique, albeit niche, video game entry 20 years after its release. As the pink-haired, pigtail-donning space news reporter, Ulala, battles an alien invasion with the power of dancing, she does so in settings that take inspiration from fashions, styles, and sci-fi elements of the 1960s. Using the Simon Says template, you control Ulala in an attempt to successfully mimic her opponents' dance moves, each successively growing faster and frantic, and doing so with groovy, mesmerizing beats. Unfortunately, after a faithful Game Boy Advance port and a sequel, cleverly named Part 2, which did everything nearly twice as good as the original, the series tapered off. Not even five years after the IP's debut, it went into hibernation, only coming out for rare cameos and a Part 2 HD upgrade released in 2011.

However, upon reaching its 20th anniversary, someone, somewhere used this as an opportunity to release a new game with the subtitle of Kinda Funky News Flash! As a new foe poses a threat to the galaxy, Ulala once again reports on and dances against brainwashed opponents during live broadcasts. Sadly, you won't be controlling Ulala this time, instead being placed in the role of a silent rookie who kinda-sorta acts as a backup dancer to the energetic reporter. Considering the game takes place in a first-person perspective, someone probably figured players would still want to see Ulala in action. Why first-person? The VR initials in the title isn't plot-related: the latest iteration can only be played using the PSVR headset and Move controllers. Granted, the allure of VR has the potential for a stimulating new experience to the template, but only if done right.

Considering the series' flimsy history with controls and strict timing when hitting buttons, that sounds worrying. Thankfully, those fears quickly disappear the moment you physically perform dance maneuvers with the Move sticks. Kinda Funky News Flash! is easily the best rendition of the series in terms of successfully executing actions, simply because the strictness has been dulled. Say you perform the following motions in quick succession: up, down, up, down, and three forward thrusts with both hands. If you were off rhythm by half a second in a prior game, it would usually be a failure. Here, however, the game allows it, as long as the camera picks up your poses. It's also very relaxed when having to do silly poses, such as "acting" like a cat with one paw to the side and the other on your hip; just make sure the Move controllers are in the vicinity of said poses.



With that unnecessary layer of frustration gone, this allows players to concentrate on the intended challenge of trying to remember long sequences of moves and poses. When you play the game for the first time, you'll likely make several errors in the first stage, mainly because you're settling into the controls and rhythm. You'll probably survive long enough to reach the end and be granted passage to the second stage. But you're gonna want to restart the previous stage; yes, you messed up, but thanks to the template now being more accessible, you were having fun in the process and actually encouraged to do better.

On a technical level, there's nothing wrong with the game and, thanks to the straightforwardness of Space Channel 5's gameplay and lax controls, is actually one of the more approachable titles for the PSVR. Regrettably, Kinda Funky News Flash! is lacking in a very important area: content. Now, the first SC5 has four stages, each containing three to four varying segments, and Part 2 has six stages which also features three to four creatively-different segments. This? Four stages, each with one segment. What also might rub some players the wrong way is how the first three stages are basically remixes from previous titles. The first stage being the spaceport from the original, the second stage resembling the opening stage of Part 2, and stage three having you dance through an asteroid belt again.

It's frustratingly-ironic that a series which beamed with such creativity and included questionable gameplay, finally has a title that has solid gameplay.... yet a questionable absence of creativity; Kinda Funky News Flash! instead opted to mostly borrow things instead of standing on its own legs. Even the 100-Stage Dance Battle mode, which is the toughest thing to accomplish flawlessly, is a remix of Part 2's similar mode. This is the "best" version of the game, mind you; it was originally slated for a 2018 release for the HTC Vive, but met several delays, with the final delay stating a need to improve the product's quality.

For what's included, Kinda Funky News Flash! manages to entertain within its timeframe. However, considering the game's main mode can easily be finished in a little over 20 minutes, it's very hard to ignore the squandered potential for something better. The Space Channel 5 series has shown it can do so much more with imagination and passion, making this latest release look almost like a demonstration in comparison. A demonstration the publisher wants you to buy for $40. If you still want to give it a try, then it's highly-recommended you wait for a discount, especially since you'll be playing as a discount Ulala, anyway.

3/5

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (March 04, 2020)

After all this time, I've only done two Star Wars reviews. That's super weird.

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