Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess PS4 Review
Ask anyone who grew up watching Roadrunner cartoons, and they will most likely admit that it was more fun imagining themselves as the Coyote than the titular Roadrunner; despite his penchant for failing, Wile E. Coyote’s constant meddling with elaborate traps was always entertaining to watch. Curiously, there have been very few videogames that simulate the cartoon’s Rube Goldberg-inspired traps as an actual gameplay mechanic: the most anyone got out of the Roadrunner brand were a few Sonic the Hedgehog knockoffs that neither satisfied our craving for trap-making nor super speeding.
The Deception series may not be the most familiar Koei Tecmo property out there, but it is the one that most satisfies the urge to catch unaware opponents with overly-designed yet cool-looking traps, albeit in a much darker and more violent manner than typically seen from the Roadrunner series. Deception is all about getting the best trap combo to evicerate, humiliate and eliminate hapless enemies, though not necessarily in that order. Its relative obscurity deserves the monicker of cult status, though its unique and seldom-seen gameplay element also deserves some attention. With the latest entry making its debut on the Playstation 4, Deception IV: Nightmare Princess might just be the release to give the series some much needed notoriety.
Originally released in 2014 on the PS3, Deception IV tells the story of Laegrinna, who is known as the “Darkside Princess” and one of the daughters of Satan (yes, that Satan). With the help of her trio of Anime fetish ladies, Laegrinna lures in various hunters, thieves and assassins into her mansion in order to offer them up as sacrifices for her father, using both the nearest traps embedded in the castle walls as well as her own collection of deadly devices.
The goal of Deception IV is simple: use traps to kill your enemies. Using the in-game menu, players can set up all manner of traps to incapacitate enemies. Rather than just springing a simple instant-kill trap, the goal of the game is to link together a series of traps to combo off the unfortunate enemies. The longer the combo, the higher the rank, which also means additional points and rewards to expand on your sadistic blood lust. Such examples include using a bear trap to bind an opponent in place, follow up with a swing ax that sends the injured enemy toward a specific spot, which in turn houses a spring trap that propels them further into yet another trap, and so on. The combo ends when the enemy fails to hit the next trap in time, so it’s all about creating a seamless torture experience that will continue long after the enemy has run out of health.
Obviously, the placement of traps is crucial to a high rank, which is why players must master the properties of each trap, such as judging the distance it will send enemies across the stage, how many seconds it will lock their movement in place, etc. This results in a lot of trial and error to get the timing and distance right, which is also one of the big marks against Deception IV; though the game is generally forgiving about its enemy AI (it requires virtually no effort to get them to walk right into your traps), it would have been even better if the game implemented some sort of undo button to allow players to rewind their steps in the event of a failed trap. Instead, they must hit the restart button to start the whole stage over, even if it’s an event that features multiple enemies to take out. This is further hampered by the somewhat finicky placement of the traps; sometimes a trap will perfectly send an enemy toward the precise spot you want them to, other times it will miss the mark by a few inches, or have them face a slightly off direction that sets them on a path away from your spot. The Roadrunner parallels truly hold up here.
This is why the new mode included is the highlight of Nightmare Princess; dubbed the Quest Mode, players assume the role of Velguirie, another one of Satan’s daughters (and who is also decked out in scantily-clad bondage gear, naturally), who is working in direct opposition with her sister in order to revive their father and receive his full blessing. Velguirie’s story mode is played out in a series of quests which are selected in a menu. These quests typically feature a specific objective that goes beyond merely eliminating the targeted enemy. Quest requirements range from getting a certain combo from the traps, finishing off an opponent with a specific trap, launching them into the air a certain number of times, and so forth. These missions are both quick and to the point, requiring less backtracking should players fail to line up their victims properly. Each quest also includes unlockable rewards when fulfilling certain conditions in addition to the one required to finish the quest. Velguirie herself also has a few additional moves to make trapping enemies a bit easier, including a kick that sends them spiraling backwards.
When a planned trap combo goes off successfully, it becomes truly satisfying to watch (and occasionally guilty, as both the men and women enemies often elicit disturbing shrieks of pain). Replay videos can be saved and shared (though the PS4’s built-in Share features also do the trick), and the game also includes the ability to create original enemy molds, should you have a need to create something and then tear it apart. Additional characters with unique abilities are also unlocked, making this a real meaty package for players looking to take hapless victims through the meat grinder. Don’t expect every enemy to be a cakewalk, however; certain enemy types are immune to certain traps, requiring a more strategic placement of traps in order to catch them off-guard. Armored enemies are especially annoying, as they require a specific combo based on their listed weaknesses while ending with a trap that launches them into the air so that their broken armor flies off their bodies.
In the end, Deception IV has a few kinks in its mechanics, but not enough to explode in your face. The trap-setting mechanic will no doubt go over well with creative types eager to torture AI opponents, and the amount of unlockable content will incentivize completionists to run their tests over and over again until the perfect killing machine is invented.