Did you ever watch Home Alone and ask yourself whether it’d be more entertaining with giant, bloody traps and massive buildings? Deception IV: Blood Ties is just like that, only instead of the main character being a lucky little albino kid whose parents hate him, you play as Satan’s daughter, a young woman who has a horrible allergy to clothes. You’ll defend yourself from knights, sorcerers, and Nuns with Guns across a variety of deadly locations.
In many ways, Deception was made for the PlayStation Vita – even if it is available on the PlayStation 3, too. The story is split into chapters, which are themselves split into shorter missions. In each, you’ll be approached by a group of mercenaries who are in desperate need of a bashing. Thankfully, there are a whole load of traps at your disposal. These will let you crush, pierce, or just fling around your targets to your heart’s content. Set up your traps carefully and you’ll be able to chain together different implements of torture to maximise your points. You’ll even be able to use the environment as well.
At its best, Deception should offer a decent level of strategy and some fun challenges, but it’s a little bit too sandbox for it to really shine. Sure, you could spend five minutes setting up the perfect trap, then spend another five luring your prey onto the right square, and you’d probably have a great time doing that. Or you could use a spring to throw an enemy into a set of spikes, where they’ll get damaged and then be flung back onto the spring, which you can activate again. The annoying thing is that, done properly, you’ll get a decent amount of points for the latter, and it’ll be less of a hassle as well.
Deception is very much a game that’s as good as you want it to be; it certainly gives you the tools to cause some damage. There are three different categories of weapons. Some are Elaborate and help you chain towards a high combo, others are Humiliating, and then there’s Sadistic. Everything you do will be rated by these three categories. Each group also has an advisor, represented by another scantily clad demon girl. These helpers will teach you everything that you need to know, and will give challenges in each mission.
Unless you’re into scoring massive points or have some sort of sadist tendency, though, there’s not any reason to complicate things, or even to experiment outside of the base weaponry. Enemies don’t get much more difficult, and in fact the artificial intelligence stinks. You’re almost certainly going to end up outsmarting large groups without too much trouble, and the biggest threat to your health bar is your own traps. There’s nothing quite like setting up an extravagant plan only to accidentally forget to step away from the action. As you fly through the air, giant spike in chest, you’ll think to yourself: “I really ought to be better at this."
For those that want to take full advantage of the sandbox, setting up long chains will be time consuming, but fun to watch when they’re successful. Some of our favourite attempts involved throwing a poor knight across a room, having him meet face-to-face with a ceiling-mounted buzz saw, and then thrown into a giant vat of lava – and that’s not even half of what you’re able to do in that section alone. Sometimes though, your trap will backfire and won’t send your victim to the right square, or they’ll twist in the air and end up facing the wrong direction. The smallest deviation can throw off the biggest ideas.
That’s not to say that every type of enemy reacts to your whims all of the time. While the AI doesn’t make things difficult, there are enemies that are immune to certain sorts of traps. To reverse this, you need to remove their armour by exploiting their weaknesses, or just keep stamping them with other weaponry until they die anyway. Again, this a chance for the laziest of players to take the easy way out without being penalised.
Each of the characters that you'll face has their own backstory, viewable when you first meet them, and this adds an awful lot to the atmosphere. The only downside to this is that the people that you’ll face generally aren’t all that good. You’re supposed to play as the Devil’s daughter, spawn of the ultimate evil in the world, and you’ll spend most of your time fighting, at best, neutral mercenaries. You won’t ever feel bad for wiping out greedy politicians or religious crazies. The occasional villager that stumbles into your view will probably run away, or give you some reason to show why they deserve to be wiped out. It would have been better to fight against the ‘Good Guys’, the archetypes that make up other games, but instead you end up using your evil to stop other people’s evil.
Aside from that, the style and world that the developers have created is quite memorable. The locations are varied, even within individual buildings, and give plenty of opportunity for mayhem. Meanwhile, the character design seems like it was outsourced to the company that invented the Mankini. There’s a lot of skin on show, although those that care about this sort of thing will be happy to know that both men and women have a variety of full armour types, as well as no armour at all.
There are multiple ‘playgrounds’ which you’ll be able to explore throughout the story, which is mostly tacked on as a means to introduce the next set of crazy characters trying to kill you. Each building has a number of different rooms, and you can set up individual sets of traps in each location. This is as easy as hitting square and then placing them wherever you want them to be. They take a second to charge, and then you can activate them from anywhere in the room. This being, for all intents and purposes, a third-person action title, there are also some cool dodge rolls and more personal attacks at your disposal, but these have to be unlocked and equipped as you progress.
When you’re done with the story, you can move onto one of the 100 included missions. These will give you specific targets or weapons, and can get quite hard. With Free Battle, you can create your own scenarios as well, and you’ll be able to download the missions of others. There’s a lot to do, if you’re able to push yourself beyond the lazy, obvious options every time.
While it demands a high level of investment, Deception IV: Blood Ties is still a decent game. Play lazily and you’ll have a poor experience, but if you work hard to create the best traps, this title lets you do things that no other allows. Unlike its confident main character, the release leaves its best bits hidden, and it’s up to you to decide if finding them is of value.