No Heroes Allowed is a real-time strategy game in which you, playing as the God of Destruction, must dig a dungeon filled with monsters too powerful for your enemy heroes to overcome. When you begin, you are given complete freedom to dig wherever you like using a magical pickaxe. Unearthing nutrients will yield Slimemosses, which will deposit nutrients back and forth until they are concentrated enough to spawn stronger monsters. Given the random layout of nutrients, players must use both knowledge and improvisational skill to create the strongest opposing force before the heroes arrive and raid your dungeon.
On top of the interesting concept, No Heroes Allowed is bolstered significantly by the extremely attractive graphics and sprite animations, with a great soundtrack to boot. Despite using pixel art, the game features very detailed graphics and a distinct color scheme that creates a nice mix of bright and realistic colors. Sound-wise, the electronic video game sound is given a modern flair by high-pitched instruments that mimic the timbre while possessing a unique style of their own. Glockenspiels and kazoos are two choice examples of instruments used in the soundtrack.
What makes the demo for No Heroes Allowed so exceptional may seem strange, but it's the screenshot feature. If you don't own the full version of this game, you can still create your own backgrounds (for a while, my wallpaper was a pattern I had drawn with my pickaxe) and save your personal highscores, despite the game having no official save feature. And because the entire game is one big level editor, you can always use different strategies or patterns, despite having to replay the same scenarios. On top of that, the game is given increased replay value due to the Almanac, which allows you to view information on monsters, items, and heroes you've encountered. As well as the Almanac having genuinely funny articles, it is also surprisingly hard to fill, with a few of the entries being unusually elusive.
Half-Minute Hero, despite being an RPG in concept, plays more like a racing or puzzle game in which a player must speed-grind through automated random battles, upgrade their equipment, and beat the boss, all within 30 seconds. Because of its accelerated pace, Half-Minute Hero features small maps with extremely frequent random battles, a dash feature that increases movement speed at the cost of health, and a one-button system for purchasing items and equipment in the shop.
Aesthetically, Half-Minute Hero features primitive pixel graphics reminiscent of the 8-bit games of old. Despite the rough textures, the game maintains a very vibrant color scheme. However, what Half-Minute Hero has become notorious for is its incredible soundtrack, which features high-quality classical pieces and intense rock music.
Half-Minute Hero's demo is excellent for several reasons, the first being that it's only a measly 7 MB. Size aside, the demo contains two quests which do not appear in the full game, making them completely exclusive to the demo. One level is an easy introduction to the game's mechanics, while the other is more complex and offers several routes. As well as being a great game to play over and over just for fun, Half-Minute Hero really shines when it comes to competition. Although the second level has a feature allowing the player to reset the 30 second timer (at the cost of gold), beating it without using the statue requires both reflexes and a fair amount of puzzle solving. Finding out just how far you can push your luck in this demo provides much entertainment.
If you played ModNation Racers, you might not thing it deserved a place on this list. Of course, most racing games have a tendency to get repetitive. Though MNR has a cartoon style that allows for more hazards in maps, that doesn't save it from the monotonous repetition of general racing. Yet there's something addicting about ModNation Racers after everything is said and done.
Positive graphics and voice acting definitely make it attractive, but what really draws you back to this demo is the built-in level editor. In addition to the two races the demo gives you, you can create your own level editor complete with changeable terrain, winding paths, flamethrowers, giant hammers, and the like. Although sadly you can't go back and edit these tracks after you've tested them the first time, the sheer number of possibilities definitely make it fun.
#7: Pipe Mania (PSP)
What can one say about Pipe Mania? The game is stupidly simple; all you have to do is create a path from the start to the finish, using cross, corner, and straight pieces of pipe which are given to you randomly. But despite its simplicity, Pipe Mania has surprising replay value and can really challenge your brain.
Though graphically the game is somewhat modest, the most fun thing about it is the replay value that comes out of the fact that the pipe queue is randomized each time you try the level. Because of this, the strategies may be similar between subsequent replays, but each time you play it you'll get something different. This also adds more depth to the game because you can score extra points for creating longer pathways with pipe, but are penalized for destroying pieces of pipe to create new ones. Scoring points high enough to get gold ratings for all five of the levels the demo provides is no easy task, and the last level in particular has a very arcade-esque feel to it.
Pipe Mania has been criticized for being 'just another clone', but its demo provides a way to experience the gameplay without getting stuck in all of the tacked on features that most of these games come from when an old classic is copied and modernized.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is an excellent demo for a handful of reasons, the first being that you have a really solid variety of different items and weapons to use. Being a stealth game, you can handle missions in dashes to the end of the map, calculated neutralization of each enemy, or just by brute forcing you way through if that's your style.
Graphically, this demo is awesome. The graphics are incredibly detailed and the environment is rich and realistic. The sounds are natural and give the game a very open atmosphere; you definitely feel outside when you play. It's hard to imagine that you're only playing a demo, and it's even harder to believe it's only around 100 MB. In addition to the general atmosphere of the game, the cutscenes are also an interesting add-on, being done in comic book style with halftones and divulging the opening to a great game.
However, in addition to Peace Walker's vast environment and all of the strategies you can use, you also get an extra bit of replayability from the multiplayer feature. Missions can be tackled with a teammate, which is both nice for narrowing down your clear times for S-ranks as well as just being fun for making up team strategies. To put things into perspective, I know someone who managed to rack up over a dozen hours on the demo before buying the full version. Even after beating everything in the demo, all of the different features will still keep you interested!
LittleBigPlanet is a 2.5D platform game that plays simply, yet has some very complex mechanics. Despite only having your basic run and jump controls with a simple grabbing mechanic thrown in, LBP integrates mechanical components like gears, pistons, winches, and seesaws. Many of these components are available even in the tiny two-level demo available for this game, and add a very fun physics-based puzzle element to the game.
In addition to the puzzle element, LittleBigPlanet has an impressive amount of hidden items. Although secrets aren't hidden quite as well as games like Castlevania (since there's no way to attack in LBP) there are still things you'll miss on your first time around. Adding to that replay value, LittleBigPlanet also grants players a score multiplier for collecting enough score bubbles in a row. Because the arrangement of these bubbles is set up very casually, it takes a lot of hard looking to figure out the best way to maximize your point gain and attain a massive score. However, this is only the case for the first level.
The second level of LittleBigPlanet's demo may be the biggest reason to get it. In this level, you start off on an unbalanced surfboard and must time your jumps to grab bubbles that pass from right to left above you. As you miss them, a shark will slowly advance on you and chomp you, ending the game. Being an arcade level, players can try as long as they want to beat their old score. Though simple, the physics-based mechanics of this game gave it a certain aesthetic that made it much more fun than a lot of arcade modes I've encountered in various games.
Last, I'll cover the graphics. LittleBigPlanet has an excellent arts-and-crafts art style to it that makes everything look natural. The 3D elements of the game, made out of solid materials, have a set texture to them which can be altered by the use of 2D stickers which are placed on the surfaces facing the player. On top of the graphics already looking excellent, players have the option of placing and modifying all of the stickers themselves, too. Sound-wise, LBP maintains the 'homey' atmosphere the the graphics setup. The music is nice and relaxing and doesn't really sound much like video game music at all (probably because it isn't - the in-game tracks are all licensed). Overall, the LittleBigPlanet demo mixes great graphics with great gameplay.
Wipeout Pulse is another racing game, though unlike the silly theme of ModNation Racers, Wipeout uses sleek and sexy futuristic and neon graphics. Everything from the menu to the gameplay has a cool blue-and-grayscale color scheme, which goes fittingly with Kraftwerk's song Aero Dynamik, which is featured during gameplay.
Taking up only 15 MB of memory, the sheer convenience of having this demo far outweighs any negatives. But the negatives are few and far between; though the demo only comes with one track, players are given the option to cycle between three AI difficulty levels, as well as four different racing speeds, the faster ones being harder (obviously). The highest speed level is as fun and heart-pounding as it is incredibly hard, which is always a welcome trait for a demo. During races you can also collect weapons and powerups, which are chosen randomly, giving the game a bit of variety each time you play, though you can turn weapons off if you prefer a fairer race. Last but not least is the fact that this demo also features multiplayer, making it a free and lightweight way to race against your friends.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about Tenkaichi Tag Team's demo is the fact that the full version of the game has been criticized for having too many tacked on features and distractions from the main fighting. The demo gives you the meat and potatoes of it, allowing you to create a custom battle of up to four players, and giving you the option to choose between six players from the full game. Even other players with the demo are able to participate, making this the 2nd multiplayer demo on this top 10 list.
The graphics aren't lacking, either. While many 3D games based off of cartoons look weird (bordering on creepy much of the time), Tenkaichi Tag Team uses an attractive cel-shading effect to characters looking mostly the same as their original permutations. The environment is also nice and bright, too, which augments the energy level of the game in addition to the vigorous rock music that plays in the background.
The gameplay itself is very solid; the combat mechanics feel nice and balanced, the different attacks are plentiful and leave room for lots of variation, and because of the adjustable AI, the player is given a lot of options in terms of cranking up the difficulty on themselves. Overall, it's really only the lack of characters and environments that keep this demo from feeling like a full game, and even then, I never noticed a huge difference between characters. Clocking in at a very small 34 MB, this is a demo everyone should have.
Worms is a turn-based strategy game, and a fun one at that. Players start off with four worms and must face off against four enemies, taking turns moving around and blowing each other up with bazookas, grenades, petrol bombs, and dynamite. Though the mechanics are boring, the different environments make the game exceedingly interesting, providing destructible terrain, protective and obstructive barriers, ominously low platforms that hover above watery death-pits, and mines and gas tanks spread randomly throughout the map. Players are forced to be resourceful, working with limited ammunition as they take advantage of environmental advantages to blow the enemy away. The combination of strategy required to make the right choices and skill required to lob grenades at just the right angle gives Worms plenty of variety.
Stylistically, Worms is graced with nice cartoon graphics, attractive and colorful backgrounds, and subtle but enjoyable music. The game looks and sounds very natural, and is simple enough to help the player focus on the elements of gameplay rather than distracting them.
However, the best part about Worms is really a combination of two features: After beating the three standard missions the game comes with, you can still play versus mode. In versus mode, you can set up battles against the computer, but you can also make the enemy 'Guest', which allows a second player to play against you! All you have to do is pass the PSP back and forth between turns. The second feature of versus mode is that maps are randomly generated each time you play! Though you can only play in two environments ("One Island" and "One Cavern") the hills and minor details are randomized each time, as are the placement of the characters, gas tanks, and mines. No two games will be the same! This makes Worms one of the most replayable demos ever, whether you're playing alone OR against a friend!
#1: Patapon 2 (PSP)
What do people look for in a demo? If your wallet is empty and you go to the PSN to find something for free, what do you look for most? Replayability is one thing - as a general rule, people who play on portable consoles want to get the most bang for their buck when they carry around a disc, cartridge, or a downloaded game, but people especially appreciate demos that last for a while. Another is multiplayer: Since your console can go wherever you go, multiplayer is a fun and easy way to add variety to a game. Multiplayer also dramatically stretches the length of any demo simply because other people behave so unpredictably and make each round of a game unique.
And finally, what is the biggest difference, satisfaction-wise, between a full game and a demo? It's not the amount of content; the extended content of a full game only exists to keep the boredom at bay and to keep things fresh, and there are already demos in this list that provide plenty of variety. In particular, Worms offered randomized maps while ModNation Racers had a level editor. No, the biggest difference between a demo and a full game is the feeling of progress you get while playing a game. Whether it's how many achievements you have, how much you've leveled up, or how many items you've acquired, progress is the biggest defining attribute of a full game when compared to its demo. Most demos try and frustrate you by preventing you from feeling like you've progressed; they give you a taste of how fun the demo is, then suddenly cut you off, leaving you wanting more.
Patapon 2's demo has all three of these traits I've talked about: It allows you to play any of five missions, grind them for materials, power up your characters, and participate in multiplayer. You can access half of your evolution tree just from the materials available in the demo, and the missions get harder with subsequent replays, giving more valuable items. It even throws in a couple mini-games!
Patapon functions much like an RPG would if it were fused with a rhythm game, which sounds weird but actually isn't. You command a small army of Patapons, which will move forward, attack, or defend based off of which drum beat you input using the Chaka, Pata, and Pon drums. Well-timed inputs will boost your stats while performing those actions, and timing your rhythm with the behavior of your enemies can help you defend just in time for an attack or get an extra attack just as a boss shows vulnerability.
Multiplayer is interesting, too. Using Ad Hoc, you can team up with up to three other people and march through a level together, beating your drums together to slice through enemies.
After each mission, you can equip your Patapons with better equipment, play mini-games to grind more materials, and level up or change the classes of your Patapons. Patapons each have classes that lean more toward certain tasks such as attacking, defense, shooting projectiles, etc. and each of these classes contain an evolution tree, which is a bunch of sub-classes with stat alterations. This process of leveling up is done with materials rather than experience points, so certain classes will require certain materials rather than grinding just anything you wish.
Leveling up in this game is both expansive and expensive, requiring time and energy but giving the player plenty of options as they acquire the necessary materials. Basically, if you haven't figured this already, the demo itself plays almost like a complete RPG, allowing you to save your progress and even port it into the full game when you buy it. Although the demo does slow to a boring, endless grind after you beat it, the same could be said for all games, and Patapon 2 makes grinding FUN.
This concludes the list of PSP demos I've set aside from the rest for all of you reading this. For under 500 MB you can have 10 excellent demos, each with their own merits. For under 300 MB you can have 5 spectacular demos with multiplayer capability. But whichever of these games catches your eye, you can get every single one of them absolutely free!
I've made this list so that those of you without much money, or those who are stuck with an outdated console, can carry around an extra few games in their pocket and maybe even play some of them with friends. If someone out there goes online and enjoys a handful of these because of me, then this list will have served its purpose.
List by Kwing (01/18/2013)
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