Friday, 28 October 2016

Coded Arms (PSP) - Guest Post

Today on Super Adventures, guest poster mecha-neko's back with another first person shooter for another Friday. But this time there's a shocking twist: it's on the PSP!

Hey, get a load of this!

Coded Arms Title Screen PSP
Developer:Konami|Release Date:2005|Systems:PlayStation Portable

It's Coded Arms, the first Sony PlayStation Portable game on the site! It's a PSP exclusive and it's the very first first person shooter on the system or so I'm told.

I found it for just a buck, all boxed and nice, so I'm going to share it with you!

At the late 21st century, advancement in medical technology allowed for linear connectivity of human minds to computer networks. In the midst of this, there was a giant labyrinth of data inside a computer network which many hackers dreamed of exploring. This was the military combat simulator A.I.D.A. which was abandoned after its system went out of control during development.

Many hackers have perished before the assault programs which continuously multiply within the system. Armed with various power-up programs, there were those who challenged the A.I.D.A. combat simulator risking their lives for hefty cash rewards. Disdained and envied by other hackers, they were often referred to as the "Coded" ones...
The military simulator's gone loops-bananas and we're jacking in, shooting whatever comes our way. Once we get to the soft chocolate centre, we win the Internet. It's all gone Gain Ground!

My character is the ultimate of hackers: his language is awesome spinning wireframes, rings of floating binary text and of course:


In lieu of any engaging characters (or even a nice computer voice reading out the text) we get a simple description of what we're going to do: 'Complete each of the Battlefields in order.' Once we've done that, we will be able to 'restart the system', which sounds really good, right?
Caution: In case of hack failure, there is a possibility of contracting the Achiba Syndrome and will not be able to return. You have been warned.
Just once I'd like to be able to hack into a system without putting my life at risk. In the future, webmail clients probably explode in the user's face if they get 'their', 'they're' and 'there' mixed up. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad.

Level 1! No wait, we're not allowed to do Level 1 yet. We have to do some Training!

Hey now, this looks pretty good for a portable system I think!

Yeah I don't have an iPhone, and my antiquated Android can't handle Angry Birds. You'll have to trust me that these graphics were pretty impressive on a handheld for 2005.

The DS and PSP came out around the same time but there wasn't a load of first person shooting going on for either of them for a year until the PSP got Coded Arms and the Nintendo DS got GoldenEye: A Rouge Gent. Metroid Prime Hunters wouldn't come out for another year, though the launch DS I got came with a Metroid Prime: Hunters: First Hunt Game Card demo which is pretty weird. I miss demos.
Welcome to the Training Program. Your control layout can be changed in the OPTIONS menu. Let's have a look.
Here she is: the PlayStation Portable!

I wouldn't be surprised if you've never used a PSP before. The actual system is a high-tech marvel, with its super-bright 480x272 30:17 ratio wide screen, complex array of remarkably bassy speakers and built-in 802.11 wireless. And it's a complete mess with its damned expensive Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, ghosty ghosty screen and legendarily terrible controls.

It's got a slightly-spongy PlayStation style D-pad, single row of L and R shoulder buttons, an analogue nub which often sticks and has a terrible, huge dead zone making it impossible to use for analogue control, Start and Select running along the bottom, and the four PS symbol face buttons one of which is so close to the screen that it dangles off the underlying switch (External link).

And now I've got to figure out how I'm going to play a modern first person shooter with eight-directional motion and free rotation with the PSP's buttons. Thankfully Coded Arms lets you fully configure everything.

I think this is the best I can do:

Doom-style move-turn on the nub. Fire, jump and change weapons on the face buttons. Shoulder buttons strafe. D-pad has everything else I don't intend to use very often. Reload is left D-pad for lack of a better place to put it. The dodgy Square button gets the 'previous weapon' button.

Are you ready? Because here we go!

Nngh! My guy is incredibly slow. He's shuffling nervously through the virtual city like he's in fear of waking any of the digital denizens. It's alright lad, there's nobody around.

There's no run button or at least I couldn't see it. At least it's giving me time to admire these unusually high-resolution textures. If this was a Game Boy Advance shooter, there wouldn't even be the suggestion of using textures that were larger than the screen dimensions. Here there's tons of detail in the Japanese kanji signs that can't be shown on screen at a distance.

I haven't found any enemies yet. This training level's just a straight line to the exit. And we're done!

Loading screen... just how bad are the PSP's loading times? In Coded Arms, they're perfectly fine. Long enough for you to put the system down and relax your hands, but not long enough to go and get a cup of tea. Are you listening, Mass Effect 2?

Robots! Or one robot! Too bad I can't see him closer up, because he's a pretty cool looking creep. Like most enemies on the PlayStation, it's a little hard to see what he actually is.

This pistol (sorry, PSTL) is the squirrel's nutbag: goes blam!-blam!-blam! as fast as you please. As in 'please will the crosshair float back down on the screen because this robot is shooting at me'.

Pshewm, the enemy explodes in a shower of digital spaghetti and I receive some PSTL.blt.

It's down the conveniently marked elevator and onwards!

Level complete! Now I have to listen to that poor flimsy UMD scraping its way around its cassette. The old Amigas love to make funny snorting noises, but at least the disc would be nice and secure and level. I feel like I have to put this thing down on a table between levels to stop it exploding in my hands.

Level 3 is looking pretty!

You can see the really blocky attempt at bloom on this one, but I don't know about the wisdom of obscuring the fine details of moderately distant objects on an unresponsive 480x272 screen.

These rooms are full of obstacles, but they're very clearly perfectly right-angled cubes. There's no hiding it, the little minimap in the corner tells you exactly what you're dealing with. In fact, they're the kind of rooms you'd get if you asked a computer to quickly simulate a basic combat environment. Aaaaah!

My new Frag_GRE.cbx has zero Optimize Keys, but 5 Ammo and 608 Offense and it's a Physic.

I see what they did there too! It's like a old-style filename, right? Because we're in a computer and stuff. Did I collect this Frag_GRE and get it instantly? Or do I have to wait for it to compile or decompress or something? Don't laugh, that's exactly what you have to do to unfamiliar programs you acquire in Tron 2.0!

Anyway, yes I'll stop poking. I love this 'weapons are programs' stuff. Gimme gimme.

Each of these massive cube rooms has only had a single enemy in it but that suits me fine. One enemy is just about all I can handle right now with these controls! This compulsory tutorial was a good idea.

And it's a fair fight. These robot guys have the same abilities as me: stomp about and jump. Sometimes they drop ammo or health, but never seem to drop that blinding, slow-firing pulse gun they're carrying.

Wahoo! I was expecting a boss or something, but there was just that single robot. With the training sector completed, I'm ready to begin my adventure into cyberspace. Lay the inevitable conspiracy on me, spooky cyberskull!
Training Program [SECTOR:00] Hack Successful. Now accessing Combat Program [SECTOR:01].

Caution: Data compatibility not guaranteed when hack failure after [SECTOR:01]. In the worst case possibility, you may not be able to return.
Yeah, I know that. You don't have to warn me about the same thing twice. How about something more exciting: I'd like to know a little more about A.I.D.A. Alright. I will trust in the glowing skull and do as it asks, clearing battlefield after battlefield in a relentless search for the pot of cybergold at the end of the cyberrainbow.

I've got three choices now: CITY, BASE or RUINS.

It's kindly telling me how many 'files' there are in each world in case I run past some amazing item by mistake. Each of the worlds is home to a specific enemy type, and these enemy types each have weaknesses such as Electric or Light. Neither of which I have since my PSTL ver.1 is... kinetic? Physic? If it had an element, it'd display next to the ammo indicator I expect.

Let's go for the BASE! It shall belong to me!

Here we are. And once again, it's a big cube. Like a lot of these locations so far, it's got the look of a disused building somebody's done up in a hurry for a bit of paintballing; yet another cube. I'm guessing I always start safe from enemies and if I'm lucky there'll be a random power up or two knocking around if I can be bothered to creep up to them.

I thought there was something off about Coded Guy's aim and I've just figured it out. By default it's a tiny bit higher than the height of the enemy humanoid robots. I've been hitting them so far but only thanks to auto-aim!

The blue circle is what the game thinks I'd like to shoot at, the crosshair is where the gun is actually going to fire. I've blasted off my entire pistol clip in a half-second like one of those evil fun-havers and hit nothing but the pipework.

Keping a cool head is the order of the day here. Trust the auto-aim. Jumpin' boots! Would you have ever thought I'd say something like that?


Whenever you enter a new area, you get this flickering wall of sugar puffs letting you know the area has been 'hacked'. What it really does is give everything inside the room a free shot while you're temporarily blinded, like an automatic flashbang to the face as a penalty for entering an enemy-controlled room. And the sugar puffs take the form of a couple thousand overlaid semi-transparent blended objects which does wonders for the frame rate.

Back into the corridor, Codey!

Duelling against distant robots. I want to go berserk and blast the entire magazine, but I have... to... resist. Tap. Tap. Tap.

I ought to be running about doing all kinds of fancy balletic Quake moves, but my guy's range of motion goes from 'trundle' to 'saunter'. He can't crouch but he's got a super-high jump which is really good for making all the enemies and landmarks fly off the bottom of the screen for a moment, completely disorientating the player.

In this room I found a pretty pyramid power up which promised me great power if only I could acquire two more.

It's Level 2! I opened the first door to reveal a flying robot! That's no good! Just when I get used to aiming slightly down to hit the hunching robots, I have to deal with floating things with vulcan cannons!

Now I have to lift my thumb off the analogue nub and put it on the D-pad to adjust my aim. Meanwhile, my right hand curls around the back of the PSP and taps the shoulder buttons. There's no lookspring so I can leave myself looking skywards while I return to the normal grip and finally take a shot. It's kind of fun! For now.

Take a look at that gun model! I suppose if you're going to spend the entire game looking at a gun, it ought to be a fancy one.

I'm glad they haven't started locking me in the rooms yet. I've found that immediately backpedalling out of a new room and hiding behind the entrance door is the only way to beat the constant ambushes.

Dang. Nothing for it! We're all-in!

I'm going to slouch over to the most defensible part of this randomly-generated room and do my best not to panic. But panic is exactly what the game wants you to do! The screen's blurry, the alarm's vwooping my ear and there's robots and gunfire coming from all directions.

With these controls it feels like I'm trying to fight with my shoelaces tied together. I don't know if it's a side-effect of the way I've set up the controls but when I rapidly toggle between strafing left and right with the shoulder buttons, I trigger Codie's 180 quick turn move and it buggers me right up.

Enemies keep teleporting in... I'm missing something here. There's no way I can be expected to take all this on alone.

Come on, think! What would a daft arcade game do? There's got to be something!

Unlimited ammunition
Effective for 30 seconds
Kaboom! Found myself an infinite ammo power up and don't even need to reload! BLAM BLAM BLAM! Spent cartridges everywhere! Robot debris filling the... oh, no, wait, they turn into digital mush and dissolve.

Flying drone things, walking robot bloke things: all fall before the infinite pistol. I'm not getting any experience points (or points of any kind in fact) from killing these guys. Sucks. Being trapped in a room fighting off countless waves is the direct opposite of what I put a first person shooter on for. The game's throwing so much at me at once, trying to distract me with overwhelming noise so I don't notice I'm not accomplishing anything. Grabbing a power up even makes the border flash brightly, killing your peripheral vision! But who needs that anyway?


One of the enemies dropped a pyramid of potential power, and...!
This is gonna be great!

Oh. Huh. Is that good?

That's my reward for fighting off the robot hordes trapped in the metal murdercube? I don't even know if that's 7 points or 7 percent. Either way it's terrible and the developers should be ashamed. You paused the entire game and ruined my strafing flow for this?

The next upgrade is six pyramids away. If it's not an alternate fire mode for the pistol, you and I are going to have words Konami.

It's not over yet, yet more robots await! I would be in deep crapola if these guys didn't regularly drop health and ammo.

PSTL ver.2 doesn't even look any different from the original. I was expecting a different colour or a scope or a different muzzle flash, or maybe they could've gone full Tron on it and represented my increased hacker skills with some glowing lines.

Phew, as fun as that was, I sincerely hope I never have to do it again since there's no auto-fire and I'm kind of fond of this X button. It's not as if I can simply get a replacement if it breaks.

My ultimate reward for clearing the room was this blue triangle. It's...!
NEW .dfn FILE DECODE COMPLETED: Assault_JKT acquired.
Defense program for professional hackers. Reduces body damage.
Defense: 4
And the crowd goes mild. It's early days. I hope.

Off we go, escaping the lock-in room of doom and proceeding deeper into the mysteries of BASE.

Level three! And it's a robot in a corridor.

The levels haven't gotten any more unpredictable in their rhythm. A room, a corridor, a room, a corridor, a room. It's a nifty robot and a lovely corridor, but it sort of seems to me that Coded Arms might have fired off all its ideas in the first ten minutes.

There must be somebody at Konami whose speciality is flat metallic corridors. He got a promotion after Metal Gear Solid 2 and managed to get a game all to himself where he can let his shiny, flat corridor creativity run amok.

And speaking of firing stuff off, I'm completely out of ammo after that challenge room. Codie doesn't know how to punch so unless I see some more ammo lying around I'm done for.

My danger sense is tingling. Somebody's cranked the music up to some serious bomping TEKNO beats. Where are ya?

Aha, there's something new! Up until now, all the levels have been completely flat cubes linked by linear corridors. Now we've got multiple elevations and elevators linking them together. I take back what I just said about the game running out of ideas, but the game isn't doing itself any favours by intentionally making itself look unsophisticated to begin with.

And I also take back what I said about the gun models being intricate and pretty.


Oh, there we go! And it's effective against Soldiers. Perfect. Hate those guys.

The Optimize Key value is how many pyramids I need to acquire before I can harness the weapon's next awesome ability. And there is going to be one this time, right?

If it's 'An essential weapon when entering the system', makes you wonder why the Coded One didn't take one of these with him from the beginning. He wasn't even wearing clothes.

Little bugs! Little bug bastards that like to leap onto your face and explode. A blast from the past, back to make any would-be infiltrator's life a living hell. You give me a gun that fires all over the place, then tell me to shoot little guys!

Every time one of these has bounced onto my face and exploded, it's left behind a health power up. I doubt the game's generosity is going to last.

Oh wow! Non-recharging health! You mean the game is about continuous survival instead of little encounters? Crazy stuff!

That's a BIG guy! Back, back I go! Back right into the corner of the room, oops.

He's brought his little pals as well. Go on then, fill this tiny screen with targets, why don't you? Even you little guys drop power ups when I kill you. You're just throwing health at me, my friends!

There's enemies in the corridors between large rooms pretty regularly now. Every single doorway is a challenge. All I can do is prepare myself for each encounter, sidling up to the side of the entrance and listening for the danger techno. Or more likely just diving into the sugar puff haze, and unleashing the most powerful weapon I have if I see the auto-aim marker start to drift.

The tutorial said things that glow blue have to be destroyed to open the exit. They didn't say anything about pink!

I thought it meant that this guy was going to drop something super awesome if I shot all my bullets at him. So I ran in, guns blazing...

And him and all his pals started folding outwards like cheap umbrellas and firing laser beams all over the place (like expensive umbrellas).

Nope, things that glow purple are invulnerable and you've got to wait for them to stop before you can damage them. Lame.

And now I'm trapped at the back of this cube with enemies between me and the exit. Aaarrrgh thiswasabadplaaaan...


Level 5 out of 6, too... time to see how far back this throws me.

Same level! Lovely!

Well, kind of. Looks like they've flipped a couple of the rooms around and randomised the power ups. So the levels are made out of pieces that fit together randomly, a bit like Space Hulk's jigsaw game board? That's neat. At least if the game throws an impossible situation at you, you get an immediate 'yeah, sorry' from the game. All you have to do is beat any one of the combinations to progress; there's no 'real' level that has to be bested for maximum smug.

Yeah, I'm a little sore about Crash Bandicoot 2's checkpoints. Sure I got 100% and saw the good ending, but I died enough for some of the crates to become checkpoints. And they're stuck like that now, so I'll never know whether I could have won the game proper properly.

This time I'm going to hang around the doorways instead. Doorways are my friends, they protect me from the nasty roborts.

Now I just have to figure out how to hit a target moving in three dimensions at range. Using the gun sights disables the auto-aim but I've screwed myself by putting horizontal and vertical aim on two different controls on the same side of the pad.

I don't need to aim. I just need to out-robot the robots. What would RoboCop do? I'm going to trust the auto-aim. Yeah, you heard me. The accuracy penalty for moving means that strafing is pointless except at point-blank. If I just relax, stand still, let the cursor drift over my foes and take single shots, I've got their number.

Sure, I'll take damage, but blasting everywhere isn't going to get the lasers disabled.

Attribute: Physic
Effective against Soldiers.
Link_GRE? Now we're talking! I have no idea what that could be. Let's have at these wacky cyber weapons!
Grenade that can attach onto enemy targets. Explodes a few seconds after release.
Oh, it's a sticky grenade.
Guarantees damage to the intended target.
I'll be the judge of that.

No aiming reticle and no power gauge! How am I supposed to throw these? They just ping right out of my hand and... kill the enemy in one hit. Yay!

Also it's nice of the game to put a great big flashing arrow on screen just to make absolutely sure I know what I'm carrying.

Hoorah! I'm back at cyberspace base! Time to save the game and stash my hard-earned weapon files in the Database.

There's my pistol and assault rifle, bunch of grenades. The .arms are weapons, the .cbxs are grenades and the .dfns are armor pieces. And all those wonderful blank spaces are mysterious cyberweapons that I'm yet to find!

And they have three digit numbers as well, even though they only go up to 23. Is that for added cyberness, or will this screen expand to include more weapon slots as I explore other systems within A.I.D.A.?

I don't know! And I love that I don't know.

One of the nicest things about Coded Arms is that I don't know anything about it and it's constantly surprising me. Just by subtly deviating from the obvious bland things I expect it to do it seems strange and unpredictable.

It's the CITY! Ah, right, it's the tutorial world again.

Take a gander at the minimap: we're quite deep into the game proper, but still the levels are simple cubes with one door in and one door out.

I know what this reminds me of! It's like the first-person mode in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. You know, the tiny set of missions where you have all the same weapons, abilities and vulnerabilities as top-down Snake except you're stuck in first person. The controls were very bizarre and robotic and it was very, very difficult to do multiple things at once. That's Coded Arms. And I thought those missions were really cool, all three of them.

The enemies in Coded Arms are a wide variety of murky metallic colours, same as, well, the levels. The reticle turns red for a confirmed hit, but that's not great if the impact flash of a virtual bullet completely obscures the enemy you're aiming at.

Stop the press! I've found myself a Tact_HELM.dfn, which provides an extra 4 Defense. Thought you might like to know! The game sure wants you to, and it doesn't mind pausing itself for thirty seconds with some blinding screen effects and a bit of loading whenever you pick up something new.

Whenever you switch weapons you get a happy chirp and the flashing arrow to remind you where the ammo numbers are. It's pretty cute I reckon. A little 'well done' for changing weapons successfully, even if you've changed to something you've got no ammo for.

That little robot thing in the distance is a weirdo. He scoots right up to your feet, screeches to a halt and blinks and beeps like he's got a message for you. The message is that he's going to explode! Too bad for him he's immobilised once he's armed, but these guys have a habit of surrounding you and blocking up the corridors when you're trying to stride to safety.

New gun!
NEW .arm FILE DECODE COMPLETED: Sniper_RFL acquired.

Attribute: Physic
Effective against Soldiers.

Rifle equipped with zooming functions allowing targeting from a long distance. Can only load six rounds at a time.
And it fires horrifically slowly. Definitely not the awesome PSG-1 from Metal Gear Solid 2 (certified curry defender right here). It'll be great if I ever find my way out of these tunnels into the daylight, shooting from rooftops.
"An underground city recreated as a battlefield."
Oh. Yeah.

At least it's some use against these bouncing fellows since they're super slow and can only fire harmless electric balls. It means I don't have to waste the bullets for the useful guns.


Offense value for Assault_RFL has increased by 9.
From 53 to 62! That's a 25% increase! I'm still finding it a little difficult to get excited about it. Maybe the increase from version 2 to 3 will be a more exciting as a pay-off for the much higher points cost. Some kind of alternate fire, maybe? PLEASE?

The health power ups sometimes come out in this special blackcurrant antidote flavour. You don't see poison status in many first person shooters 'cause it's a pain in the arse. Especially when you need to find a randomly-occurring power up to get rid of it, and the antidote starts appearing in place of useful things like health and ammo!

Yeah, I'm complaining that it's appearing both too frequently and not frequently enough! Sue me!

Zappy gun.
Atribute: Electricity
Effective against Bots.
I've seen a lot of Bots. This'll come in handy.
Releases a high-voltage electrical charge at the target. The discharge is not powerful, but can partially disable enemies.
It's just like the regular pistol except more exciting!

The enemies are excitingly dodging all my electric bolts as they drift excitingly slowly across the level. But if they hit, the enemy is paralysed momentarily! I think! Maybe... I can't tell. Oh well. S'all good. I'd be happy with a whole game of gimmick pistols to be honest.

Hmm, the exit's not activating. You've got to destroy all the blue enemies before reaching the exit and I've missed one. It's somewhere around...

Here! I think.

Get a load of this! A full 3D map of the level! Nice, huh? The remaining enemies and powerups aren't marked on it, but you can tell which rooms you haven't been in yet. Guess I'll have to go back through the entire level to hunt that one guy down. At least he'll glow.

I started off in a room full of power ups and I don't know what I touched but I'm sorry and I don't do it again!

The game's given me a couple of extra power ups to help me along: a full map and the ability to see enemies through walls. What I really need though is a speed boost! I can't do a 3 minute run of one of these levels if I've got my pants around my ankles!

Made it! My reward for absolutely blitzing the self-destruct level was a health upgrade file, giving me another 10% maximum health! Woop!

The enemies are dropping these Option upgrade pyramids pretty frequently now. I've decided to focus my upgrades on the Assault_RFL.arm since I'm getting a lot of use out of it, and even if the upgrade is a feeble percentage upgrade, a feeble upgrade to a lot of bullets will add up.

Offense value for Assault_RFL has increased by 10.
I suppose it was too much to hope for. Option keys stick permanently onto the gun type you're using at the time you get the pyramid. The next upgrade tier is miles away. Super stingy, and the sense of rapid progression through the guns is lost. Thanks a bundle.
Two out of the three worlds complete. Oh yeah, I'm making great time! I haven't found any hint of a boss so far.

Back at base, I'm going to rummage through the box of gadgets I've collected and see what I really need to take. I can only take five weapons into the cyberzone with me so I'm going to ditch the sniper rifle and both grenade types since they're useless. Plus I only have a couple of each and I don't need them hanging around wasting a slot.


Hey hey! It's somewhere that doesn't look somebody's put a lid on a Hong Kong back alley!

My ammo's carried over from level to level, that's weird. But I like it. There's no shop, can't buy/sell/research between missions. It makes sense, in a weird Coded Armsy way. Makes things more tense: I've got to figure out how to solve the problems in front of me using only the things I've decided to pack.

Konami started to get really fond of this structure around this point, especially in their portable games: Metal Gear Ac!d started a trend of MGS having an intermission screen with inventory selection and level select, which then appeared in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops before oozing out into the main series.

Turns out that menus can be really fun if they affect the rest of the game in a material fashion! Maybe we'll get Coded Arms: Phantom Pain eventually!

Five pence says that they're going to use the same robot enemies from the other two levels.


These little gits are sucking up all my ammo! Argh! Die already!

I only have so much, you know! I'd run past 'em since they're not glowing Must-Kill Blue, but what if they drop a cool gun? Or ammo!

I'm scraping the barrel for bullets now, constantly switching between the three guns to find the one that's got some life left in it.

The ammo power ups are all random amongst all the guns I've found up to this point, so the interface keeps whining that I'm full of sniper rounds even though I didn't pack the gun. I haven't found any more grenades yet, either. In fact I haven't seen any grenades in hours.

I thought the start room was always safe, but now there's these ominous throbbing pods all over the place. Let's very carefully sneak out of here, Coded man.

Shotgun? You've totally given up on the sci-fi cybernames now, huh?

One pull of the trigger releases a devastating flash of light and a thumping blast that makes all the enemies on-screen completely vanish... behind the screen-filling shotgun cycle animation.

It sort of works against bees and robots, but I'd much rather have something that can pop faster. It doesn't seem particularly powerful. But now that I've picked it up, I suppose it'll have to enter the regular rotation since I'll be getting ammo for it.

Weird... these ruin graphics are getting more complex and colourful the deeper I descend! Stop pleasantly surprising me, game! Either stay lame or look good from the outset, will you?

Here I am, sniping bees across the level using auto-aim. The music's trying to tell me this is pulse-pounding action, but I can't say I'm buying it. It's just a tedious necessity.

Special grenade that temporarily malfunctions the Bot's radar systems. Only effective for a few seconds.
Freakin' useless. It'll take a few seconds for me to remember which button switches weapon back and after that I need to line up a shot!

Attribute: Light
Effective against Bugs (I hate that guy.)

Plasma-discharging handgun. While it cannot fire rapidly, charged shots allows for more effective results.
Laser gun and electric gun? You're spoiling me!

But it's still no damn good against these bees!

I think I chose wisely leaving the sniper rifle and grenades at home.

I'm down to my last half-dozen bullets. Gotta be smart. Don't know how I'm gonna do that.

This new light pistol has a charge up mode but it's an awkward one where you have to hold the button down and release to fire, rather than naturally charging while idle.

It's really hard to tell the enemies apart from one another at a distance. There's no tell-tale gurgling or roaring to let you know what's going on. There's no leading enemies into kill areas, since all the doors open and close automatically. If you try to lead an enemy to a doorway, the enemy will probably get jammed on it and it'll close. When you next open it, the enemy will shoot you before the door has fully opened and score a free hit on you.

I'm so close to the end now! I just need to keep sidling around this massive room, pausing every second or so to give a burst of previous assault rifle rounds at the advancing hordes.

This picture is what Coded Arms looks like to the the developers. This is what they want you to see. When you boot the game from the XMB, the first thing you see is a pre-recorded video of the game being played as an all-out fast-paced shooter. I don't know how they were playing the game, but the reality is anything but that. The system and the controls just aren't up to it.

And we're done! I hope there's no boss coming up because I am completely and totally spent.
Hey, hacker skull! I've done your training sector, it's time to unleash the plot and let me know what I'm really trudging about in your deadly dungeons for.

I completed the basic training in SECTOR:00 so I could do the Novice training in SECTOR:01, all so I could try the Expert training in SECTOR:02?
Caution: Hack completion of [SECTOR:02] will restart the system. Percentage of hackers who have completed [SECTOR:02]... 0.00%. Good luck.
Oh, I see. The whole system is a training sim. The first level was the training before I did the first level of training. If I complete all the remaining training, I win. Huh.

That is the entire plot. And it's not even voiced. Lameburgers.


I should hate Coded Arms. It's a litany of disappointments, right from the moment you pick up the box:

The box has a picture of a bloke standing outside against a cityscape in the rain... but this game has no outside, no cityscapes and no rain.

The claustrophobic linear robo-dungeons couldn't be further from the sunlit exploration of PowerSlave on the PlayStation. It's just rooms. And corridors. And it feels like the same room and the same corridor each time. All the levels look the same because none of them have any purpose: they've got some shape but it's meaningless. All meaningless.

Having the objective of the game be to explore all the random levels and collect all those tantalising cyberguns is correct way to get me interested, but the game doesn't really do anything with its cool premise. Having the upgrades just increase the damage is the onion on the cake. I remember the gun from Codename: Tenka. In Tenka, you'd merrily stomp about, blasting away polygons, when your magic gun would chirp up from time to time (very quietly) to say 'Oh by the way I can do this cool new thing now!'. In Coded Arms, when you pick up a gun, you're praying its an alright one just so that it doesn't start slurping ammo away from the others you've levelled up more. On GameFAQs there's guides dedicated to skipping levels and power ups just to avoid crappy guns to make more ammo appear for the better ones.

As I play the game, I'm constantly reminded of all the little faults that make it a whole lot less friendly and fun than it could have been. To find out why they're there, all I have to do is let my eyes drift a little lower to the chrome PSP emblem just below the screen. They've crammed a lot... well... a little in a small, awkward box. It might not be perfect, but it knows its rut well. It's big and bangy, techno beats, robots all over, laser beams and gunfire and power ups made of jelly.

If Coded Arms was on any other system it could've been a good game instead of just an unusual one, but if it wasn't portable would the tiny levels make any sense? Folks seem to like Spelunky well enough. Shine up the game a little, put in better weapons, random raids on virtual gun dungeons, it could work.

Coded Arms feels cruel at times. But it's a welcoming video-game kind of cruel thanks to the human sympathiser deep within Konami who snuck in the always-tantalising promise that the next enemy you destroy will drop the health power up that'll get you back in the game, and infinite lives for all those times the game throws impossible ambush after impossible ambush behind every door. It's not Doom, but it's kinda Doomy. Random Doom. "Randoom". That has to exist already, surely? (Yes, yes it does - Ed.)

Why does Coded Arms get a pass on its auto-aim? Because it tells you what it's going to do, you don't have to guess. And crucially I can't honestly say I'd do any better at aiming myself. There might have been headshots in Coded Arms, there's no way to know. Everything's too small to have any chance of manually aiming at a weak point.

The controls feel like they're part of the challenge. Not a particularly good part of it I have to admit, but it gives the game what you could call 'charm' if you were in a good mood. The framerate is horrible but if it were any faster you wouldn't be able to see a thing on the PSP's screen. And having passed my PSP to someone else for a while, I can see a huge delay between pressing a button and something happening on-screen.

Coded Arms would definitely be in the top five PSP first person shooters, mainly since I'm not sure there are five! Weird how it took Konami of all companies to give the system its first FPS.

I tweeted a while ago about how the game looks on the PSP emulator PPSSPP, but I played all this on my real-deal original PSP-1000 system. The game being a little crappy isn't going to stop me from playing it in bed every night from now on. In fact, I've since completed it and seen the brain-shatteringly underwhelming ending.

Go go Coded Arms! Just... don't play it for the story. Or the guns. Or the controls. Graphics are alright. Music's fine too, I guess.

Basically if you see it for 50p and you're feeling sorry for your PSP, it's a must have.

Thanks for reading. Next week's game is also very much from Japan, but that's the only clue you're getting from me (besides the picture).

Leave a comment if you're in the mood to leave comments.


  1. This was one of the 2300+ games I played this year. Looked different than most PSP stuff, so I remember it well. It has a sequel, which plays very similarly. No idea about the next game. Good Job !

    1. 2300+ huh? I don't know what's more impressive, that you played so many or that you can remember any of them

      Also that's approximately 2261+ more than I've played in the last 10 months, so I clearly need to try harder!

    2. Search DefinitelyRussian on youtube, I remember most of them, hardcore gamer at heart.

    3. I might not be so good at remembering the games I've played but I did remember your channel at least.

    4. Hey, I've been following your blog for 3 years now, and you replied to most of my requests, so today I will only thank you for all the unknown games I discovered in your site ! Keep up the good work (and the other collaborators you have)

  2. At least Konami deserve a big credit to make FPS game
    Because FPS games always major for Western not Eastern

  3. I believe that the next game is Hyperdimension Neptunia...

  4. "And him and all his pals started folding outwards like cheap umbrellas and firing laser beams all over the place (like expensive umbrellas).

    I love this line :)


Semi-Random Game Box