At PAX East this year I walked past many of the larger booths and gave them little attention, as I am typically more interested in indie games. I got invited to a press-only demo for Gigantic -- a game I only knew of by seeing the signs for the booth on the show floor -- by fellow Destructoid editor Rob Morrow, so I went to see what it was all about. I'm glad I got to get hands-on time with the game, otherwise I wouldn't know just how fantastic Gigantic is.
When I first laid eyes on Gigantic it was breathtaking. The colorful graphics pop off the screen and are reminiscent of something you'd expect to see from Pixar or DreamWorks. The characters are all unique and really stand out from the equally colorful environments. The animation of character movements are all really fluid, especially for the game only being in alpha.
"Congratulations, you just survived the tutorial," Just Shapes & Beats coder Mike Ducarme teased the small crowd clustered around Berzerk Studio's PAX East booth. A quartet of us had just run the gauntlet, bobbing and weaving our way through an imposing cannonade of pink missile fire.
We barely managed to scratch out a victory -- and that was only the tutorial? Glancing around the throng, there was a clear sense bewilderment and excitement among us. We wanted to see more.
"It's not a gravity gun; it's a magnet." Guru Games, developer of Magnetic: Cage Closed, stressed this to me at PAX East. It works like a real magnet, with fields radiating out in all directions, rather than affecting only a forward-facing space.
In practice, it functions similarly in a lot of cases. Attract to pull objects closer, repel to push them further. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but the magnet gun is central to solving the puzzles found in Cage Closed. However, puzzles aren't all the title has going for it; Magnetic also features more action-oriented sections, branching pathways, and a focus on player choice.
One of the highlights of my time at PAX East was sitting down and chatting with Dropsy’s creator, Jay Tholen. Jay’s a quiet, thoughtful man with what seems to be unlimited creative energy at his disposal. His sometimes offbeat, but unquestionably engaging creative force shines through in his surreal point-and-click “hugventure” Dropsy. At first glance, the Devolver-published game may seem as though it could be reduced to a psychedelic walking simulator built to shock or surprise the player, offering no real substance beyond that.
For some players that will surely suffice, and they’ll be very happy playing that game. That’s part of the sly brilliance Tholen’s weaving into Dropsy, in that it can be enjoyed, or perhaps more accurately said, interpreted, on many different levels.
In some ways it functions like a mirror – the observer, or in this case, the player, unconsciously injects something of themselves into the experience, ultimately shaping their perception of what the game is really about. Which is quite refreshing in that the game doesn't lead you by the nose, telling you what to think; it offers plenty of room for your own interpretations.
I have some good memories of playing single player FreQuency years ago. However, the only memories I have of the multiplayer mode are of me playing against my friends in high school and crushing them, then going off to college and playing against a guy in my dorm and being crushed. Neither situation was particularly fun.
With Harmonix's new Kickstarter-funded Amplitude, the multiplayer is getting a nice upgrade. Instead of FreQuency's simple head-to-head score attack, it uses something closer to the system found in Amplitude (2003). From that starting point, the player count has increased from two to four, and a handful of other tweaks have been implemented, turning it into a party game I can imagine a group switching to after arms and voices are shot from playing too much Rock Band.
Real-time strategy titles often feel large-scale by design. There are a whole bunch of units on the battlefield, and the player's tasked with directing them all simultaneously. Even if there aren't that many actual parts in the faction, controlling an entire army is powerful by nature.
Ashes of the Singularity laughs in the face of that model. The upcoming RTS from Oxide Games operates under an ambitious mindset: If you're billing these combat scenarios as epic, let's actually make them epic. Sheer quantity is Ashes' greatest strength, and it's certainly nothing to laugh at.
This is all possible because of Nitrous, an engine that Oxide put years into building from the ground up. It was created with the real-time strategy genre in mind, specifically to forge battlegrounds where there are more than 10,000 units on-screen all performing individual and unique actions.
Let's slow this down and dwell on that for a second: More than 10,000 units on-screen.
CrossCode is one of those games where I've heard mention of it by word of mouth, saw videos of it, but never though much of it. Then, I got bored and decided to try out the demo and boy, am I glad I did, because the game is wonderful.
The world of CrossCode reminds me of A Link to the Past in the sense that it has dungeons filled with puzzles, and an overworld replete with items waiting to be found which upgrade the protagonist's weapons and stats. The demo, which can be downloaded or played in-browser, is fairly lengthy for an early product that is looking to get crowdfunded. It includes a story mission, a dungeon and an overworld area to explore. Each portion feels really polished with gorgeous 16-bit graphics, a nostalgia-inspiring chiptune soundtrack, and an interesting story complemented by engaging gameplay.
For a while, the general aesthetic in games was dark and grimy, with muted colors to convey dismal feelings. The more recent counterculture of color was welcomed, bringing happiness back to the medium. But a funny thing happens when colorful palettes are taken a step too far. Add too many big smiles, bright eyes, and soothing pastels, and the mood turns from joyful to creepy.
We Happy Few cashes in on this uncanny area past whimsy. Its world is so bright that it feels alien. Indeed, behind the vivid color of Compulsion's newest creation is a dark place. It may be pretty, but it is eerier than any run-down mansion on a stormy night.
There aren't a whole lot of fully featured MOBA games on consoles. While a handful of them exist, some faring better than others, there's going to be a bigger push this year with games like SMITE and Gigantic heading to the Xbox One.
Although I heartily enjoyed my time with SMITE on PC, I didn't stick around for an extended period of time, instead opting to head back to League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm.
That may change when SMITE hits Xbox One later this year, based on what I've played of the alpha build.
Audiosurf is more than seven years old now (wow), but it still holds a place as a desktop icon on my computer. I still play it regularly. The thing is, I almost never play it on any setting other than Casual with Mono. It is the thing I go to when I want to turn off my brain for a bit and just enjoy some music along with some pretty colors.
I got a chance to try out Harmonix Music VR at PAX East this past weekend, and it looks like it could fill that role perfectly. There is even less to concentrate on, but the step into virtual reality makes it more engrossing. I could see myself coming home from work, putting on the headset, and just chilling with it to decompress.
It's been less than a year since its reveal, and we're already rapidly approaching the release of Mortal Kombat X. After its predecessor essentially rebooted the franchise with a return to 2D-style combat, many fans got a newfound love for the series. And though Mortal Kombat (2011) took some liberties with the lore, as it was both a reboot and sequel simultaneously, it left off in a place that had fans anxious to see what could happen next. Lucky for you, Destructoid just got a taste of what's in store.
During GDC week, Warner Bros. Interactive held a special hands-on session with the first chapter of Story Mode, along with a sampling of the versus mode and upcoming mobile game app. Though I've played quite a bit of this series in my time, I knew I could use some help discussing the franchise's lore and history. So I decided to bring along Dtoid's resident Mortal Kombat expert Abel Girmay, who's already played quite a bit of MKX, for a back-and-forth discussion about the game and how Johnny Cage has still got the stuff.
Cosmochoria is a Kickstarter success story that is now about to see the light of day. It's a mix of exploration and tower defense all wrapped up in a warming, yet occasionally stressful package. There's a strong sense of wonderment to the randomly generated universe, and the art style is totally cute.
My time with Cosmochoria at PAX East brought a huge smile to my face, and if it wasn't for an upcoming appointment, I would have played for probably an entire hour or so!
One of the great things about Sega's ongoing 3DS Classics series is that it allows retro games from the publisher's past to find a new audience. And given its rich and diverse history of quirky and fan-favorite titles, there's plenty to remaster for quite some time.
One of the upcoming remasters is Sega's legendary racing title OutRun. Though it was already released overseas last year, western audiences are finally able to get their hands on the title on March 12 (that's tomorrow!).
But before you do, why don't you take a minute to learn just what went into this port. I managed to get some hands-on time with the remaster, along with a quick chat with Sega producer Yosuke Okunari, who had quite a lot to say about its transition to new hardware.
The first impression of a game matters a lot at PAX. If people aren't intrigued almost immediately, they may never play the game at all. My first impression of Tumblestonewas "oh cool another match-three game." I don't play many of them, so I barely had any interest.
However, knowing that Tumblestone and The Bridge, a brilliant indie puzzle game, share the same developer, I just had to give it a chance. Thank goodness I did, too, because it was easily the most intelligent game on the show floor.
As I explored the opening area of Harebrained Schemes' third-person action roguelike Necropolis at PAX East 2015, I discovered an inviting treasure chest. Upon opening it, I realized too late that I wasn’t alone in that first room. While my back was turned, a shadowy, crystalline figure called the Grine had seized the opportunity to launch a flurry of attacks at my unprotected rear; all the while, my character stood there helplessly locked in place throughout the chest’s opening animation.
It was at this point in the Necropolis demo that the game made complete sense to me. In that singular moment I felt as though I’d been here many times before. Not here in the literal sense of playing the demo beforehand, of course, but here in that the game’s unspoken rules were so familiar to me that it felt like coming home. And what a treacherous home it is.
It’s become passé to compare titles to the Souls games, but in this particular instance, I feel the comparison is completely justified. Anyone familiar with From Software's work will know, almost instinctively, what will be expected of them when they pick up the controller. The control scheme (light and heavy attack buttons, shield, jump, and evasion) and stamina system are very much in line with what we're used to in those titles, with a couple of notable deviations.
Necropolis doesn't feature a parrying system, for starters. Instead, your character can use their equipped shield to perform a bash maneuver as well as block incoming attacks. However, stamina is drained when doing so and should be used sparingly in battle. For example, if you try to hold off enemy attacks with the shield indefinitely, you'll soon wear yourself out as your enemy lands each attack, thereby leaving your character susceptible to taking damage.
Gunpoint ultimately had very little to do with guns. It was a smartly designed puzzler with an immensely satisfying core set of mechanics and witty dialogue. But the title never came into play; pointing guns at people always went poorly for me. Tom Francis, the writer-turned-designer behind game, promises his new project will have a relevant name. From what I played at GDC, that seems to be the case.
It’s called Heat Signature, it’s Hotline Miami meets FTL, and it’s easily the best thing I saw all show.