|Artwork by Citrus King|
Well, with Comic Con finally behind us, Robotic Gaming Monthly is back after a short delay and ready to talk about…*checks notes*…um, E3. Damn, do I need to work on the scheduling for this column…
But awkwardness aside, it is time to look at some notable gaming trends seemingly on display at E3, review the latest games I could get my hands on, round up the latest game trailers and showcase them for the world…and then remember someone very special.
So last year I decided to take advantage of my first post-E3 column to try and take notice of some of the more notable and/or odd trends that seemed to pop up during the show. And while there was nothing this time around as quirky as an emphasis on games centered around steampunk or Victorian-era times, there were a few trends worth highlighting indeed…
Right off the bat, I noticed quite a number of high-profile games that were either MOBAs, or contained notable elements of MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). Gigantic was the most noteworthy one in my eyes, but Battleborn was also present, and while the PC version has been available for a while, there was a noteworthy section of the Xbox booth devoted to the upcoming XB1 version of Smite. And while it was mysteriously absent from the show, Blizzard’s Overwatch (which draws more from Team Fortress 2, but still at least feels heavily influenced by the genre) is still a notable part of this trend as well (not to mention their full-fledged MOBA, Heroes of the Storm).
Now, it’s pretty easy for someone to spot why this is becoming a big trend. Multiplayer gaming is big these days, and MOBAs draw a huge crowd, thus many companies and their games are fighting it out to produce the next big MOBA, just like when everyone was fighting it out to be the next big World of Warcraft. Now, it is obviously understandable to worry over a surplus of games trying to knock the king of the genre off of its throne (League of Legends in this case), since that could easily result in more than a few missteps and overexposure in trying to follow the leader (or secretly knife the leader in the back). But I have to honestly say that I’m optimistic for this trend and the positive impact it can have on the gaming industry. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at the cast for some of these upcoming games…
…You may note a few similarities in those pictures. Things like color. Quirkiness. Creativity. Diversity. Distinctiveness. Things we all complained were lacking in video games in recent years due to a larger focus on burly white guys as the go-to video game character. I know, I’m repeating a bit of myself from last year, but if then I predicted that video games would hopefully become more lighthearted in style, this year it’s happening with character design.
See, regardless of how you may feel about League of Legends, it’s starting to become a bit evident that their characters (or “Champions”) are starting to have an impact on the world of video game character design. After all, LoL is a game where a giant fish monster, a nightmarish scarecrow, a Harley Quinn-esque criminal, and a mad scientist can all duke it out on the field at once. And all of them have boatloads of fan art and followings not seen since the days of ’90s fighting games, when we got excited over every new character reveal that gave us colorful new figures to admire, adore, and kick ass with. So if more MOBAs or bits of genre surface in gaming today, I am all for it, because anything that ignites gaming creative spark again is heavily welcome in my book.
Also a notable trend I noticed at E3? Virtual reality!!…Yeah yeah, I know, I can hear you snickering over me stating the obvious and being the last horse to cross the finish line or whatnot, but I never really payed much attention to what Oculus Rift and all of its buddies could bring to the table because I could never exactly believe just how much virtual reality could really enhance the current gaming experience. After all, you can’t exactly get the immersive quality of VR games across via gameplay video, and the written word doesn’t do it justice either.
But I was finally able to get a taste of a VR game at E3, and while it sadly wasn’t Edge of Nowhere (gonna have to take Bryce’s word there about how incredible it looked it and how amazing the VR movements felt), what I experienced was quite the intriguing game indeed…a little indie title named SMS Racing.
The game itself is a bit of a novelty; a racer where you have to keep looking down at your phone and successfully keep texting while driving in order to succeed. But after playing it…my god, I finally get it now. The way I actually have to physically move my head to look down at the phone just feels way more natural than moving the camera via a joystick, and combined with the stereoscopic 3D graphics, it actually felt like a truly immersive experience. It was really quite an amazing feeling!
But the real kicker was a title showcased in Sony’s Morpheus booth that I sadly wasn’t able to get to, but warrants mentioning here: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
What we have here is a party game where a player wearing a VR headset has to defuse a time bomb. The catch is that only they can see the bomb, and all of the other co-op players can only read the physical instructions on how to defuse the bomb, meaning that strong communication is the only way for each player to comprehend the awkward instructions, visuals, and descriptions.
But what I love about Keep Talking is that it’s the type of video game that can only be done with a setup such as this! If virtual reality is ever going to truly succeed in the modern video game world, it has to consider not just how to enhance the games, but also what mechanics or gameplay it can bring to the games that’s unique and that no other platform could do (or at least could do as successfully). But needless to say, the VR scene has made some strong steps this year into making a believer. Now I may actually have to put an Oculus Rift on my Christmas wish list…
Finally, in trends from E3 this year, we have…well, an entire company. Pop quiz: What do Transformers: Devastation, Star Fox Zero, and Nier New Project all have in common? If you guessed that they were all announced at E3 this year and that they were all being developed by Platinum Games, then congratulations! You win a cookie!
As other gaming sites have also noted, Platinum was the secret winner at E3 this year, as they wound up with their hand in several high-profile projects. Heck, this isn’t even counting their upcoming Xbox One game Scalebound, their upcoming Wii U game Project Guard, or most recently when they basically just said “Oh, why the hell not, we’d love to make a Kill la Kill game!” So to say they’re one of the most prolific and notable developers in gaming today might be an understatement.
So why are they in such high demand? Well, there’s the cult appeal, having first gained a reputation with the likes of Bayonetta, MadWorld, and Vanquish, among other games. But now that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta 2 have pushed them further into the limelight thanks to acclaim from both fans and critics, it appears that a lot of the big names are hoping that Platinum can work their magic with both existing franchises and original concepts, hoping for that magic mixture of both strong sales from the general crowd and cheers from the hardcore gamer crowd.
And I am one hundred percent down with their newfound fame, largely because, to be honest, Platinum is my favorite video game developer out at the moment. They just seem to excel in delivering the type of stylish, over-the-top, challenging, and action-packed games my inner ten-year-old keeps demanding. Kind of like how Devolver Digital is my favorite publisher at the moment for constantly putting out games that appeal to that same part of me. In a way, it’s interesting that…
…Um, okay, so apparently I just imagined a Platinum-developed game published by Devolver, and now I have a nerd-rection that doesn’t want to go away. Sooo…yeah, I guess that’s the signal to end our little talk on E3 trends this year! Now what say we cut away to a contest while I go solve this little problem here…heh…
Free game time!!! Our good friends at tinyBuild have provided us with three copies of Divide by Sheep on Steam. For those of you who need to know more about Divide by Sheep…well, the review of it is on the very next page, so unless you have a fear of clicking things, you can go check out my opinion in mere moments. Long story short: it’s a really cute, challenging, and overall damn good puzzle game. Also, there’s a tentacle monster in it, in case the more special Roboteers need another reason to buy it.
BUT WAIT!!! THERE’S MORE!!!
Now, me and Bryce were ordered to surrender our E3 swag for a contest recently held here on TR, as some of you may know. However, thanks to some…um, unorthodox methods, I was still able to smuggle a rather sizable chunk of E3 swag home with me. But having sorted through it now, I have noticed some duplicate swag that I’d be more than happy to part with as well…
Granted, it’s nothing big (my budget for shipping is notably low), but at least it’s still something you can either pin to your bulletin board or spread out on the coffee table in order to try and convince people that you were actually at E3. We have a Luckslinger sticker, an Adult Swim Games button, a Jenny LeClue: Detectiv? button and promo card, promo cards for Runbow and We Happy Few, and last but not least, a coupon from Rive for a free game on Steam!! It’s arguably a game made by Rive developer Two Tribes, but since the card just simply says it’s a code for a random game, this could be good for a copy of a The Witcher III for all we know.
Oh, and I’m throwing in the usual Mystery Prize as well, because for some reason less people enter if I actually give away specific games. So the winner gets a copy of Divide by Sheep, a Mini-E3 Swag Kit with another free Steam game, and a Mystery prize. And two runners-up will each get a copy of Divide by Sheep.
How to win? Well, you should know by now: Answer The Burning Question. And since all of these prizes are related to indie games – with the majority coming from the E3 showcase provided by The MIX – it only seems right that I stay on topic and keep this simple: What three upcoming indie games are you looking forward to the most? And don’t say you can’t come up with an answer, because I just gave you a link to over 40 indie games with trailers right there. Bonus points will be awarded to anyone who actually provides an explanation of why they want their selected game so badly.
As for the winner of last month’s Burning Question, the lucky recipient who rattled off the names of their three favorite games is…Michael Lynn Stoltz-Bradley! Congrats, Michael! Contact us at [email protected] to receive your prize!!
…Okay, so now that the erection has finally died down, what say we move on to some game reviews? WARNING: A Twitch video will automatically play on the next page. Sorry, but their service is dickish like that.
This month, we have a game that replaced a scene where a barnyard animal gets massacred with a bit that was more friendly, and a game that finds friendliness in massacring barnyard animals. I do love this confusing industry quite a bit indeed. On to the reviews!
Divide by Sheep
You know, sometimes I really hate having to review puzzle games. I mean, I love them, but the best ones are always best summed up by the phrase “genius in its simplicity,” meaning that the puzzle games I wind up loving and end up wanting to talk about and promote the most tend to be the ones I have the least to say anything about. Which brings us to today’s subject, Divide by Sheep. A charming, cute little puzzle game that just happening to involve the massacre of dozens upon dozens of cuddly farm animals.
The setup is that Death is feeling a bit friendless and lonely, and so in order to remedy this problem, he does what any normal person in his position would do: Flood the entire world so that he can reap the souls of all the cute little animals in the process, thus giving him company in the land of the dead. Yep, seems logical. So in each level, you’re tasked with either saving a specific group of animals by flicking the right ones onto an escape raft, killing the animals by strategically knocking them off of their islands in order to fill death’s raft with souls, or just flinging any animals to the mouth of Death’s pet, the kraken, in order to feed it.
To do so, you have to launch animals from island to island until you achieve your goal using a nice and simple point/click/drag method (or tap and drag, if you’re playing the iOS version). The catch comes in that A. Each current goal has an exact number of animals to rescue/kill, any more than that and you fail, and B. Every time you fling an animal off of an island, you fling all of the animals off of an island. So you have to utilize the environment and the different sizes of the islands to your advantage. For example, let’s say you have to rescue five sheep in a level. You have one island full of six sheep and one with a single sheep on it. So to get exactly five sheep on a raft, you fling the six sheep onto an island that only has four squares on it, meaning that two sheep get subtracted into a watery grave. Then you move the remaining four sheep back onto a larger island, fling the lone sheep onto the island as well to add him to the group, then maneuver them onto the escape raft. Yay math!
However, when I refer to “the catch” back there, I suppose I should really mean “the initial catch.” Yes, things tend to ramp up quickly in Divide by Sheep as it merely starts out with just sheep and islands before gradually adding more to the mix. Aside from sheep, you soon have to deal with wolves and pigs and well, with their own unique mechanics revolving around either gobbling up sheep or knocking them off of islands, respectively. And the islands themselves gain more obstacles such as explosives that detonate the platform completely the second no animals are on it, laser gates that divide sheep in half and have them occupy more space, bounce pads that can only move animals in specific directions and split groups into halves, and more.
Oh, and every level has three different goals in it, one for each star you collect by completing it (because this is still a casual puzzle game, so of course there’s a three-star system). But despite how taxing this might all sound, the difficulty curve is perfect, always challenging you more and more but always playing it fair. Sure, you could always go for the obvious solution, end the level with one star, and ignore the two remaining objectives, but going for the gold requires you to really think about each level and consider every possible move and the ramifications in might have. And as a bonus, not once did I encounter any moment where I had to replay a level to get the amount of stars needed to advance to the next world, something that more modern puzzle games like these could learn (although the game also promises more worlds coming soon, and whether or not they require huge amounts of stars to unlock has yet to be seen).
The graphics are gleefully cartoonish and bright, and little touches of black and not-so-black humor peek out of every corner. I admit I could have done without the music, though…it just kind of sounds like some sort of stock “casual game” music. Not bad, but it’s the same kind of fluttery stuff you’ve heard in Angry Birds and several other games like it before. But that one misstep aside, Divide by Sheep is one of the year’s best puzzle games, and I highly recommend it. Plus, it apparently got me to write a longer review for a puzzle game than usual, so dang, way to get a lot out of genius in its simplicity, guys!
Based on the real-life Dyatlov Pass incident, Kholat has you re-tracing the doomed expedition in order to uncover the true cause of the deaths of the hikers involved. It’s a survival horror adventure narrated by none other than Sean Bean, who at one point in the game’s intro cinematic refers to the members of the expedition as “skiers” while the subtitles below read “hikers” in addition to several other little inconsistencies between Mr. Bean’s speech and the on-screen text. In retrospect, that’s where I should have noticed the red flag popping up telling me to turn back now, because the expedition I proceeded to go on ended up being quite flawed as well, to say the least.
Subtitles aside, things start off on the right foot as you venture out into a snow-filled mountain with nothing but eerie, dark wilderness all around you. Armed with nothing but a compass, a map, and a list of coordinates to check out, you have to navigate Dead Mountain (seriously, that’s the actual name of the mountain translated from Russian) and find nine specific journal entries that provide the key to unlocking this grisly mystery, all while avoiding a mysterious creature known only as the anomaly – a being seemingly made of some sort of eerie black smoke that appears at certain times to hunt you and presents itself as a tall, dark figure, almost like some sort of man who is slender.
But seriously, Kholat excels in creating an incredibly spooky atmosphere, with creepy noises coming from all directions, an ominous soundtrack, brutal weather that seems to mysteriously change on a dime, and impressive graphics that make the most of the game’s most eerie locations (albeit not without a few hiccups). The journal entries you find (including some extra entries outside of the core nine) do tell of a mystery that rebounds between mentions of Lovecraft-esque horror, government conspiracies and experiments, and UFOs, among other things, and while things do get a tad clich?, a lot of it still engaging. of course, Sean Bean doing his best with the narration when it pops up helps out a lot.
Yes, Kholat knows how to properly set the tone for a horror game…and then sadly fumbles the ball when it comes to the actual gameplay. First of all, there is basically zero explanation about what to actually do – hell, the game never even really states your objective throughout it all – and expects the player to basically adapt to orienteering in a supernatural environment quite instantly. This alone wouldn’t be too much of a deal breaker, but in a game while it’s quite easy to die at the hands of an anomaly whom you are given zero hints on how to avoid or deal with, it can get quite taxing. And then this is all combined with a third element, a baffling decision to save the game only when the player finds a new note or journal entry, or a new campfire to act as waypoint. And it only saves that one time, the first time you find it. The end result is a story-driven game where the pacing is completed screwed up.
Long story short, expect at least one example where you can accidentally fall off of a ledge or walk into a trap, and then suddenly find fifteen minutes of progress erased, forced to trek through the same snowy trails again. And I hope you like those trails, because you will be seeing a lot of them in between the game’s bigger setpieces, making it so that the sound of the howling wolves and raging blizzards which once creeped the hell out of you now merely annoy the piss out of you. But perhaps I should mention a particular example where I had just picked up one of the nine major entries from a spooky glowing cabin that, sure enough, immediately triggered a tense moment where the anomaly suddenly spawned, ready to chase me through the forest. And since I didn’t want to start up any future games having to outrun him right off of the bat, that meant having to painstakingly backtrack through a ton of wilderness until I reached a new path where I then had to hope that I could deduce just where the heck a new note was, all for the privilege of just being able to save my damn game.
In the end, Kholat is a game with an interesting setup and concept that sadly gets bogged down by a set of questionable design choices. Hardcore survival horror fans and Sean Bean enthusiasts might get a kick out of it, but the rest of you had better run away from it like you would with an actual place called Dead Mountain.
Lego Jurassic World
I’d like to start off this review with a bit of anecdote (that I know is just repeated in the beginning of the above video as well, but I may as well bring it up in print form for those of you who prefer it that way). After I had accepted a forwarded e-mail message from Luke containing an invitation to review Lego Jurassic World, about a week or so later he had sent me a second forwarded e-mail message with what he said was an invitation to review another Lego game called Lego DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! And I was legitimately surprised, because I didn’t even know a new Lego DC game was coming out this year, and so soon at that…and as it turns out, a new game wasn’t coming out, because the press release was actually for a direct-to-video Lego movie that will be released next month (which Luke will be reviewing for Blu-Ray Today, FYI) [I I get it – haven’t yet – LYT].
Now obviously, this was just a harmless, impulsive misunderstanding on Luke’s end, but it did get me thinking: Has Lego’s formula of re-creating kid-friendly comedic takes on popular franchises gotten so formulaic and repetitive that we can’t even tell a Lego licensed movie apart from a Lego licensed game or any other similar Lego media, that all of it (minus The Lego Movie, of course) is now just part of the same homogenized mold? Well, I figured that with any luck, maybe Lego Jurassic World would actually represent a bold, new, innovative direction for the series and prove my theory wrong.
The end result is…well, let’s just say that luck wasn’t on Lego Jurassic World’s side.
Lego Jurassic World is an action-platformer based on the four Jurassic Park films, with five levels for each movie. In each level, you (or you and a friend) control two or more characters as you navigate a set of scenes from the film you’re in, bashing objects around you to either collect Lego studs for currency or for materials to build devices to bypass obstacles when needed, beating up the occasional enemy, and using certain characters to bypass additional obstacles only they can tackle to help solve puzzles. And the reason I’m not going into more detail about the core gameplay beyond that is because I am pretty much one hundred certain that if you have ever played or even seen any other Lego game in the past, you already know how to play this game.
About the only new addition this game brings to the table are playable dinosaurs that you can unlock along the way, complete with a little feature that allows you to customize your own dinosaur, Indominus Rex-style. It’s a cute idea, but the problem is that the majority of the dinos you unlock don’t show up until later on in the game, so you don’t get to do much with them before the end. In fact, most of them you can’t even unlock until you access areas of the game that can only be reached by characters you earn the right to play as later on. Hell, at least half of the game’s content basically requires you to replay entire levels again in order to find that one piece of amber or several minikits, because apparently this game is operating under the Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts belief that you have to play through the entire game at least twice in order to see everything.
But to be fair, there is still quite a bit to like about Lego Jurassic World as well, at least presentation-wise. Despite a complete lack of innovation and a few finicky moments, the gameplay is at least functional, and can still be fun at times. After all, smashing loads of scenery to pieces still has its charm. And minus the parts where you’re forced to replay levels with different characters, most of the puzzles are still simple yet well-designed. And while the “Recreate classic movie scene, but with wacky bits inserted” approach the Lego games are known for has gotten predictable, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t at least giggle during more than a few scenes as well. So there is still definitely some charm on display here.
Unfortunately, none of that charm shows up in the game’s audio. Why? Because during the cinematics, countless bits of “voice acting” are clearly just audio clips taken directly from the films. They stick out so much like a sore thumb that it completely takes you out of the mood, and this is especially blatant during the Jurassic Park III segments, like the developers just didn’t care about it (during the film nobody cared about, appropriately). And speaking of not giving a crap, I encountered quite a bit of bugs in the game, including at least three instances that forced me to quit and restart the game. I don’t know where my A.I. partner gained the power to mysteriously transport out of the entire level that we were in, but damn them for it.
In the end, Lego Jurassic World isn’t something I would call a bad game, and it has a few pleasing and exciting moments, but otherwise it still left the impression of a bland and unimaginative game that only exists as a functional product, like the gaming equivalent of a bowl of gruel with some sprinkles thrown on top of it. I finished the game with all films completed but over sixty percent of it still to unlock in the form of optional secrets, but despite the allure of playing as an unlockable Lego Jimmy Fallon that gets repeatedly attacked by raptors, I saw absolutely nothing that made me want to go back and replay things.
If any of you reply with anything along the lines of “Oh, it’s just a kid’s game, it doesn’t need to be that challenging or innovative” then please kindly get the hell out of here, because your backwards way of thinking isn’t welcome here. Kids deserve better than the same licensed game year after year, dammit. Life finds a way, and it’ll find a way long before we actually get an innovative licensed Lego game again.
…And yes, as you have noticed from the video above that annoyingly played automatically, I have indeed constructed a Let’s Play for Lego Jurassic World. You can check out Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 by clicking the links there, but unfortunately Parts 3 and 4 have muted sections at the moment because our fine friends at Twitch apparently didn’t have enough brain cells to realize that the official licensed Jurassic Park game just might include official licensed Jurassic Park music. So please bear with me here while I e-mail Twitch’s appeals department and wait for a reply (assuming they can actually find out how to turn their computers on).
The Next Penelope
Looking back on it, it may have been a mistake for me to review The Next Penelope.
Oh, not because The Next Penelope is a bad game. No, in fact, The Next Penelope is a really, really good game, one definitely worth checking out. But as it turns out, this is a game with a strong focus on local multiplayer (and even has it set up so two people or more can play on one keyboard), and without a required additional human being to allow me to enjoy it, my impressions of the game were basically limited to the single-player campaign.
So it’s a good thing that The Next Penelope’s single-player mode, while short, easily stands up on its own.
The story involves a sci-fi reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey set in the far future, as the titular Penelope sets out in a spaceship to find her husband Odysseus. To do so, she must visit several planets across the galaxy and confront various interplanetary versions of other notable mythological characters (Arachne, Charon, the Minotaur, et cetera), all of which just so happens to take the form of a top-down racing game/shooter hybrid. At its basics, The Next Penelope is an ode to classic old-school racing games such as Micro Machines (heck, Micro Machines is directly referenced when the game refers to its control schemes), and as such, control is notably simple; Press the left button to turn left, and the right button to turn right (revolutionary, isn’t it?) while acceleration is automatic. A gamepad is recommended to operate the weapons, though, which are easy to get used to and fire off…when you can.
See, The Next Penelope has a twist in that Penelope’s life meter is directly connected to the amount of energy powering her weapons. So every time you boost, fire a gun, teleport or such, you get closer and closer to crashing or dying, so you have to refill your energy with pads scattered around each track F-Zero-style. What this means is that a bit of strategy is needed for each race, time trial, or boss fight in order to succeed, and it provides a nice challenge. Plus, the ability to tackle each world in the order of your choosing and unlock new weapons in the order you want a la Mega Man is always welcome.
The graphics are absolutely stunning (and bonus points for including a retro TV filter that you can toggle on and off at any time with the press of a button), and the same goes for the techno music that sets the scene perfectly. The little cutscenes with the cartoonish character portraits are also lovely and help present a unique take on the source material, but they only happen at the beginning of each world, with no cinematics after you defeat a boss to help sum up what happened. Speaking of bosses, it might just be my own skills and play style, but more than a few of them seemed to revolve more around endurance than skill, where the winning strategy seemed to be to just spam the battlefield with Vampire Mines to damage foes and get energy, so it involved waiting for a long time more than anything.
However, those are relative nitpicks, and while The Next Penelope is still a bit on the short side (albeit with unlockable challenge tracks), the end result is still a classic yet unique cocktail of combat and racing not to be missed out on…especially if you have friends to play it with. And considering that this is all the work of one man – Aurelien Regard, behind everything from programming to music – that honestly makes things extra impressive. Bravo, Mr. Regard, bravo.
Nom Nom Galaxy
Nom Nom Galaxy is a quirky little Terraria-esque 2D simulation game where the goal is to help an intergalactic soup company deliver delicious canned goods to the masses among the stars and conquer their opposition to become the best in the business, which you achieve by mining for rare and tasty ingredients while constructing elaborate factories to brew up new products for the folks to consume. It features colourful, cartoonish graphics, and it’s one of the PixelJunk games, a series typically known for high-quality work (especially PixelJunk Eden). In theory, Nom Nom Galaxy is the type of indie game I eat up with a spoon…so why was I having trouble getting into it?
First off, I may as well say this: Nom Nom Galaxy is still very much a good game. Per the usual PixelJunk standards, the graphics are amazing, colourful, and vivid, and help craft some wonderful alien landscapes. Said landscapes are also incredibly fun to explore, mostly thanks to the help of a giant saw to help you easily carve them up in whatever way you please (although the downside with using a giant saw for this is that trying to pull off more precise cuts – especially with a PS4 controller – is a tad tricky). There’s also a great amount of strategy involved, mainly in being able to keep a balance between gathering ingredients while still being able to manage the actual factory.
I initially thought of a strategy where I would gather a variety of ingredients and planet then in a little garden next to the factory for an easy harvest, but this meant that my soup production was nil while I tried hunting for more rare ingredients, and the garden easily got in the way of future factory expansion. And this isn’t even getting into the wide variety of planets the game challenges you with, featuring different conditions such as having to build around petrified wood, picky eaters, or being allowed to only work with pre-built factory components in various locations.
It all definitely had the right formula for fun, so what was getting in the way?
Well, in a word: Competitiveness. Having to constantly compete against a rival mega-corporation means that unlike in most games of this nature, you never really have the opportunity to go at your own pace, since the game is constantly reminding you of any advancements your opponent is making, goading you on into moving faster and building in a hurry to start cranking out the soup in order to kick some corporation ass. The attempts by your rivals to send down alien fleets to wreck up your workspace also get annoying. You can build turrets on your factory to defend things, but given their limited range when it comes to enemy detection, I always found it more efficient to just jump up to the roof myself and swat the enemy away with a few blows from my hand, which was definitely quicker. And dear lord, did I get annoyed of the game closing each in-game day by suddenly cutting to a set of charts regarding that day’s production concerning me and my foe. It constantly felt like the game was forcibly hitting the pause button, especially since it just dropped me back in the same place I was afterwards with no real change, whether I was in my office or gathering mushrooms in a lake-filled cavern 200 feet below the earth.
You can essentially unlock a sandbox mode for each planet, but only after you complete your main objective on it and defeat your rival by gaining total market share. The end result is that you have to play through more of an action-puzzler before you earn the right to play with the simulation aspects that allow you to construct the crazy-ass intergalactic soup factory of your dreams. Again, a lot of it is still very good, and are enough for me to still recommend Nom Nom Galaxy overall, but the competitive parts just feel a tad awkward when combined with the game’s 2D platformer nature. But for those of you looking for a challenge like that combined with something unique, this is definitely your cup of tea (or Cup-a-Soup).
Well, that wraps up the reviews this month, and to answer the very first question you have, yes, we have played Batman: Arkham Knight, but considering how high-profile a game such as this is (and the fact that it’s Batman), we will be giving the game its own review in a full Daily List currently set for sometime next week. But if you want the abridged version, while Arkham Knight does have more than a few big annoyances that stand out (*cough*forcedbatmobilesections*cough*), it still has the same terrific gameplay the series is known for, and more than a few jaw-dropping moments, so hell yes, I’d say you should definitely pick it up.
Next time, however, we’re also going to be having a mess of reviews for such titles as Ronin, Rocket League, Guild of Dungeoneering, Traverser, and Gunpowder, among other games…which, um, judging by the schedule, I now all have to play through in about two and a half weeks. All while I’m working on a special project. Seriously, I need to organize my time better…well, trailers ahead now!
Given the current time of the month, the trailers this time around fall under four categories: Games we missed during E3, games we didn’t even know were at E3, games we saw or played at E3 but didn’t talk about for some reason, and games with actual trailers released right after E3. Try and guess which one is which!
Minecraft: Story Mode
Okay, I believe in Telltale when it comes to their ability to craft a quality graphic adventure out of seemingly any licensed property possible, but…well, am I the only one who thought Minecraft: Story Mode almost seemed like a parody when they first saw it? Like, doesn’t this feel like something a site like CollegeHumor might do to parody a Minecraft movie or something? And the celebrity voice cast (including Brian Posehn, Martha Plimpton, Paul Reubens, Corey Feldman, and Patton Oswalt as protagonist Jesse) containing some notable comedic actors probably doesn’t help. Odds are this will turn out to still be a solid game, but to say this feels weird might be an understatement. Although I am prepared to immediately laud it if Paul Reubens ends up playing an enderman with a full-on Pee-wee Herman voice.
How in the hell did we miss including Firewatch in our E3 coverage? I mean, this is a game that clearly has it all! Intrigue! Suspense! Drama! Exploration! Turtles! Indeed, this promising adventure about a fire lookout who has to leave his post and explore the park around him as he gradually begins to lose his sanity (OR DOES HE???) still keeps catching my interest. It all looks like it’s shaping up to be a rather captivating game, but seriously, that turtle, man. That’s just too adorable for me not to award points for.
So Allison Road is a spiritual successor to P.T., meaning that in addition to the ones for Banjo-Kazooie, Castlevania, and Mega Man, now we have the spiritual successor to a trailer for a Silent Hill game that got cancelled. What an age of creativity we live in. Still, my initial thoughts on P.T. were that it would be pretty sweet if even just that one trailer got stretched out into a whole game, so I’m not complaining.
Say, have you ever thought to yourself “Boy, I sure do love the Dark Souls games, but I wish they were somehow more old-school and were about $30 cheaper while still being able to include jaw-dropping graphics and boss battles.”? Then hot damn, do we have the game for you!!
I’m starting to regret not following up on that invite to check out Goliath at E3. Because while we may already have a gigantic surplus of survival games with crafting elements as is, we are notably lacking an amount of survival games where the items you craft are giant effing robots that you use to pummel the hell out of enemies. Promising stuff indeed, I say. Bonus point for the “Everybody makes mistakes, YOU MAKE GIANTS” tagline.
Dammit Epic Games, why is Fortnite not here yet?? Every moment I’m not playing as a ninja who has to rip apart giant robotic pi?atas and pizza parlors in order to gather materials to build demon-killing deathtraps is tearing me apart, and you know it! Is this revenge for just being all “meh” towards the Gears of War games? Because I’ll rethink my opinions on them if it means even just five minutes with this bit of cheerful insanity, promise!
In a previous article, I have already addressed the oddity of how for the past few years, my favorite Xbox game at each E3 is a new IP with a pre-rendered trailer that shows no real gameplay and doesn’t end up on the show floor that year, and yet I am still excited for it. That is kind of weird, but addressing it sure as hell isn’t stopping me from watching the ReCore trailer several times with a grin on my face. Me want more. NOW.
Hearing that Ninja Theory – the folks behind such games as Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry – are now developing their own psychological thriller that explores the issue of mental illness is something that feels like a bizarre change in tone…until you remember that one of the most popular games of the past year has been a philosophical puzzler from the makers of Serious Sam, so anything’s possible. It looks good so far anyway, so count me in as intrigued.
Given the level of depth the game boasts based on this trailer alone, I was curious if an entire game like Hitman could actually deliver what it promised when it launched on December 8th, just less than six months after it was announced. As it turns out, the answer is…no, they can’t actually deliver the entire game by then. Indeed, Hitman is going forth with a business model where $60 nets you a complete set of chapters but the rest of the game is updated in an episodic fashion free of charge with even more regular updates in between. IO Interactive have said that this is not episodic or Early Access, but rather something they call a “live experience,” which they also say has similarities between this and Early Access and episodic games, in what I can only assume is a further attempt to make our heads explode trying to understand things.
All I know is this: If the game we’re getting on December 8th is worth $60 as is (notably, it will be also be released as download-only at the start, with a physical release in 2016), I’ll be happy. And if the updates afterwards are frequent and add more good stuff to the game a la Splatoon’s current updates so far, I’ll be happier. But sheesh, this type of model had better not become industry standard, dammit.
Shadow Warrior 2
Flying Wild Hog hit it big a couple of years ago when they revived the classic ’90s FPS game Shadow Warrior and successfully transformed it into an incredible modern-day shooter that can probably be described as what Duke Nukem Forever frigging should have been. So a sequel was basically guaranteed, and based on the gameplay footage revealed so far, it looks like a huge batch of balls-out action and sheer awesomeness around every corner. Indeed, Shadow Warrior 2 is basically shaping up to be the only upcoming game based on a ’90s first-person shooter that matters, because I don’t see any other shooter in that category which will match this level of pure fun.
Okay, while Ashen looks good, I admit that at least 70% of why I want to play it is because of the giant floating fantasy whale at the end. I don’t even think I know why that makes me want to play this game, but dammit, I need to encounter the fantasy whale!!
Rise & Shine
I was kind of worried that Rise & Shine’s concept of setting an entire action-puzzler on a planet filled with various retro video game heroes might suggest an over-reliance on an overly meta gimmick, but the demo I played at E3 suggested a solid shooter indeed…at least until a particularly annoying puzzle I couldn’t get past. Still, everything else suggested a great mix of death and puzzles, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I was able to finally get a chance to play with Armello’s new character seen here at E3, and while the amount of time I was able to spare sadly wasn’t enough to fully appreciate a promising digital board game as deep as this, I did indeed have quite a hoot playing as Brun. As seen above, he’s definitely a cool character design. Plus, anything called a “Scarcaster” is a-okay in my book.
…Well, this is usually where I say goodbye for now, encourage you to leave feedback and comments, throw in some self-depreciating humor or such…but this time around, I have chosen to pay tribute to a very special man.
As many of you have heard, Nintendo president and video game legend Satoru Iwata passed away this weekend. Needless to say, the gaming community suffered a huge loss. After all, Iwata was basically a full-on icon with a friendly personality and a huge love of video games, celebrating all of the fun and joy they could bring audiences around the world. Even when I had my criticisms about Nintendo over the past few years, Iwata always remained likable, his Nintendo Direct presentations displaying his charming mannerisms and sense of humor that made him even more beloved by gamers everywhere.
But of course, even way before Nintendo Direct, Iwata was still an important fixture at Nintendo. He basically lived the dream-like career path we all wish for, having started out as a programmer on such titles as Balloon Fight, working for HAL Laboratory and eventually finding himself promoted all the way up to becoming the president of the company in 1993, where he then proceeded to actually save HAL from bankruptcy so they could live on to develop such titles as Earthbound with Iwata working on them. In 2002, he became the president of Nintendo and proceed to turn the company’s finances around for the better by encouraging production of the DS and Wii, two consoles that revolutionized gaming. Heck, even recently, when the Wii U’s sales were failing, it was Iwata himself who took a massive pay cut in order to keep things running smoothly. The man was just that kind to Nintendo and everyone working for them.
But looking back on it, I guess if there’s any one game that Iwata worked on that I treasure the most…it would be Kirby’s Adventure.
In retrospect, I probably should have included it in my personal list of the greatest games ever last month. The very first Kirby game, Kirby’s Dreamland, came out the previous year in 1992. It was a fun game Boy platformer indeed, and quite imaginative. I liked it a lot when I was a kid, so when I heard that the next game, Kirby’s Adventure, was coming out in 1993, I jumped at the chance to play it. My parents purchased a copy for me, and I found myself mesmerized by it. This was the time when most people were ignoring the NES, but Kirby’s Adventure showed what it could still be capable of. I remember the amazing graphics including the rotating tower, the glee in being able to try out Kirby’s then-new ability to swallow an enemy and absorb their powers for the very first time, combing over every inch a level to find all of the secrets within and unlock hidden areas in the hub levels…that game was my big hit of the summer of ’93.
And it was a success! So much that Kirby games kept coming over the years, several of which Iwata helped create in one way or another. And here’s the thing: I know this might sound like hyperbole, but I genuinely consider the Kirby series to be the greatest video game franchise ever. Really! Over twenty years, there has always been a steady stream of Kirby games, and I can’t think of a single one that disappointed. Every game was a solid, charming, kid-friendly romp that spanned multiple genres and appealed to countless gamers of all ages. It is Nintendo’s greatest, a series of games you can always depend on and always delights.
And it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Satoru Iwata. If it weren’t for him working his magic, HAL would have gone bankrupt soon after Kirby’s creation, and the franchise could have easily ended right then and there. The greatest franchise in video game history got its start thanks to one of the greatest men in video game history.
Satoru Iwata, you were behind one of the most defining games of my childhood, one of my favorite video game series as I grew up, and you still did much, much more beyond all of that. Your legacy amongst the video game world will not be forgotten, and we shall miss you deeply. Farewell.
“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”
R.I.P. Satoru Iwata, 1959 – 2015
Previous Editions of Robotic Gaming Monthly:
Robotic Gaming Monthly #13 – First-Year Anniversary! Kyle’s 10 Best Games of All-Time!
Robotic Gaming Monthly #12 – The Cancelation of The Mod Squad
Robotic Gaming Monthly #11 – Amiib-Oh No
Robotic Gaming Monthly #10 – Revenge of the Budget Game