One of my all-time favourite games is Thatgamecompany’s Flower for the Playstation 3. In fact, I have a soft spot for games that have a meditative quality to them (I’m looking at you, Journey). At Gamercamp 2014, on the second floor of the pop-up arcade, indie developer A Stranger Gravity was showing off a new drug for me called Apsis, which I’m sure I will end up playing for hours on end when it hits the market next year. There is still a ways to go in terms of the final product – but what I saw was enchanting, and I’m looking forward to the final product.
The Gamercamp pop-up arcade can be a very overwhelming place. There are so many games that it’s hard to choose which one to play at any given moment. Sometimes, though, the crowd will guide you to your next choice – by the sheer volume of their cheers. This is how I found 13AM Games’ Runbow tucked away in one of the corners of the second floor of Hotel Ocho. One of the few Wii U titles at Gamercamp, Runbow is all about quick reflexes in the face of adversity delivered by random chance. Judging by the screaming and yelling by the folks playing the game, it looked intensely fun!
When I was at Gamercamp this year, one of the first titles that I got to observe was a very cool Oculus Rift title called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The game puts an interesting spin on local co-operative game-play, not only pitting a team against the clock to solve a series of puzzles, but splitting them into two different groups who each only see a part of the overall picture. This asymmetrical format really turns everything topsy-turvy, and adds a level of tension that is positively addictive.
The year is 1988. On the Caribbean island of San Hermanos, a ruthless dictator has finally arrested the leader of the rebels. All seems lost…until you and your rag-tag band of mercenaries arrive. That sounds like as familiar and standard an entry as any in the Jagged Alliance series. You could apply that same description almost word-for-word to the fight against Santino (JA1) or Deidranna (JA2) and nobody would bat an eye. That’s a good sign for developers Full Control, who are aiming to take Jagged Alliance back to its roots with a prequel to JA1 entitled Jagged Alliance: Flashback.
Full Control come to this project by way of Kickstarter, having successfully raised enough funds to purchase the rights to the game and attract former JA2 designer Chris Camfield. They’ll need Camfield’s help, too, as there will no doubt be some serious expectations from the JA fans who put more than $350,000 in the hands of the Danish developers. Thankfully, Full Control have some experience in the realm of pleasing strict turn-based strategy fans – they were the team behind Space Hulk, a game I was generally positive on. If nothing else, Full Control’s work on Space Hulk proved they can handle the pressure of taking a licensed product and recreating it faithfully. That’s a key skill to have wading into the eel-infested waters of Jagged Alliance. Back in September, the team made the trek to Gamescom and showed off an alpha build. I was lucky enough to get a chance to fool around with that alpha build through Steam’s Early Access. Here are my first impressions in convenient video form (click above).
You know how action movies and comedies tend to be pretty formulaic, but consumers keep going to see the same recycled content anyway? People like to stick with what they know, and studios like placing safe bets. Generally speaking, games are often designed with the same approach. The aesthetic and story will try to be sufficiently distinguishable to have a hook, but the overall experience will mirror many games that preceded it. It’s especially nice, then, when a studio takes more of a risk and builds something that taps into several genres rather than one, and here is where we get to my subject. At this year’s Xbox Media Showcase I was treated to the first 40 minutes of Sunset Overdrive and then chatted a bit with Marcus Smith from Insomniac Games. Both experiences were quite pleasant.
Events like X14 aren’t ideal for Kinect music games – the attendees are generally a bunch of awkward, uncoordinated games journalists, and it’s generally difficult to not feel goofy when flailing in front of a TV – let alone when the ambient racket makes it impossible to hear what exactly you’re supposed to be gyrating along to. Somehow, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved rose above these elements to impress upon me that this is a musical toy box that provides a more intense ‘hit’ of Disney Magic™ than any piece of media in recent memory.
I got a quick hands-off tour of the Xbox One version.
I really loved Forza Horizon when it came out almost 2 years ago. At X14, the Xbox media preview event, along with the normal stand-up game stations, there was a nice living room-like setup with some gaming stations loaded up with Forza Horizon 2. I sat down and played it for a while, and had even more fun than I did when I tried it at Fan Expo last month. Later on, I got to hang out with Jon Knoles from Turn 10 Studios and chat a little bit about the game.