Note: This article was written in cooperation with fellow editor Annagram.
Wednesday, August 22, was the second day of Gamescom 2018, and had its fair share of arcade games, third-person action, RPG gaming, but also classic point-and-click adventure, puzzle, and VR fun with courtesy of Marchsreiter Communications, Agnieszka Szóstak‘s PR Outreach, Application Systems Heidelberg, and PR consultant Emily Morganti.
Caged Element‘s GRIP: Combat Racing is an arcade racing game that brings back the good old times of the fun Rollcage titles that didn’t only feature futuristic cars and tracks, but also the ability to seamlessly race over walls and even ceilings due to the vehicles’ construction that allowed them to be driven on both chassis sides, while trying to blast the opponent away and make it to the finish line first.
It’s no surprise to see Robert Baker who was originally involved in these games, lend his expertise here as well. The game title might have changed, but the frantic action on screen, complete with colorful explosions and a sense of speed that makes realistic driving games look pedestrian in comparison, stays true to the original concept. While Rollcage didn’t quite make a splash like the WhipeOut titles that have been milked over the years in various forms, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t remembered fondly, as I still have the second one on disc in my collection. Nostalgia aside, GRIP: Combat Racing is instantly fun to play, looks and sounds great, offers more than enough variety with 15 cars, 22 tracks, and different modes, including Carkour which requires a lot of dexterity navigating the futuristic tracks with their loopings, half-pipes, and various drops from high above. We played the local 4 split-screen multiplayer, and it was already a blast.
The game is currently on Steam Early Access, but will be released for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and even for Nintendo Switch on November 6 2018.
Haemimont Games‘ Victor Vran: Overkill Edition on Nintendo Switch provides hack-and-slash RPG action in pocket-size if one wants to. Including the add-ons Fractured Worlds and Motörhead: Through the Age, this should be enough to entertain fans of the series on the couch or on the go, especially if one is into local multiplayer, but also into online gaming, the former giving two players and the latter four players the opportunity to battle through legions of the undead with all sorts of weapons, including guns, swords, and magic.
We only played a short round of single-player on the small Switch screen, and while the size and fixed camera perspective made it a bit difficult to make out what was happening, just holding something akin to a Diablo-inspired game in your hands is certainly a selling point. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of time, so I can’t say much else about it except that it was rather easy to get to grips with the controls and it was quite satisfying to make it through waves of enemies, accompanied by some cool-looking lighting effects.
The game is already out on Switch in both digital as well as retail form.
LKA‘s The Town of Light is a first-person exploration game about the inhuman practices in the Italian Volterra asylum where the 16-year old Renée is locked up because of her schizophrenic tendencies and has to endure all the suffering that patients of the real location had to witness as well. Being a thought-provoking game mixing fact and fiction, the player slowly discovers what happened to the girl in the institution.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play the new Switch version due to technical problems, but we were given an art book that featured all kinds of concept work as well as real photos taken at the location. So despite not actually experiencing the game, seeing how the mental institution was meticulously reconstructed was frightening but also intriguing enough to hopefully explore it in the near future.
The Nintendo Switch version will be on par with the updated PC, Xbox One, and PS4 releases from June 2017 (with the original game being from 2016), including new puzzles, more story elements, re-worked voice acting and dialogues, as well as new interactive scenes and a revised user interface, but it will also have a collection of Switch-exclusive documentary content. It should be available at the end of September 2018.
Anshar Studios‘ Telefrag is a VR arena-based first-person shooter with a unique spin that allows players to get rid of their enemies by teleporting into them. But unlike Unreal Tournament or Quake, there isn’t any blood and guts flying into one’s face (although that would be an interesting feature to add, come to think of it). This makes the game much more open to a wider audience, even if the VR perspective certainly isn’t for everyone.
Moving too fast, especially when one’s feet are glued to the surface and one’s perspective suddenly drops 90 degrees when walking up a wall or looking down from the ceiling, is definitely unsuitable for a weak stomach. Dashing forward isn’t so bad, but it needs some getting used to. At this early stage of development, there isn’t a lot one can say about the game, except that its futuristic space aesthetics are a reminiscent of Portal, although one won’t find any puzzles or tongue-in-cheek humor, only simple shooter fun if one can handle the VR. Aiming and controls work quite nicely, and the unique teleportation/frag mechanic remains a stand-out feature.
There isn’t any information about the release date yet, but it’s possible to play the game on Steam Early Access that requires a VR headset.
As Telefrag was recommended as a slow introduction to VR for an early morning stomach and it already had its fair share of nauseating moments (like the 90 degrees drop in perspective), I felt the worst when Anshar Studios‘ PS VR game Detached was promoted as a much more intense first-person space adventure/simulation VR hybrid. Fortunately if one took it slowly, it was a surprisingly better experience, although it might have to do with the playable segments serving as a tutorial to familiarize oneself with the controls and the zero gravity movement.
Anyone who’s watched the movie Gravity will experience a dream (or nightmare) come true, as the sense of floating in a space station, using throttles to increase and decrease speed to prevent crashing into obstacles and crack one’s visor is unparalleled. The graphics might not be the best they can be, but the sound design is pretty realistic and adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. While the game’s VR still needs some getting used to, it doesn’t take too long to move around, pick up objects one needs for progression and pull levers to get to the next stage. Of course this isn’t rocket science in terms of puzzle solving, but it’s still a very immersive experience. With the new multiplayer update, one can even test one’s skills and (more likely) stomach to race for objects or through rings, but as rolling around a few times was enough to make me close my eyes, I’d rather stick with the adventure mode. However, judging from the trailer, there will be quite a few time-sensitive sequences requiring much faster reflexes and barrel-rolling that won’t be to anyone’s tastes. Still, as far as VR experiences go, this remains a unique proposition.
The game is already out now on both PC and PS4. For those who just want to have a go at a VR-less space simulation, can do this with the PC version as well. Those brave enough can use the PC VR equipment.
After all the excitement of VR gaming and fast-paced arcade racing, it was quite relaxing to stop by at Application Systems Heidelberg to have a first glimpse at Grundislav Games‘ (aka Francisco Gonzalez) upcoming point-and-click adventure game Lamplight City that is set in a Steampunk version of Victorian times and offers the player more than one way to solve a crime.
I already reviewed Gonzalez’ first game A Golden Wake, and while it wasn’t the most exciting tale of the American Dream, the atmosphere was spot on. The sense of place also applies here, although the color palette is much darker, which reflects the much more engaging mystery tale about detective Miles Fordham who hunts down his partner’s killer. During the investigation of five cases, one can also fail in one’s decisions, so just as in real life, the wrong people can be accused and convicted, similar to Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes game Crimes and Punishments. From the first looks and sounds of it, the voice acting was quite good, the background sounds were atmospheric, and the dialogues weren’t too long. It should also be noted that one won’t have an inventory with items, which might put off some old-school adventurers, but if the story is good enough, then the investigative parts should be reason enough to keep the player going.
The game will be released on PC on September 13, 2018, so only one day to go!
Dongleware‘s Oxyd is a re-imagining of the classic 1990 physics-based puzzler that combines both hand-eye coordination and memorization. I still remember having played the original on a shareware CD, the equivalent of today’s demo versions, and it’s a memory of being happy a few times to have finished the next level and frustration of not having achieved that goal many times. The main idea is to navigate a marble and make it open stones in the correct order, i.e. touching the same symbols that lie hidden behind grey stones. While this sounds easy enough, more and more devious mechanics are introduced to spice things up, e.g. lasers or an invisible string that makes the marble bounce back and forth.
We had the privilege to talk with original designer Meinolf Amekudzi (formerly Meinolf Schneider) who explained to us why he wanted to go back to the game, while he also showed us what you could do with the landscape editor and how levels were constructed. The original idea was Oxyd should play in a browser, with the fan community being a big part of it, creating their own levels as well. What is even more interesting is the inclusion of a multiplayer mode in which up to 8 players should participate and cooperate, although it might be difficult to communicate when 8 balls are bouncing around and falling into all sorts of traps. Still, this is a game that should be on anyone’s radar who is interested in puzzle games that surprise the player with new gameplay mechanics and reward creativity in solving puzzles in different ways.
The game will release on PC, but a date hasn’t been set yet, while other platforms haven’t been announced, either.
Scarecrow Studio‘s 3 Minutes to Midnight is a classic point-and-click adventure game set in the 1940s that combines a sci-fi story with comedy elements. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other references, as the demo we played took place at a camp that is called Crystal Lake for a very special reason, as this harked back to the place where the iconic 80ies maniac murderer Jason would go on a teenagers killing spree (see the Friday the 13th I-X and remake Halloween movie special).
The graphical style is reminiscent of Pendulo Studios’ Runaway games, which means that the detailed backgrounds and characters could be right out of a comic book. The voice acting is also quite professional. Gameplay-wise it’s everything a classic adventure game fan would want, with enough item combinations, but not an overflowing inventory, at least in the playable demo. The humor works great, not only if one is aware of pop culture references. If meeting a girl with twitching eyes, two different voices, and holding a machete in her hand is any indication, then this should be a crazy ride soon.
The game will be released sometime in 2019 on PC as well as consoles and mobile devices.
Blindflug Studios‘ Airheart is a dieselpunk airplane arcade action game that doesn’t only reward experimentation, but also cooperation in the upcoming Switch version. Originally released on PC and recently on Xbox One, the game is all about building and upgrading one’s plane to make it to the next level. Taking place in the sky, transitions between stages are without loading times, only requiring to get rid of turrets and enemy planes that defend a portal-like structure to go even higher. Even if the name of the protagonist and the title’s pun are an obvious reference to US flight pioneer Amelia Earhart, one doesn’t need any knowledge of flight simulations, as the gameplay and controls are very accessible, although it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy game.
The exclusive selling feature of the Switch version we played is the local multiplayer option that gives players control over a zeppelin, i.e. one flies it and the other one shoots enemies or catches power-ups or even fish with a harpoon. While this is highly reminiscent of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, it’s still quite a different experience to glide through the clouds instead of space. If this warrants another purchase for those owning the PC or Xbox One editions, everyone has to decide for themselves. It certainly was a lot of fun playing it during the short presentation time, even if it was only in two-player co-op.
The Nintendo Switch version is scheduled for an autumn 2018 release date.
ByteRockers’ Games‘ Gelly Break is a cute puzzle/action platformer that takes co-op play to the next level. Everyone who’s persevered through the devious but excellent Splosion Man or the even more cruel and more bonkers Ms. Splosion Man with a friend knows what real pain means when one fails for the umpteenth time to miss a perfect jump. This title is a much more family-friendly affair that makes cooperative play more enjoyable, although it doesn’t mean that one won’t have to try again a few times to get some sections right.
Despite also being able to play it alone, the real fun starts when one takes on the role of the green and the other the role of the orange Gelly that have to get on top of each other’s heads to solve puzzles. As there are always platforms that can carry a Gelly with the appropriate color, the only way to progress is to carry the other one and then quickly change positions for the next obstacles. What sounds easy enough in theory still requires a lot of partner work and actually remembering who is who. As with the best of puzzle-platformers, more mechanics are slowly introduced, e.g. with one character on top firing blob pellets at enemies, while the other below moves around. During the short playtime of just 10 minutes, we couldn’t experience everything, e.g. some big boss fights, but the cute graphics and smooth animations did their best to win us over. So anyone interested in some fun co-op play or even in testing their skills in simultaneous actions alone should keep this on the radar.
The game is due to release in Q3 of 2018 on Nintendo Switch as an exclusive.
Z-Software‘s Pilot Sports is an arcade-style flight game that takes accessible fun and vibrant colors in a tropical setting instead of realistic flight behavior. Anyone familiar with Nintendo games will obviously see where the inspiration comes from: Pilot Wings. Basically, it’s a Nintendo Switch game not developed by Nintendo in a nutshell: giving players of different demographics the opportunity to get into planes, jetpacks, parachutes, and two different gliders to race against time and achieve specific goals in a relaxed and colorful environment.
While we didn’t have the time to try out the 4-player-splitscreen mode, it’s clear to see that this will provide the most party fun, as everyone tries to be first in whatever flying construction one is in. With over 50 courses and 7 different challenges, this casual-friendly title should still provide plenty of reasons to return to it. Graphics-wise it offered some nice backdrops with little details like sailing ships to take in, highlighting the fact that it’s pleasing for the eye to watch as well.
The game is due to release this September 2018 on Nintendo Switch, but also on PS4.
FAKT Software‘s Crazy Machines VR is the next evolution of the physics-based puzzle series that was inspired by the classic The Incredible Machine games. It again gives the player construction tools that have to be put in the right spot in order to set a chain reaction of events in motion to achieve a certain goal. All sorts of contraptions have to interact with each other to make this mechanism work, and now it’s even more immersive with the use of VR.
Unfortunately we only had 5 minutes time for this title, so we couldn’t really try out any level, but only played a bit in a menu where all sorts of objects could be picked up and thrown around. As there seemed to be zero gravity, it felt as if being in a space shuttle (but without the nausea usually associated with it) and even the mundane spinning of a can was fun. One could also put objects in a box where multiple versions of them popped out. Of course this didn’t offer anything particularly engaging in terms of gameplay, but it still gave an impression that the PS VR equipment was quite responsive and the comic visuals were nice as well. Taking into consideration that a physics-based puzzler cries out for a true VR experience, this could be something very special indeed.
The game will be released in 2018 on both PS4 and PC.
Rebellion‘s Strange Brigade is third-person co-op shooter set in the 1930ies that mixes classic adventure exploration with supernatural elements. However, this certainly is no Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones game, despite taking place in temples, jungles, and other exotic places, as the number of horror enemies like pirate skeletons, zombies, or giant scorpions makes it clear that the setting is more than just a little bit bonkers.
Despite also being able to play alone, the multiplayer part is probably more fun, as we could see in our online session against some other people in the same room. While we didn’t communicate, helping each other out with so many enemies attacking from all sides instantly put a smile on our faces. This is an easy-to-get-in game that rewards the player with non-stop shooting and smashing fantastic creatures to bits while collecting all sorts of treasure on the way. Choosing different classes with their unique abilities and weapons also added to variety. Using a shotgun and blasting a skeleton to bits or throwing a zombie back and stomping on it afterwards hasn’t been this much fun since… well, forever, without any bloodshed, as the violence doesn’t rely on blood and gore, but could be compared to the Brendan Fraser The Mummy adventure movies, including lots of tongue-in-cheek humor.
The game is already out on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, so anyone who likes their adventuring with supernatural blasting, should give this a go.
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