Monday Musings 5/5/14
Happy Cinco de Mayo faithful Short Pause readers! From the Department of Duh!, Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for the fifth of May! According to Wikipedia, Cindo de Mayo "originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of thanks to Mexico in fending off the would be French invasion of the U.S.." Often, Cinco de Mayo is mistakenly thought to be a celebration of Mexican independence, a day which is actually observed on September 16th, remembering the start of the Mexican War for Independence in 1810.
So, join me in recognizing MercurySteam, Tequila Works, and all of our other awesome Spanish game designers out there for all of their hard work! But, that's enough history talk for one Musings, let's get on with the games!
Sony's Indie Extravaganza
Last week, Sony held something of a surprise (at least, to you and me) indie event at their offices in California where they unveiled a slew of new indie titles arriving for PlayStation platforms in the near future. While some of them have appeared on other platforms previously, this is the first time most of these titles will be appearing on a PlayStation system, or a console of any kind for that matter. This is an exciting list of titles, so let's break down what we can expect from the newly unveiled games!
Out of all the games on this list, this may be the one I'm the most excited to get my hands on. A 2D, side-scrolling, "metroidvania" action/adventure destined for the PS4 and Vita, Axiom Verge gives players control over in-game glitches inspired by the now infamous and retro-charming gaming mishaps we remember from the 8-bit NES days. Flicker the screen to unveil a new path or pixelate the screen to scramble an enemy. Obviously, the game is heavily inspired by Metroid and Super Metroid, and will come equipped with a wealth of weapons and upgrades, a thumping techno/8-bit soundtrack, and 9 distinct areas to explore that are all connected on the greater world map. I love the idea of using glitches as an in-game ability, and this one looks and sounds so promising. This cross-buy — and probably cross-save — enabled title is currently on track for an early 2015 release.
Spelunky is Coming to PS4
Not much more needs to be said about Derek Yu's procedurally generated, cave diving opus, Spelunky. All of the brutal and unforgiving difficulty, angry Yetis, and hidden alien motherships return in the PS4 version, this time rendered in glorious 1080p. Spelunky PS4 also looks to take advantage of the system's social features, including the ability to upload replays to the leaderboards (which sounds awesome!). So, strap on a jet pack, find a hidden shotgun, and piss off a shopkeeper on Sony's shiny new box in the near future!
Oh, and the game is cross-buy, meaning owners of the PS3 and Vita version get the PS4 version at no additional cost! Awesome!
Nidhogg brings "side-scrolling, competitive fencing action" to the PS4! Previously a hit PC game, the developers have described this as a game best suited to a controller, so the DualShock 4 version of this interesting looking title is set-up to be the definitive version of the game. With stylized, Atari-like graphics and fast-paced, quick strike gameplay, this one looks to be a future party hit! I got this sort of Towerfall meets Bushido Blade vibe from it, and I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this award-winning, revered title for the first time on consoles.
Originally released on the PC back in 2011, Jamestown Plus is a classic, arcade/16-bit era shoot-em-up designed with co-op in mind. Set on a future British Colonial Mars, this enhanced version of the bullet hell shmup is packing new ships, new levels in the form of moons Deimos and Phobos, and new story content that fleshes out and finishes the original Jamestown tale. Having never played the original title, I don't have any experience with this franchise, but it sounds like the gameplay will be heavily dependent on how well you work with a partner or 3 — the game supports up to four players — and it's up to you and your team to work together to survive the wiles of the Martian moons.
One thing I'm disappointed to see is that this appears to be a local co-op only game, with no current plans to include online multi-player via PSN. The developer has cited that they've looked into this, and that since the game was originally designed with local co-op only in mind (via the PC), its been difficult to try and reverse engineer the game to work with online co-op as well. I'm by no means a master programmer, and don't claim to know much about the behind-the-scenes development process, but it just seems like there is something that could be done to get this game up and running over PSN. Come on Sony, step in here and help these guys get this thing online enabled! Too many of these co-op focused games are releasing with the option for local co-op only. I have a family, with a wife and kids, and my gaming time is often relegated to late night play sessions after everyone else has gone to bed. It's impossible for me to have access to local co-op the majority of the time, due to work schedules and familial obligations, so the lack of online co-op is a real downer and severely decreases my interest in titles designed around cooperative play. I know I can't be the only one out here who has this problem! Games like this, Towerfall: Ascension, and Sportsfriends I would love to be able to play with friends, but unfortunately, the logistics of us coming together to play are not always feasible.
That said, I'm definitely still excited to get my hands on Jamestown Plus, as I have always loved the shmup genre. Fans can head to Colonial British Mars this summer.
A procedurally generated, sprawling, open-world recreation of space spanning tens of thousands of galaxies? Check. Play the game as you choose, becoming anything from a peaceful ore miner to a lawless pirate? Check. A hauntingly beautiful, pulsing space soundtrack courtesy of Danny Baranowsky? Check. Drifter, hitting PS4 and Vita sometime in the near future, sounds like a supremely cool game based around the idea of space exploration. I love the ideas on display here, and I've always been a big fan of spaceship games (R.I.P. Colony Wars), so this looks to be one right up my alley. The fact that's its on both PS4 and Vita is just icing on the cake.
This one is definitely in my wheelhouse. Chasm, coming to the PS4, is a side-scrolling, metroidvania, procedurally generated action RPG (Whew!). The PS Blog write-up for this game is really interesting, as designer James Petruzzi explains in explicit detail the procedurally generated design philosophy of the game. While the room-to-room layout will vary in structure and enemy placement on subsequent playthroughs, the story and world will flow naturally and encourage exploration like all great metroidvania games. Watching the trailer, I was struck with a Castlevania-meets-almost-Secret of Mana kind of vibe that I thought was really cool. The developer has also noted his desire to bring the game to the Vita, with the hopes of an announcement later this year! This would be perfect on the Vita, James! I would love to see it happen! Keep your eyes on this one, kids.
Escape Goat 2
With a name like Escape Goat 2, how could you not be excited to get your hands on this game?! A recent PC release, and the first ever "Double Fine Presents..." game, Escape Goat 2 is coming to a PS4 near you the way it was originally intended to be played: on the couch with a controller! I love the clean, cartoony graphical style on display in this puzzle platformer. It reminds me somewhat of Guacamelee!, which oddly enough, also prominently features an important goat (love you Uay Chivo!). Tasked with rescuing your sheep friends from an oppressing evil, your goat also employs the services of his mouse companion to solve the games perplexing puzzles. This is another one that would be great on the Vita as well. I'm really digging this game from what I have seen, and I can't wait to get my hands on it soon!
This is probably the most mysterious game on this list. Supplied with only an interesting and almost existential write-up of the game, along with some beautiful screenshots, this game appears to be a unique take on the metroidvania genre. Taking the role of a firefly inspired by nature, you inhabit a Tron-esque world of abstraction and "bio-luminescence," teeming with wonder and ripe for exploration. Devoid of any kind of video or trailer, it's unclear exactly how this plays, but it appears to involve flying around a 3D world as opposed to the standard 2D plane most metroidvania titles employ. With the little information I have, I'm getting this Flower meets-Tron-meets-Metroid vibe from this game, and that sounds beyond cool! This game looks and sounds completely and totally awesome, and I'm dying to know more about it!
The innovative worlds and gameplay mechanics of these indie titles are super exciting, and this trend continues into Ironclad Tactics for the PS4! A tactical (duh!), card based strategy game highlighted by comic book visuals, an American Civil War-with-robots setting, and fast paced gameplay, this game sounds ridiculously cool. I love the in-game graphic novel that tells the story (seriously, it looks amazing), and the idea of fast paced, 10-second turns in a tactics based card game is refreshing to hear! Oh, and the game has real, ONLINE co-op/competitive multi-player over PSN! Recently released on Steam, this looks to be a great fit for the growing PS4 library. Developer Zachtronics is also looking into the possibility of a future Vita version as well. This just keeps getting better! Watch the trailer below and try to wipe that smile off your face.
Alien Trap Games' Apotheon, destined for PS4, immediately grabs you with its stunning visual design. Inspired by the kind of classical Greek art one might find on an ancient Grecian pot, this Bronze Age brawler most definitely looks the part. I love that the combat is heavily skill based, introducing you to a set of moves and tactics and allowing you to utilize these skills in any way you see fit. It seems almost Ninja Gaiden Sigma in the way it provides a set of basic moves and tasks you with developing the skills necessary to jump, roll, strike, and exploit enemy weaknesses. The combat looks fun and fluid, and the weapon crafting element, necessary as the weapons in this game have limited durability, sounds like a great addition to this 2D side-scroller, providing some extra depth to the gameplay. I'm excited to take on the Gods of Olympus whenever this releases!
Starwhal: Just the Tip
The evocatively named Starwhal: Just the Tip is bringing frantic, four-player mayhem to a PS3 (hey, remember that guy?) or PS4 near you. In what I can best describe as Ecco the Dolphin meets Super Smash Bros., Just the Tip finds you taking control of a space-faring aquatic mammal tasked with eliminating the opposing whale in front of you. There's something simple, yet comforting, about a game strictly about beating the guy across from you. There's no real story to speak of, as Starwhal: Just the Tip is a gameplay driven affair. I also like that idea that you need to control your flailing narwhal before you can possibly hope to slay your enemy in battle. This game looks like a good bit of party fun, but with no mention of online support at all, this looks to be a couch-only competitive experience. Steam veterans will be happy to know the game features improvements over the previous version, such as a new Challenge Mode and competitive Versus Modes.
Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition
I was ultra-pumped when I heard about this one! I've admired the original XBLA game from afar for a long time now, and I'm dying to finally get this game — in an enhanced version, no less — on a PlayStation platform! Built to be a quick paced, turn-based strategy game, Skulls of the Shogun finds players assuming the role of a fallen Shogun amassing an undead army to reclaim his honor. Series veterans will recognize the beautifully animated graphics and signature, Advance Wars-inspired gameplay, while also appreciating the wealth of new content available in the form of new single-player missions, a new Tanuki Monk unit, and new multi-player maps based on the new single-player content. When answering an inquiry regarding whether or not we can expect Skulls to show up on the Vita as well, 17-Bit producer Raj Joshi confirmed, "we think Skulls would be awesome on Vita! And... we're exploring that possibility :)." I agree Raj! I can't wait to try this one out!
Don't Starve: Reign of Giants
We've known for awhile now that Klei's delightfully brutal, procedurally generated survival sim, Don't Starve, would be receiving an expansion in the form of Reign of Giants. After a tour on Steam Early Access, the DLC is officially out on the PC now, with the PS4 version not far behind. The DLC looks to add some wonderfully fun-looking hulking beasts to the survival mix, making things even more difficult for our intrepid survivalist, Wilson. I really love the way this game kind of just throws you to the wolves and has you figure out how to survive, and the art style in this game is so spectacular that I want to fire it up every time I lay eyes on it. I'm itching to play this game some more, and the impending release of Reign of Giants sounds like as good a time as any to jump back into Klei's disturbingly wicked world.
Honorable Mention: Chariot
While not unveiled as part of last week's indie event at Sony HQ, this one was was recently revealed on the PS Blog to the PlayStation faithful, and deserves a mention here as well. Another local co-op game (let the lamenting of online support commence :(), Chariot finds you in the roll of a princess and her fiancé tasked with depositing the remains of her kingly father in a tomb fit for a fallen ruler. This a more light-hearted title meant to be played with friends and family, and the cartoony graphics reinforce this, while at the same time looking quite beautiful. I'm really into the idea of exploring this cave with your chariot in tow, utilizing both characters to solve puzzles and find loot to satisfy the King's greedy ghost (I love this!). While PSN support appears to be a no-show, developer Frima Studio promises this will be a fun solo experience as well. It looks great and I'm looking forward to playing it!
Stealth Inc. 2 is confirmed!...
...but it's a Wii U exclusive, at least for the time being. My reaction: WTF?! Followers of Short Pause and the Musings know that I have a deep love for the original Stealth Inc.: A Clone in the Dark on PS3 and Vita, and the announcement of a sequel is something I should be ridiculously excited for. But unfortunately, developer Curve Studio has decided to *ahem* throw us a curve and initially make the game a Wii U exclusive because they, "love Nintendo, and want to give Iwata a hug." I understand the deep love and nostalgia for Nintendo and their products (we all feel this on some level as gamers, I think), but I'm not sure I understand the logic in bringing a series whose fans are on the PC and PlayStation over to the Wii U exclusively. Sure, it's a great boon for Nintendo to have a spectacular franchise on their platform, but I'm not sure it makes total business sense for Curve. The Wii U is struggling to get a foothold in the market, with little presence in the indie sector, so releasing your game exclusively through the Wii U on the eShop — with its notoriously poor discoverability — doesn't seem like the best move.
Of course, part of me is just pissed because I'd love to play it on my PlayStation. I don't have a Wii U and I'm not really planning to get one until Smash Bros. forces me to, but this game started on the PlayStation and PC, and at the very least, it should return here day-and-date with the newly announced Wii U version! A similar thing is happening with Bayonetta 2 — although under very different circumstances, with reports of Nintendo needing to the fund the project in order for it to even be made — where series fans are located on a rival console, with the sequel arriving on the Wii U. It makes sense in Bayonetta's case, with regards to the funding, but I don't understand the reasoning as much with Stealth Inc. 2, beyond the "we love Nintendo" stuff.
When prodded about the possibility of the sequel arriving on other platforms, design director Jonathan Biddle coyly responded, "We're just talking about Wii U today," which is the standard industry euphemism for, "Yeah we're making this game elsewhere as well, but our contract only let's us talk about this one today." So, all hope is not lost, and a PS4/PS3/Vita version is almost a future given, but man, I would love to get my hands on this game and earn some trophies...