This past weekend was PAX East in Boston. We were at the show, but not in any official, ‘coverage blowout’ capacity. Yet, we did manage to play a lot of video games. And some of those video games really blew us away, forcing our hand to come up with this very idea for an article (look how adaptive we are!).
The following games are ones that have yet to come out, but you should definitely be paying them some mind. Who knows, some of these might wind up being the next ‘it’ game, or they could set the stage for their developers to be as well known as your Epics, Double Fines and Naughty Dogs.
If someone came up to me and told me I would enjoy a first-person puzzle/hacking game based on DOS commands, I would tell them they’re absolutely insane. But that’s what Quadrilateral Cowboy is, and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive once you actually get your hands on it. The title is being created by Blendo Games, a company whose sole developer is Brendon Chung, best known for creating the 15-minute mindf*ck known as Thirty Flights of Loving.
Much like Thirty Flights, Quadrilateral Cowboy is an abstract title, but not so much that it’s off-putting. Clever use of tutorial messages in the game's environment help players grasp the concept of hacking via DOS prompts, and the experience is an empowering one as you get further in. This might be the most authentic representation of hacking in a video game yet, and it’s also one of the most fun.
I was sold on this game when I saw its first trailer (pasted above). But I got to actually play Transistor this past weekend and it absolutely delivered. The art-style is eye catching; the music, from what I’ve heard, is just as memorable as the tunes from Supergiant Games’ previous effort, Bastion; and the gameplay caters to both action fans and those looking for a deeper strategy experience. Transistor appears to deliver the whole package. Pay attention to this one.
I tried Battleblock Theater for the first time what seems like forever ago, and the game’s come a long way since. It’s a two-player cooperative experience (or solo if that’s your thing), where you and your partner act out sadistic plays for oppressive cats. I should also mention it’s developed by The Behemoth, the same folks who did the amazingly off-the-wall Castle Crashers. That should explain the ridiculous plot a smidge.
BattleBlock Theater has a ton of unlocks, a great sense of humor (clearly), and gameplay that’s actually built around you and your partner working together to get past the game’s puzzles and ridiculous obstacles, like the raccoon/moose/bear/domo/dog thing.
Battleblock Theater releases on Xbox Live Arcade on April 3.
Children of Liberty
Picture a 2D stealth game where you’re a group of teenage children during the Revolutionary War period helping Paul Revere accomplish his Midnight Ride. That’s Children of Liberty. The game has a childish aesthetic (as seen in the trailer above), almost as if it was a Saturday morning cartoon, and it features gameplay that’s simple to grasp but totally works within the system at play.
The current build of the game is available now through Desura, but developer Lantana Games is trying to get the game on Steam, too, via the Steam Greenlight program. So hit up that link and do your part to make that a reality.
For developer Klei Entertainment (Shank, Mark of the Ninja), Don’t Starve is a game very much out of their wheelhouse. For starters, it isn’t a 2D side-scroller with a distinct path, but is instead a 3/4-top-down-view game with a randomly generating world and monsters where you have but one goal – survive.
In your adventures you’ll find weapons and resources scattered across the land that you must gather and use wisely to keep your health up and to build structures such as campfires and farms in order to live day to day. When you do eventually succumb to sweet, sweet death, the game restarts with a completely new world.
This is the first game Klei is self-publishing, so at the moment it’s headed only to PC and the Chrome browser. But if a publisher comes along, Klei is open to bring Don’t Starve to other platforms such as Mac, and maybe consoles.
Legend of Dungeon
Developed by just one guy, Legend of Dungeon is an addictive dungeon crawler with a throwback art style reminiscent of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery. The goal of Legend of Dungeon is to delve into the darkest depths of a dungeon, retrieve the treasure at the bottom and safely work you way back out. It’s easier said than done, though.
The game can be played solo or cooperatively with up to three other players. I dove in headfirst with three companions and it was utter madness, but in the best of ways. As you can see from the above trailer, Legend of Dungeon has a great sense of humor, thanks in large part to the aforementioned visual style.
Drinkbox Studios, the developer behind Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, has created a game based around Mexican lore that takes heavy gameplay inspiration from exploration titles such as Metroid and Castlevania. Guacamelee! is all about exploring the beautifully vibrant world, unlocking new abilities to access new areas and finding awesome treasure. There’s also a story at play here, and it features some ridiculously out-there stuff, such as the protagonist’s mentor being able to transform at will into a goat.
The game is headed to PlayStation 3 and PS Vita within the month. We don’t yet know if it will be part of Sony’s Cross-Buy/Cross-Play promotion. According to Drinkbox, we should have that information very soon. Either way, you should pick it up for at least one system, if not both.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Odds are you don't need to be told what Splinter Cell is. But here's the thing; Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the only major release that impressed me enough to make this list. And that’s saying quite a bit, considering I thought the Splinter Cell franchise had run its course after Conviction, a game I actually loved. But apparently there’s still a lot of potential in the Splinter Cell franchise. Case and point: Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
The biggest addition I saw at PAX East was the inclusion of a hub world, a first for this series, that allows you to talk to your fellow Fourth Echelon employees, access the game’s cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes and upgrade your equipment/spy plane on the fly. Think Mass Effect 2 and you have a pretty good idea what’s offered here. And it works well for this series because of how intuitive and seamless it is.
There’s a lot more to Blacklist than just a hub world, though. For instance, the game improves upon the cover and execution systems introduced in Conviction. Additionally, equipment loadouts let you approach each mission however you'd like, whether that be from a stealth angle or from a more assault standpoint.
I wasn’t interested in Blacklist going into PAX, but now I can’t wait to play it when it releases later this year.
Outlast is a survival horror game developed by Red Barrels Games. Red Barrels’ goal with the title is to fuse the scares of Amnesia: Dark Descent with the smooth free running of Mirror’s Edge. From what I’ve played, they've managed to marry that seemingly unholy union.
The game tasks you with breaking into an insane asylum to document what's happened there, armed with nothing but a camcorder to see in the darkness. But you quickly discover things have gone horribly, horribly wrong and all of a sudden a hulking monster is fast on your trail. Unable to defend yourself, you must run and hide from the monstrosity in order to survive. The experience is terrifying, and I played it during the day surrounded by thousands of convention attendees. Now imagine playing this game by yourself at night … horrifying.
Survival horror games are a rare breed these days, so to see Red Barrels Games embrace the genre brings a nice smile to my face. If you fancy a good survival horror games that will surely scare the shit out of you, take note of Outlast, coming this summer to PC via Steam.
I made a call recently for more western video games, and developer Switchblade Monkeys has answered it – at least I like to believe I have that kind of influence – with Secret Ponchos, a spaghetti western-inspired, twin-stick shooter with a multiplayer focus. The game’s first trailer (pasted above) shows off the gorgeous style and music, but I’m here to tell you it plays just as beautifully as it looks and sounds, and that’s judging from an early alpha build of the title.
There’s a ton of variety to be found in the game’s characters, their weapons and their moves, making Secret Ponchos more than just a trigger-spamming experience; there’s actual strategy at play once you familiarize yourself with the game’s surprisingly deep mechanics. The inclusion of a number of modes, ranging from team-based (up to 4v4) to free-for-all, means there’s plenty of variety in match types, too.
Switchblade Monkeys is currently looking for a publisher for Secret Ponchos. The plan is to release the game on consoles soonish.