Well, last time here on TR we covered Twelve Memorable Moments From E3 and highlighted a bunch of the show’s biggest games (as we’ve also been doing this past week), but even then it still feels a little like scratching the surface…this was my first E3, and despite some hassles that caused me to miss some of the show and made me wish for the fiery deaths of some 7-Eleven employees (you know who you are), it was still an awe-inspiring display, and probably one of the biggest highlights of my life. Though yeah, it still would’ve been sweet to have the time to officially set up a Paras/Sly “Best Of” collaboration (it was like yin and yang, we could have been gods!!).
But yeah, consider this a “Part Two” if you want. One that covers some of the show’s relatively lesser-known games, or just ones that haven’t been talked about as much as the big guns, but deserve the same amount of attention. And boy, was there a lot to go through…you try and pack in as much as possible, but you can still be shocked sometimes at what you can miss. Hell, Sony’s booth alone could’ve filled out the three days worth of gaming. So there are still quite a lot of gems to get through, so let’s just get right to it…
Kicking off Sony’s dominance of E3 and their recent desires to support indie games even more, we have Hohokum, and despite having a title that I am almost positive will be snickered at in several different ways, it made for quite the damn intriguing game indeed. Hohokum is one of those games billed as a bit more of an experience, where the goal is to relax and explore the various colorful abstract worlds the game presents you. They’re full of whimsy and glorious bits of surreal-yet-calming nature…but that alone wouldn’t be much of a game, so thankfully there’s also a ton of puzzle solving to be had.
Every area has its own objectives, and your little rainbow snake creature (*snicker*) will be free to traverse every inch, encounter every adorable little being, and just have fun interacting with everything and figuring out what everything does and what to do with it. It’s an adventure with an emphasis on exploration at your preferred place, and brings to mind other surreal PlayStation titles such as Flower, Patapon, LocoRoco and such, and if Hohokum is even half as fun as those, it’s a clear winner all the way.
9. Charlie Murder
This is where I’d normally attempt to come up with some sort of clever intro that ties into the game so that I introduce it in a proper and witty way, but I’ve got nothing this time, so I’ll just say that Charlie Murder is a really fucking good brawler. Playing as the titular punk rocker, your goal is to fight your way into the Punk Rock Hall of Fame, a journey that just happens to involve you fighting your way through chainsaw-wielding lunatics, demons from Hell, insane asylums full of creepy little girls, and similar annoyances, because anything less wouldn’t be all that punk-worthy, right?
An unsurprisingly simple yet addictive beat-’em-up with a lovely mix of River City Ransom-style RPG elements and a hefty dose of terrific punk rock influences, Charlie Murder looks to join Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World among the best old-school-style brawlers XBLA has to offer, so chalk up another winning notch on James Silva’s belt and prepare to take a cement saw to a few ROUS in his honor. As usual.
8. Secret Ponchos
One notable story to come out of E3 concerned a group of games that some have dubbed “The Indie Eight”, a selection of eight indie games used during Sony’s press conference to help promote the multitude of independent games that the PS4 will have. And leading the charge is Secret Ponchos, a mix of online deathmatches and old-school top-down dual-stick shooters with a spaghetti western makeover, which is basically one of those combinations second only to peanut butter and chocolate in terms of sheer awesomeness. Step into the shoes of a colorful bounty hunter and attempt to mow down your friends for fame and fortune in the old West…all of which will increase your own bounty, mind you, so don’t be surprised when that entire gang of chaingun-wielding heavies decides to gang up and puree you into a delicious desert smoothie.
Throw in some simple and fun combat that still has a lot of depth and strategy along with the usual holy-crap-that-looks-awesome art style, and hopefully you’ll be sold on this little indie gem…although if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription, you get Secret Ponchos for free with a PS4, so you’re probably sold on this anyway, then! Huzzah! But for those of you wanting a more cerebral PS4 indie game, there’s always…
7. Ray’s The Dead
Well, odds are we couldn’t get through another E3 these games without at least one zombie-focused game, and thankfully that niche was filled by some quality stuff this year. And amongst our niche-filling brain-consumers is Ray’s The Dead, where you control a zombie named Ray (duh) who’s on a journey to learn about the circumstances behind his death, his resurrection and his newly-gained giant freaking bulb. And naturally, the perfect way to traverse said journey is to convert everyone he can into part of his shambling undead army.
Described by the game’s developers as a mix of Pikmin, Stubbs The Zombie, stealth gameplay, and 1980s zombie films (damn, peanut butter and chocolate is up against some tough competition this year), Ray’s is a cartoony little breath of fresh air with a nice variety of puzzle scenarios (so it is cerebral! Yay wordplay!) that’s definitely going to appeal to all of our zombie-loving asses. Of course, for those of us who still prefer our zombie games a little more hardcore…
6. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
You know, I could honestly imagine that Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z started out as Keiji Inafune simply signing on to do a Ninja Gaiden game, but after doing so he started to hear the rumors about the directions Capcom was going to take his Dead Rising series in, and thus he felt he had to do one last attempt to show everyone how a killer tongue-in-cheek zombie action game is really done (FYI, Dead Rising 3 still looks fun, but the tone shift is just awkward). Playing as the titular Yaiba, a ninja killed by regular Ninja Gaiden protagonist Ryu Hayabusa and resurrected as a cyborg, your goal is to help a mysterious organization destroy a zombie plague because hey, why the hell not?
As you might have guessed, Yaiba is noticeably more light-hearted than its predecessors, with some killer cel-shaded graphics, a grindhouse feel, and over-the-top special moves executed quite nicely, creating a ninjas versus zombie battle full of challenging, eclectic and smooth gameplay designed to appeal to the distinguished gamer seeking a touch of class. Also, at one point you can shove a zombie into a fuel truck and have them drive between two giant prop legs advertising a porno store and make the whole thing blow up. Heh heh, that was cool.
Being debuted alongside such titles as inFamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack was already tending to get overshadowed right out of the gate. And that’s pretty sad, because the end result looks to be a terrific platform/brawler hybrid that seeks to make perfect use of the PS4’s ability to cram in as many in-game objects on-screen at once, to say the least. Because when a goblin horde begins to invade the modern-day world, our only hope is a construct of ancient relics known as Knack, who can absorb several other relics to grow to whatever appropriate size is needed to shove some cars up a few goblin asses and whatnot.
Because Knack has a skill for adapting to any situation (ohhh, I get it now), this means gameplay nicely alternates between small-scale stealth infiltration and full-scale kaiju-style rampages, each one feeling like a complete blast to play through. Platforming and combat skills are executed perfectly simply, and the end result is a kid-friendly and awesome title with a lovable character whom will hopefully join Jak, Ratchet, Sly, Sackboy, and many more in the PS Mascot Hall of Fame (that said, if he starts overshadowing Sly too much, I’m going for the throat).
So after one whole year of having to leave it in the “Honorable Mentions” category of two different lists, I finally, finally get to properly talk about and give praise to the video game starring the sentient talking kung-fu motorcycle attempting to outrun the T-1000. People, you have no idea how taxing this wait has been. And thank god, Twisted Pixel, because the wait was worth it and therefore no one working on this game needs to die. Destructoid described the game as “Arkham meets Spy Hunter meets acid” (peanut butter and chocolate is truly taking a beating at this point), and that’s the part where I throw up my hands and give up, because I honestly can’t describe LocoCycle any better.
From Arkham, it takes a simple yet intense method of melee combat that yields some incredible animations and 100-hit combos that caused whimpers to be heard from the Killer Instinct booth. From Spy Hunter it takes the classic, simple, and fun arcade-style driving combat; and from the acid, it bring it Twisted Pixel’s deranged sense of humor, as GLaDOS-esque motorcycle I.R.I.S. escapes her captors and attempts to hunt down some funnel cakes with the (slightly reluctant) help of a mechanic voiced by Freddy Rodriguez. Seriously. The whole thing is a bombastic blast of pure insane joy, and if you somehow see it as stupid, then you have no soul and deserve a tire to the face at 100 MPH.
After hitting it big with 2011’s Bastion, a critically-acclaimed isometric action-adventure indie game with a silent protagonist accompanied throughout by a kickass omnipresent narrator, Supergiant Games knew they had to move in bold new directions for their next hit. And so we have Transistor, an isometric action-adventure indie game with a silent protagonist accompanied throughout by a kickass omnipresent narrator. Yay progress!! But I kid, because after a stellar showing earlier this year at PAX East – one that required a two-hour wait to get your hands on it – I couldn’t wait to try Transistor out myself, and oh damn, was it mighty fine.
You take control of Red, a popular singer whose voice has been stolen and who is now the target of several assassins, so yeah, kind of a crap day for her. But luckily she comes across the titular Transistor, a huge-ass mysterious spirit-imbued sword that serves as her companion and ever-present voice, as well as a handy way to get rid of those pesky killer robots. Also handy? A unique planning mode, which Red can activate to plan out her moves in advance, where she moves, what attacks she uses, and what to aim for. The end result is an extremely satisfying rapid-fire set of moves that adds a little real-time strategy to the game, and helps to craft what will no doubt be one epic sci-fi adventure you’ll definitely be plunking down money for. Because let’s face it, you still want to hear that narrator again no matter what…
2. Murdered: Soul Suspect
So this is the point where you realize I may be stretching the use of “under the radar” here, but Murdered: Soul Suspect seems to have been flying under a bit despite a nice promotion, and that is quite the mystery to me. By the end of the show, the game’s booth was decorated in several “Best Of Show” awards, but the line-ups to see the game’s presentation were scarce, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of buzz going on about it (at least by my ears). But considering that the gameplay shown felt like a heavenly mix of L.A. Noire, Ghost Trick and Die Hard (seriously, Reese’s is now officially going down), there should be, dammit.
Playing as Ronan O’Connor, a detective in Salem, Massachusetts (naturally), you have to escape the limbo world and discover the truth behind your own murder. You do so via tactics like possessing fellow detectives to view notes and clues through their eyes, reading a suspect’s mind, investigating clues at the crime scene the old-fashioned way, destroying a few evil spirits by sneaking up behind them in a little stealth action, or by just dicking around and blowing up a few toasters or such. It just feels like a perfect triple-A adventure title, one brimming with story and atmosphere around every corner, and I’d say it’s to die for, but you’d probably kill me for something that corny, so I’ll just say it looks fucking awesome.
Now, as mentioned back in our 2013 Gaming Preview, I don’t really like to repeat myself in these cases…but there are times when exceptions must clearly be made. And seeing as how Puppeteer was my pick for the second-best game of 2013 in that preview behind BioShock Infinite (well, third if you throw in Watch Dogs), it shall definitely be the one exceptions are made for. Because back then, I wanted Puppeteer to be a huge success, but know after actually getting my hands on it…OH GOD, do I want this to really be a huge success.
Where do I even begin? The unbelievably gorgeous graphics and art style? The classic old-school platformer feel? The jaw-dropping boss battles including huge-ass fantasy tigers and dragons? The wide variety of creative and lovable levels, characters, and power designs? The amazing storybook feel mixed with the terrific theater aesthetics? The huge amount of interactive settings and elements, either with the use of magical scissors or a ghost cat to help you find secrets? The perfect story and gameplay feel that expertly appeal to both kids and adults? Or how about all of the above?? It is…just awe-inspiring. All around. Maybe it’s just me and my tastes from back in the day, but…this is just perfect. It’s like Sony’s desires to support indie games culminated in a game that acts as the perfect bridge between indie gaming’s creativity and retro gaming feel, and triple-A gaming’s polish and production values. You can argue that this wasn’t the best game of E3 on a technical level, but dammit, this is a game that deserves to be number one.
Honorable Mention: Randall
All of the previously mentioned games did go into this show with some sort of hype or press behind them, so there were people that were psyched to see them anyway (case in point: Me). But Randall…Randall was different. It was tucked away in the South Hall behind the Natsume booth, and the developers clearly had the cheddar to set up something big, with a giant character statue and backdrop, video trailers, and free swag, but this game…honestly took me by surprise. It just seemingly came out of nowhere.
This is the Mexican and Colombian-based developer We The Force’s first game, and details were scarce, other than it appears to be a 2D sci-fi adventure involving mental powers, but the designs and bits seen on the development blog look pretty promising…while there wasn’t enough to warrant putting Randall on the official list, the fact that this was a genuine surprise at E3 with a lot of promise and even some slight mystery definitely at least earns it an HM. Could this be the next big thing at E3 2014, having been tucked away here like an end-credits scene in a Marvel film? We’ll just have to wait and see…
Well, that’s it for now, so…ehhh, why the hell not? Again, there was a lot, so let’s get some quickie Honorable mentions in as well:
Sunset Overdrive: I honestly would’ve put this on the list had there been more revealed, especially some gameplay. Much like Fortnite, it’s a refreshingly vibrant shooter that just looks so damn fun, perfect for Insomniac Games…and hopefully it’ll end up being what Fuse was supposed to be, dammit…
The Order – 1886: See above. More info, more better. But already does this alternate Industrial Revolution title look more better indeed…
Sonic Lost Worlds: …Yeahhh, Yaiba and Murdered were already close to screwing with the radar as is, so Sonic got cut. Still a fun game with a ton of promise that hopefully does the “lost” Sonic game justice.
Rain: This was an awesome game, but it probably could’ve done without the piano music and on-screen narration. We get it, you’re moody, jeez…
Mercenary Kings: Another one of “The Indie Eight”, and pretty much #11. Old-school action + Paul Robertson graphics = Win.
Outlast: Another one of The IE, and definitely some creepy-as-hell and impressive stuff. Also, it’s going to be free along with Secret Ponchos, so that’s a bonus.
Magrunner: Dark Pulse: Had there been more Lovecraft on display in the E3 demo of this sweet Portal-meets-Lovecraft puzzler, it would’ve been a lock…eh it comes out this week anyway.
Goodbye Deponia: What will no doubt be a killer end to the great point-and-click adventure trilogy about a man from a dirty, abandoned planet trying to save his people and reach the paradise of Elysium. Truly this summer’s most original tale.
Kickbeat: Cheesy story, but looks to be a fun Vita exclusive. Plus, one can never get tired of kicking and punching with the power of one’s cerebellum.
Killer Is Dead: Oh, alright, one more I’ve mentioned before. And it played just as awesome as it is insane, so f*** yeah.
…Aaaand I can tell from the world largest hook about to yank me away from my laptop that Luke is giving me the signal to wrap up, so I’m done. Thanks for checking all of this out, and if you know of any other sweet games we missed at E3, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. See you all later!
*No peanut butter and chocolate mixtures were harmed in the making of this list.