After a slow summer August picks up with a spate of games that show the breadth of the artform. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Until Dawn seek to explore the narrative potential of gaming, while Rare Replay encapsulates almost the entire history of the industry in a single compilation. Volume is an exciting new puzzler from an acclaimed designer, and Disney Infinity 3.0 will pummel us with blissful nostalgia. After playing one single game for an entire summer, I am genuinely looking forward to what August will be bringing forth this year.
1. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Release Date: 8/11
Platform: PlayStation 4
The Chinese Room is the best game developer who has yet to make a game that I really like. They specialize in story-based games with a heavy exploration factor, and I love their ability to create worlds and trust us to find our own way within them. Still, I haven’t loved any of their games. Dear Esther was fascinating but the florid dialogue of the narrator undercut much of its power; Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was a fine entry in a genre that I simply don’t appreciate. They make games that are good but not necessarily good for me, and that’s why I’m incredibly excited for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I think this is the one that’ll do it. The narrative is broken up across multiple characters, and hopefully that’ll prevent me from growing too annoyed by any single one of them, as I was with Esther’s narrator. And although there’s a mystery at the heart of the game, it isn’t straight horror, so the genre requirements that turned me off of Amnesia hopefully won’t be a factor. It promises a science fiction experience rooted in a world that greatly resembles our own, and even though I’ve had issues with their past work The Chinese Room has proven they can tell a story through videogames better than most. Hopefully Rapture will be their best work yet.
2. Disney Infinity 3.0
Release Date: 8/30
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Android
I have a problem. Now that I no longer write weekly game reviews I tend to only play one game. That game is Disney Infinity. I spend hours a week working on my toy box worlds, or leveling up characters in the toy box games, or downloading community-made levels from the internet. I resisted power discs for almost two years because I didn’t want to pay $5 for a blind pack that might include discs I already have, but over the last few months I’ve become addicted to those as well, especially the landscape tiles. So to say I’m ready for a new batch of figures, playsets and power discs (now no longer sold in blind packs!) is an understatement. I am irrationally excited about this stuff and can’t wait to add that Star Wars stuff to my collection. Look, we live in a cruel world, and sometimes you just want to be comforted by your entertainment. What’s more comforting than basically everything I loved as a kid dumped into one freeform jam of a game?
Release Date: 8/18
Platform: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Vita
Mike Bithell follows up on his clever puzzle game Thomas Was Alone with a tricky little stealth number called Volume. I played a small bit of this game at E3 back in June, and appreciated its seeming simplicity, as I tried to guide my character through rooms full of various security measures. With its overhead view and dependence on pattern recognition, it has the feel of a rediscovered classic, of an old arcade game rebooted for a modern audience. In my brief time with it I was able to suss out some hidden complexities beneath its maze-like exterior, and I look forward to unraveling those in the comfort of my own home later this month.
4. Until Dawn
Release Date: 8/25
Platform: PlayStaion 4
Many games play at making the player’s choices seem meaningful, but few do so in substantial or truly meaningful ways. I love that my Commander Shepard can be as much of an asshole as she wants to be, but the broad strokes of the Mass Effect storyline are roughly the same whether I go full Paragon or Renegade. Until Dawn promises to place genuine weight on our decisions, and by threading together the stories of a variety of playable characters, whose actions at crucial junctures will impact the story for other characters, the game might actually make that possible. The slasher film set-up may not be especially exciting, especially with screenshots floating around of towel-clad women and “scary” clowns, but if these stories are weaved together tightly but delicately enough Until Dawn could impress.
5. Rare Replay
Release Date: 8/3
Platform: Xbox One
Rare has been with Microsoft for almost as long as they worked with Nintendo. The British developer is responsible for some of the most beloved and respected videogames of the last three decades, and Rare Replay will include 30 of them, from 1983’s Jetpac through 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Highlights include 1987’s R.C. Pro-Am and 1999’s Jet Force Gemini, and lowlights include the lack of a handful of games for licensing issues, including Goldeneye 007 and the Donkey Kong games Rare made when they were still partially owned by Nintendo. (Also the NES classic Wizards & Warriors isn’t on here, which is weird, since its publisher Acclaim went out of business over a decade ago.) This collection isn’t just more nostalgia from a medium that’s already drowning in it; many of the games here hold up perfectly well in 2015, and having them all in a single place is both convenient and a nice tribute to Rare’s history.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. Follow him on Twitter @grmartin.