The Most Promising Games We Saw At Summer Game Fest

Games Features Summer Game Fest
The Most Promising Games We Saw At Summer Game Fest

Summer Games Fest has kicked off the season of exciting game announcements and as part of the event, the press were able to get hands-on time with a number of promising games both big and small. These are some of the best games we got to see on the showfloor:

Cocoon

Cocoon is the latest project from an offshoot of talent that brought us some of the most acclaimed titles of our times like Limbo and Inside, and it shows. A wordless isometric puzzle game, Cocoon sees you control a bipedal insect navigating a curious series of worlds contained within orbs you will carry around and literally jump in and out of. The rushing sensation of traveling between these worlds within worlds is only bested by the expertly crafted atmosphere. Limbo and Inside were no strangers to this ethos of familiar environments thrumming with an unsettling alien energy—a feeling many games have tried replicating to varying degrees of success— but Cocoon is easily the most dialed-in attempt I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Run, don’t walk, to play Cocoon as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

Thirsty Suitors

I’ve had a number of opportunities to play Thirsty Suitors and never fail to come away charmed by its existence. I will quite literally never tire of seeing more Brown people in video games, but Jala really takes the cake because she’s messy as hell. She also spends too much time talking to herself, and she’s got overbearing parents…she just like me. Having tried the combat in early demos, I really wanted to get a feel for one of the other aspects of the game that has thus far eluded me, so I took the opportunity to play around extensively in a park and put Thirsty Suitors’ skateboarding mechanics through its paces. Consider me pleasantly surprised to find a whole slew of challenges built around it that, importantly, felt good to complete. Another game might’ve minimized the role of the board in the whole game, but it’s clear coming away from this demo that it’s just as integral a part of Jala’s whole deal as her exes, her family, and her home. A clearer picture of this game is starting to come together and I love what I’m seeing.

Saltsea Chronicles

Mutazione seemed to put Die Gute Fabrik on the map as a developer capable of expertly rendering cozy worlds and delivering hard-hitting stories. Saltsea Chronicles blows up the size of the world and drowns it. Set across an expanse of sea, it’s on you as the truly diverse crew of the De Kelpie to piece together what happened to your captain as you scour countless islands that have developed their own cultures. During my own demo, I selected a pair of crew members to visit an island dominated by cats, reunited old lovers, and learned about “dreamsailing,” all the while engaging in a series of branching conversations that have become the studio’s bread and butter. What’s most tantalizing about this game is the large amount of permutations there appear to be. My island of cats was just one in a series of islands I could’ve visited at this point in the story, and while the game will indicate which characters you should bring along, you’re free to bring any of your crew you desire, making for a lot of different ways to approach any one level where you can carry out radically different conversations with significant ramifications. This one’s for the narrative sickos out there.

Sonic Superstars

I’m a longtime lapsed Sonic guy so I’m not the leading opinion you should hear out about what distinguishes the good ones from the bad ones. I will however say that having seen the ups and downs the series has taken over the years, getting to sit down with Sonic Superstars not once, but twice, leaves me feeling that we could be on a bit of an upswing right now. Sonic Superstars isn’t the fastest or high-flying entry in the series, but it’s got something else going for it that’s probably more important: it feels classic. Jam packed with throwback bonus stages and beloved playable characters, Sonic Superstars feels like the step forward the 2D side of the franchise has needed since Sonic Mania (mostly handled by outsiders) gave it a shot in the arm some years ago. The levels I played felt couched in an appreciation for the series legacy while inching towards something new; My favorite of the two playable stages was a jungle-themed one that played with low visibility, a looping chasm, and a bit of a maze. And while Sonic is there and predictably fast and blue, I really got a kick out of giving the same levels a shot as best boy Knuckles and Amy, who struck me as very pleasant surprise. Though my demo didn’t include co-op, folks can look forward to playing as them and Tails all together in four player shenanigans and I’ve got to admit, it sounds like it could be a good time. I feel a Sonic renaissance on the horizon…

Another Crab’s Treasure

I absolutely bombed the first half of my demo of Another Crab’s Treasure. I attribute this to a few things, firstly that I hadn’t played one of these games in quite some time. Secondly, I think I let its appearance fool me into thinking I shouldn’t take it so seriously. I frequently ignored the block and dodge function, and even outright gave up on the notion of figuring out the parry timing and consequently ate shit for it over and over. When I used my ability, it often knocked me backwards off of the arena, which at least got some laughs out of the developers who were all but forced to watch me struggle at their game. When I finally landed at the actual boss fight, I wondered how the hell I was going to beat it after struggling so hard up to this point. And the answer was: I didn’t. I miraculously got the boss to their second phase—where they crack a bottle they’ve been bludgeoning me with to this point and use it like a shiv—and proceeded to get the shit stabbed  out of me. I sucked, but I had a blast fiddling around in Another Crab’s Treasure‘s particularly dangerous corner of the sea to this point.

Then, I watched the developers complete that same boss fight and remembered that despite its eclectic appearance, Another Crab’s Treasure was still a Souls game at its core. From then on, I unlocked a further appreciation, especially as I tackled the demo’s second boss at a significantly different rhythm. I stopped wailing away and started falling into the familiar old cadences, all the while making use of new mechanics like the ability-granting shells and grapple to wondrous effect. Before long, I was manipulating the i-frames the grapple granted me to get out of some seriously close calls, utilizing my skill slot smartly, and I even managed a couple of parries. It took a lifetime—and I aged significantly in the process—but eventually I triumphed over the samurai crab that dared try to strike me down. I have no shame in admitting I very loudly popped off on the showfloor, my heartrate having ticked up significantly throughout the fight. That’s when I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Another Crab’s Treasure had nailed it.

Hauntii

Though my time with Hauntii was criminally short, it evidently didn’t need anymore time to imprint itself on me. Everything from Hauntii ‘s art style to the all-too satisfying feel of its surprising twin-stick shooter mechanics ensured that I was hooked from the moment my demo began. Hauntii kept pleasantly surprising me, especially once I realized that shooting certain inanimate objects allowed me to possess them akin to Super Mario Odyssey‘s Cappy mechanic. Among the possessions I was able to experience were a stone pillar, an inconspicuous hill in the darkness and, my personal favorite, a crystal that operated as a chunkier turret. In the best situations, you can possess some of these objects in order to take out enemies, and I’m looking forward to seeing how dense with interactables later arenas can get. But really the killer here is the art. The player characters’ almost jagged design contrasts wonderfully with the smoothness of an angelic ally you make early on, and in one sequence you float upwards to the heavens and it is just simply stunning. Who knew games could look like this, honestly?

Beastieball

Folks, the next game from the team behind Chicory: A Colorful Tale already looks like it could be a winner. A delightful mix of volleyball and Pokemon, Beastieball lets you put together a team of beasties that grow powerful as they play the game, but especially together. If you’re thinking, “Wow, the power of friendship is real, this is just like an anime,” well Greg Lobanov, the director of the game, was incredibly honest about Haikyuu‘s influence on the game. In action, battles play out as 2v2s on a grid where attacking is just as important as knowing when to pass or get up in front of the net and defend. Before you know it, you’ll be playing tactical mind games with your opponents to land your ball in one of their empty spaces rather than just wiping them out in straightforward combat. I love a good monster-collecting game like the rest of y’all, but what I have loved even more of late is smaller studios taking risks and playing with conventions to wondrous effect and Beastieball is no slouch. And if any of that sounds appealing to you, here’s a bit of good news: not only did the game just meet its goal on Kickstarter to come to fruition, but there’s already a demo available to check it out yourself.

Henry Halfhead

Anecdotally, one of the “earliest games” I was able to play on the showfloor, Henry Halfhead‘s brief demo impressed me nonetheless because of what its open-ended nature reminded me most of: Tears of the Kingdom. Henry Halfhead is not a sprawling epic, but an intimate puzzler where the player character can inhabit the objects in the environment around them in order to fulfill domestic goals like “Have a healthy breakfast” or “Organize your room.” As I went about the first solution in an entirely-too-convoluted way, the rep sitting beside me urged that the game was far more relaxed about what it asks of its players, and I significantly eased up. As I was “eating breakfast,” I was told that there were countless ways I could’ve broached the task and I can only imagine how much truer the statement will get as the environments get bigger and denser, all the while never really letting imaginative players fail at their goal.

Disney Illusion Island

Consider me pleasantly charmed by Disney Illusion Island, a charming little cooperative Metroid game centered around kindness and, most astonishing for the genre, non-violence. It’s the rare game where there is a dedicated hug button that gives players an extra bit of health. Players will pick between one of four characters—Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald Duck— and embark on an adventure inspired by, but not necessarily directly pulling from, the characters’ long history. Clearly made by folks who have a reverence for the source material—the game’s creative director AJ Grand-Scutton spent an extensive amount of time plumbing the depths of the archive and his own love of classic Disney films and shorts in making Illusion Island—the world is dotted with memorabilia spanning eras of their respective heyday. The platforming feels remarkably akin to Rayman Legends in its expressiveness and focus on airtime, all the while the characters and world are rendered in shockingly close detail to the ongoing series The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse despite Grand-Scutton assuring me that there was no crossover between the talents of the show and the animators on the game. As for gameplay, well to paraphrase Grand-Scutton, it’s one big platforming world, and one whose ethos and design was really cracked open once the team dropped the notion of combat, which had held them back at the outset. As an example of how they’ve built around it, the boss encounter the demo ended with had our three players darting around the stage as environmental hazards fell from the ceiling and emerged from the walls as we jumped on gold knobs in the background. The intensity of the stuff happening onscreen kicked up as we steadily lowered the shields of our enemy, allowing them to similarly take damage from falling hazards, but it never bordered on masochistic, though players can go solo and with less health if they ever desire a challenge. Regardless of how you approach it, I think this one’s going to be a hit with Disney fanatics, families, and folks in search of a solid platformer alike.

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals

I love Oxenfree in part because it’s a delicious slow burn horror featuring teenagers that isn’t a slasher. It’s instead a supernatural horror story that never quite renders them helpless victims, allowing them to have intellectual and emotionally honest conversations as they try to unravel the mysteries of the dark forces at play on Edwards Island. Oxenfree 2 then has quite the tall order to fill, and having now played the introductory half hour, I’m confident in its ability to jump back into that world and provide some of the same thrills and creeps. What I’ve yet to see is how the malignant forces working against our new protagonists factor in, but in truth, I’m just happy to be back playing in this world whose imagery and themes have lived with me for years. Leave may be possible, but what if I never wanted to?

 


Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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