At E3 this year Spazzy and I (Mango) played a lot of indie games, all coming to Nintendo Switch.
Here’s a rundown of games hitting the console in the next year (in order of appearance):
-Killer Queen Black
-The Spectrum Retreat
-Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu
-3 Minutes to Midnight
-State of Mind
If Splatoon was an action game, you would get Ninjala. From the designs to basing your actions around a single concept (blowing bubblegum), stylistically it’s aiming for the same audience. The goal of each match is to collect as many points as possible by knocking out your opponents with your weapon (you can also collect objects and gain bonus awards to earn points as well).
The gameplay revolves around blowing bubblegum and gives you two options: shoot your bubblegum, or craft a weapon (in this case a bat). If you shoot your gum and hit an opponent, they will be stuck for a few seconds, leaving them open to attack. However if you’re attacked while blowing a bubble, you’ll also be caught in your own gum.
As for crafting a weapon, the bigger your bubble, the bigger and stronger your weapon will be. It will also take longer to craft (making you immobilized) based on the size of the bubble. Even if you do craft the biggest weapon, they all have limited uses to balance it out. There’s a risk/reward aspect to it to always keep you on your toes. Wall-climbing is also a feature, but one I didn’t get to try out.
In my short time, I really enjoyed the game and can’t wait to see more. -Mango
Killer Queen Black
For a game I knew nothing about until I got to the demo station, it was one of the most fun games at the show. It’s a 4v4 co-op multiplayer game with 3 ways to win: fill your hive with berries, kill the opponent’s queen, or ride the snail to victory (a valiant effort by Spazzy). There’s only one queen per team and is the only member that can attack (unless you’ve upgraded to a warrior) while the rest are workers who can carry berries and ride the snail. As with a lot of these fast-paced local multiplayer games, your enjoyment will be tied to the amount of people around you. If you don’t have at least 2 people per side, I don’t think it will be nearly as fun. It’s not a nod against the game, tag isn’t “bad” because it requires multiple people, that’s just how the game works. It will have online multiplayer, but it thrives on everyone in the same room screaming at each other. If you know you can round up a bunch of friends, keep an eye on it. -Mango
The Spectrum Retreat
A first-person puzzle game that takes place in an art-deco hotel with a mysterious story. As you progress, you’ll learn more about the hotel and what’s really going on. The puzzles themselves take place through corridors in an underground part of the hotel with one aesthetic throughout (akin to Portal’s chambers).
The gameplay involves absorbing and adding colour to blocks in order to open up your path. For example if a red shield is up, absorb red from it’s block and the shield will be disabled. If a white shield is up, add any colour you absorbed to it and it will be disabled. The challenge comes in figuring out which blocks need colour and when. Some puzzles will have you walk between two walls with holes in them, and require you to alternate enabling and disabling shields. When you look back at the puzzle, you’ll figure out when and where you need colour to complete it. The demo was just the opening 15 minutes of the game, and more mechanics like wall-climbing and teleportation will unlock. Though the colour-switching is the primary mechanic.
The creator, Dan Smith, is also designing the game in a way so you shouldn’t be able to brute force the puzzles, and solve them by learning the mechanics organically. I liked what I played, and I’m interested to see how deep the puzzles go. -Mango
Mugsters is an interesting experience. It’s a sandbox puzzle game where you must rescue humans from alien overlords using your wits, random explosives, and, or course, cars. It’s a very unique looking game, with a mostly warm color palette and stylistic polygonal characters and backgrounds. The actual physics seem to be the star of this game, as you can easily play around within each stage to find multiple ways to rescue humans, collect crystals, and reach the airplane at the end to progress to the next challenge. I would need more time with this title to form a solid opinion, but if anything I said piqued your interest it is probably worth checking out. -Spazzy
Race. Shoot. Eat. Repeat. In a futuristic dystopian world, your only goal is to get enough money to buy a ticket to Mars. It’s mainly a hover bike racing game mixed with a shmup, and a setting inspired by Cowboy Bebop. Shoot objects to gain speed and money, then boost intro trucks to regain ammo until you reach the finish line, from a side view. When the race is over you’re able to explore the town to do side jobs, steal/customize/repair bikes, and eat ramen. If you don’t fix the damage on your bike or satiate your hunger, you will perform worse in races.
In a time when consumers have gotten worn down on pixel art, it’s nice to see something different. Flat colours, faceless characters, but detailed backgrounds. It reminds me a lot of Out of this World, a style I haven’t seen often. On my first time through I didn’t quite get it, but after trying their demo again (available on their website) I did get a better grasp on the racing mechanics. However it’s still difficult to get a good grade so that would take more practice. -Mango
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu
After the success of Pokémon GO, it’s no surprise GameFreak wants to capitalize on an audience of 800 million and ease them into full-blown Pokémon RPG fans. This game acts as the bridge between the casual and hardcore games. Experience can be earned through catching pokémon, trainer and gym battles, and while walking with a pokémon using the Pokéball Plus. Random battles are gone, and instead have pokémon in the overworld you can run into if you choose. I think this is the most important change to win over new players. We all complain that wild battles are far too common in caves and water, but to someone new the grass alone might be their breaking point.
For hardcore fans, think of it more as the whole world is one giant Safari Zone. You can feed them bait (berries) to make them easier to catch, they can run away at any time, and of course you can throw balls to catch them. Throwing rocks is the only option missing. Catching works the same as in Pokémon GO (albeit with motion controls instead of touch). There’s a shrinking inner circle, the ball can be angled or spun, and how you throw can increase your capture rate.
This all ties in with the new peripheral, the Pokéball Plus. It works just like the Pokémon GO Plus, but can be used as a controller to navigate the world and menus, rumble, glow with the ball on screen, hold pokémon, and hear them cry (that’s not as mean as it sounds). Most notably, you can use it to throw pokéballs. While it is a bit small for adults (the main demographic for Pokémon GO) I did enjoy using it to catch pokémon. Catching them this way will take some practice though, and regardless if you buy the peripheral or not, motion controls are mandatory. It does have an analog stick and buttons so you don’t need to switch back to a joycon, but I can’t see it being comfortable past maybe 30 minutes to an hour. It isn’t that it would cause pain, it’s just an awkward and small shape to hold for any great length of time.
The game is a bit too simplified for my liking, but it’s not aimed at me (or hardcore fans in general) and we’re getting “our” game in 2019 anyway. -Mango
3 Minutes to Midnight
Point and click adventure games were a staple of my gaming diet in my formative years as a gamer. While several companies created memorable entries in the genre in the 90’s, the general approach can be split between Sierra games (King’s’ Quest, Space Quest) and Lucasarts (Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max). Generally speaking, the Lucasarts games were defined by their quirky narrative focus, including extensive dialogue trees, while Sierra games included more opportunities for death and backtracking at expense for the story. 3 Minutes to Midnight falls solidly into the Lucasarts camp.
The demo build I played through at my time in E3 was promising, but the game still needs a bit more polish before its release in April of next year. The demo stars Betty Anderson, a plucky young female protagonist who must explore a somewhat delaptiated lakeside campground. The game was fully voice acted; which was good in that it added a lot of character to the experience, but was bad in that it felt monotonous at times since there are a ton of dialogue options when interacting with NPCs with no way to skip them when you are confronted with the same questions multiple times. The game looks great, for the most part. The hand painted backgrounds are nice and the characters are distinct and full of personality, but many of the actual animations used in the game are very stiff.
The real appeal of this type of adventure game, though, is the quality of the collection puzzles. I am happy to say that this game strikes a great balance as far as difficulty goes. I never felt like I could mindlessly click my way to completion, but none of the item usage or combinations were particularly obtuse, either. Over all, I was impressed with what I played and think this is one for point and click adventure fans to keep their eyes on. -Spazzy
Like Killer Queen Black, this is another chaotic multiplayer game that’s a lot of fun with friends (although 2 players will work fine since there aren’t opposing teams). If you haven’t played the original, imagine Diner Dash but co-operative and frantic like a Mario Party mini-game, with a side of humour. The goal is to fulfill as many orders as possible within the time limit. Of course there are obstacles like people running through your kitchen or conveyor belts pushing you in a different direction. On top of that, if you boil soup too long you’ll have to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher or wash dirty dishes before serving another plate. At least in the first world, each level adds 1 or 2 new mechanics to add to the variety while still being challenging. It was a blast to play, and I can easily see sinking in an afternoon playing it with friends. -Mango
There are various types of rhythm games ranging from Rock Band to Elite Beat Agents. Across them they all share the same trait, hitting a predetermined note on a track. Gal Metal throws that out of the window. Instead of notes, you’re taught drum patterns that you can mix and match as you wish. Using motion controls, the right joycon acts as your bass drum, while the left is the snare. It does support the pro controller but I played using the motion controls.
Because there’s a lot of background noise at E3, and headphones weren’t available I couldn’t always tell if I was on beat or how responsive the controls were. It seemed like the left joycon wasn’t working well, but I’m not sure if that’s the programming, faulty hardware, or I wasn’t waving it hard enough.
Regardless of potential issues, I like the more casual approach to a rhythm game that lets you freestyle. It’s also nice knowing you won’t be kicked out of a song halfway through. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win, but it can take a lot of frustration out of it. Getting angry with a small rectangular electronic also doesn’t mix well. -Mango
State of Mind
In a dystopian version of Berlin, Richard finds himself in a world leading towards transhumanism. The idea that humans can can supersede their physical body and become a digital entity. After an explosion, he wakes up with mild memory loss and unanswered questions like, “Was my family kidnapped or did they leave because of something I did?”. Multiple characters are playable including Adam, a part of Richard’s mind that inhabits the digital world. Allowing you to see gritty reality and a false, but utopian reality. Your goal as the player is to piece together Richard’s broken memories by talking to NPCs and solving puzzles in this adventure game.
The demo was more focused on introducing the backstory than playing the game so there isn’t much to say there yet. It takes about 10-15h hours to complete if you’re concerned it might be short. Something that tends to happen with indie narrative focused games. -Mango