What a show PSX 2016 was. Between the major announcements, tournaments, panels, and autograph signings, I managed to play an awful lot of games on the show floor. Thanks to the magic of scheduling, I was able to get hands-on with nearly 40 out of the over 100 games on the PSX floor from developers in the Sony family, indies, to 3rd parties like Capcom. It would take until PSX 2017 to talk about them all so I’m narrowing it down.
Now that my eyes finally have moisture again, here are my #Sweet6 games of PSX 2016 unofficially sponsored by Sweet Tarts, and the ComicsBeat Most Blockbuster Announcement game of the show. The rules of the #SweetTart6 are simple. Only games eligible were those playable on the show floor, no categorizing. It’s a battle royal to be placed on the mantle of the Stately Beat Manor fireplace. So games like Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Last of Us Part II, and Uncharted:The Lost Legacy while undoubtedly game of the year contenders when they’re released, are not eligible for this new thing that I just made up. However, a lot of great ones like Resident Evil VII, Farpoint, and more were. SO HERE’S THE SWEET TARTS SWEET6 OF PSX 2016!
6. EarthNight (Cleaversoft)
There’s a wave of gaming bringing back a certain charm from the days of Earthworm Jim and infusing it with stylistic fantasy you’d see in a comic book like Soulfire. EarthNight from developer Cleaversoft is a prime example of style and deceptively challenging gameplay for a simple 2D runner. Once you choose between the game’s two characters; Stanley, a freelance photographer, and Sydney, a 14-year-old high schooler, players will be able to simply pick up the controller and go with little learning curve needed. Each level is the back of a dragon randomly generated from hundreds of art assets. Meaning you could play this game for months before you see the exact same level twice. As you run, you’ll slice through or avoid small creatures that live on the backs of these dragons while gathering supplies and much-needed water in order to reach the monster’s head and slay the beast. EarthNight’s embrace of the fantasy storytelling genre goes all in. After dragons annihilated all government and military, mankind was forced to find a new home in space. Our two characters attempt the treacherous journey back to Earth through atmosphere layers guarded by the enormous dragons.
EarthNight made the list not because it does anything mechanically revolutionary, but the level of artistic detail in the game is spellbinding. The game’s design is great but the use of retro gaming sounds mixed in order to create different scores is art in of itself. What puts the last bit of polish on EarthNight is what it does better than any game at the show, the color pallet jumps between emotional cool tones and lavish warm ones. You can easily get hypnotized by the colorful beauty of EarthNight. The game is simply put, a painting that you can play with.
5. Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerilla Games)
Guerilla Games, the developer behind the Killzone series is, nearly ready to launch their new universe on PlayStation. Horizon: Zero Dawn juxtaposes two contrasting elements, taking a vibrant world rich with beautiful nature and filling it with awe-inspiring highly advanced technology. You’ll play as the female warrior, Aloy, a skilled hunter, exploring a vibrant and lush world inhabited by mysterious mechanized creatures. As you uncover more of the mystery of this world, it becomes more treacherous.
This is a game which took me a while to warm up to. Not because it looked like it was going to be bad in any way but so many games of late have been “open world” and the market is becoming oversaturated leaving only room for something that feels new. Guerilla Games atmosphere is what sells Horizon. This world is as primal as it is cyberpunk. Playing the game takes a bit of practice in order to get the hang of sneaking up on the beast like watchers. You need to plan out every move and utilize all available tech in your own inventory, but once you get a grasp on the controls and movement it becomes a game more tailored to your style of play. How have machines come to dominate this world, and what is their purpose? What happened to the civilization here before? After playing this demo, I’m more intrigued by these questions than ever before and can not wait for February to come around. That’s why it made the list. While the demo is a minuscule sliver of what the game promises, it gives you just enough to entice you into the feeling of being caught between nature and machine.
Horizon: Zero Dawn releases on PS4 February 28, 2017.
4. Dino Frontier (Uber Entertainment)
It takes a special kind of human being to enjoy the tedium and monotony of strategy games like Civilization and Sim City. They aren’t bad mind you, but just an acquired taste. If you enjoy planning but wish for more danger and excitement, then Dino Frontier from Uber Entertainment is your answer. Build and manage a frontier settlement in a world where the wild west and Jurassic eras collide. You’ll take control of building a town and balancing resources in order for buckaroo settlers to prosper. Sounds simple enough right? Not when you’re building a town in a world where Dinosaurs roam the plains. The table top view and cartoon look to the art style make the game feel inviting from the moment you put on the VR headset. Utilizing the move controllers you’ll pick up people like the angry god you were meant to become as you construct saloons, jails, and of course place humans.
It feels that easy to get drunk with power in this game. Dinosaurs come into play as substitutes for bison and horses instead, you get triceratopses, velociraptors, and even a T-Rex. Our playthrough was 20 min of me just building a defensive line of velociraptors to see how long it would take them to eat settlers. Not Long! Dino Frontier has a ton of potential and has the makings of adding vast value to a PSVR games line-up still in its infancy. It makes the top six because, just like Arkham VR, when someone says they think VR is a gimmick like 3D movies; Dino Frontier is a game that proves them wrong.
3. Hand of Fate 2 (Defiant Development)
You’re probably saying to yourself, “there was a Hand of Fate 1?”. In which case you probably missed an ambitious game that combined role-playing dungeon battling with tabletop board gameplay. The original game, at the time, may have been a bit too ambitious for studio Defiant Development as the combat felt a bit too rigid and utilizing the cards felt repetitive at times. Their upcoming Hand of Fate 2 has already shown the studio has taken feedback and polished independent ambition into what feels like an experience along the lines of Darksouls III. You’ll explore a dark fantasy world built from collectible cards distributed by a magical dealer in a meta-board game. Each overturned card reveals trials including third-person combat, high-risk high-reward minigames and Dungeons and Dragons-style decision making. If you didn’t play the first game, the developer is making this one easy to jump into. Taking place 100 years after the first one, Hand of Fate 2 tells the story of the Dealers defeat, return, and revenge. It’s a story which puts all its cards on the table, literally. Playing through the game’s story is progressed through your sessions with the Dealer. Choosing different cards could put you in a street fight, battle royale with hideous goblins, or battling an army of monsters on an icy bridge. The pre-battle strategy utilizing your cards feels as crucial as being in the middle of the fight itself. In a way, you’re not only playing through the game’s story your battling The Dealer before every chapter through chance.
As someone who evangelizes for the comics he loves, I understand how important it is for something with a 2 or 600 in the title to be easy to jump into. In looking at two minutes of the game’s exposition; it accomplished what it needed to. As a character, The Dealer hooked me and none of the story beats being put forth felt like there was a wall around it. From there, the gameplay was allowed to do its thing. This is a beautiful looking game in terms of environments and character design. While each stage you embark in combat on feels like a small arena, it’s rendered as if it had a big studio budget with lighting effects that make the texture of stones stand out and highlight life-like character models. Perhaps, the most polished element of Hand of Fate 2 is the robust combat system. Every hit, stab, or bash feels meaty and to top it off are the additions of finishing moves . Hand of Fate 2 makes the top six by being a big game from a small studio and one that we can’t wait to dive into.
2. Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (Vicarious Visions/Activision)
Since PSX 2015, the seeds of hype were being planted for a Crash Bandicoot return of some kind. Then we got to play that Crash mini level from the original in Uncharted 4. Through similar magic Marvel worked to get Spider-Man in the MCU; not only are gamers getting a collection of the original three Crash games, but every one of the games is fully remastered for this generation of hardware. Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped; all three with brand-new animations, environments, lighting, and recreated cinematics. Not only does studio Vicarious Visions remaster the original Naughty Dog game, but it improves on the problems it had. The analog stick support makes crash move less like driving a tank and more like how big eyebrowed bandicoots should move. Checkpoint and save systems now speak to each other meaning you can come and go as you please in the game.
The Crash Bandicoot demo line was one of the most packed during PSX that didn’t make you put on a PSVR headset or come with a Hideo Kojima autograph. Playing the game felt simultaneously new and old. The objectives, collectibles, and timing was just like eating cheeseburgers after years of being on an island prison training to become the Green Arrow; you learn how to kill people with arrows but don’t forget how to eat cheeseburgers. It makes the list because some of us who had big, top-load PlayStation systems with the black CD games have been waiting for this a long time. Right game, right price, enough said!
1. LEGO Worlds (Tt Games/WB Games)
Whether it was the licensed platforming action of a Marvel/DC title or the fun of playing with toys in Dimensions; LEGO have given gamers different flavors for varying tastes. In 2017, developer Travelers Tales will push all of our imaginations to the brink of their creativity with LEGO Worlds. Every element of the game is made entirely out of LEGO Bricks you can freely manipulate and dynamically populate. LEGO Worlds’ online multiplayer functionality allows players to explore each other’s worlds together, create together, and engage in cooperative and competitive play experiences that players can build themselves.
We probably spent more time with LEGO Worlds than most of the other demos I played and merely scratched the surface. As an astronaut exploring an almost barren world we populated the tropical land with Lego polar bears, gorillas, tigers, dragons, cars, pyramids, houses, apples, fire-breathing cat things, and you better believe as many of those things fought each other for my amusement as was possible.
There is a full story to Lego worlds involving your astronaut character exploring different worlds each with tons of side quests for you to keep those aimless feelings at bay. However, if you enjoy creating things with LEGOs you can easily spend hundreds of hours crafting full cities, homage levels of other games, even full-scale busts of celebrities. The game is loaded with that much information. LEGO Worlds is complex but not in a way that might be offputting for kids. In fact, this is going to be a game parents and kids can work together in creating different worlds themselves. Yes, the game does remind you of Minecraft as you unlock more items to create things with by breaking other things in the world or by discovery. The polished aesthetic makes it more inviting than any creation game before it and as close to playing with real LEGOs as you can get without the pain of randomly stepping on one barefoot. PS4 Owners will get the added bonus of the LEGO Agents DLC pack, featuring new characters, vehicles, weapons and more from the Agents range of play materials.
Now to round things out…
Comics Beat Most Blockbuster Announcement Game of PSX 2016
The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog)
This was indeed a three-way dance between Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite, Death Stranding, and the sequel to the breathtaking PS3 defining game The Last of Us. What put The Last of Us Part II over the top in my eyes is the danger involved. Not so much avoiding the infected mutations known as clickers, but the danger of ruining something that was a perfect story of loss, redemption, and love surviving. There was never any question we’d get a sequel to the Last of Us, but would it be about Joel and Ellie. They are the touchstones we want, but also ones of a world big enough to tell stories of different people in. Thankfully, Naughty Dog was committed to only returning to this world when they had the right story to tell. It looks like they’ve found it. Lucky for us, they found it with Joel and Ellie again.
When that trailer rolled and we saw the rattled hand of Ellie calming herself by playing guitar and Joel’s silhouette looming in the doorway of a house littered with butchered Firefly soldiers, not only were they back but we were once again instantly invested in this post-apocalyptic world where hope was more rare than gold. The speculation has already begun about Joel being a ghost Ellie sees and her mission is to destroy the militia group from the first game known as the Fireflies. So far, All we do know is that Last of Us Part II will see gamers play as a 19-year-old Ellie out for blood. Respect to Kojima, but this the game I wish was here tomorrow without having seen any gameplay.
We will have to wait for quite some time though, as the game is very early in development and that’s okay. 2018 is a bit too hopeful, with the technical ambition Naughty Dog is investing in the game don’t expect it until fall 2019 earliest or summer 2020 at the latest.
I want Naughty Dog to go make this game and I don’t need to see anything else until it’s ready, however long that may be.
As always I like to bring something back. So here’s a few codes for a pair of games and more from the PlayStation Network. (First come first serve). Follow the developers of all the worth your time games above and enjoy.
Day of The Tentacle: AHJA-Q8N6-EECK
Super Mega Baseball: G8L5-6JN9-8PEM
Persona 5 Theme: TT2L-ALN7-DHDQ, T68M-R3NP-8AG9
Transistor Theme: DR8P-N7NE-62HC