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PSX’17: Surreal artistry, literature monsters, and the healthy VR market are the 5 favorite games from PlayStation Experience 2017.

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PlayStation Experience 2017 is in the leaderboards. One night of announcement-lite talk and two days of playing video games. There were mind-blowing moments from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson doing a live rendition of The Last Of Us Part II trailer’s song to someone winning their own MCU style Infinity Gauntlet in the Capcom Cup tournament. We took a bunch of photos at the various first-party exclusive themed booths and played tons of unreleased games on the show floor. This was the hardest year in the show’s short history to narrow down to the five games which were the most fun, interesting, and attention-worthy at PSX:

 

5. KNOCKOUT LEAGUE (Grab Games)

As an early adopter of PSVR, you’re well aware of the slow drip of variety. Mostly every piece of software for the platform is some sort of short demo or artistic story-focused experience. Personally, I bought VR to hit people and shoot at things. Lucky for me the team at Grab Games is satisfying my Apollo Creed desires with a VR game all about the sweet science of boxing. Knockout League gets you up off the couch and puts you in the ring against imaginative tough customers in an arcade-style boxing experience. Using the PSVR headset and move controllers which become your gloves on screen, players will combine the physicality of jabs, dodging, and uppercuts with the strategy of figuring out your opponent’s moves. Our single round fight was against a British octopus, but the game also features human opponents modeled after famous boxers. When it came to fighting an octopus, you’d need to watch for a twitch of his mustache or shaking of a fist to let you know what direction you need to move your body in to dodge before throwing your own devastating combos by swinging your arms like a true prizefighter. It’s physically demanding but there’s fewer sweeter feelings than raising your hands in victory. When the game’s final release comes around you’ll have various characters to fight in fully fleshed out arenas with crowds that give you that Vegas fight night feel. EA should be ashamed that a developer with a slice of its resource beat it to the VR boxing punch. You’re damn right I just went there!

Knockout League can currently be played in early access on STEAM for Occulus and Vive, but will come to the more accessible PSVR platform by mid-2018.

4. ANAMORPHINE (Artifact5)

A game that can be played with just a traditional PlayStation 4 system but benefits by leaps and bounds from the VR experience. Anamorphine by Artifact5, is a beautiful and tragic mind-bending tale that unfolds through the fragmented memories of Tyler and his wife Elena. A terrible accident re-triggers her crippling clinical depression, stripping her of her passion and livelihood. It also causes Tyler to see his lost love Elena all throughout his world. Every path you walk through opens a new memory that transports you into a gorgeously rendered surreal world. My playthrough saw me navigate Tyler through a lush almost alien looking garden. Playing in VR took me up close and personal with plant life representing the synapses of Tyler’s brain until I was whisked away to a concert hall that could only be described as a social anxiety sufferers’ worst nightmare. As you walk through all these gorgeous environments, you’ll need to uncover the story of what happened to your wife. Many games aim for surreal but often stumble or pull the rug out from the story with weirdness. No matter how distracting the game’s beauty got, I was never completely pulled away from wanting to know what befell this innocent couple. It’s an example of how to balance the flash with the story. Anamorphine is an experience that felt like I was playing true art.

Anamorphine is an experience that felt like I was playing true art. As I would end one of Tyler’s memories, the character would be pulled back into reality by a morphed still from the area I’d just explored, as if I were simply looking at a photograph the entire time. Anamorphine’s true artistry is entrenched in these anamorphic moments. As I’d dwell in the solitary confinement of their apartment, artifacts such as concert tickets or a note would point me in the direction of solving the mystery. Just when I could no longer tolerate the prison of the apartment, the silence would be pierced by a beautiful harmonic cello as the echo of Elena suddenly appears to guide me to my next memory. The transitions are designed to drive you mad in the best way possible, it’s impossible to be angry at it though as you can’t help but admire how masterfully done they are.

Much of what Anamorphine deals with directly affects 3.3 million Americans. Beyond the paralyzing fear those suffering from depression deal with, the game makes you think about the smallest bit of isolation even more people feel at times.

Anamorphine launches for PS4 (with built-in VR support), Oculus, and Vive on January 16, 2018. It could indeed be the Edith Finch of 2018.

 

3. MOTHERGUNSHIP (Terrible Posture Games/Grip Digital)

You remember that Simpson’s episode where Moe is talking in the NRA meeting and says “that’s how you turn one gun into five guns”? What if some developer took that to heart? That’s what happened in Mothergunship.

You’ll play as a resistance fighter against an unrelenting alien armada in a first-person shooter that puts you in a true bullet-hell. What separates the game from your Battlefield and Halos of the world is how liberal your weapons truly are. From hundreds of different parts, players can design and craft things like chain guns with under barrel sawblade launchers or anti-gravity armaments that shoot bullets at a 90-degree angle in the air. Inventive players will be able to come up with combinations even the game’s developer never conceived once they get the game in their hands. In one instance, players crafted a gun that has nearly multiple barrels covering the screen like a photo frame of death. Mothergunship isn’t just about putting your design skills to the test, it also drops you in the middle of some intense challenges. As you fight the alien hordes, you’ll need to focus just as much on strategy as brutality because the game won’t simply drop you in the same spot upon death. Instead, you’ll start over from the beginning of the level. The action can go from a casual stroll taking on a few mini-bots to all-out war for survival in an instant. You can play single player or co-op through tons of procedurally generated levels that take the form of mini ships in space until you reach the mother ship and the game’s final boss. What that means is if you die in a level from a specific enemy or falling in a hazard, that same challenge could change drastically depending on the game’s level generator code. What impressed me most about this game is how competently it ran for only having been in full development for two years. Fans of traditional shooting games will definitely have a blast with this one.

Mothergunship is targeting a 2018 release date on PlayStation 4, PC, and other platforms.

2. KNIGHTS & BIKES (Foam Sword/Double Fine)

As I took an afternoon stroll past the incomprehensible Battlefront II booth on the PSX floor, I saw four neon frame BMX bikes tethered to the Double Fine booth. As though they were parked outside of a library or an elementary school. Seeming a bit out of place for a new Dave Mirra game, instead, I found one of the best surprises of the show as I gandered at the quirky handpainted imagery on screens in front of the bikes. What I was looking at was a game called Knights & Bikes, an adventure exploration title that blends a sully English town with the punky imagination of two young girls. Developed by a lineage that includes visionaries behind Tearaway, and Little Big Planet; Knights & Bikes sees players take on the roles of Nessa and Demelza as they explore a British island in the 1980’s. Just as with children in the 80’s, these girls have nothing to entertain themselves with on this desolate place save for each other and their imaginations.

As I hopped on a real-life BMX bike seat that my butt was not designed to sit on, the super wedgie I felt coming on was replaced by wonder after I picked up the PS4 controller. When you start exploring the static looking world of Knights & Bikes odd things begin to pop up in random places. One moment you’re making mud donuts on your bike and figuring out a way to get it over fences and other obstacles keeping you from continuing your journey. It’s not all exploration as these girls have a fiesty fight mechanic that gives them each unique abilities which help you fight the likes of tin can crabs and junkyard robot bosses. In one instance my friend threw water balloons at enemies and my character would stomp in them to create almost grenade effect of damage. As you progress new abilities will be unlocked that allow all sorts of different team-ups. These girls will pretend to be everything from medieval knights on trusty steeds to Indiana Jones style explorers across a

Knights & Bikes has the makings of a game loaded with heart. Demelza and Nessa are spunky, fun, and interesting characters to get behind as you watch their friendship blossom before your eyes. These girls will pretend to be everything from medieval knights on trusty steeds to Indiana Jones style explorers across a substantial game for a crowd-funded title. There’s an innocence to a game that lets you hop on a bike and pedal around town with a pet goose named Captain Honkers. Just don’t forget to feed him.

P.S if you love Brian K. Vaughun and Cliff Chiang’s Papergirls you’ll definitely dig Knights & Bikes.

Knights & Bikes is looking to release through publishing with Double Fine Presents in 2018.

In the top spot there is a tie!

1. SUPER DARYL DELUXE (Ben & Gary Games)

When I first caught screenshots of Super Daryl Deluxe, it seemed like your average Castlevania-like title with a quirky art style. After playing a brief snippet of the game at PSX, I can tell you there’s an indescribable x factor to this title that elevates it to a quality worthy of being on your radar.

In the game, you’ll take on the role of Daryl Whitelaw, a pale cross between young Tommy Chong and Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds. Daryl’s just an average kid attending a high school where each classroom leads him to explore different dimensions. Those dimensional rifts are more than just for show as this would be hero needs to unravel the mystery of the school’s secrets in order to find kids who have gone missing and a vanished principal. Our playthrough saw Daryl enter a Dickens-inspired English room transporting to a mansion littered with ghosts, candy cane goblins, and nutcrackers looking to end your existence. The heart of SDD is blending a wild imagination with the high school experience. While we battled off a small army of tiny literature inspired monsters to save Scrooge, the subsequent boss battle encounter against a rabid ghost firing projectiles all over the place would actually turn out to be an angry honor student from the high school. You’ll see a lot of these seeming monsters turn out to be science club nerds, mathletes, drama performers and other high school tropes. Daryl is far from helpless in his battles as a self-help book he finds unlocks new powers that he uses to fight off enemies. You’ll Gandolf away enemies, swarm ghosts by riding a wave of pain at them, and even club things till you get tired.

The game is rather large as the Dan&Gary Games team not only packs in a lengthy story, but also additional side quests you unlock by exploring the most remote parts of the high school’s mapped out levels. SDD shares something of a gift and a curse with virtual reality, it’s a game which you can only really appreciate by playing. The static elements of its wild yet efficient art style pop when you see how smooth the game runs. Making this hippie bounce around the screen in order to avoid attacks or outrun more powerful enemies shows off just how fluid the game’s animation is in its native 60 frames per second rate.

Super Daryl Deluxe is an out of left field kick to the face of awesome. The big action moments of fighting challenging bosses seem well earned through its simple yet hilarious narrative I glanced pieces of in my playthrough. Even though at an event like PSX, developers are only supposed to talk about coming to the PlayStation platform, Super Daryl Deluxe needs to become my new favorite pick up and go game.

This is something you need to keep an eye on when it releases in the Spring of 2018. Hopefully and likely on various platforms that rhyme with which.

 

1.DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN (Quantic Dream)

The other top co-game of the show; Detroit: Become Human takes the consequence of choice and turns it into an inescapable gut punch. Set in a not too far future where humans have integrated androids on a level that makes them as necessary as 7-11s, you’ll play through the stories of three particular ones, Kara a regular servant put in a particularly bad situation under abusive humans, Markus a rebel devoted to releasing androids from slavery, and Connor a peacekeeper tasked with tracking down deviant droids.

While the full story hasn’t quite been revealed, we do know the first law of robotics is going out the window as some of these androids become sentient they begin to “malfunction”. If we as humans can barely handle emotions, imagine a world where robots become cursed with burdens such as feelings. In our playthrough we took control of Connor as he was called into to negotiate a hostage situation where an android babysitter named Kevin had gone rogue and killed the father then took the little girl out on a ledge in a standoff. Connor will need to use his cybernetics in the crime scene to piece together motive and means. The more information you have before heading into the standoff, the more probable your chance of success becomes according to the game. Detroit is a game all about progressing even if you do it in the worst way possible so fail states become something which rarely exist in this world. What that means is our hostage situation could end peacefully with Kevin surrendering, Kevin could be executed leaving the girl to safety, he could pull the girl off the ledge, or he could kill the child. All these possible outcomes build an extraordinary amount of tension in the narrative. Not to mention this particular part was on a timer you couldn’t see but only get reminders of as other cops in the apartment would be shot by the perpetrator.

I examined the crime scene using almost Batman levels of detective mode to figure out Kevin went into a rage because the father was going to replace him with a newer model android. It’s an example of a crucial piece of information I could use to talk the hostage taker down with but could have also missed if not careful. When you don’t find out a piece of information before going into a situation the game does not conveniently write it in, causing you to either certainly end up in the worst outcome or have to find another way to the best solution. Our playthrough ended with both Kevin and I going over the ledge but Connor being able to push the little girl back on to safety. It left me in a spot where I need to know what happens after I watched the screen go black and the demo ends.

Detroit: Become Human isn’t a direct parallel of A.I horror stories or even Terminator. Amazing in a world where literally everything is like Terminator. Instead, Quantic Dream is telling a story of what it means to be human, learning about emotions and the value of life when it’s not code written on firmware. In a year where Sony is supposed to deliver God of War, Days Gone, and Spider-Man; Detroit: Become Human has a chance to make a big splash by simply being a story that entertains and shocks you to your core.

That was our PSX 2017. There were tons of other great games we got to try which we’ll talk about in the coming year, but for now, let’s just enjoy a few random shots from the show floor and The Last of US panel opening.

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