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A Full Recap of Attending E3 2016 and the Best it Had to Offer

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With the figurative smoke still settling from some explosive press conferences, anticipation was at an all-time high this year at E3.  2016 was a year of thrilling returns, like the return of God of WarHalo Wars, the more remarkable returns of Resident Evil and The Legend of Zelda, and handfuls of other franchises making their way back in to the minds of gamers.  Previously announced games made their way in to the fray vying for players attention, captivating new titles like Sea of Thieves for Xbox One or Bound for Playstation 4, while previously unseen games like We Happy Few were unexpected, show floor stunners.  And, VR in the form of Oculus, Playstation VR, and countless other companies was virtually everywhere.  Following some generally impressive press events, three days in the E3 showroom didn’t disappoint.  Here are my impressions from my time at E3 2016.

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A lot of showroom space at E3 is dominated by the “Big Three” of the gaming industry, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, but a lot of individual developers had a great showing this year.  One of the most popular residents of the show was Capcom with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard starting with the captivating reveal trailer during Sony’s press conference ( a presentation reminiscent of PT, the playable teaser for the since-canceled Silent Hills). Capcom pulled a wicked twist on Wizard of Oz and dropped a hellish house in the middle of the show floor.  The eerie atmosphere of Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour (the name ascribed to the demo) has many people hoping that this is a return to form for the more action-over-atmosphere direction the franchise has taken recently.  Either way, their presence at the expo was unreal and featured one of the longest lines of the conference, second only, perhaps, to The Legend of Zelda.  Not far from them, Bethesda opted for less hands on experience, exhibiting trailers amidst cool props throughout the majority of their display.  Square Enix aimed for the best of both worlds with multiple kiosks toting a decent collection of the developer’s ridiculously wide selection of games as well as a theater-sized screen advertising an equally wide spread of projects and products.

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Seeing some exhibitor booths was enough fun without actually playing the demos.  WB Games went all out when advertising LEGO DimensionsLEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and, most notably, LEGO Worlds, for which there was enormous LEGO display featuring many of the key environments from the Minecraft-esque, procedurally built world, brick builder due out sometime next year.  Hangar 13 and 2K Games also had a lot of fun advertising for Mafia 3 with their entire booth dressed up like the New Orleans in the 1960s.  Some things, however, need to be seen first-hand and experienced to truly understand what all the hype is about.

Virtual reality falls into that category, where seeing is literally everything.  The Oculus exhibit, in particular, had plenty to show.  Featuring one of the largest displays of the entire show, Oculus offered a multitude of different VR experiences, from Samsung Gear VR, powered by a Samsung Galaxy phone, to standard Oculus Rift single and multiplayer, and even offering players the opportunity to try out Oculus Touch, VR which simultaneously utilizes the Touch motion controls, supposedly releasing by the end of the year.  While Gear VR didn’t thrill me, with graphics comparable to the early polygonal arcade age and gameplay similarly reminiscent of titles like House of the Dead, I was pleased that a multitude of titles didn’t require a controller (and therefore didn’t require additional spending), instead making use of a touch sensitive dial and button on the side of the headset, giving players the Cyclops from X-Men treatment.  I was far more pleased with the other Oculus experiences, in particular, the Touch, which reminds me of the early Wii days, for better or worse.  Admittedly, however, some experiences, particularly the top-down games featured, didn’t necessarily feel like they benefitted from VR, and in the end reminded me of smaller, arcade titles that might be handed out for free by the likes of Sony and Microsoft, played for a while, and then forgotten forever.  Again I was reminded of the Wii, weighed down by innumerable, insufferable, hackneyed mini-game collections, wondering how many true, full-fledged titles will actually make their way to the Rift over sensation-driven, one trick pony party games taking advantage of the latest tech trend.  All that said, what Oculus offers is often creative and fun, in particular, its motion-based games, and is worth giving a try, assuming the opportunity actually presents itself.

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Of the Big Three, Sony is the first to truly enter the VR foray, and I wish I could share my impressions of Playstation VR, but that typically requires actually experiencing something first.  In an attempt to mitigate traffic and wait times, Sony opted to make its largest experiences, VR and theater experiences for its biggest upcoming titles, a by-appointment-only operation where attendees used an app to reserve time slots to come back at to play each game.  In theory, this sounds very respectful of attendees’ time and patience, in practice it favored larger media outlets who took priority and limited those who got to experience anything to a small percentage of overall attendance.  What was particularly grating was that even when I used the app on multiple occasions and was convinced that I’d reserved a spot for myself at a select time, I’d arrive to find that the app hadn’t actually reserved my spot because, according to the Sony representative, thousands of people were all using the app at the same time and vying for the same time slot.  So, instead of being able to simply wait in a line for the sake of experiencing something, the option to experience something was completely removed, so I experienced something else, in this case primarily things from Microsoft’s demo area. It was severely disappointing that Sony, who may very well have “won” E3 in terms of press conferences (not actually my opinion, nor something truly measurable,) consequently lost the show floor competition in my book for implementing an unnecessary, and broken system while overlooking or simply shrugging off the consequences.

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While that experience marred my overall impressions of Sony’s show floor presence, it wasn’t all bad, and Playstation has some genuinely exciting titles coming that aren’t reliant on a gimmick headset.  I was particularly impressed by Bound from Santa Monica Studios, a gorgeous game which transpires in a vibrant world comprised of broken, polygonal pieces which fluctuate and undulate, emblematic of the thought process of a woman recalling the past.  The protagonist is a graceful princess who dances to solve problems and to solve the games platforming challenges.  Surreal, imaginative, and captivating, Bound was undoubtedly one of the best games Sony had to offer.  Right, alongside it was Gravity Rush 2, which, although not featured in the Playstation press conference, deserves any and all attention it’s getting elsewhere.  The sequel to a PS Vita title, Gravity Rush 2 for PS4, known as Gravity Daze 2 in Japan, is an action, adventure game that allows players to manipulate gravity to fly or fall in any direction amidst an imaginative setting among the clouds.  Graphically, the game looks stellar and feels like playing in an anime show.  Mechanically, the game seemed seamless in my time with it and was perfectly polished and outrageously fun.  Look out for the original Gravity Rush remaster on Playstation 4 and its sequel’s release later this year.

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Sony’s rival, Microsoft, had a lot to counter with, including the latest iteration of their console and granting fans the ability to design controllers.  Outside of maybe my golden, Zelda-themed Wiimote I can’t think of another time when I was more excited about a controller.  And trust me when I say they look great in person.   Mostly, however, Microsoft brought games.  Where Playstation has a very limited, timed exclusive in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Xbox has Battlefield 1.  The Battlefield franchise has never particularly appealed to me, but, just like the Central Powers threatened the Allies in World War One, Battlefield 1 threatens to change that.  The breathtakingly life-like graphics aptly capture all of the gruesomeness and profane beauty of war, the diverse grounds covered in WWI, and new features like dynamic weather systems and hyper-destroyable environments, add an enormous amount of immersive detail while ensuring that no two matches will be the same.  Not to mention that developer DICE has the franchise primly ironed out, and this may be the smoothest shooter I’ve ever seen.  Add in war planes, zeppelins, and a wide spread of classes and guns and you’ve got a winning recipe for an impeccable shooter.  Here’s to hoping this one panzers out.  Get it?  Like pans out, only using the name of a tank from World War…2…. Well, that pun fell apart.

If World War is not your thing,  Xbox also has a promising series of exclusives racing to get out.  Forza is making its return with Forza Horizon 3, notable not only for the quality this racer brings to the track, but also for allowing friends to hop in an play seamlessly at anytime.  Shared between Steam and Xbox is Cuphead, a punishing platformer in the disguise of a 1930s cartoon, featuring fun run and gun gameplay on top of its phenomenal art direction.  Or, We Happy Few is a procedurally generated game inspired by a time thirty decades after Cuphead.  Reminiscent of BioshockWe Happy Few is a startling new title in the vein of A Clock Work Orange, featuring a 1960s, English society dependent on a new drug called Joy, and a protagonists revelations when he stops taking his.  This unexpected, sinister title from Compulsion Games is already shaping up to be a rare treat for Xbox owners.  Speaking of Rare, the recently acquired company for Microsoft is working on perhaps its most ambitious title yet, and that’s Sea of Thieves.  First revealed at E3 last year, the title is essentially a pirate simulator, complete with accordions, rum, cannons, and walking the plank.  The demo had three teams of five try to lay claim to the sea in a three way fight.  The teams were entirely responsible for manning their pirate ship, from someone steering, to someone in the crow’s nest giving direction.  Teamwork is critical, and this demo was literally sink or swim…er…float.  Firing cannons at an enemy vessel was loads of fun, but maintaining the integrity of the ship below deck was equally vital.  Rare deserves credit for tackling a title so unique alone, but more so for how fun the demo actually ended up being.  This is a childhood’s dream come true, and I can’t wait to see more.

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Also revealed at E3 last year, ReCore, from Comcept and Armature was everything the tagline “from Keiji Inafune and the Makers of Metroid Prime,” would lead you to believe it was.  Throughout the brief demo I was reminded of The Legend of Zelda, and especially Metroid Prime, and so far the level of craft on display deserves a comparison to some of the best Nintendo has to offer.  The action adventure puts you in the place of Joule and her companion “Corebot” dog, Mack.  Central to the game are Corebots or robots powered by cores, and by switching Mack’s core into other robotic frames, new companions are born with their own distinct abilities which can be utilized in combat and to solve puzzles.  Combat itself is crisp, clean, and fun, complete with a color matching system to maximize damage output when shooting.  Movement is just as critical but equally as enjoyable and felt something like third-person Metroid Prime platforming.  This game is incredibly promising and was easily one of the most polished entries in all of E3.

Which leaves Nintendo, the studio that opted to bring one, and only one, playable demo to E3.  Despite very vocal dissent from the gaming community leading up to E3, that decision could not have been more justified throughout the course of the event as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the most popular demo of E3 2016.  From social media, to the show floor itself, everyone was talking about Zelda, and waiting in lines for any other game, one could help but over hear rave reviews for and positive impressions from the demo.  I heard not one single negative thing about Breath of the Wild my entire time at E3, and rightly so, The Legend of Zelda completely stole the show.  On Tuesday morning, Nintendo began their Treehouse Live event, which would continue throughout the day.  Three hours later, at 12pm, thousands of curious gamers rushed the demo when the floors opened, myself included.  Wait times for the demo varied, but from what I gathered, most people waited at least three hours or more for the demo.  I got off easy with a two-and-a-half hour wait.  Nintendo was wise to bring only Zelda, the length of the line and the popularity of the demo necessitated it, and any other demo would have gotten in the way.  Not only so, but by foregoing a press conference, much more effort and attention was drawn to the Treehouse event, where Nintendo showed off generous amounts of footage, primarily from Zelda, but also from a handful of other games as well, opting for satisfying amounts of information over terse trailers packed into one thrilling hour.  While Nintendo might not have “won” the fan voted press conference competitions, their demo station was an unrivaled success, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the most talked about game from E3 on social media, nearly doubling the amount of mentions of the runner up, Battlefield 1.  Quite frankly, if anyone states that Zelda didn’t win E3 they didn’t play the demo, didn’t watch enough footage, are in denial, and most definitely are wrong.  But you’re entitled to your (wrong) opinion.

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After making it through the enormous line, attendees entered through a glowing cave mouth, which looked similar to the new Guardian enemy type announced this year. From there, players were treated to a movie in a darkened cave introducing the game, some new features, and setting the stage.  The screen the trailer was played on raised revealing the demo area, a shaded forest scene, the floor covered in grass-like turf, and complete with Bokoblins on wooden towers, enormous pieces of meat being warmed over a faux fire, barrels, treasure chests, trees, a forest in the distance and a castle on the horizon, and a statue of Link aiming an arrow at an enormous Guardian.  In the center were the kiosks where the games could be played.  The only thing that rivaled the quality of the demo area, which could go head to head with any theme park, was the demo itself (my extended impressions of which are here!)

To say Nintendo went all out is certainly an understatement.  Nintendo took a risk and leaned entirely on the quality of one playable demo at the show and completely crushed it.  An intoxicating breath of fresh air and a stirring call to exploration, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the best that E3 had to offer, but only the cherry on top of an already amazing show.  Never have I been more legitimately excited for the future of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo collectively, each one with unique, promising new titles that are sure to draw in newcomers and satisfy consumers who already own these consoles.  While much of E3 is thought of in terms of competition by the fans, the winner this year is undoubtedly the audience.  Crazy, new co-op experiences like Sea of Thieves are bound to put smiles on millions of faces, arresting new directions from games like God of War are certain to thrill and chill old and new fans, and games like  The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild already threaten to be the best game of 2017.  Happy E3 2016, here’s to the golden future of games!

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

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Games

PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

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The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

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Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

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Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

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Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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