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Gamescom 2014: Sony Roundup

Some picks from the PlayStation booth.

by James Thomas Aug 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM


  • Last week saw Europe’s largest annual gaming get-together. Over the course of five days Cologne welcomed upwards of 300,000 people, all eager to get their hands on the latest and greatest our industry has to offer.

    It also gave Manny and myself an opportunity to meet up with some lovely developers who talked to us in depth and took us through their latest projects. Those features are coming soon but over the next few days we’ll take you through the games we fought to get our hands on. There are far too many to go through in depth but hopefully each roundup will provide a snapshot as to how they’re progressing and just how excited you should be for them.

    Today we begin with a selection from the Sony.

    Little Big Planet 3

    Sat on the now traditional beanbags in Sony’s Gamescom booth, I experienced two new levels and two new characters from LBP3. The first featured Oddsock, a dog-like character whose special talent is to wall-run and –jump, in a level that appeared to be the purple innards of a giant pinball machine. Working our way up through the mechanism the environment made heavy use of the wall jumps adding a pleasing and more natural level of verticality to the movements than that with previous Sackboy outings. You could bound up and around the curve and climbs incredibly easily rather than build out stairs or floating platforms.

    The other playable character was Toggle, a lumbering lump whose main characteristic is his weight. Stand him on switches his bulk will set them off. With a dab of a button however he’ll shrink and become just a fraction of his size and weight and capable of moving at far greater speed. The most interesting use of this talent came where a weighty Toggle would have to setup a seesaw for his lighter alter ego, effectively catapulting himself to a higher point. Similarly, seeing him swim – or rather sink as one and then float as the other – showed a huge amount of potential for interesting challenges.

    From what was on show there’s no doubt that the additional characters have already affected the traditional LBP formula for the better. They bring unique traits that can shape the levels in new and interesting ways away from Sackboy’s vanilla jumping. Quite how all the characters will blend together is still unclear however and I’d have to love to see a section that saw you have to switch between them to reach your goal. The floaty physics are still there but at least they’re doing more with them.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.

    Nom Nom Galaxy

    Nom Nom Galaxy

    Mr Driller is now working for Campbell’s, it seems. This 2D mining simulator has you excavating huge amounts of rock in a bid to search for ever more exciting soup ingredients. With a huge saw blade at your disposal – just flick the stick and out it comes - you’ll create a network of passages through the planet’s core picking up mushrooms and the odd green shoot. When you’ve found something tasty, it’s back to base with you to pop it into a robotic vat that will ultimately spit you out a fresh can that is delivered to consumers by rocket.

    The allure seems to be in the flavours of the soups you produce; the more exotic the ingredients then the more profitable the final can. As such you’ll begin systemically hollowing out the planet in a bid to find the precious components for your tin based food empire. At least until the whole thing collapses. If rock isn’t supported, it will collapse, leading you to build an underground complex of ladders, corridors, and even whole extra outposts with their own soup machine. The further you dig, the further you have to return so it makes sense to dot your cooking robots about.

    Nom Nom Galaxy is about empire building and using your saw to achieve it. From finding natural ingredients lying around in caves to hunting local wildlife with your whirling blade it’s your ruthless appetite to combine mammoths with mushrooms. In this early demo however there was little of the grander vision and I did find it a little clunky, especially being only able to carry one ingredient back to base at a time. Pixel Junk have a definite pedigree but I don’t think showing such an early snapshot showed it in the best light.

    Anticipation rating: we'll wait and see.

    Invizimals: The Resistance

    Invizimals: The Resistance

    To my surprise this is Invizimals’ seventh outing. The augmented reality series returns yet again and with the Vita and turns your kitchen into a realm of mini-games, three of which were available for dabbling with on the show floor.

    The first was all focused on shooting evil critters as they poured forth from a fortress that had been conjured on the surface in front of me. Swaying the Vita in dangerous arcs I picked them off one by one before they could shoot me back. The second was a stealth game that saw me first draw the outlines of the buildings with my fingers before helping someone avoid the unwanted attention of patrolling guards. Finally, I had to hose off a mud covered Invizimal as he ran around in front of me. Succeeding in each would add the Invizimal to my collection to battle!

    All were inoffensive in their own right but as ever both with mini-games and AR the experience just didn’t feel very meaty. The tracking worked well enough, as did the speed of the AR itself, but I couldn’t get over how after all these iterations that AR is still no more than a gimmick.

    Anticipation rating: we'll wait and see.

    Super Exploding Zoo

    Super Exploding Zoo

    Possibly the most bizarre game I saw last week, Super Exploding Zoo is a variation on the tower defence genre where you protect a golden egg from waves of black, squid-like aliens but instead of towers you have combustible animals. Quite fittingly, it also looks like a lost episode of Adventure Time.

    At the start of each level you are granted direct control over a single animal. Run them at the squid and they’ll explode doing damage to the would-be egg-eater. Trouble is at that point they’re also dead, a macabre selection of limbs and eyes left rolling around a charred crater. Instead you have to go and round up the other animals in the zoo, each of which has its own special power. Crocodiles, for instance, can create bridges across streams; lions are extremely powerful, and dogs specialise in blowing up walls and releasing other animals so they may join your ranks.

    Beyond its cartoon visuals and curious sense of humour is a puzzle game that tasks you with not just stopping an alien invasion but figuring out how to free the animals you need to do so. Plus anything that allows you to feed enough bamboo to a panda to turn them into a huge, explosive bowling ball is alright in my books.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

    Pix the Cat

    Pix the Cat

    Described to me as “Pac-man meets Snake” by the developer, I got to experience both single- and multi-player in this very brightly coloured arcade game. For solo play you take control of the titular Pix as he wanders round a maze looking to collect a number of eggs laid out across its tiles. As soon as he picks them up they turn into ducklings, contently waddling behind you as you lead them to an equal number of safe spots where they will disappear. Simple: take duck from A to B. Boom.

    Except that just like that old phone-classic the longer the line of ducks behind you is the harder it is for you to navigate. Run into one of your trailing brood and you’ve failed that level. Combined with a ticking time limit and the fact Pix never stops moving and you’ve got to think on your feet to keep your scores going as you descend down the increasingly neon rabbit hole of levels.

    It was good fun with some great aesthetics which continued into multiplayer. Here the eggs no longer hatch but instead become your ammo as you look to barge the other from the level. Two of you battle around the environment, forever moving and potentially stealing the other’s eggs should they walk into their snake. Anyone who has enjoyed the recent editions of Pac-man should have no trouble in embracing Pix the Cat.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.

    Counterspy

    Counterspy

    If you haven’t already seen the striking art style of Counterspy then I encourage you to do so. Of a similar satirical vein to Dr. Strangelove and looking like so many Cold War propaganda posters, Counterspy is a side-scrolling stealth game.

    Elements, probably that of breaking into an underground base and Metroidvania-style map blocks, reminded me of Shadow Complex but here developers Dynamighty have added some extra depth with shooting. Literally. Threats can come in the same 2D plane which you move but also from the unreachable depth of the background. When in trouble you can tap a button to jump into cover and switch in a fixed shooting mode that switches into a more demanding three-dimensions.

    The level I sampled didn’t allow for much of that though; against the clock I had to get in, steal important information, and abort a missile launch. My slender, long-limbed spy, slunk his way in, keeping well out of sight of the enemy as I didn’t have time to exchange fire. It felt like such a unique and glorious take on spying in games.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!

    Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition

    Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition

    Within the office at AVForums it’s fair to say that opinion on Surgeon Simulator is split. The comedic trappings of Bossa’s medical maladies don’t sit well with everyone but as soon as co-founder Henrique Olifiers told me that they were introducing not just Move controls but co-op to the PlayStation 4 version I felt like hugging him.

    The pair of us scrubbed up and set to work on poor old Bob, taking it in turns to crack ribs and remove organs. Whilst co-op doesn’t intrinsically add anything to proceedings it does bring extra opportunity for hilarity as you have to work in and around each other. It’s OK having the other there on standby in case you do anything too brutal to the patient but when they then accidentally then stick you with the aesthetic instead then it’s downhill from there.

    The motion control – once you’ve the finicky PS4 camera positioned at a sensible height/distance – proves a wonderful addition. It adds to the delusion that you are really operating as you reach out and lean down with the scalpel to begin your work. I’m sure I won’t be alone however in grabbing two DualShocks and playing co-op by myself.

    Nurse! Dab my brow!

    Anticipation rating: take my money!


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