The lights are on
Sony packed the PlayStation 4 launch event with games, and over one-quarter of them come from indie studios. We played every single one and have rounded them up in launch date order. We also have good news, with two of the future releases confirmed for PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection at launch.
ContrastDeveloper: Compulsion GamesRelease Date: November 15, 2013PlayStation Plus Instant Game CollectionWe've previewed Compulsion's shadowy puzzle platformer a few times (including in yesterday's piece on the free games of the PlayStation 4 launch). The title evokes the cerebral nature of titles like Portal while telling a compelling story about a young girl trying to piece together her family.It's a gorgeous game with a sultry jazz soundtrack recorded especially for the title. Best of all, it's free for PlayStation Plus members (which includes anyone who gets the 30-day voucher in their console). - Mike Futter
Tiny BrainsDeveloper: Spearhead GamesRelease Date: November 26Tiny Brains is a cooperative puzzle game, in which four lab animals have to work together to solve a variety of experiments. Each of the creatures has their own unique ability, thanks to the meddling of the scientists. One can push objects away, another can vacuum objects toward them, yet another is able to swap places with objects, while the final one can summon an ice wall. Puzzles require clever teamwork, such as one where I (as the rat who could teleport and swap places with blocks) had to jump on an ice block that a partner created, which another teammate pushed over a pit of sawblades. I had to target the block on a platform and land safely onto it, while the vacuum guy finished the sequence by sucking up the block before it was shredded by the blades. It was tricky but rewarding. Spearhead said that there were multiple ways we could have solved it, too. There are also a few extra modes such as an endless-runner style game where the object is to work as a team to push a ball through a spinning, hazard-filled tube as long as possible. - Jeff Cork
1001 SpikesDeveloper: NicalisRelease Date: December 2013The developers of Cave Story are almost ready to release the wickedly difficult 1001 Spikes on PlayStation 4. The title features over 100 levels that can be played solo or co-op, with over a dozen different characters with unique abilities.As players work through the game, they'll have a pool of 1001 lives to expend. Additional tries can be acquired in the level, but don't expect to make it through unscathed. 1001 Spikes is designed to test your reflexes and your patience. For those that love the challenge of titles like Spelunky, this is going to be a great fit. In addition to the single-player mode, a "lost levels" option is available that is designed around multiplayer platforming. There is also a versus mode in the vein of the original Mario Bros. While 1001 Spikes was originally supposed to be a launch title, but got delayed, don't fret. It'll be out by the end of the year. - Mike Futter
Doki-Doki UniverseDeveloper: HumaNatureRelease Date: December 2013In this charming game, players help a little robot learn what being human is all about. Players take the bot to various planets, each of which is designed around an emotion or aspect of the human condition.
For instance, one is about devotion. I saw part of a mission in that planet in which a woman named Cleo mourns what she thinks is unrequited love from a character named Ramses. She doesn’t know that Ramses is beside her in a ghostly form. The robot, QT3, can help Ramses out altruistically, from the goodness of his heart, or by demanding something in return. The game monitors these choices and builds a psychological profile of the player, which can be shared with friends. - Jeff CorkDon't StarveDeveloper: Klei EntertainmentRelease Date: January 2014PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection
Klei's twisted survival roguelike is making the jump to PlayStation 4 from PC after nearly a year in open beta and final release. The title takes the crafting ethos of Minecraft and adds the tension of hunger, sanity, and a grue-like creature that instantly kills players in the pitch black of night.All of the content of the PC version will make its way to Sony's console, with eight different characters to unlock. Each has his or her own special abilities, including the ability to cast spells, grow stronger on a full stomach, and start fires without supplies at night.You'll probably die a lot, and the in-game Morgue will track your failures and the manner in which your previous incarnations met their doom. The console controls to an apt job of making the complex menu accessible, and the aesthetic style features Klei's stellar hand-drawn look. - Mike Futter
Secret PonchosDeveloper: Switchblade MonkeysRelease Date: Q1 2014PlayStation Plus Instant Game CollectionArena combat titles are the perfect opportunity to partner up with (or trash talk) friends. Switchblade Monkeys' Secret Ponchos shifts the perspective into a top-down view giving players guns, dynamite, bullwhips, chainguns, and molotov cocktails.We played with two of the characters, the speedy Kid Red and the bayonet-wielding Deserter. Kid Red can roll into and out of combat quickly, either cooking his dynamite and throwing it, or tagging another player with it. The Deserter can use his weapon as a shotgun, rifle, or skewer. At launch, there will be six characters, each of which has their own weapons, play styles, and ways to stun opponents. The title will support one-on-one, two-on-two, four-on-four, and an eight-person free-for-all. Additionally, players will be able to create team matches with unbalanced sides.Switchblade Monkeys will be out in the first quarter of 2014. It will be part of the Instant Game Collection for the first month of its release. - Mike Futter
HelldiversDeveloper: ArrowheadRelease Date: 2014The team behind popular PC action title Magicka is putting the polish on its four-person cooperative alien-shooting title, Helldivers. Players will take the role of heavily armored soldiers in a fight against three alien species.In the demo we played, we loaded up with an assault rifle, grenades, and the ability to call in mech suits, turrets, and airstrikes to take on enormous bugs that would be at home in Starship Troopers. The title is played from the top-down perspective, with up to four people joining in via couch co-op and/or online with PlayStation 3, Vita, or PlayStation 4.Maps and objectives are procedurally generated. In the two missions we played, we had to power up an oil extractor and fend off waves of invading bugs while we waited for extraction. In the other, we had to call in large bombs from our ship in orbit and arm them to destroy nests.Five perks can be assigned in the armory before launching a mission, and these are triggered by holding a button and punching in a d-pad code. The action is fast and frenetic, and with friendly fire on, it's easy to make a mistake.The title will also feature a galactic war to which the entire community contributes. Should players triumph, the difficulty will ramp up in the next war. Helldivers is extremely challenging, and a lot of fun. It's slated for release next year. - Mike Futter
HohokumDeveloper: Honeyslug / Sony Santa MonicaRelease Date: 2014When you’re tired of ventilating faces with machine guns, Hohokum could be the change of pace you’re after. It’s a soothing, relaxing experience without fail states or lives to worry about. As a strange-looking eyeball thing with a long trail called the Long Mover, your job is to travel around equally strange places and explore.Part of the fun is in discovering how you can interact with little creatures scattered throughout the world. Another equally fun part comes with simply moving around the sky, darting around and picking up speed. It’s not a screen saver – there are objectives to achieve – but you’re not pushed toward them with text or nagging arrows. It’s up to you to find ways to help creatures plant hidden seed pods or get a guano factory running again at peak production. Ordinary, it is not. - Jeff Cork
Octodad: Dadliest CatchDeveloper: Young HorsesRelease Date: 2014Octodad: Dadliest Catch is as much about loosely controlled mayhem as it is about a mollusk in disguise. As the titular character, your job is to complete a variety of mundane tasks using your floppy tentacles. The action is physics-based, and you control your limbs independently. That makes it a challenge to even walk around in a straight line, let along perform a multistage action such as brewing a cup of coffee.I got a taste of the suburban life in a new demo. In addition to making my morning joe, I also grilled some burgers, weeded a garden and mowed the lawn, and put a birdhouse back in its place. The latest build features voiced cutscenes, and I also got a glimpse of a bad guy who seems to have figured out Octodad’s shameful secret (even his family doesn’t know he’s an octopus). - Jeff Cork
The WitnessDeveloper: Number None Inc.Release Date: 2014The Witness is a puzzle game based on one seemingly simple concept: drawing lines. As it turns out there’s a lot more possibility contained within that idea than you might initially expect. The game is set on an island, which is filled with mysterious panels. When players approach the panel, they have to draw a path along a grid or other shapes to complete the puzzle.A good example of how it works in practice is in a hedge maze. Players walk along a simple path, that has a few portions blocked off by wooden blockades. A panel is posted at the exit, with a seemingly random shape. After guessing a few times, we take a step back – up a nearby staircase away from the maze, actually – and realize that the panel is actually depicting the hedge maze. To complete the puzzle, we have to trace a line to the exit that follows the path that players can walk along, without virtually taking any shortcuts through those blockades. Other hedge mazes nearby play along similar themes, incorporating sneaky cues such as sound or observing tiny details in the environment. - Jeff Cork