The lights are on
GnogDeveloper: Ko-Op ModeEstimated Release: 2016Platforms: PS4, PC, iOS
This perplexing adventure game plays like a collection of abstract puzzle toys inspired by the trippiest animated sequences from Adventure Time. I spent most of my playtime tinkering with colorful monster heads while trying to figure out what makes them tick. I routinely tapped buttons using the in-game cursor, moved sliders, and turned dials until something lit up or changed in some way. In one instance, I had to push a button that lowered the water levels inside a bright yellow submarine until a floating life saver lined up with a red switch. Once aligned, the switch turns blue along with another set of switches, which teleport me to knew puzzles which will unlock new features on the submarine when I’m done. It’s an odd game that’s difficult to effectively describe, but approaching the bizarre, often cryptic puzzles with a laid back attitude and open mind provides a uniquely intriguing experience. – Tim Turi
Galak-Z: The DimensionalDeveloper: 17-Bit GamesEstimated Release: Fall 2015Platforms: PS4
The inertia-based physics of Asteroids unites with the shield-focused combat sensibilities of Halo in this Japanese anime-inspired sci-fi shooter. Galak-Z’s spot-on controls are the star of the show in this slick-looking throwback. I loved getting a feel for my ships forward and reverse thrusters, tapping them carefully to weave between floating asteroids and dodge enemy fire. Flying past an enemy ship then spinning to face them while blasting a barrage of laser fire and missiles is a joy. If Galak-Z’s mission structure and progression system live up to the moment-to-moment gameplay, we should be in for a stellar treat when it releases later this year. – Tim Turi
Cloud ChasersDeveloper: Bloodflug StudiosEstimated Release: TBAPlatforms: iOS, TBA
When we hear about immigrants, the stories that are often told are about how they're fitting into a new culture. That's interesting, but developer Blindflug Studios thinks that aspect isn't the most interesting part. With their game Cloud Chasers, they're following a father and daughter on their voyage to someplace better. Judging from their grim location, "someplace better" could be virtually anywhere. The pair live in a world that's running out of water, and their homeland has turned into a desert. For Francisco, a farmer, that means it's time to move on.
He and Amelia go on an arduous journey on foot while keeping a close eye on their water levels. If they spy clouds above, they can fly using a little glider, converting the clouds into drinkable water. The longer they stay aloft, however, the more likely they'll be discovered by hostile Cloud Harversters. The game is a roguelike, meaning you have one life to trudge through five procedurally generated deserts. Along the way, Amelia and Francisco talk to each other about their experiences, adding a nice narrative to a style of game that's often devoid of any emotion beyond, "I hope I don't die!" Cloud Chasers doesn't have a release date or list of platforms, though it was running on iOS at Indiecade. – Jeff Cork
SMS RacingDeveloper: Turbo ButtonEstimated Release: Fall 2015Platforms: TBA
The texting-while-driving game SMS Racing has gone through several iterations over the past few years, from its beginnings as a browser game and then getting a VR overhaul for the Samsung Gear. One thing has remained constant: It's a safe and lighthearted way to show the very real perils of swapping your focus between the wheel and your phone. Turbo Button is working on honing the game, adding pedestrians and support for more devices, but the core is going to be the same.
You drive using a traditional analog stick and triggers setup, and texting is handled by the face buttons. Your friends text you constantly during races, and you have to respond with the correct text within 10 seconds. Take any longer (or botch the text), and you lose that friend. Once you lose three, it's game over. Fortunately, texting is easy, but still distracting. Letters pop up, each mapped to one of the four face buttons. Press the right one, and you continue until it's time to hit send. It took me a lap to get comfortable darting my head up and down to split my focus, but I did get the hang of it. By that time, I slipped to the fourth position (from a field of five). I might not have won, but I was just happy to emerge unscathed. – Jeff Cork
In TuneDeveloper: Tweed Couch GamesEstimated Release: TBAPlatforms: PC
According to Tweed Couch Games' site, "In Tune is a game that deals with bodies, their interactions, and giving/withholding consent." Does that sound fun to you? It certainly didn't to me, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I saw it on the last day of the show, and at that point people had become meat obstacles blocking my way to where I needed to be. In Tune snapped me back to reality.
The gist of it is that you and your player 2 hold PlayStation Move controllers, cycle through poses of two artist mannequins, and reenact the positions. Before Tweed Couch Games' Allison Cole and I began, she walked me through various levels of consent. Holding the PS button meant you were consenting to the interaction, letting go meant that you weren't into it, and pressing other buttons either cycled through the next pose or let you bail immediately. After being married for more than 10 years, I hadn't thought much about any of this; my wife and I established our boundaries years and years ago.
The first few poses were pretty easy, giving each other high-fives and doing a weird patty-cake thing. Then things got slightly more intimate. In one pose, we stood next to each other and touched foreheads. Afterward, a prompt came up, asking us to recommend something that we think the other person might like. Allison said I should check out a site, and I shared an album that I'd been listening to a lot lately. The 15 seconds you have to hold each pose gets awkward, which is part of the experience. I was having fun, and then a pose popped up where one of us had to mime choking the other person. That basically stopped me dead in my tracks, since I try to avoid choking people if I can help it. Allison explained that couples were generally too open to all the silly or traditionally intimate poses, so Tweed Couch inserted poses that were more provocative. We moved on to a different awkward pose, where I kneeled and she stood behind me and put her hand on my head.
Of all the things I saw at E3, In Tune was probably the most meaningful for me on a personal level. Allison was funny and easy to talk to, and it was a rare moment where I was talked to someone about something other than what games I saw and what my flight into Los Angeles was like. It's certainly debatable if it's even a game, if you're expecting conventional video games from the Indiecade section, you're bound to be disappointed. – Jeff Cork
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