Like any gaming convention, GDC 2014 was packed full of so many great titles that Ray and Josh didn’t have time to see everything, even with their steady intravenous drip of coffee and Red Bull. In fact, there was so much to love at the show that they didn’t even have time to share all the awesome titles they did see with you.
To help remedy that fact, they’ve put together this quick primer on some of the most promising, unexpected, and downright cool games they didn’t get a chance to cover earlier in the week. Strap in, folks—this is going to be a whirlwind tour.
Bound by Flame
Developer: Spiders Studio • Platforms: PS4, 360, PS3, PC
A mercenary known as Vulcan tries to help his people hold off the undead hordes called up by seven Ice Lords trying to conquer the realm. Priests attempt to summon a helpful fire demon to turn the tide of battle, but during the ceremony, the service is interrupted, and the demon bonds with Vulcan. Now, using the power of flame, he must free his world from the cold grasp of the Ice Lords in classic action-RPG fashion. Bound by Flame features massive bosses and a Fable-like customization system, so fans of fantasy-themed RPGs like Dragon Age will probably want to check this one out.
Developer: HeSaw • Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
This rail shooter is based on a comic of the same name centered around organized crime in Los Angeles. If that sounds a tad too serious for your tastes, don’t fret: It’s not. Blue Estate is all about pulpy, violent, crass, silly humor, and the level I played had that in spades, with everything from a Chihuahua-worshiping cult to a Kim Jong Un parody that pitched a childish fit every time his rocket launcher didn’t work properly. After getting used to using the DualShock 4’s gyroscope as a sort of lightgun stand-in, the gameplay started to shine as a simple throwback to Time Crisis 2 and games of its ilk. I’m a bit more skeptical of the Xbox One version—which I didn’t get to play—because it uses a completely gesture-based control scheme that might be harder to pull off.
Pig Eat Ball
Developer: Mommy’s Best Games • Platforms: TBA
This one’s a collection of minigames in the vein of WarioWare, but the experience is intended for four players. Whether it’s having your respective pig collect the most tennis balls or smashing the most maneki-neko (lucky ceramic Japanese cats), Pig Eat Ball has nearly a dozen games in total planned for launch. The most interesting part of my demo—and something I wish were actually available in the final game—was probably the special-event massage pads wired to the rumble features of our Xbox 360 controllers, turning Pig Eat Ball into the ever-popular “Butt Rumble” game during GDC’s annual Indie Mix.
Hyper Light Drifter
Developer: Heart Machine • Platforms: PS4, Wii U, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya
Funded via a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Hyper Light Drifter is clearly the sort of game you’re not meant to understand based on a five-minute demo. Frankly, being so pressed for time and starting in the middle meant I couldn’t really experiment enough to figure out all of the attacks and abilities I had at my disposal, nor could I get much of a feel for how you progress from section to section. Still, it probably says something that I was still hooked, even though I didn’t have much of an idea of what to do beyond sword-slashing and laser-gunning some bird people to death. It’s a visually and sonically rich experience that could become something special upon release—provided I can actually figure out what the heck I’m doing.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Developer: Frogwares • Platforms: PS4, 360, PS3, PC
Looking to take a page from BBC’s Sherlock, Frogwares is mixing things up in their seventh Sherlock Holmes title. This entry sees the developer using Unreal 3 for the first time, and Crimes and Punishments has the legendary detective taking clues into his “mind palace” and adding them together to draw logical conclusions in an intriguing new element for this adventure series. Be warned, though: All the cases have multiple outcomes depending on how many clues you find and the conclusions you draw, but only one will ever be the “right” solution, changing the rest of the game based on whom you condemn—and why.
Developer: Misfits Attic • Platforms: PC
If you like weeping uncontrollably, Duskers just might be your game of the year. This surprisingly different indie title has you drifting through space, trying to survive by gathering resources from the derelict ships you encounter. Rather than suiting up and putting your own life on the line, you send out drones that you control via a command-line interface. Nerdy? Sure, but it’s also a great way to immerse you in the experience. You feel like you’re alone on a spaceship straight out of ’80s sci-fi, sitting in front of a control panel hammering away on a big chunky keyboard, looking for food and upgrade parts for your little robotic friends. And when they get destroyed by a pack of aliens or sentient slime—and that’ll be happening quite a bit—you really do feel the lonely, hopeless cold of your impending starvation closing in. It’s FTL meets Roombas. It’s Dark Souls meets that programming thing with the cartoon turtle from your elementary-school computer class. If that’s not enough to sell you, I don’t know what will.
Blood of the Werewolf
Developer: Scientifically Proven • Platforms: XBLA, PSN (already available on PC)
Trying to channel the punishing platformers of yesteryear, Blood of the Werewolf serves as both an homage to this waning genre as well as a tribute to classic monster movies. Players will take on the role of Selena, the mother of the last male werewolf, as she tries to save her son from the evil Dr. Frankenstein. Dracula, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein’s monster all serve as bosses that she’ll have to overcome by channeling her own wolf powers. She has to be careful, though, since she can only become a ferocious werebeast by the light of the full moon—and must resort to using her upgradable crossbow when in human form.
Developer: Ludometrics • Platforms: Vita
Ludometrics head David Thomson has described Bodycheck as “a sports game for people who don’t necessarily like sports,” but I’d spin it a different way. It’s a sports game for people who miss the silliness, imagination, and pick-up-and-play simplicity of arcade sports classics like NBA Jam or Mutant League Football. Mechanically speaking, Bodycheck‘s fictional sport probably most closely resembles a hybrid of rugby and soccer, with points scored for throwing the ball into your opponent’s goal. Then again, soccer and rugby don’t have magical abilities that let you shoot fireballs, shrink the opposing team, or teleport across the field. They don’t let you play against three other teams simultaneously or bludgeon your rivals into unconsciousness, either. OK, so it might not be exactly like any real sport, but that’s a big part of the allure. I can’t wait to see how the game shapes up when it’s out on Vita later this year.
Zombies Monsters Robots
Developer: Yingpei Games • Platforms: PC
Similar to Gears of War’s Horde mode, Zombies Monsters Robots’s entire focus is pitting eight players against 12 waves of the titular enemies in a variety of creepy sci-fi locales, with the final wave always being a massive boss themed after the smaller enemies. Our demo took place in the haunted prison where we met the Executioner, a massive zombie who wields red lightning and chains (kind of like Whiplash from Iron Man 2). Buying turrets and barricading entrances between rounds were critical to our survival. If Horde mode and co-op are your addictions, this F2P PC game might be a fun thing to take a look at come this summer.
Monster Madness Online
Developer: Nom Nom Games • Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Browser
Despite the fact that the game’s initials are “MMO,” Monster Madness Online shares more in common with Diablo than World of Warcraft. Across both a story mode and Horde-like survival maps, groups of players can take on enemies together to earn experience and find all sorts of wacky armor and weapons that fit the game’s cartoony, anything-goes theme. While the game will include a real-money shop, it’ll only be used for cosmetic items, and everything will be available as drops or buyable with the currency you earn in-game, as well. But the coolest thing about MMO has to be the tech underpinning its online play—thanks to a proprietary service called Playverse, you can actually party up and play with your friends regardless of whether they’re on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or pretty much any HTML 5–capable browser. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s definitely not smoke and mirrors—just a pretty mind-blowing piece of engineering.
Developer: Frima Studios • Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PC
The king is dead, but before the princess and her groom can ascend to the throne, they must guide the king’s casket to its final destination. This puzzle-platformer will push your skills to the limit—you’ll need to pull the king’s corpse through all manner of obstacles via the ropes attached to his coffin. Collect gemstones along the way to boost your score, but beware of bandits trying to steal everything you collect and knock you off course. While Chariot‘s fun by yourself, the true challenge comes when a friend plays as your husband-to-be and you work together to send the king off in proper fashion.
Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche
Developer: Beast Games • Platforms: PC
“Sequel to a Flash game” isn’t exactly the most reassuring set of words in the world, but this follow-up to the popular Avalanche expands the concept in some fairly drastic ways. Your objective is still dead simple—jump on top of the falling blocks to climb as high as you can before the rising lava catches up and toasts you—but now there are plenty of enemies, power-ups, and boss fights to make the process a whole lot more complex. You can even collect coins and, if you’re fast enough, spend them at the shops that occasionally fall down onto the ever-growing tower of blocks. There’s also two player co-op—at least in name, that is. In my experience, it got more than a little competitive, as well, with my so-called partner bouncing off of my head and snaking the powerups right when I needed them most, abandoning me to death by magma.