Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Games of April 2013.

Walking up and down the sidewalks in my neighborhood is a treacherous proposition at best.  Six months worth of snow, walked on and packed down and melted and re-frozen until it crystallizes into a uneven, pitted and rutted surface of undulating ice, the navigation of which should be considered for professional sports.  On Easter Sunday, it snowed.

It's frickin' April, and I'm dying for the showers that will bring May flowers.  In gaming, April is a mellow and subdued four weeks, offering up some mid-to-low quality titles with a few radar hotspots worthy of attention.

April 2nd
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Wild card.

Defiance is a persistent-world massively multiplayer online third-person-shooter from the folks who made Rift - which is worth noting.  Rift was yet another title to reach for the MMORPG pot that Blizzard clutches so jealously, but - unlike almost everything else that tries - Rift wasn't bad. 

Defiance isn't meant to merely be an MMO - word is, events in-game will tie in with those of the Syfy space western of the same name - so the game is part of a much larger investment on behalf of some shadowy entertainment mogul.  With Trion Worlds' development history, Defiance could be the console MMO to keep an eye on.

April 9th - PS3, Vita - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Perhaps I have some sort of patriotic love of Canadian developers (my Assassin's Creed III review notwithstanding), but Guacamelee! is the most exciting thing to drop in April, for my money.  Drinkbox Studios, an indie dev, has maintained a relationship with Sony throughout its short existence - with the not-bad Tales From Space: About a Blob on the PS3 and last year's pretty-entertaining puzzle-platformer Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! on the Vita.
"If they keep this up, one can expect them to start making flat-out great games - but they're not quite there, yet. They're just pleasantly, comfortably close."
-from the Mutant Blobs Attack! review-
Guacamelee! is easily the most-ambitious title Drinkbox has attempted to date - you can use the Vita as a controller when playing the PS3 version, for example - and it has old-school gamer pleasure written all over it, as a 2D Metroidvania brawler with a cheesy Mexican theme.

That's all I need to know.  "2D Metroidvania brawler."  Sounds exquisite.

April 16th
Injustice : Gods Among Us
PS3, 360, Wii U
Hype-O-Meter : Do you like western Fighters?

Remember when Mortal Kombat got its reboot in 2011, and its reboot didn't suck?  That was NetherRealm Studios - an amalgamation of the original MK studio from Midway and some of Warner Bros' other assets in Chicago - and they're (weirdly and wisely) not driving their flagship franchise into the ground.  Instead, they're taking advantage of the recent surge in super hero popularity with Injustice, which posits an alternate universe in which Superman becomes a bad guy and takes over the world because Joker pulled some stupid shit.

This will be a nice, triple-A fighter with some of your favorite super heroes, from a developer who knows what they're doing when it comes to fighting games.

April 23rd
Star Trek The Video Game
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : When has a game with "The Video Game" in the title ever been good?

It's a co-op third-person shooter.  Because we don't have enough of those.

Media reports on Star Trek: The Video Game were uniformly positive when the game was first shown, and going on recent trailers and gameplay showings, I have no idea why.  Developer Digital Extremes have never produced a great game in their own right - merely plying a port or two for other folks' more noble work.  They've come close once or twice, with Dark Sector at the dawn of the current gen and last year's decent The Darkness II - but they've never hit one out of the park, all on their own.

I don't expect them to start now, but c'mon - fingers crossed - we'd all love a great Star Trek game.

April 23rd - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Full disclosure - the above screenshot is from 2011's orgasmic Dead Island - because it's impossible to locate a screenshot of blademaster superheroine Xian Mei looking badass in any of the Riptide screenshots. Bear in mind, it's the same concept - a first-person, open-world, RPG-lite brawler set in a tropical zombie outbreak.

Now, I know all those words sound pretty cool - and pretty unlikely to succeed, when mixed together (particularly the first-person brawler part) - but Dead Island is not Fallout or BioShock or The Elder Scrolls.  Dead Island isn't like any other first-person game in which you swung a wrench or made wiffy slashes with a sword.

It's the first-person brawler that works.  (Queue chorus of angels.)

"Here, one shrugs and accepts the amateurish narrative because it is the thing that permits you to wander off into its world and get in awesome fights with zombies - and these fights are awesome. 
Lose your head and they are a frantic, panicked affair - desperately swinging your bludgeon at a swarm of grasping, cold and rotting hands that will tear you limb from limb in two shakes of a lamb's tail. Keep your cool and you are a grim reaper of dead souls. 
You often see them long before they see you, and can plan your attack. Fools rush in, as they say, and staying alive is about staying in control of the situation. It's about managing the crazy, screaming, dashing Infected and the shambling Walkers. It's about jump-kicking a dude in the face before you turn around and bring your sledgehammer down on the head of a fallen, living corpse, giving you just enough time to turn a few more degrees and bash another killer into the dirt. 
Don't stop. Stay in control. There's more coming. Bring that hammer down again. 
It is - when your cool is kept - elegant, practiced, and deliciously savage. When a pack of six zombies rush you and you walk away without a scratch, a bloody mess in your wake, it's one of the most satisfying, rewarding feelings I've had with a Dualshock."
-from the Dead Island review-
...and its sequel drops on April 23rd.  Guacamelee! may be the most "exciting" game this month, but Dead Island: Riptide is the title I'm most confident in.  Stay hyped, my friends.

April 30th
Deadly Premonition : Director's Cut
Hype-O-Meter : Is it twenty bucks?  I'll buy it for twenty bucks.

Deadly Premonition is a game that, by all accounts, defies expectation and standards.  It's billed as an "open world psychological horror" game, but any look at the screenshots will immediately impress upon the gamer how... ugly and last-gen this game looks.  It's got nasty, boxy polygons on its characters, shitty environmental effects and bland textures, and it was one of the most talked-about games of the year when it dropped on the 360 in 2010.

The game, I'm told, is profoundly weird, and worth experiencing for that - and its insane writing - alone.  Give me a budget price, and I'll consider it.

April 30th
Zombie Tycoon II : Brainhov's Revenge
PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter : Don't have to hype it when it's free.

A cartoony RTS in which you control a horde of zombies, free for PS+ members, and it's on the Vita.

I'm in.

April 30th
Soul Sacrifice
Hype-O-Meter : I'll look to like, if looking liking move.

Okay, I've already got a preorder paid off on Soul Sacrifice - but that doesn't mean I'm actually sold on it.

A dark action-RPG from producer maestro Keiji Inafune (Mega Man, Resident Evil, Onimusha, Dead Rising, Bionic Commando), Soul Sacrifice is the only interesting full-release game for the Vita between now and Muramasa: Rebirth.

Here's hopin'.

Oh, and also on the 30th, indie hit puzzle-platformer Thomas Was Alone comes to the Vita.  But this post is long enough, eh?

* * *

And that's April.  Not too shabby, between Guacamelee! and Dead Island


  1. Thomas Was Alone is superb. SUPERB. A must-play.

  2. I believe Deadly Premonition is going to be $40, but it's coming with a host of new content, apparently better graphics, and updated controls.

  3. I was going to pass on Injustice but it turns out that it is not just Mortal Kombat with DC skins. The fighting mechanics are different: no block button, intractable environment, etc. There is a lot of excitement for it which could be easily killed if the netcode is as bad as Mortal Kombat's was.